- Large, sharp screen
- Interesting, feature-packed camera
- Class-leading metal design
- Smart improvements to Sense 6 UI
- Exposure and chroma noise issues in photos
- Duo camera doesn't work perfectly
Originally reviewed on 4 July 2014
What is the HTC One M8?
The HTC One M8 is HTC's flagship model – at least until the HTC One M9 arrives. It's also the successor to HTC's best-selling phone ever, the HTC One, a former winner of TrustedReviews' Phone of the Year.
It may not have turned HTC's fortunes around in the way that the company may have hoped, but the HTC One M8 is one of the best phones of 2014, and is in many ways better than its main Android rival, the Samsung Galaxy S5.
It's facing increasingly strong competition from the likes of the iPhone 6, LG G3 and the better-value Google Nexus 5. A forthcoming update to Android 5.0 Lollipop should give it a much-needed shot in the arm before the M9 usurps its flagship throne, though, and there's no doubt that this is still a gorgeous handset.
Watch our hands-on HTC One M8 video:
SEE ALSO: Best HTC One M8 cases
HTC One M8 – Design
The HTC One M8 is a beautiful phone, especially when you compare to the Samsung Galaxy S5, or even the pretty LG G3. HTC has decided that the look and quality of materials matter, and has made them it's top design priority.
Like the original HTC One (which is still available to buy), the HTC One M8 is a metal phone. But there is a lot more sleek metal on show this time. To use HTC's own explanation, last year's model has a back that's about 70 per cent metal, the HTC One M8's rear is around 90 per cent metal.
The two-tone plastic have been replaced by a one-piece metal back that curves around to meet the Gorilla Glass of the screen's top layer. A new curvier design gives the HTC One M8 a smoother feel than its predecessor, while keeping the cool and hard feel your get with metal – aluminium in this case.
It is a bit bigger than last year's phone, though. The HTC One M8 is a fair amount taller which means it feels like a larger phone in-hand. However, it's just a couple of millimeters wider and width is the only serious practical concern with a phone of this class. HTC has slimmed down the screen bezel to minimise the increase in width.
If you're not used to a 4.7-inch to 5-inch screen phone, try to check out the phone first-hand. But if you're looking at this phone in contention with the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2, size is not an issue. And neither is weight, despite the phone being a little heavier than its rival.
In larger phones like this you often see the power button shifted to the side, from the usual spot up top. Here it sticks on the top edge, but the new Motion Launch feature lets you switch the phone on from standby with just two quick taps on the screen. This means that stretching for the power button is less of an issue.
Alternatively, you can go straight to the main home screen or the BlinkFeed window by flicking from the left or right of the screen (when it's off). This uses a special motion sensor chip in the phone, which lets it constantly monitor these sensors without eating up much battery.
In exact measurements the HTC One M8 is 9.4mm thick, 160g, 71mm wide and 146mm tall. None of these are notable in a positive sense, but HTC's non spec-centric design approach is healthy. It has tried to make a phone that looks and feels good, not one out to become the "thinnest" or "lightest". It can easily be argued that it is the prettiest, though.
One technical issue with making any 'all-metal' mobile device is that wireless antennas struggle to transmit through it. That's why the backplate is 'only' 90 per cent metal. There are two little plastic strips that sit across the top and bottom, and this is where the antennas live. These strips were used in the HTC One too, and have become part of the series's design language. Clever design like this makes functional choices look like pure style ones.
Is this a better looking, better designed phone than the HTC One, though? Not really. You can't beat the borderless front of the original, which helped to emphasise that mobile's two-tone style. However, it's not any worse – the HTC One M8 is a lot nicer to look at than the HTC One Max, for example, and the vast majority of phones made. Ever.
It comes in three colours. The lead one, "gunmetal grey" is seen here. HTC also makes one that looks more like the first silvery HTC One, with a shade called "arctic silver", and a light gold one dubbed "amber gold". The latter is nowhere near as bright and vivid as the gold version of the Galaxy S5.
They have slightly different metal treatments. The grey model uses a brushed 'hairline technique' look, while the others stick with anodised style of the former HTC One model.
The One M8 also solves one of the key perceived issues with the first HTC One – it has a microSD memory card slot. It sits on the right edge of the phone, using a pop-out tray. This ensures that the 16GB version of the phone will be the main one sold in the UK, as buying a memory card will always be cheaper than upgrading to a pricier version. HTC is going to make a 32GB edition too, but it won't be available everywhere here.
HTC's move from a micro SIM to a nano SIM is more controversial. Just a few phones use this tiny SIM – most notably the iPhone 5S/5 and Motorola Moto X – and as the tray clearly makes room for a dual-SIM model, a size constraint clearly wasn't the main issue. Still, most networks will happily send you out a nano SIM replacement for free. You can also clip down your current SIM manually. But we don't recommend it.
The most obvious feature that you miss out on as a result of the phone's focus on looks is water resistance. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are both certified for water and dust resistance, using a slightly annoying rubbery flap to cover the microUSB charge socket. HTC's One M8 is not waterproof – its microUSB slot is exposed. Reports online suggest the phone is actually fairly water-resistant, but the lack of any rating means you won't be covered for any water damage.
HTC One M8 – BoomSound Speakers
The design isn't all about looks. The other hardware stand-outs include a dual-lens camera system and stereo BoomSound speakers on the front of the HTC One M8. These speakers are what make the phone so tall – but provide far better audio than the usual naff little mono speakers on the back of phones.
Your initial assumption might be that it's all about volume, but what the BoomSound speakers really provide that's worth having is greater authority, a much richer tone and more power. To say the HTC One M8 has real bass would be overstating it, but it does have the mid-range body that you don't get elsewhere. Extra power like this is as good as (if not better than) extra volume when the phone is competing with your oven's extractor fan as you listen to the radio while making a bolognese (insert your own situational anecdote here).
This is one area HTC has substantially improved-upon since the HTC One. The sound is fuller, and a bit louder. HTC told us it has redesigned the tiny little piezo drivers (they may be BoomSound but they're still small) and the speaker enclosures, but it's likely to be down as much to a reworking of the DSP managing the treble-mid-bass output.
Back when the HTC One came out, HTC was still working with Beats audio for its DSP, but now it's all HTC-branded. It's no great loss as HTC says it made most of the software anyway. It wouldn't be the first time Beats has been accused of being all about the brand...
The one weakness of the BoomSound speakers shows its hand when you're playing games. As your thumbs move directly over the drivers, your digits' movements do slightly alter the tonality of the sound. It's not something everyone will notice and doesn't affect movie watching in the same way. There is no rear case rattling caused by listening at top volume, though, which would have been much more irritating.
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