HTC One (M8) full review

The new HTC One M8 is one of the best phones of 2014. It combines great performance and build with a stylish body. But what does this new Android phone offer over the original HTC One? Here we compare the HTC One M7 with the new HTC One (M8) 2014 to find out whether it is worth upgrading.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Build and design

The original HTC One, the M7, remains a beautiful object. In terms of the feel of the materials, and the way they fit together, we can name no smartphone that obviously bests the HTC One - still. It is virtually all aluminium - the only part of the HTC One's shell that isn't obviously made of lightweight metal is the Gorilla Glass screen and a slim plasticky band that runs around the edge. It is also light for such a well-put-together device at just 144g, yet it feels solid. Unusually for a metal phone the HTC One doesn't feel like it needs a case. At 9.45mm it no longer feels particularly thin, however. (For more smartphone buying advice also see: Best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.)

The HTC One is perfectly balanced, though, and that weight and size isn't a problem - it fits neatly into my trouser pocket. One minor down side is that the display isn't quite edge to edge, although the bezel is far from huge. There is one caveat, however. As I was testing the HTC One the back got hot to the touch. Not too hot to hold, but enough to make me worry about its long-term health.

The new HTC One M8 looks a lot like the original. However, there are some differences. You still get a uni-body aluminium design but the metal wraps around to the front: there's no plastic strip around the edge. The corners of the phone are also more rounded. It has a brushed look and has been treated to gain its glossy finish: the M8 uses around 90 percent metal compared to the M7's 70 percent.

The new HTC One M8 measures 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm and weighs 160g. It's ever so slightly thicker, and a little heavier than its predecessor. Like the original the HTC One M8 doesn't come with any dust- or waterproof credentials. This may or may not be an important feature to you. The new HTC One M8 is both taller and wider than its predecessor, but again it doesn't feel too large in the hand. It's also a few grams heavier at 160g, making it one of the weightier flagship smartphones. It's not too much though: we found it has that reassuringly heavy feel.

The M8 feels like a premium smartphone: ergonomic, but also sturdy. However, if you do want to protect your precious M8, then HTC has come up with a rather cool flip-style case. It's called the DotView case. A nice feature is that the time and notifications appear when you double tap on the case when it's shut. The DotView case cost £35 and is available in seven different colours.

The new HTC One M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold' – a line-up reminiscent of the iPhone 5S colour options. See also: The UK's best Android smartphones of 2014.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Screen

Screen size and quality is a great way to choose between two smartphones – you'll want to pick a size that's comfortable for you personally. When it launched the HTC One's 4.7in Super LCD 3 display was the highest pixel density of any phone we had seen, or indeed any smartphone PC Advisor we had tested. Its Full HD 1080p display crams 468 pixels into every inch: suffice to say it is sharp.

It's razor sharp - not quite as colourful as the SuperAMOLED displays sported by the top Samsung handsets, but brilliant at rendering details in photos and video even under the stip lights of a room with no natural light. Viewing angles are good - a couple of people could probably watch a movie together at a push. The touchscreen is very responsive, too.

HTC has decided to increase the screen size for the One M8 from 4.7- to 5in, so there's a little more real estate for whatever you're doing but the difference isn't too noticeable. The screen's resolution, as with rival flagships, remains at Full HD (1920x1080) – perhaps it's just too early to jump to higher pixel counts (if we even need them).

The larger screen size means a dip in pixel density to 441ppi but you're not going to notice. The phone itself is a bit bigger but HTC has done a good job of making it feel like it's the same size.

As with the M7, the HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks stunning. The new panel has an improved contrast ratio and viewing angles.

One thing we particularly like about the M8's screen is its silky gloss finish which, more than other phones, means your finger glides brilliantly across its surface. It's just another detail which makes this phone feel so premium.

New HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Processor, performance

The original HTC One impressed us with its benchmark results. Thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 1.7GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, it aced our GeekBench 2 test with a record clinching score of 2721 points.

It also managed outstanding results in GLBenchmark. The HTC One got 34fps which suggests it will play high-end games nicely. And a Sunspider test result of 1213ms suggests that javascript performance is no problem.

Like the iPhone 5s, the new HTC One M8 has a co-processor. HTC's low-power chip keeps sensors awake for features like Motion Launch Gestures and can also track activity without a separate device via the pre-loaded Fitbit app.

The new HTC One M8 offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core (Krait 400) processor with HTC co-processor running at 2.3GHz. You get an Adreno 330 GPU with 2GB RAM.

We've spent quite a while with the HTC One M8 and performance was excellent. Adding a user interface onto Android can cause problems, but we couldn't spot any with Sense 6.0. See below for more detail on performance.

As well as the Snapdragon 801, HTC adds its own co-processor in much the same way Apple has with the iPhone 5S. This low-power chip keeps sensors switched on for HTC's Motion Launch Gestures, which can be used to switch the phone on (see software, on the next page, for more detail). It also can track activity using the pre-loaded Fitbit app so there's less need for a dedicated fitness tracker such as Fitbit's own One.

We take benchmarking figures with a pinch of salt since it emerged that some manufacturers use benchmark-boosting software. However, in Geekbench 3 the HTC One M8 scored 962 points in the single-core test, and 2761 points in the multi-core test. In Sunspider we measured 583fps, and in GFXBench's T-Rex test the HTC One M8 managed 30fps.

If the performance of the HTC One was amazing, then we can barely think of a word suitable to describe the HTC One M8.

Numbers aside - since they only give an indication of performance - the HTC One M8 is one nippy smartphone. We often see Android smartphones with customer user interfaces lagging from the sheer weight of the additional software but this simply isn't the case here. No matter what you ask of the device, it simply takes it and chomps through it like a one-bite canapé.

We're seriously impressed and another thing to note is that the smartphone boots up much faster than others we've seen. It's a minor detail but a good one nevertheless.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Storage

With no expandable storage available on the original HTC One, storage is an area to consider closely. The HTC One has two storage options, offering just 32GB and 64GB capacities.

Fast forward to the new HTC One M8 and HTC has mixed things up. The M8 has only 16GB of internal storage but now comes with expandable storage. (There is a 32GB model but it is unlikely to be available in Europe, HTC says.) The 16GB version has a microSD card slot which can accept up to 128GB cards. The phone also comes with 65GB of free Google Drive cloud storage.

The addition of an expansion slot is a big win for the new HTC One M8.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Cameras

The HTC One's main camera is rated at 'just' 4Mp. But this Ultrapixel camera lets in more light and is great in low-light situations. It can record video at 1080p. There's also a front-facing camera  with a 2.1Mp sensor - this can also capture 1080p video at 30fps.

One of the new HTC One M8's headline features is Duo Camera. The main Ultrapixel camera takes photos like normal but the second sensor captures depth information allowing users to refocus shots after they've been taken. It's a 4.1Mp Ultrapixel 'Duo Camera' that captures Full HD video. Around the front is a 5Mp wide angle camera with and f/2.2 aperture.

The back of the HTC One M8 is home to two camera lenses. HTC calls this the Duo Camera and it's one of the main new features of the smartphone. You might think they are for taking 3D photos, like the old LG Optimus 3D but that's not the case. The first camera, the one closer to the middle of the phone, is the Ultrapixel camera found on the M7 – with some improvements. According to HTC, the ImageChip 2 means the camera can shoot faster and capture sharper images. And this seems to be true from our preliminary tests. At 4Mp, there isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals but becuase its pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations.

The second camera is an interesting addition and is there to capture depth information. This 'metadata' is attached to the photo taken with the main camera and can be used later on. Similar to the Lytro camera, the HTC One M8 Duo Camera allows users to refocus a photo after it's been taken.

Unlike the Galaxy S5, which offers three preset focal points, the M8's second sensor means users can refocus anywhere they like. We've had a play with this and it works pretty well, although it's quite difficult not to cover the second les with you finger. Luckily a message pops up on the screen to say you're blocking it. We've been playing around with the Duo Camera and here's what it looks like.

Tapping the refocus button means the background goes out of focus making your subject stand out more. It gives an DSLR-style shallow depth of field effect. However, with the right image, Ufocus can do a fine job.

Refocusing is available only for still photos, not videos. The M8 can record video in Full HD, not 4K. HTC's Zoe (now an separate app for automatically editing video) has had an update with more of a social aspect and will be made available for non-HTC phones later this year. Video quality is unimpressive.

The HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash. It works reasonably well, but images are still obviously taken using a flash and - in most cases - you won't need it as the Ultrapixel camera does a grand job when there isn't much light around. A cool feature which we've not seen elsewhere is the ability to not only manually adjust settings, such as ISO, but then save them as presets to use later. This means you can come up with your own modes for different situations.

The front camera is a 5Mp f/2.2 shooter with a wide-angle lens so it should be easier to fit several people into your selfie.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Software

The HTC One comes with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with HTC's Sense 5 overlay. This is a great operating system that offers a slick user experience and access to the Google Play store.

But it's not as good as the software on the new HTC One M8. The latest version of HTC's user interface, Sense 6.0, launches with the M8 on Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Users can personalise BlinkFeed to a greater degree, change the theme of the software and even the font.

Operating software is always a subjective choice, to a degree. But KitKat is better than Jelly Bean, and we like what we have seen of the latest version of Sense. (See also: The 6 best budget smartphones.)

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Battery life

It's worth noting that neither the HTC One nor the new HTC One has a removable battery. The original offers decent smartphone battery performance of one to two days with an average usage. The HTC One has a non-removable battery rated at 8.5Wh, a 2300mAh-capacity cell. With regular use it lasted a little over a day.

Turning to the new HTC One M8 and the battery has been increased in capacity from 2300mAh to 2600mAh which is a good start. Although it doesn't sound like much of a boost, HTC says the M8 will last up to 40 percent longer than the M7. The battery isn't removable, which isn't too surprising

GFXBench 3.0 suggests that the phone's battery life is no different than its predecessor – 163 minutes when looping the T Rex animation, the same one mentioned in the performance section. For comparison, the Moto G hits 300 minutes and the LG G2 reaches 211. It's a better result than the iPhone 5s and Nexus 5, though, which managed 117 and 152 minutes respectively.

In terms of real-world battery life, the One M8 lasted for roughly 24 hours. That's with average use: some phone calls, text messages, web browsing, gaming and watching YouTube videos. It's also with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth left turned on, and regular synching with a Bluetooth activity tracker. Essentially, expect to charge the One M8 each night unless you're very frugal.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8 has an 'Extreme Power Saving mode' which the firm says will ensure the handset lasts up to 30 hours from 10 percent charge – that's six hours more than the Galaxy S5 in its comparable mode. You're limited to phone calls, texts, emails and the calendar and calculator apps. We tried enabling it with 9 percent battery remaining and there was still charge a full 24 hours later, albeit with very minimal use. As an emergency mode, it's great.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): UK price

For the original HTC One you have to shell out £467 inc VAT to pick up the 32GB flavour - these days. But it launched toward the top of the market. Shop around and you can buy the HTC One M8 for around £550 inc VAT.

HTC One M8 vs HTC One (M7): Verdict

By just about every comparable metric the new HTC One M8 is a better handset than the original. But the HTC One M7 remains a great handset - if you can't stretch to the newer handset you are unlikely to be disappointed. (See also: The 6 best budget smartphones.)


HTC One (M8): Specs

  • 5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
  • 16GB, available capacity around 10GB
  • microSD (up to 128GB)
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM
  • Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
  • dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
  • micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
  • Infrared
  • HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
  • HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
  • 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
  • 160g