updated 09:17 am EDT, Sun April 20, 2014
The HTC One (M8) could be the best Android smartphone yet made
You could forgive HTC if it had decided to take a backwards step with the second generation HTC One. It is no secret that the Taiwanese company, once the Android market leader, has been facing massive difficulties in the face of the Samsung marketing onslaught. However, rather than play it safe with the new HTC One, HTC has produced its boldest high-end smartphone statement yet. Our first look at the HTC One (M8) suggests that it is easily the best smartphone HTC has released to date and is shaping up as the best Android smartphone made to date.
The HTC One (M8) centers on a larger 5-inch 1080p display than its predecessor, which had a 4.7-inch display. Both displays are excellent, and although the HTC One (M8) trades real estate for some pixel density, it is an outstanding display. However, rather than packing a larger display into a similar sized chassis as the HTC One (M7), HTC has opted to increase the overall dimensions of the phone, making it larger than the superseded model. It also weighs in at a relatively hefty 160g, the result of an increased use of aluminum in its construction. Thankfully, this has been offset by the way HTC has beautifully balanced this across its longer body, making it seem as though it is not any heavier than its predecessor. In addition to looking simply stunning, the HTC One (M8) has a more curved body the the HTC One (M7) and feels great in the hand.
In addition to the larger display, HTC One (M8) also features an upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, which is a marked improvement over the Snapdragon 600 that powered the previous model. Depending on market, the CPU is clocked at either 2.3GHz or, like our model, clocked at 2.5GHz (the same specifications as the Snapdragon 801 chip fitted to the US model of the Samsung Galaxy S5). While it does not provide the generational leap in performance that iPhone 5s users have enjoyed with 64-bit Apple A7, it is at very forefront of the current Android performance envelope. Compared to the superseded HTC One (M7), the HTC One (M8) represents a substantial leap in performance.
The HTC One (M8) runs the latest version of Android 'KitKat' (4.4.2) out of the box, which combined with the Snapdragon 801 makes for a lightning fast and stable performance. As is typically the case, HTC has skinned Android with its Sense UI, this time version 6. It is pretty safe to say that this is the best version of Sense yet, and it is now one of the best manufacturer developed Android skins we have yet to see. It doesn't stray too far from the Google Android experience and builds on it with several very useful additions. Unlike its Android competition, HTC has chosen not to deliver feature overload, but deliver genuinely useful enhancements like the revamped BlinkFeed and excellent function shortcuts, and a great camera app.
Speaking of the camera, while some continue to suggest that this is the HTC One's biggest shortcoming, we generally support HTC's approach. Megapixel count is certainly not the only aspect of what makes a good camera on any device, including smartphones. HTC has opted for a larger sensor that captures more light for better general performance. The other upshot of this approach is that photo file size is reduced. This time round, HTC has added a second camera to the rear of the device that has been used to add depth of field capabilities. This allows you to adjust the focal point of shots after they have been taken. It is great fun to use and produces some really good results. Its photos aren't quite as detailed as some of its competition, but it certainly provides a genuine point of differentiation.
Another highlight that is HTC's BoomSound. The HTC One (M7) already held claim to having the best speakers on a smartphone, but the HTC One (M8) builds on this to produce truly amazing results from a device with such small speaker enclosures. The built-in amplifiers produce a rich sound that makes for great casual listening, or for excellent speaker-based voice calls. HTC and Beats no longer have a partnership, which quite frankly, we are not sorry to see fall through. Instead, HTC has added its BoomSound tech to the headphone listening experience as well. Instead of artificial audio processing to improve sound, HTC now incorporates a headphone amplifier, resulting in an outstanding smartphone audio experience through a set of quality headphones.
HTC has bet the house on the new One. At this point we are nothing but impressed. Like an Apple iPhone, this is a smartphone that you can very quickly grow to love. It is beautiful to look at, beautiful to use and works as advertised. It looks like it ticks just about every box that you would want in a high-end smartphone. We look forward to running through its paces for our forthcoming full review.
By Sanjiv Sathiah