HTC One (M8) Review: Best Android Smartphone 2014 with Little Glitches

HTC One M8 review banner

HTC One (M8) is HTC flagship smartphone in 2014, the successor of HTC One (M7). It was launched in Malaysia in May 2014.

The new Android smartphone inherits the award-winning metal unibody design, improved HTC BoomSound speakers, added new Duo Camera technology and HTC Sense 6.

I had a chance to loan an HTC One (M8) for a few weeks and used as my primary phone. The phone has now been returned and here is my 2,700 words comprehensive HTC One M8 review.

HTC One (M8) Design

I have a bias toward metal phone body. I like the cool, hard, strong metal touch. You deserved to have a phone build with good tough material after spending so much to buy it, anyway.

HTC One M8 smartphone back

HTC One M8 smartphone back

HTC One (M8) does not disappointed me a bit. 90% of the phone is metal. The review unit I received is Gunmetal Gray. It looks classy and manly.

The phone is slim and lightweight (160g), though 90% is metal. The 5-inch curved body has no sharp edges. It is comfortable to hold with one hand but impossible to type with one hand.

At the front, the most eye catching thing is the HTC’s signature front-facing stereo speaker grills at the metal frame. Next to the top speaker is the 5MP front facing camera and sensor.

A HTC logo located above the bottom speaker. It is not a button. The whole black bar has no function. I guess HTC purposely use the design to increase the phone’s size to fit in more components. The design make M8 becomes taller than other 5-inch smartphone.

At the top right hand side is microSD memory card slot, which opened with a pin. HTC One M8 supports microSD card up to 128 GB. Next to the card slot is the volume buttons, which only stick out a little bit but easy to press.

HTC One (M8) microSD and nano SIM slots

HTC One (M8) microSD and nano SIM slots

The opposite side is the nano SIM card slot. Nano SIM card size is smaller than the already small Micro SIM card. You may need to do SIM card replacement at your telco service center. Your telco may charge you for SIM card replacement. I was told it is RM10 for Maxis but I got mine free of charge.

The micro USB port and headset jack is at the bottom of the phone. I like headset jack at the bottom because it feels more natural. But the micro USB port is close to the headset jack, you get messy wires if you plug in earphones and USB port at the same time.

HTC One (M8) bottom

HTC One (M8) bottom

Like previous HTC One phones, HTC still stubbornly place the power/sleep button at the top of the phone. It is difficult to reach with one hand without moving grip. Apparently, HTC tries to solve the problem using new software feature — Motion Launch gestures (read more about it later).

The first thing you will notice at the M8’s back is the new Duo Camera. Above the HTC UltraPixel camera (4MP) is a smaller secondary camera that capture depth information so that you can add special effects to your pictures. M8 has 2 different colour LED flash for taking more natural photos with flash fired.

The non-removable metal back cover is smooth and the brushed pattern looks stylist. It has an emboss HTC logo at the center. 2 black stripes at top and bottom, so that wireless signal can pass through the metal body.

While the metal back does not attract finger prints, it could become slippery after some time, especially noticeable in horizontal mode. It is not a big issue, a simple wipe on your T-shirt will solve it.

Or, you can buy new HTC Dot View phone case (no review) to protect M8, whilst displaying notifications and interactions in dot-matrix style.

HTC One (M8) photo gallery

Full HD Display

HTC One M8 display is Full HD 1920×1080 pixels. It is sharp and bright, plus wide viewing angle. The text and pictures are beautiful.

Watching Full HD videos on M8 is a pleasure. The 16:9 aspect ratio display gives you full screen, no black border view.

I have a feeling that image on M8 has been enhanced. Photos look better on the phone than after transferred to computer.

The touch screen display is sensitive and responsive. Sometimes I feel that it activates even before my finger touch the screen! A little too sensitive? Fret not, I had no issue with it.

HTC BoomSound

HTC One (M8) BoomSound speaker

HTC One (M8) BoomSound speaker

HTC One M8, as you have expecting, has the signature dual front-facing BoomSound speakers with build-in amplifiers. M8 speakers is 25% louder (max output 95 dB) than previous generation, offer “richer & punchier sound across all spectrum”.

I can’t comment how does it compare with previous HTC One editions. But I can tell you that the sound is great.

The sound is loud and clear, balance bass and treble. No burst at high volume. I played kids music for my baby and the music filled the whole room, like it was playing back using expensive portable speaker.

By the way, BoomSound cannot be turned off and you do not get equalizer setting.

“HTC One (M8) has the best smartphone speakers.” you can quote me this.

Kitkat and HTC Sense 6

HTC One (M8) uses the latest Android 4.4 Kitkat with HTC Sense 6. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. Many Google apps are pre-installed, but I did not find any useless bloatware.

Turn on HTC Backup

HTC offers a HTC Backup service to do daily back up of your phone’s content and setting to Google Drive or Dropbox, so you can easily restore them on new phone or after factory reset.

HTC Backup

HTC Backup asks to turn on after every app installation/update.

It is a handy feature. But I do not need it for the review unit, thus I did not actiave HTC Backup. Then, it was nagging me non-stop whenever I installed or updated apps, even I ticked “Don’t ask me again” but it simply ignore my decision…

HTC Sync Manager required

Unlike most other Android devices that you can connect to computer as USB storage device, HTC One (M8) was not detected when connecting to Windows 8.1 and OS X.

You are requires to install HTC Sync Manager to transfer media files to computer. The application is good for content synching and management, but slow performance.

For simple file transfer task, I prefer to “drag and drop” in File manager or Android File Transfer app.

BlinkFeed

HTC BlinkFeed has been updated to support more apps and services: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, fitbit, Instagram, Wechat, Google+, Linkedin, Plurk.

I check BlinkFeed every morning after wake up. I like the idea of summarizing my social network feeds into one app. However, BlinkFeed does not learn your interests and reading habits like my favourite Zite app does (acquired by Flipboard).

If you are a Pocket app user, you can launch the app via BlinkFeed’s menu. No integration, too bad.

Motion Launch

HTC One (M8) includes Motion Launch gestures control to unlock phone in a swipe, launch camera, flip to silence call.

I use the swipe to unlock phone feature a lot, it solves the hard to reach power button problem. You can also double-tap on screen to quickly check time and new notifications.

However, the motion detection is not perfect.

The phone randomly accidentally unlocked while it is in my pocket as if I had swipe to unlock it, random apps were launched without my knowledge. I had been extra careful not to launch any gesture control while holding the phone locked.

The feature is designed to activate only when you pick up the phone. I found that you can still activate them while the phone lie flat on table.

You can launch phone camera immediately by picking up the phone and press down volume button. It is a bit tricky, you must hold the phone straight up. A little bit slanting will not activate the function.

Motion Launch is useful features but more tuning required here.

Duo Camera

HTC One (M8) duo camera

HTC One (M8) duo camera

M8’s primary camera is still the HTC UltraPixel 4MP camera. It has a 1/3″ sensor with 2.0 um pixel size. The lens is f/2.0 28mm.

The smaller camera in the duo camera system is to capture depth information for special effects later. It is activated by default. You will be warned when your finger is blocking it.

You can easily takes clear and sharp images, especially in low light environment. Avoid straight bright light, images may overexposed and colour washed out.

The front camera is 5MP sensor with f/2.0 wide angle lens. I enjoy taking high quality selfie using it.

M8 has two LED Flash with different colours. It helps to take more natural skin tones photos with flash fired, without over-exposed.

4 MegaPixels

Many people believe higher pixel count means better quality, which is wrong. Can’t blame them, because pixel count is easier to understand than picture quality.

The fact is that high resolution camera produces large image files taking up precious phone storage. High resolution image is only useful if you want to print poster or crop image.

4MP gives you 2688×1520 pixels, enough for 8×10″ photo quality prints. More than enough for online photo publishing on facebook, instagram, etc.

Camera app

HTC One M8 camera app

HTC One M8 camera app

The camera app launches in a second and ready for shots. Tap to focus is fast, HTC says the focus time is 300ms. You can use volume button as shutter button or zoom, it is customizable.

The camera interface is simple to use but also have advance features for power users. Beside swipe to swtich front or back camera, you can also tap the “4 circles button” to fast switching camera mode — Selfie, Camera, Dual Capture (picture-in-picture), Video, Pan 360, Zoe camera.

The Selfie mode has default 3 seconds countdown (customizable). It helps to avoid camera blur caused by pressing the shutter button.

HTC One M8 camera manual mode

HTC One M8 camera manual mode

For power users, tap on the “3 square boxes” button will reveal advance settings, such as ISO, EV, white balance, filter, etc. You can even switch to Manual mode for 100% manual settings!

Special effects

With duo camera system, you can have special effects like Ufocus, Foregrounder, or more fancy special effects like Seasons, Dimension Plus.

Ufocus allows you to refocus any object in picture and create a “deep of field” effect. It makes your picture looks more “professional” with object popup from blur background, as if it was taken using high aperture lens.

However, Ufocus is a hit-and-miss. The effect is cool if the targeted object is distinct from the background.  Most of the time, re-adjusting focus point using Ufocus make the picture looks like amateurs photoshop edit. The blur effect looks fake.

Foregrounder includes 4 interesting effects — sketch, zoom blur, cartoon, colorize.

Seasons is another fun effect to add live sakura, dandelion, maple leaf or snow into a picture. The result can be saved as video or photo with options to add location and date.

Seasons effect is eye-catching for first timer. It is just another fancy feature you would not use more than 3 times.

HTC One M8 duo camera effects

HTC One M8 duo camera effects (click/tap for fullsize image)

Talking about fancy feature, the Dimension Plus is No.1 useless. It creates a fake 3D image which rotate following phone’s orientations.

No, it does not reveal what’s not in the original photo. Stop dreaming!

The 3D effect can only playback on the phone. You can save it as dimension plus file to share with other HTC phone users (HTC One M8 only?).

Gallery app can automatically create short videos with background music with your photos and videos. It is very handy for non-technical person to create professional looking slide shows.

Note: Picture special effects are not applicable for pictures shoot using shooting mode or filters, nor edited pictures. In short, please use AUTO mode only.

HTC One (M8) camera sample photos

Here are some sample photos taken using HTC One (M8), without any filter nor edit. Click/Tap for fullsize image.

Top Performance

HTC One (M8) is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.3Ghz quad-core CPU, the fastest processor available now. The phone has 2GB RAM and 16GB storage.

M8 is a 4G LTE phone using Nano SIM. Other connectivity supported are NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5GHz), DLNA, MHL, and Miracast wireless mirroring.

No doubt. M8 is one of the top performance smartphone you can buy today. Every app launch and app switching is faster than a blink.

Playing 3D games on M8 is a pleasure experience. Thanks to its Full HD display, loud front facing stereo speakers, powerful GPU.

HTC One M8 benchmark scores

HTC One M8 benchmark scores

Following are the benchmark scores:

  • AnTuTu Benchmark: 35,007
  • Quadrant: 25,452
  • Futuremark 3DMark: 19,979*
  • Vellamo HTML5: 1812
  • Vellamo Metal: 1306

*HTC One (M8) is delisted by Futuremark because it has not complied with Futuremark benchmark rules.

I would like to highlight a touch screen problem I encountered. Once in a blue moon, the display did not response to my finger touch, regardless tap or swipe. Close apps or restart would solved the issue. In the couple weeks reviewing period, I forced restart the phone once because it did not take touch input.

Good battery life

If you hate to bring power bank or charge smartphone in the middle of the day, you would love M8’s battery life (2600 mAh).

With full charge in the morning, M8 still has battery juice left in the night after 17 hours of usage. Impressive!

HTC One M8 long battery life

HTC One M8 long battery life

I did not need to worry about phone’s battery level nor I need to bring a power bank, because I knew it will last till I was on bed.

In my test, the battery drained 13% after playback 1 hour Youtube video in fullscreen. Fully charged would provide you 7 hours 41 minutes non-stop video playback.

Charging HTC One (M8) from 5% to 80% took 2 hours 5 minutes using the included HTC charger, which was hot after charging phone.

Power saving mode is automatically kick in when it left 15% battery juice. Want to further extend battery life? Switch on the Extreme Power Saving mode. HTC says it delivers 60 hours of extra standby time at 20% power, 30 hours at 10% power and 15 hours at 5% power.

Extreme Power Saving

Extreme Power Saving Mode

Extreme Power Saving Mode

In Extreme Power Saving mode, M8’s CPU clock is slower, screen brightness reduced, vibration feedback and pedometer are off, data connection is on only when screen is on.

Extreme Power Saving mode only offer 5 basic functions: Phone call, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Calculator. You will still receive apps notifications but you cannot launch any other app in Extreme Power Saving mode. (Recent apps icon is removed)

In short, your powerful HTC One (M3) becomes a feature phone in Extreme Power Saving mode to extend battery life to the maximum. Chances are you will only use it in case of emergency.

I only used Extreme Power Saving mode once in my loan period (thanks to its long battery life!). It gave me peace of mind that I will still have a working phone in the next few hours even only few percent battery juice left.

Availability

HTC One (M8) in Malaysia is available in Gunmetal Gray and Glacial Silver at a retail recommended price of RM 2,399 (~USD 744), same price as iPhone 5S in Malaysia.

Conclusion

HTC One (M8) is one of the best smartphone you can buy in 2014. It has good phone build, great Full HD  display, long battery life and good cameras. The BoomSound speakers are the best smartphone speakers. Great phone for your on-the-go movie watching.

However, HTC needs to fix the software issues — not serious but would degrade user experience — Motion Control needs tweaking, Duo Camera refocus effect does not really work.

In a nutshell, if you are not into iPhone, buy HTC One (M8) and nobody can say you are wrong. Buy it!

I would like to thank HTC for the opportunity to review HTC One (M8). This is a free product review with honest write-up. Interesting to send your products for review? Get in touch with me.

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7 Responses to HTC One (M8) Review: Best Android Smartphone 2014 with Little Glitches

  1. sivakumarkulendran June 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I find HTCs a bit to frail. Even androids are not as robust as iphones. However the Samsung Galaxy S3 which i have is a phone that can take a beating!

    • silvio bugnano August 10, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Check the drop tests on you tube, my friend!!!

  2. John Ong June 26, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Many of my friends and myself use the S3 and we all have complains about our phone now. On the other hand, some have been using HTC for some 4 years now without any problem.
    I strongly believe that HTC is better optimised than Samsung so I’ve already decided to upgrade to the HTC E8, assuming it comes to Malaysia. It’s inability to directly transfer a file to PC however is a turn off.

    • Cheon-Fong Liew June 27, 2014 at 4:02 am #

      Hi John Ong, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I have many friends complain about S3/Note too. HTC One (E8) is more affordable and dual SIM. Hope it comes to Malaysia and I shall loan a unit for review by then :)

  3. WinnieKepala July 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    Yeah, you’re right. We have similar conclusions about the phone. Surprised you didn’t like the photo editing. I thought it was good. Not overly gimmicky features like the S5, but good enough to be fun and useful.
    http://winniekepala.com/2014/07/htc-one-m8-user-review/

  4. Chang Lee September 30, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    I feel HTC is now out of the world. It is the time for new brand Honor 6 smartphone…they are actually ruling Malaysia

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