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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New HTC One (M8) 2014 review: The gorgeous new HTC One with improved camera, battery and SD card slot


HTC is back with the HTC One M8, its new flagship smartphone for 2014. Here's our in-depth, full review of the new HTC One M8.

HTC's aim was to take the original HTC One, codename M7, and make everything better – an all-round upgrade job. One thing's for sure: there are no major leaps with the M8, but we're seeing a similar trend with all new flagship smartphones this year. The Galaxy S5, for example, adds a couple of new features while the Sony Xperia Z2 is barely different to the Z1.

Let's take a look at the new HTC One M8 in more depth.

As you can see, the HTC One M8 looks a lot like the original. However, there are some differences.

Once again, the Taiwanese firm has used a uni-body aluminium design but the metal wraps around to the front rather than having a 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 device now uses around 90 percent metal compared to the M7's 70 percent. See also: 18 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.


A larger screen (see hardware, below) means that the phone is both taller and wider than its predecessor - predominantly taller - but it doesn't feel too large in the hand. It's also a few grams heavier at 160g compared to 143g, making it one of the weightier flagship smartphones but again, it doesn't feel overly weighty. Instead it has that reassuringly heavy feel to it.

HTC puts design first and you can certainly tell that with the M8 in your hand. It feels like a premium smartphone which is something Samsung has failed to achieve, in our opinion, with the Galaxy S5. The new HTC One is ergonomic, but also sturdy.

This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate which is a downside to the iPhone 5S and previous metal versions.

However, if you do want to protect you precious M8, then HTC has come up with a rather cool flip-style case. It's called the DotView case - for obvious reasons as you can see below. A nice feature is that the time and notifications appear when you double tap on the case when it's shut. You can also use other gestures to perform other tasks such as answering a call.

Viewing the screen through the holes creates a cool LED dot-matrix effect. The DotView case is available in seven different colours.


From launch, the 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.

The eagle-eyed will already have noticed that HTC has ditched the dedicated navigation buttons in favour of on-screen alternatives. We'll talk about this in more detail in the software on page two.

One thing to note compared to rivals (namely the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z1) is that the HTC One M8 doesn't come with any dust- or waterproof credentials. This may or may not be an important feature to you.

With Sense 6.0 the camera app has had a redesign and we like the stylish and minimalist approach. It's easy to use but there are plenty of settings to play with if you're feeling adventurous. They're easy to find if you're looking for them. HTC splits the camera app into different modes with the front camera even labelled as 'selfie'.


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 (click the images to enlarge).

At 4Mp, there isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals but becuase it's pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations.

Here's our typical test shot of St.Pancras which has come out well in automatic mode.


And here's a close up shot of a lightbulb using the Macro mode.

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.

Here's the initial photograph we took using default settings.

Tapping the refocus button means the background goes out of focus making your subject stand out more. You might want to use this as a dSLR-style shallow depth of field effect in its self instead of actually refocussing.

If you do want to refocus then here's what it looks likes. Here we've focused on the man standing in the background. Here we can see where the software has effectively sectioned off the main subject (look particularly at the hair).

In this edit we've managed to (mostly) focus on the top of the bottle in the bottom right of the picture.

Refocusing is only available 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.

The Foregrounder app allows you add effects in tandem with the refocusing. A strange 3D effect makes photos come to life in a sort of house of mirrors way – i.e. a gimmick - and you can also cut and paste parts of photos, such as a person, with minimal hassle although again, this is more for creativity than something genuinely handy you'll use regularly.

Like the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash but we haven't been able to test this out enough to comment on its effectiveness yet.


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.

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