- Gorgeous industrial design
- Sharp, vibrant display
- Improved Sense UI
- Rear camera is just okay
- Too large for some
- Fair amount of bloatware
Just like its predecessor, the HTC One M8 is an excellent piece of hardware with superb performance. Some camera issues mar what is otherwise a top-of-the-line Android smartphone.
Last year’s HTC One was both a triumph and a disappointment. To tech enthusiasts and general fans of Good Things, the One was a battleship, surging through the stormy seas of Android phones past. In a market loaded with samey hunks of plastic, the One confirmed that an Android device didn’t have to sacrifice mature, attractive looks to gain power or functionality. It was the phone many iPhone holdouts had always wanted. It was the one.
To HTC, or rather, to HTC’s bottom line, the One was a bittersweet victory. For all the toil its designers put into crafting it, and for all the hype its marketers tried to build behind it, the One couldn’t muster up enough steam to bring the Taiwanese firm back to its former prominence. HTC courted celebrities, bought up TV time, and built a damn near perfectly designed phone, but the public flocked to their Galaxies and iPhones, just as it did before. The One was too elegant to be a failure, but it couldn’t walk with the giants in the way HTC hoped. It wasn’t, in fact, the one.
Fast forward to today, and here we are again, a year later, with a company still gasping for air, and a public still flocking to the usual brands. A turn of the calendar means another phone must be produced, and now we have the One, part two. Once again, it’s HTC’s stab at sparing neither beauty nor horsepower, and once again, it has the company’s hopes resting on it. Can it ever compete with Samsung and Apple’s two-headed behemoth? We can’t say. But is it worthy of its name? Let’s find out.
Build and Design
HTC’s been building good-looking phones for years now, but ever since it launched the original One, that’s become its hallmark. It’s now The Company That Makes Sexy Phones. The original One was a beaut, the One mini didn’t sacrifice that much, and even the otherwise useless One Max looked fine. It should come as no surprise then that the new HTC One (M8) is absolutely gorgeous. From top to bottom, its design is in a class of its own amongst current Android flagships.
Naturally, the new One borrows a great deal from the old One. Most of the trademark design cues from the One (M7) have returned, so you’ll see the same aluminum shell, curved back, horizontal stripes, and dual front-facing speaker grilles as before. HTC knows it struck gold with last year’s design, so it’s made the One (M8) a variation on the One (M7)’s themes. This is a good thing.
There are changes, though. The most immediately noticeable is the boost in display size; last year’s 4.7-inch panel has now gone up to a full 5 inches. That’s almost a shame — 4.7 inches felt like the sweet spot for comfortable one-handed use, and there’s no need for the One’s bottom bezel to be as large as it is — but this thing is still a pleasure to hold. That curved back still fits very snugly into the palm of your hand; its sides slope inward a way that’s very inviting to the fingers; its corners are less angular and jagged than before; and the whole device is still just as thin (9.35 mm) as last year’s edition.
This One is coated in more aluminum than the One (M7), however, as the entire phone is covered in brushed metal up until it hits the display. Our test unit came in a slick ‘Gunmetal Grey’ paint, but traditional silver and champagne gold options are also available. It’s a more premium-feeling and more premium-looking finish either way, with a sturdy build and a shape that always slides into place smoothly.
Having more metal does make the phone a little bit heavier than its predecessor (160 g vs. 143 g), but that’s to be expected, and by no means does the One (M8) ever feel like an anchor. It’s undeniably big, and you’ll certainly feel it when it’s in their pockets, but the lack of plastic makes it all very sleek.
The only major downside here is that the phone is almost too smooth. Oftentimes the One would start to slip out of our hands when adjusting it around. Combine that slipperiness with those thinned bezels, and a taller, more sensitive display, and this is a phone that isn’t immediately accommodating to grip. You will accidentally hit something or unintentionally turn the screen on, and that can become a pain, especially when taking the phone out of a pocket. That beautiful finish isn’t wholly scratch resistant either, so this device requires some care.
Nevertheless, the One is a treat to look at and play with the vast majority of the time. Thankfully, HTC has removed the awkward pair of capacitive buttons from the One (M7), and replaced them with a traditional, more effective trio of onscreen keys. It’s also raised the volume rocker a bit without making it feel any flimsier, though the power button is inconveniently located at the top of a device that’s already a tad too tall. In between those buttons is a microSD slot that can hold up to 128 GB of extra storage, which is very much welcome in a world where cloud lockers are continuously pushed as the new normal.
Our test unit was provided by Verizon, and of course, Big V couldn’t help but mark its territory on its own model. It plants two decent-sized and entirely unnecessary logos on the One’s back. Those turned off by that sort of thing should grab an unlocked, unbranded version.
This is indeed a phone you’ll want to grab, hold, and use time and time again, though. HTC’s essentially crafted the Bentley of phones here — a super high-end, industrial handset that’s as much of a luxury product as it is a thing with which to make phone calls. It’s the kind of phone that your friends will compliment without any trigger.
As mentioned above, the One (M8) received a noticeable bump in display size, going from 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display to a 5-inch one. It retains the same 1080p resolution as before, so its pixel density takes a slight hit, but one would need to have superhuman eyes to tell the difference.
As was the case last year, the One’s panel is fantastic. Colors are sharp and vibrant, viewing angles are plenty wide, and the whole thing can get very bright at max setting. It remains totally visible in sunlight, and its Gorilla Glass 3 coating keeps it sufficiently scratch resistant too. It won’t reproduce the same deep blacks found on an OLED display, but as far as LCD panels go, this one’s right at the top of the heap. For text, video, games, whatever — it always looks good.