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HTC One M8 Review: the Good, the Bad and the Defocused

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HTC has been very quiet over the past year, with pretty minor releases. Their new HTC One M8 on the other hand indicates that they are prepping to step things up. But can the new HTC One M8 be their big comeback? Can this HTC One compete with the likes of the upcoming S5? After spending sometime with this device we can confidently say that it certainly seems like they stand a good chance at it.

What we like

HTC has put a lot of time and effort into the build quality and design of the HTC One M8. It now sports a brushed metal design that is 90% made of metal materials, so this is one tough and hardy device. More importantly it’s much easier to grip and hold than this time around with its unibody frame that is curved to fit your hand. We do appreciate its new brushed metal look too, but more importantly we’re digging the three color choices of gray, silver, rose gold – because gold is the new white, right?

The display on the HTC One M8 is beyond lovely. Its 5 inch display packs in a full 1080p display that offers an amazing Retina squashing 441 ppi. On paper, this display is superior to even the Galaxy S5. In general colors are sharp, accurate, and the display is able to get very, very bright, yet it’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t look overly contrasty.

The devices comes running Android 4.4 and Sense 6.0. We have always been a big fan of Sense, but this time around we especially appreciate how well implemented and clean it is. Blinkfeed keeps getting better and is no long just another Flipboard imitation. That is because HTC is opening it up to be used with other apps like Foursquare and Fitbit.  The Sense tweaks to Android are also better than ever and make Android feel more intuitive while also looking cleaner and more modern. But Motion Launch is perhaps the neatest new addition to Sense. Motion Launch lets you wake up the phone, wake up and unlock the screen, wake up and go directly to the Blinkfeed, or widget screen, and make a quick call – all by using gestures – so that means that you never have to use the power button again for those tasks. These gestures are very intuitive and we now find ourselves using them all the time.

Powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, the HTC One M8 flies. This is a powerful smartphone that can take anything you can throw at it, without slow downs. Gone are the days of past when HTC Sense slowed things down. And in Quadrant, the system earned a blazing fast score of 22327.

When it comes to audio, while Beats and HTC might have gone their separate ways, the Dual front-facing HTC BoomSound speakers on the HTC One are top notch, providing a louder and better than average speaker experience for a smartphone.

Despite just offering 4 megapixels, the Ultrapixel camera on the HTC One M8 is all pimped out. It’s now a depth-sensing camera that lets you apply a DSLR like focus and defocus effect, even after having taken the shot. Sure, there are apps out there that offer similar effects, but we love that this is built into the camera. The camera also packs in plenty of other effects, settings and ways to tweak your photos, all in an intuitive and easy to use manner. The camera is also crazy fast and able to snap photos and focus quickly.

In addition to third party manufacturers making cases, HTC has out down themselves with their own Dot View case. We can’t emphasize how much we love the retro chic design of this case. But not only is it practical, it’s also smart. To that effect, not only does it keep both the front and back of the HTC One protected, without adding much bulk, but it offers instant access to the time and other notifications while the case is still closed. The case manages to accomplish this thanks to its dot matrix cover that lets you take calls, receive email notifications, schedule reminders, weather updates, and more, all without having to open the case to access the phone. To top it all off, the Dot View case comes in several schmancy colors – Warm Black, Imperial Blue, Orange Popsicle, Atlantis, and Baton Rouge.

Incipio’s Feather case

Also, we’re usually hesitant when a new smartphone comes out, because the accessory options are often lacking. Fortunately, right at launch, many manufacturers have stepped up to produce great cases for the HTC One M8. One of our favorites is the feather from Incipio. This is a thin snap on shell case that comes in a bold pink. And although the case is quite slim, it still offers front facing protection. If you’re looking for even more protection, Incipio’s Dual Shine Pro is another solid alternative which mirrors the brushed metal look of the actual device.

What’s not so hot

While we love the build quality and design of the HTC One M8, unfortunately it’s a bit too slippery for our taste. Also this hardy build means that weighing in at 6.3 oz, the phone is heavier than we would like it to be.

Personally, we still prefer a 4 to 4.5 inch display for our petite hands, but 5 inches does hit the sweet spot in terms of offering plenty of display real estate without becoming too unwieldy.

We’re also super disappointed with the onscreen keyboard – we often found ourselves making spelling mistakes and it just feels a bit off. iOS and Windows Phone still offer a much easier and faster onscreen typing experience.

Finally, while the camera is rich with effects and features, the camera often struggles to produce sharp photos, especially when it comes to low light. Overall, this the HTC One M8 packs in a very good camera, but when it comes to picture quality, the camera is flawed and just not as good as some of its competitors.

Verdict

The previous HTC One was a great phone, but it didn’t hit a home run for HTC when it came to marketshare. On the other hand, HTC has nearly knocked it out of the park this time with the HTC One M8.  So it remains to be seen if just having a great phone is enough to become a top seller.  In any case, the HTC One M8 is an outstanding smartphone, and that is no easy feat to have achieved in this overly saturated market. The HTC One M8 is now available across all 4 carriers. But should you get it? We suggest waiting a week first to see what people have to say about the Galaxy S5 once it is released, but in the meanwhile you can’t go wrong with this phone.

Buy it!

The Good: Available across all 4 major U.S. carriers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile, long battery life with smart power saving features, sleek but tough design with nice color choices, Sense 6.0 is beautiful and intuitive, excellent performance, one of the best displays you can get on a smartphone, excellent front facing speakers, HTC advantage program offers damage protection for free for the first 6 months of ownership, Dot View case is both retro chic and practical, super fast camera offers depth-sensing uFocus system and is also rich with features, above average front facing camera, Motion Launch means you never have to use the power button again to turn on the display

The Bad: It’s a bit heavier than we would like it to be, Camera is super fast with lots of neat features but it has photo quality flaws, disappointed with the keyboard, slippery grip