The M8 has a 5" full HD LCD 1920 x 1080 display that's bright, extremely sharp and decently color accurate. It uses an IPS-like display and colors are natural rather than cartoony, and viewing angles are wide. It's viewable outdoors and whites are very bright and clean while blacks are decent but not as inky as AMOLED and Super AMOLED displays. Yes, it's a wee bit bigger than the last generation HTC One, but you do lose some screen acreage at the bottom for the three virtual Android buttons. These buttons will go into hiding mode when using full screen apps like Gallery or games, so they aren't visually intrusive. On the other hand, finding them can be trying-- tap in the vague area where they reside under a fog of black until they appear. Google wants manufacturers to move away from hardware buttons, so don't blame HTC if you dislike on-screen buttons.
Phone and Data
The HTC One M8 on Verizon has very good voice quality and average call volume through the earpiece. Incoming voice was clear and full and our call recipients said we sounded quite loud and also clear. As you might guess, speakerphone calls can really boom thanks to HTC's BoomSound speakers. The M8 behaved better with a variety of Bluetooth headsets and my car's built-in Bluetooth than did the HTC One M7 (old One) that was generally quieter than average for calls.
Data speeds were above average on our Verizon Wireless review unit, and near a highway and tower the phone exceeded 50mbps download speeds. The updated wireless chipset with higher max LTE speeds is taking care of business nicely here. Like all modern smartphones, the HTC One M8 has a mobile hotspot feature so you can use your phone as a high speed wireless modem for a laptop or tablet (your carrier may charge extra for this feature).
We've already talked about the Snapdragon 801 quad core CPU with Adreno 330 graphics and DDR3 RAM support. It's currently the fastest smartphone chip on the market, and it leads the Snapdragon 800 by a small margin. HTC admitted that like Samsung, they game benchmarks, cranking up the CPU performance when the M8 detects popular benchmark apps are running. Samsung gave up the practice and removed the benchmark detection for Galaxy phones receiving the Android 4.4 KitKat update, and we'd like to see all manufacturers stop this.
Some HTC M8s (not US models at launch) have a setting in developer options to turn on high performance CPU mode for all apps. When playing 3D games, the phone gets warm on the back, but not hot. It gets warm enough that I wouldn't enable overclocking, since thermal throttling will likely negate it quickly enough.
||3DMark Ice Storm
|HTC One M8
|Samsung Galaxy S5
|Sony Xperia Z1S
|Samsung Galaxy Note 3
|Samsung Galaxy S4
|HTC One M7
|Sony Xperia Z
|LG Optimus G Pro
|Samsung Galaxy Note II
|Samsung Galaxy S III
Geekbench 3: 909 single core, 2832 multi-core
The One has a very impressive 5 megapixel front camera with BSI and HDR. It can shoot 1080p video too, and that means high quality video chat. Given the popularity of selfies, we're glad to see a manufacturer actually care about front camera quality-- great stuff! I was truly impressed with video quality and you can see it in action in our video review.
The rear camera unfortunately sticks with the 4MP equivalent Ultrapixel camera seen on the last generation HTC One. The good part is just as with the M7, you get a wide aperture lens and larger pixel sites that capture more light, which can improve low light photos and generally improve shots. Indeed, the camera captures pleasing colors with good sharpness but it still handles high contrast scenes poorly with blown out whites. Colors tend toward the cool side, and are a bit less accurate than the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nokia Lumia 1520/Nokia Lumia Icon. The drawback of the 4MP equivalent sensor is the relatively low resolution of photos; there isn't much opportunity for cropping without things becoming a blotchy mess. But taken as a whole, the images are good, and if you don't do more than post to Facebook or personal blogs, then it's a perfectly adequate camera. If you're a camera enthusiast (as I admittedly am) hoping to use your smartphone as a decent point and shoot digicam substitute, the M8's exposure and sometimes bleached look HDR shots won't win hearts and eyeballs. HDR certainly could be improved with a software update, and given how actively HTC is issuing software updates via Google Play, perhaps we'll see some tweaks soon.
Above: a pleasing photo taken in even lighting on a partly cloudy day.
Below: notice how high contrast results in blown out highlights and a loss of detail.
Sadly, the HTC One M8 loses the optical image stabilization that we loved in the old One and in various Nokia Windows phones. We particularly missed it for video recording where it would have helped calm video jitters. 1080p video capture has pleasing colors and decent contrast, though we noticed the same tendency to blow out highlights as we saw on with photos. In evenly lit settings, including night settings, the camera can acquire some nice footage with very good audio quality.
HTC added a secondary rear camera, and thankfully this doesn't herald a return to the failed 3D smartphone cameras of old. Instead it captures depth info to aide in software photo editing features like Ufocus that let you create background blur and Dimension Plus that does a 3D perspective shift that you enact by tilting the camera (if that's hard to imagine, watch our video where I demo the feature--it's actually cool). And yes, Zoe is still here so you can create a short presentation of moving photos.
Good news, the HTC One M8 has better battery life than the first gen One and it beats many other current smartphones on the market. We had a hard time killing the 2600 mAh Lithium Ion with a heavy day of use that included streaming video for an hour, using the GPS for a half hour trip, 30 minutes of calls, taking 40 photos and 5 full HD videos and playing 45 minutes of games (Real Racing 3 mostly). Rather than plugging the phone in before bed, we let it sit idle overnight and still had enough juice to power through until 11am. Nice. We didn't dip below 7 hours of actual screen on time, which is quite good for today's phones... watch out, LG G2 you have competition.
It's hard to not fall in love with the HTC One M8 unless you're a rabid iPhone/Windows Phone/BlackBerry fan or esthetically challenged. Heck, even if you could care less about your phone's looks, the HTC One M8's big and clear screen, fast performance, tasteful Android presentation and solid battery life are captivating. We're in love with the front 5MP camera, and give HTC kudos for improving what seems like the red headed stepchild of features to many manufacturers. Our only complaint is the rear camera; sure the software is very nice but the camera resolution will disappoint the hordes of users who've abandoned point and shoots in favor of capable high resolution camera phones. Despite how lovely the new One is in most every respect, it doesn't have a drop dead killer feature that will make waves of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy owners convert. These days, smartphones evolve slowly so we certainly won't single out HTC for being less than revolutionary, but HTC's been bleeding market share and they need something big to win it back. As lovely as the HTC One M8 is, I'm not sure it will turn the tide, or rather the flood that the iPhone and Samsung's various Galaxy phones represent.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $600-$640 without contract
Samsung Galaxy S5 Revew
HTC One M8 vs. Samsung Galaxy S5 Comparison Smackdown
HTC One (M7) Review
Sony Xperia Z1S Review
iPhone 5s Review
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review
Nokia Lumia Icon Review
Directly above and below: the option HTC Dot View case is very cool!