After releasing the stellar One M7 last year, HTC is at it again with the new One M8. Sporting a larger 5-inch display, sexy all-aluminum chassis and funky dual rear-camera setup, the M8 has everything we loved about its predecessor and more. Throw in more than 8 hours of battery life, and it's easy to see why the One M8 for AT&T ($199 on contract) is already one of the best phones of 2014. Need more convincing that this handset is for you? Keep reading.
The HTC One M7 was one of the best-looking Android phones ever made, and the One M8 looks even sleeker. Like its predecessor, the One M8 has an aluminum back. This time around, the chassis is 90 percent metal instead of 70 percent. The rear panel now wraps completely around the handset, from glass to glass. The change makes the new One feel more rounded and comfortable to hold, but a bit more slippery.
Our unit had a gunmetal-gray paint job with a brushed-aluminum finish that contrasted nicely with the matte-black HTC logo on the phone's rear panel. If that isn't your color, you can opt for amber gold or glacial silver.
Up front, the One M8's BoomSound speakers have a matte gunmetal-gray finish that makes the handset's polished, chamfered edging pop. And since the One uses on-screen Android buttons rather than the soft-touch buttons found on the M7, the handset's face looks significantly cleaner.
The volume rocker, located on the One M8's right edge, is more pronounced than the previous generation's, making it easier to press. HTC also moved the headphone jack to the bottom edge, next to the microUSB port, so the top now houses just the power button and IR blaster. We like that the power button is now positioned farther to the right, but having it by our right thumb (as on the Galaxy S5) would be easier. Around back is the handset's dual-lens Duo Camera.
To accommodate its 5-inch display (which is 0.3 inches larger than the one on last year's model), the One's chassis grew taller and a hair wider than its predecessor -- the M8 is 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.37 inches, compared to the M7's 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches. The bigger size means the 5.6-ounce One M8 is also heavier than last year's version, which weighed 5 ounces. Samsung's 5.1-inch Galaxy S5, which comes wrapped in plastic, measures 5.6 x 2.9 x 0.32 inches and weighs just 5.1 ounces.
The HTC One M8's 5-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel Super LCD 3 display produced stunning visuals in our tests. Elements we usually take for granted, such as the home-screen wallpaper and app icons, were pleasing to look at. The vibrant blues and reds of Spider-Man's suit in the trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" seemed to leap off the screen.
In general, we found colors to be more vibrant on the One M8's display than on its predecessors. Whites also looked truer on the One M8 than on the One M7. The color quality on the iPhone 5s was a bit more neutral than on the One M8, which skewed toward oversaturating reds and blues. The Galaxy S5, however, offered the brightest, richest colors of the group.
The One M8 displayed 116.1 percent of the sRGB gamut on our color test, meaning it can display more colors than the standard. In comparison, the iPhone 5s displayed 98.4 of the sRGB gamut, while the S5 registered 158 percent. (Closer to 100 percent is preferred.)
Color reproduction on the One M8 was fairly accurate, with a Delta-E score of 5.9. (Lower numbers are better.) Still, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was more accurate, at 0.9, while the iPhone 5s measured 0.05. (A score of 0 is perfect.)
At 402 nits, the HTC One M8's display is significantly brighter than that on the average smartphone (340 nits), as well as the display on the Galaxy S5 (373 nits). However, the iPhone 5s hit a more impressive 470 nits.
There's no contest here. The new HTC One's front-facing BoomSound speakers make this the best-sounding smartphone in the world. Kendrick Lamar's bass-heavy "Compton" pounded loudly with each hit, and guitar riffs in Killswitch Engage's "Rose of Sharon" shredded the din of our quiet conference room.
HTC says the new One's speakers are 20 percent louder than the ones on last year's model, which translates into more dynamic-sounding audio. This improvement comes despite the fact that the One M8 doesn't use the same Beats Audio engine as its predecessor. When placed side by side, bass hits on Kendrick Lamar's "Compton" were far deeper on the new One, while treble was louder without sounding too tinny.
At 86 decibels, the One's speakers are louder than the original One's, which reached 81 dB. Samsung's Galaxy S5 mustered only 73 dB.
The One M8 comes loaded with HTC's Sense 6.0 UI, which rides on top of Google's Android 4.4 KitKat. While we like the interface's clean lines and crisp fonts, it's mostly more of the same. The biggest difference between Sense 6.0 and Sense 5.0 is HTC's new color-coding motif, which gives certain proprietary apps specific colors based on their function. Entertainment apps, such as Sense TV and Gallery, get an orange banner, while productivity apps, such as Email and Tasks, are blue.
HTC has swapped its busy BlinkFeed app out of the default home-screen slot in favor of a standard Android screen. The app is now accessed by swiping from left to right from the main home screen, but you can assign it to the main spot.
The One's default home screen features a weather and time widget up top, below which you'll find a Google Now search bar, Google and AT&T apps folders, and shortcuts for the Google Play store and Isis Wallet.
At the bottom are omnipresent shortcuts to the Phone, Messages, Apps Drawer, Android Browser and Camera apps. The same apps sit on the One's lock screen. Unfortunately, you can't customize these lock-screen apps. You can, however, add various widgets to your lock screen, including Google Now updates, weather and a clock.
The One M8's notification menu is significantly improved over the M7's. You now get access to 24 quick settings, rather than the eight offered on the M7. What's more, you can edit which of these appear on the notifications screen, including Data Roaming, Mobile Hotspot, Brightness, NFC and Media Output. Samsung's Galaxy S5 offers a similar setup, though the screen brightness is easier to adjust on the S5, thanks to its slide selector.
More than a Flipboard newsreader knockoff, the new version of BlinkFeed for the One M8 brings additional functionality. A kind of news reader that lets you add specific topics or websites and updates as new stories hit the Web, BlinkFeed is now easier to customize than its previous iteration. For instance, thanks to integration with Foursquare, BlinkFeed can now provide restaurant suggestions in your area based on the time of day. Integration with Fitbit will let the HTC One pull in your workout data. The app still also provides updates from your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
One of the biggest additions to the One M8 is Motion Launch. Similar to Motorola's Moto X, Motion Launch detects when you pick up the phone and, like LG's KnockON, lets you double-tap the screen to unlock the phone.
However, the new One M8 goes further than other smartphones. You can swipe in from the right to go right to the home screen and swipe in from the left to unlock to BlinkFeed. Swiping up from the bottom takes you directly to the most recently used app. You can also swipe down from the top to unlock to voice calling, or turn the phone to portrait mode and press the volume up button to unlock to the Camera app.
Note that if you have security enabled, you'll have to unlock the One before performing one of the above actions.
Like the original One, the One M8 comes equipped with an IR blaster on its top edge that works in conjunction with the Sense TV app to let you control your TV, cable box and home theater system. From here, you can change the channel, adjust the volume, select video output settings and pretty much anything else you can do with your standard remote.
HTC's Sense TV uses the Peel service to tap into your cable or satellite provider's feed to provide you with a channel guide, complete with what's on and what's coming on next. You can also watch favorite shows and channels, and share them via social media so everyone can admonish you for watching "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."
HTC packed the One M8 with Qualcomm's powerful quad-core 2.3-GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. Unlike the original One, the new One also includes a 64GB microSD card slot, so you'll have plenty of storage space for all your favorite movies, music and photos.
During our time with the One, we were impressed by its powerful performance. Resource-intensive games such as "N.O.V.A. 3" were buttery smooth and looked better than we've seen on most other smartphones. Apps opened and closed in the blink of an eye, and the camera fired off photos instantaneously.
On our real-world VidTrim test, the One M8 took just 5 minutes to transcode a 204MB, 1080p video to 480p. That's nearly 3 minutes faster than the average smartphone (7:51), while the original HTC One took 7:33. The Galaxy S5, though, finished the test in 4:42. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 finished the test in a respectable 5:15.
Not surprisingly, the HTC One offered some of the best scores we've seen on synthetic benchmark tests. On Geekbench 3, which measures multicore performance, the handset scored 2,324. That's far better than the smartphone category average of 1,837 and the One M7 (1,972). The Snapdragon 801-powered Galaxy S5 scored a slightly higher 2,897, as did the A7-powered iPhone 5s (2,556).
On the Quadrant benchmark, which tests a phone's overall performance, the HTC One scored 24,482, smashing the category average of 11,792. The original HTC One scored 12,150, while the Galaxy Note 3 scored 22,279. The Galaxy S5 notched 22,692.
The HTC One M8 was an equally strong performer on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, muscling its way to a score of 20,640. This showing beats the iPhone 5s (13,795) and Galaxy S5 (18,547).
Camera & Camcorder
It's not the first HTC phone to pack two rear-facing cameras (remember the EVO 3D?), but HTC has taken the technology a step further on the One M8. Not only can the Duo Camera capture 3D-like images, but now you can alter the focus of your photo after you've taken it.
The larger of the two cameras uses the same 4-MP Ultrapixel sensor as the One M7. During our tests, the One M8's camera captured quality low-light photos both with and without the flash, falling just behind the iPhone 5s. The Galaxy S5's low-light images were blurry and lacked detail, while the One M7's shots had a blue tint surrounding our subject.
In daylight, the One M8 captured beautiful images. A shot of a red flower looked more natural when taken with the One M8 and iPhone 5s than it did when taken with the S5, which made colors look too hot. That said, a shot of a blue sky looked more even when taken with the iPhone than it did with the One M8. Because of its relatively low resolution relative to its competitors', we couldn't zoom as far in on photos taken with the One as we could with the iPhone 5s or Galaxy S5.
A 1080p video shot with the One looked gorgeous, capturing the action in a local dog park. Colors looked clear, and details were crisp. However, we wish HTC would add optical image stabilization, as clips were relatively jumpy.
For all of you selfie fans out there, HTC equipped the One M8 with a 5-megapixel front shooter. That's far better than the 2.1-MP camera on the One M7, and the difference in quality shows. Images shot with the One M8 looked sharp and colorful, compared with the slightly grainy photos taken with the M7. Even the iPhone 5s' front camera couldn't hold a candle to the One M8's.
HTC has also brought back its Zoe feature, which lets you take a photo and a short video in one shot. Now, you can shoot videos longer than 3 seconds by holding down the record button for 3 seconds and releasing it. You can also upload Zoes to social media sites, as well as let your friends collaborate with you on your creations. The Zoe feature also gets more functionalities, including GIF Creator, Sequence Shot and Object Removal. We still think the Zoe name is confusing, but we're glad to see that HTC has beefed up the functionality.
The new One's Duo Camera works in tandem with the phone's Ultrapixel shooter to capture depth in your photos. By doing so, the camera adds a host of fun editing options, including Dimension Plus, UFocus and Foregrounder.
Dimension Plus lets you add a touch of 3D to your images. To activate it, take a photo, select the Effects tool and choose Dimension Plus. The new result is an image that reacts to how you move the phone, similar to the iPhone's Parallax feature. While Dimension Plus worked well on close-ups, we found its effects were most noticeable when taking photos of landscapes. Unfortunately, you can't share Dimension Plus photos, as the effect only works on the One M8.
UFocus lets users change the focus of photos to the background or foreground. When you focus on a subject in the foreground, UFocus will automatically blur the background. Focus on the background, and the foreground will blur. The feature is fun to use, but we saw uneven results. In one image, for example, we tapped our subject's face, only to have the top of his head blur with the background.
The Foregrounder feature lets you add a filter to the background of photos while leaving the foreground untouched. Filters include Sketch, Zoom Bur, Cartoon and Colorize. If you're going to use one of these filters, the foreground's focus has to be fairly exact.
HTC says that, in the future, it will release a Copy and Paste camera mode that will let you copy a subject from one photo and paste it into another shot.
HTC doesn't clobber you over the head with preloaded apps like some other smartphone makers, but AT&T shovels in more than its fair share of software.
Zoodles, which was available on the previous HTC One, offers games and activities that are great for young children. What's more, the app has a parental lock that ensures kids can't exit Zoodles without their parents' permission. The Zoodles Parental Dashboard app provides parents with a means to control what their kids can and can't do while using Zoodles, including the types of apps their children can use, the websites they can visit and games they can play.
Isis Mobile Wallet lets you use the One to pay for items at Isis-enabled point-of-sale terminals. You can find available Isis terminals near you by visiting Isis' website and plugging in your ZIP code. Before you start making mobile payments, though, you'll have to ensure you have a secure SIM card. If you don't, you can talk to your carrier about getting one. Unfortunately, the service is supported only by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
AT&T loaded its version of the One M8 with more than a dozen apps. DriveMode can block outgoing calls, texts and emails, as well as silence incoming alerts when you're behind the wheel. There's also AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Locker, AT&T Mobile Locate, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Ready2Go, AT&T Smart Wi-Fi and a host of others.
Of these options, the most useful apps are DriveMode and AT&T FamilyMap, which can help you locate members of your family on a map so you know where they are at all times. In addition to carrier-branded apps, the One M8 for AT&T also comes with a 14-day free trial for Beats Music.
The HTC One M8 for AT&T lasted 8 hours and 42 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over AT&T's 4G LTE network with the display brightness set to 150 nits. That's just a full hour shy of the Samsung Galaxy S5's time of 9:42 on AT&T. Both times, however, are far longer than the smartphone category average of 7:15. It's worth noting that the T-Mobile version of the One M8 lasted an even longer 10:50.
If you really want to extend the One M8's battery life, you can enable Extreme Power Saving Mode, which cuts CPU usage, reduces screen brightness, turns off vibration and the pedometer, and disables mobile data when the screen is off.
With its sexy all-aluminum chassis, gorgeous 5-inch display and strong battery life, the One M8 is easily one of the best Android phones on the planet. It's overall speed, powerful BoomSound speakers and slick Duo Camera only add to the handset's wow factor. Samsung's equally impressive Galaxy S5 offers more features, including a built-in heart-rate monitor and fingerprint reader, but its plastic design is a letdown. If you want the best-looking smartphone on the market with the performance chops to back it up, the HTC One M8 is for you.