It has a two-tone body with a rubberised finish. At 10 point 3 milimetres it is far from the thinnest phone around, but it doesn't feel bulky.
The 8S has a 4-inch Super LCD Gorilla Glass display. Its resolution of 480 by 800 pixels means it has a pixel density of 233 pixels per inch. Windows Phone 8 looks as bright and cheery as ever.
The 8S has curved edges, and a sturdy polycarbonate construction. You won't need a case, but the screen does attract a lot of finger marks.
Above the screen is a relatively thick bezel and a single speaker. The usual touch panel with three Windows Phone icons lies at the bottom, in a strip that's a different colour to the rest of the phone.
Around the back you'll find the only camera - a 5 Megapixel snapper - along with an LED flash. You can add what HTC calls 'lenses' - special add-ons such as a barcode scanner. It can also shoot 720p video.
The smooth panel comes away to reveal a SIM tray and microSD card slot. This mechanism feels robust but, unlike a SIM tray, it does leave you open to losing the cover.
Around the sides of the 8S you'll find a camera button, volume rocker, and on/off switch. These are all fairly easy to find and use, although for some reason the on/off switch at the top is almost flush with the edge of the phone. Also on top is the headphone jack.
General performance is similar: there's nothing wrong with the 8S, it's just not super fast.
You get only 4 GigaBytes of onboard storage. There is, as we've mentioned, support for microSD cards of up to 32Giga, which is handy.
The battery is relatively tiny and just about gets through the day with moderate use.
You get 802.11n Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 3.1, 3G and GPS.
HTC Windows Phone 8S review: verdict
The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the first Windows Phone 8 handset to fit into the mid-range price category. As such it's not quite the performer of the high-end Windows Phone 8 devices, but it's not so poor as to make it a bad deal.
It offers solid performance and features for a reasonable price.
Whether you prefer it to a similarly priced Android phone will depend on your own subjective preference of platform.
We award three and a half stars.