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HTC One M8 review: Better than the original and now with a microSD card slot

£550 inc VAT

Manufacturer: HTC

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

HTC has launched a new version of its flagship smartphone for 2014 to take on the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2 and iPhone 5S. Here's our HTC One M8 review.

HTC's new flagship smartphone for 2014 is the One (M8). Here's our in-depth, full review of the new HTC One M8See also: 26 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014. 

HTC's aim with the M8 was to take the original HTC One, codenamed 'M7', and make everything better – an all-round upgrade job. One thing's for sure: there are no major leaps with the M8, but we're seeing a similar trend with all new flagship smartphones this year. The Galaxy S5, for example, adds a couple of new features while the Sony Xperia Z2 is barely different to the Z1.

Let's take a look at the new HTC One M8 in more depth.

HTC One M8 review: Price

At launch, the M8 cost a classic £550 on a SIM-free basis – that matches key rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s. Since the device has been around for a few months now, you can find it for less.

Amazon has the smartphone for £519 in the glacial silver colour but you can get it for just £459 from Simply Electronics. If this is still too much for your budget and you don't want a contract, take a look at the Nexus 5 and LG G2 which are both flagship devices at budget prices.

See also: Best mobile phone deals: HTC One M8 best deals UK.

HTC One M8 review: Design and build quality

As you can see, the HTC One M8 looks a lot like the original. However, there are some differences.

Once again, the Taiwanese firm has used a uni-body aluminium design but the metal wraps around to the front rather than having a plastic strip around the edge. The corners of the phone are also more rounded. It has a brushed look and has been treated to gain its glossy finish. The device now uses around 90 percent metal compared to the M7's 70 percent.

HTC One M8 2014 review

A larger screen (see hardware, below) means that the phone is both taller and wider than its predecessor - predominantly taller - but it doesn't feel too large in the hand. It's also a few grams heavier at 160g compared to 143g, making it one of the weightier flagship smartphones but again, it doesn't feel overly weighty. Instead it has that reassuringly heavy feel to it.

HTC puts design first and you can certainly tell that with the M8 in your hand. It feels like a premium smartphone which is something Samsung has failed to achieve, in our opinion, with the Galaxy S5. The new HTC One is ergonomic, but also sturdy.

This is important because, as well as feeling like a device which has been carefully designed and put together, it doesn't feel overly delicate which is a downside to the iPhone 5S and previous metal versions. Visit: New HTC One (m8) 2014 price and where to buy in UK

However, if you do want to protect you precious M8, then HTC has come up with a rather cool flip-style case. It's called the DotView case - for obvious reasons as you can see below. A nice feature is that the time and notifications appear when you double tap on the case when it's shut. You can also use other gestures to perform other tasks such as answering a call.

Viewing the screen through the holes creates a cool LED dot-matrix effect. The DotView case cost £35 and is available in seven different colours.

HTC One M8 DotView case

From launch, the M8 itself is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold' – a line-up reminiscent of the iPhone 5S colour options. See also: O2 and Carphone Wearhouse to sell HTC One M8 in red and pink colours.

The eagle-eyed will already have noticed that HTC has ditched the dedicated navigation buttons in favour of on-screen alternatives. We'll talk about this in more detail in the software on page two.

One thing to note compared to rivals (namely the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z1) is that the HTC One M8 doesn't come with any dust- or waterproof credentials. This may or may not be an important feature to you. Read: What's the best HTC smartphone: HTC One mini 2 vs HTC One M8.

HTC One M8 review: Duo Camera

With Sense 6.0 the camera app has had a redesign and we like the stylish and minimalist approach. It's easy to use but there are plenty of settings to play with if you're feeling adventurous. They're easy to find if you're looking for them. HTC splits the camera app into different modes with the front camera even labelled as 'selfie'.

HTC One M8 camera modes

The back of the HTC One M8 is home to two camera lenses. HTC calls this the Duo Camera and it's one of the main new features of the smartphone. You might think they are for taking 3D photos, like the old LG Optimus 3D but that's not the case.

HTC One M8 Duo Camera

The first camera, the one closer to the middle of the phone, is the Ultrapixel camera found on the M7 – with some improvements. According to HTC, the ImageChip 2 means the camera can shoot faster and capture sharper images. And this seems to be true from our preliminary tests (click the images to enlarge).

At 4Mp, there isn't as much detail in photos compared to the M8's rivals but becuase its pixels are bigger the phone is better suited to low-light situations.

Here's our typical test shot of St.Pancras which has come out well in automatic mode.

HTC One M8 Duo camera - St pancras

Here's a 100 percent crop of the above image:

HTC One M8 Duo camera - 100 percent crop

And here's a close up shot of a lightbulb using the Macro mode:

HTC One M8 Macro

The second camera is an interesting addition and is there to capture depth information. This 'metadata' is attached to the photo taken with the main camera and can be used later on. Similar to the Lytro camera, the HTC One M8 Duo Camera allows users to refocus a photo after it's been taken.

Unlike the Galaxy S5, which offers three preset focal points, the M8's second sensor means users can refocus anywhere they like. We've had a play with this and it works pretty well, although it's quite difficult not to cover the second les with you finger. Luckily a message pops up on the screen to say you're blocking it. We've been playing around with the Duo Camera and here's what it looks like.

HTC One M8 Duo Camera testHere's the initial photograph we took using default settings.

HTC One M8 Duo Camera refocusTapping the refocus button means the background goes out of focus making your subject stand out more. It gives an DSLR-style shallow depth of field effect.

HTC One M8 refocus backgroundHere we've focused on the man standing in the background. The software has effectively sectioned off the main subject (look particularly at the hair to see how the agorithm has selected the 'object'). Rather than genuinely altering the focus of the image, it uses the depth information to know which objects should be in or out of focus. Unfortunately, it means edge detection has to be used to blur objects and close scrutiny reveals it can't deal well with hair like this.

Similarly, in the photo below, it's easy to see that the software doesn't feather the blur, leaving a nasty hard line across the decking (click to see a bigger version).

HTC One M8 Duo camera - Ufocus fail

However, with the right image, Ufocus can do a fine job as shown below (the edited image is the bottom one, of course):

HTC One M8 Duo camera - Ufocus

Refocusing is only available for still photos, not videos. The M8 can record video in Full HD, not 4K. HTC's Zoe (now an separate app for automatically editing video) has had an update with more of a social aspect and will be made available for non-HTC phones later this year.

Video quality is unimpressive. There's no stabilisation and footage wasn't as sharp or detailed as we'd have liked (and certainly not a patch on the Samsung Galaxy S5's video quality).

The Foregrounder app allows you add effects in tandem with the refocusing. A strange 3D effect makes photos come to life in a sort of house of mirrors way – i.e. a gimmick - and you can also cut and paste parts of photos, such as a person, with minimal hassle although again, this is more for creativity than something genuinely handy you'll use regularly.

Like the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash. It works reasonably well, but images are still obviously taken using a flash and - in most cases - you won't need it as the Ultrapixel camera does a grand job when there isn't much light around. The image below was lit by only a cooker hood fluorescent bulb. It isn't the greatest photo in the world, but it does show decent white balance and - importantly - a lack of noise.

HTC One M8 Duo camera - low light

A cool feature which we've not seen elsewhere is the ability to not only manually adjust settings, such as ISO, but then save them as presets to use later. This means you can come up with your own modes for different situations.

HTC One M8 camera app

The front camera is a 5Mp f/2.2 shooter with a wide-angle lens so it should be easier to fit several people into your selfie.

Next page: HTC One M8 review Hardware, Performance, Software and Battery Life

HTC One (M8) Expert Verdict »
HTC One M8 Scores 9.0 out of 10 based on 383 reviews
5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
16GB, available capacity around 10GB
microSD (up to 128GB)
2 GB DDR2 RAM
Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
3.5mm stereo audio jack
NFC
Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
Infrared
HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
160g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 10 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 9 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

Like the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2, the new HTC One M8 isn't a big leap compared to the previous model. What HTC has done is taken a great phone and made it better. The M8 looks and feels gorgeous and with important upgrades including a microSD card slot and an innovative camera. This is one desirable smartphone.

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