HTC One M8 critics' verdict: Stunning design but Ultrapixel camera is its major downfall

So the HTC One (M8) has finally been officially announced and even though it was the worst kept smartphone secret this year, there was quite a lot of excitement to see what HTC has done to its fabulous flagship from last year.


The first impression is that HTC has managed to improve everything save for the ergonomics, since the M8 is bigger in every aspect – height, width and thickness - than last year’s flagship. It’s also 17g heavier at 160g. But there’s no mistaking the design for any other phone. This is quintessential HTC One design and this time around there’s more metal than ever before in the construction.


In its review, GSMArena said, “The HTC One (M8) is an absolute stunner in the flesh. Unmistakably related to its predecessor, the new HTC One is even more elegant thanks to a body with even more metal.” HTC claims that 90 percent of the M8’s body is made of metal, while the first HTC One had 70 percent metal construction.


Overall, there have been no bad things said about the HTC One M8’s design. Android Police said, “The curve across the back of the device also seems a bit softer, and the metal has a "gunmetal hairline" finish that makes it pretty comfortable to hold.”

Signature HTC design and stellar build quality

Signature HTC design and stellar build quality


The metal wraps around the sides of the phone to the glass, and the top portion, which clearly holds the IR blaster, besides the power button, is made out of plastic, one of the few places on the phone you will find that material.


Last year’s One had a 4.7-inch display, which HTC has decided to do away with. Instead we get a more mainstream 5-inch display with 1080p resolution. In its review, where it give the HTC One M8 8.5 out of 10, The Verge said the display has near “perfect color representation and a measure of brightness and pop that even last year’s model can’t match.”


As for the performance, we didn’t expect the Snapdragon 801 to be a slouch and all reviews testify to this fact. GSMArena said it “performs as expected for a device of its stature” and added that the 801 chipset brings improved GPU performance. Most reviews were also happy with the UI. Sense 6 totally masks its Android underpinnings and HTC has not decided to change much of the UI, but there are changes in the way you would unlock the phone and get to some of the most used apps.


HTC knows having a power button on top is a it problematic for all users. Sometimes even the longest fingers won’t reach there if you don’t have a decent enough grip. So to get the phone on, HTC has relied on motions and gestures. You can get to the BlinkFeed, your homescreen, the app drawer through a swipe on a locked screen. Camera can be brought on by turning the phone to landscape and pressing the volume button, while another press takes a picture.

HTC Duo Camera

HTC Duo Camera


Speaking of pictures, the camera could be HTC One M8’s biggest downfall. Nearly all reviews were critical of HTC’s choice of retaining the 4-megapixel or HTC Ultrapixel camera, which was panned last year for bad colour depth and terrible performance indoors. But the HTC has improved the colour reproduction according to early reviews. However, the consensus is that that’s still not enough to match the competition. Considering that the Xperia Z2 has a 20-megapixel camera, it has 5 times higher resolution camera, while the Galaxy S5 has 4 times higher resolution camera, the HTC One M8 certainly seems at a disadvantage.


“The One really only has one major flaw left, and it’s a big one: its camera is still pretty bad. It’s the same UltraPixel camera HTC debuted last year, which trades resolution for pixel size so as to collect more light at a time. The idea is certainly sound, but the execution was wrong then and it’s wrong now. And the changes it did make are either niche features or interface changes attempting to disguise the device’s basic shortcomings,” said The Verge.


But HTC has armed the M8 with Duo Camera, a second camera on top which measures depth information, allowing you to get cool effects in post-production, including shifting focus from background to foreground and vice versa. It sounds great, but does it work? Android Police said, “It seemed to cut off focus in definable blocks, with contiguous objects getting suddenly blurred at a sharp line.” As evidence, the website showed a picture of a page with text and you could clearly see the blocks.


Ironically, the front camera on the HTC One has a higher megapixel count than the rear one. Phone Arena reported that it produced pretty good looking photos and managed to get several people in the frame thanks to the wide-angle lens.

Camera is a disappointment

Camera is a disappointment


So the camera was a disappointment, but you won’t be saying the same about its battery life. GSMArena found the M8 to last 71 hours in its endurance test, which means you can use the phone for nearly three days with one hour of calling, browsing and video playback every day. The talk time on the HTC One is impressive as it lasted for 20 hours on a 3G network in the website’s tests.


The Extreme Power Saver mode also came for some praise. It disables the big colourful UI to give you just the basic apps and turns off automatic refreshing, so you will have to manually press a refresh button to get new messages and notifications. HTC claims the phone will last for 60 hours in Extreme Power Saver mode with just 20 percent battery.

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