The reviews of the just announced new HTC One (M8) are officially out, and as of right now, it looks like HTC has a hit on its hands. Reviewers are praising the device’s stunning Gunmetal design, as well as its 5-inch display. Some reviewers, however, aren’t that big of a fan of the highly touted camera, saying its quality is often hit or miss and the software is somewhat clunky.
Like last year’s One, the 2014 edition (HTC is calling it the “HTC One (M8)” but we think that’s ultimately more confusing) is machined from a solid block of aluminum, but it’s even more metal this time. Last year’s had a fair amount of plastic in the edges of the device, but this year it’s pretty much metal everywhere you look. It’s also had some of its sharp edges ground out, and you’re left with a smoother, slightly rounder device. It’s incredibly solid and it feels like it could take a bullet in the back and keep on going (it probably couldn’t, don’t try that, thank you).
The Verge praises the device’s performance, while also noting that the battery life is not compromised at all:
With Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM inside, the One flies whether I’m playing games, watching movies, or furiously typing text messages. Even scrolling is smoother than I’m used to on just about any Android device. I’ve had exactly zero performance issues with the One — I can’t say that very often.
And it lasts awhile, too. I get 30 hours without much effort, and I’ve gotten through two full days with only a little babying. In this case, “babying” really just means turning on Extreme Power Saver mode, which essentially disables everything but the phone, texting, and manual email refreshes, and in my experience can last an entire evening on only a few battery percentage points. You won’t want to use it often, but it’s a life-saver in a pinch.
In essence HTC is shooting to replicate shallow depth of field which skilled owners of DSLR cameras often use to great aesthetic effect. It’s also a technique the Nokia Lumia 1020 as well as the Lytro camera have strived to create through clever software processing. HTC calls the feature “UFOCUS” which lives in the phone’s photo editing menus. Also placed here is a feature named Foregrounder which applies special filters to the background, like simulated pencil sketch-marks, motion blurring, even animated objects to indicate the changing seasons. Think snowflakes or blowing cherry blossoms and you get the idea. Something HTC terms “3D Dimmension Plus” warps pictures to lend them a cartoon-like depth too which you can alter by tilting the phone back and forth.
The image quality of test photos backed up my misgivings. While colors were accurate and white balance correct in my experience, both indoors and outside, details appeared soft. Additionally, a deeper look into the One M8’s camera performance revealed the phone had difficulty with varied lighting conditions and often blew out bright skies in HDR mode. I can say that the One M8 snaps pictures like a speed demon, with shot-to-shot times virtually instantaneous.
If you liked the 1080p Super LCD3 display on the original One, be prepared for essentially the same experience. The M8 retains its predecessor’s resolution and display tech, but steps up to a slightly larger 5-inch screen. Display snobs will note that this results in lower pixel density, but unless you’re looking at the two displays side by side, you’re probably not going to notice. As on last year’s model, the panel looks sharp, bright and vibrant; viewing angles are wide and the display is easy to see in direct sunlight as long as you push the brightness up to 75 percent or higher.
The screen itself is protected by a slab of Gorilla Glass 3, which is, of course, designed to be scratch-resistant. Since the glass is raised a bit above the rest of the phone’s body, should we be concerned about possible chips? Croyle tells us that the answer is no: The company applied a special protective coating to prevent additional scratches and impacts that may normally weaken the glass.
Wired says the device’s “dot case” is somewhat awkward and kind of expensive, but is cool to look at nonetheless:
Finally, a note about the case. You can buy a $50 “dot case” with the phone. The front side is covered with holes, and the phone senses when it is closed. Tapping the phone when the case is closed reveals the current time and weather in a large, retro-pixel, format through the case. It’s pretty cool. But when you open the case, it doesn’t fold completely back on itself. That makes it awkward in a way I could forgive on a $10 or $20 case. But at $50, that shouldn’t be happening.
The new HTC One launches with Android 4.4.2 KitKat — the most recent version available, for those of you keeping score at home — and a new version of HTC’s custom user interface — Sense 6.0.
As is usually the case, there’s not much HTC hasn’t gotten its hands on. From the new on-screen buttons to the menus to the lock screen and quick settings, app drawer and, well, just about everything. The notification pulldown appears to be mostly unaffected, though. (The notifications are as Google intended, though the timestamps are done in HTC’s font.)
The good news is that it’s not a huge visual shift from Sense 5, and even smaller if you’ve been using Sense 5.5. That’s not to say it’s not improved — because it is — it’s just that you shouldn’t have to relearn too much. The biggest improvements come in BlinkFeed and the camera app, but there are plenty of smaller tweaks to be enjoyed as well.