HTC One (M8) Review – How A 2014 Flagship Holds After Two Years

I never chased newest smartphone models, didn’t want to spend lots of money on a smartphone. Aside from two Symbian models I owned ten years ago (the famous Nokia 6600, and the avant-garde Nokia 6260), all of my phones were mid-tier devices. But in recent years the innovation slowed down, mobile technology achieved a peak regarding hardware, with the biggest innovation being larger and sharper screens.

The 1440p resolution came but didn’t bring anything shockingly groundbreaking. New processors are more potent than it was the case two years ago, but the old flagship chipsets are still having a pretty powerful kick, strong enough to knock out any game, to provide seamless multitasking. All that lead me to decision that my new smartphone will be a flagship device, but not the most recent one. At the beginning of this year, I decided to pick up used HTC One (M8).

The phone was relatively cheap and had everything I needed; solid hardware, excellent build quality, and superb audio capabilities. The camera is lousy, but since I don’t use the camera often – mostly for snapping a beautiful vista, or to take a hundredth picture of my dog – the photo quality didn’t mean much to me. You can actually grab pretty solid photos just by tinkering a bit with manual camera settings, so that’s great.

Overall, the HTC One (M8) is still a pretty solid smartphone, it still works pretty fast, the battery lasts for a day and a half, and the audio capabilities are marvelous. Let’s look at how the phone keeps up more than two years after it got launched.

Design, Build Quality

HTC started their new flagship design philosophy with the One (M7). Two large stereo speakers at the front, two antenna bands at the back, accompanied by full metal chassis proved to be a winning combination. You can find a power button on the top, a micro USB port and a 3.5 mm audio jack at the bottom, along with volume rocker and the SD card slot on the right. SIM card slot is placed on the left side, and that’s it. Two HTC logos (one under the screen, the other on the middle part of the backside) clearly show the manufacturer, with the former being unnecessary, just taking extra space on the front, making the phone larger than it could have been.

Build quality is superb. The phone picked some dents, result of relatively often drops, but aside from that, nothing is changed.  It still looks awesome, except if you decide to use a protective case when the phone looks like an ugly brick that’s too wide and too tall for comfort usage. There are no cracking sounds, no parts that are loosened, even after more than two years. Thumbs up for HTC, they really know how to make a superb flagship device.

Hardware

The phone is equipped with a Snapdragon 801 chipset, a quad-core solution that still provides plenty of power for any kind of usage scenario. You can open 15 tabs in Chrome, take notes in Google Keep, all that while installing a bunch of apps from the Play Store and chatting over Skype, and the M8 will perform very snappy, with just an occasional hiccup, which doesn’t hurt the user experience. Two gigs of RAM are plenty for Android, even if new models come out equipped with 4 GB, or more. I suppose that multi-window feature found on the new Android Nougat wouldn’t work as intended (especially if running two very demanding apps) but that answer won’t be answered since Nougat isn’t available for devices equipped with Snapdragon 801.

Overall, performance is more than satisfying. The chipset can’t match the performance of this year’s flagships but can still hold its ground against the newest mid-tier processors (like Snapdragon 650) and last year’s flagship CPUs, like Snapdragon 808. HTC One (M8) scored around 60,000 points on AnTuTu, and in Geekbench 4 it can go up to a bit over 1,000 points in single core test and can hit more than 2,300 points in multi-core test; solid results, not quite record-breaking but good enough for a two-year-old model.

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The graphics chip featured on the phone is Adreno 330, and the chip is still good enough for any game. I played Asphalt 8, Real Racing 3, some very demanding RPG games, and FPS was always high and constant, without any kind of slowdown.

The most important reason why I picked up HTC One (M8) was its superb audio capability, and the phone performs stellar in that segment. The first time I hooked up my Sony earphones with the phone, I was amazed by the clarity of the sound. Couldn’t believe that those earphones can provide such crisp sound. They have been tested on Huawei P9, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and iPhone 6s Plus, and none of the said models can come near to the quality of the sound HTC One (M8) provides. Stereo speakers are also excellent, the sound is clear even when the speakers are maxed out, not to talk about the speaker’s power, you can make a party with those speakers.

Software

HTC is known for its Sense UI. During the early days of Android, Sense was the best graphic user interface in the whole Android world. With the release of One series (One X, One S, One V) Sense was transformed; design changed, making sense more in line with stock Android. Sense UI present on the M8 looks very similar to the stock Android but has some tricks that make daily usage more comfortable.

Things like tap/swipe to wake, battery saver and much better looking settings menu make the phone more usable, and build up on top of stock Android experience. Overall, Sense is still on great GUI; other manufacturers should look up to HTC when designing their UIs. I’m still on Lollipop since there’s no need for me to migrate to Marshmallow; the only Marshmallow feature that I’m interested in is the option for merging SD card with internal storage; since 32 GB of internal storage are enough (for now), I’m not planning to switch to Marshmallow for at least a month (but will install it eventually, when get a new SD card).

Camera

The camera is the weakest point of the device. At just 4 MP (but with the Ultrapixel technology) the camera can snap some decent photos, but if you want crisp, sharp photos, look somewhere else. Since I’m not a user who takes tons of selfies, or who wants to take every other interesting scene he finds, the camera performance doesn’t hurt me at all.

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Battery

The phone is equipped with a relatively low capacity battery. With just 2600 mAh (and especially since the device is more than two years old) I expected it to last under one day. But the battery usually doesn’t give up before the end of the day, even with constant usage. During light usage, it can live up to two days, which is phenomenal. Since it is more than a bit old, the charging can take up to two hours before the battery gets full. Not so bad for a two-year-old smartphone.

As you can see on screenshots below, the battery is at 63 percent after almost 13 hours of use. The usage included long Skype calls, lots of phone calls, a bit of gaming and an hour or so of surfing the web.

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Display

The screen is a 5-inch Super LCD 3 with 1080p resolution. 1080p on a 5-inch is perfect; the sharpness is very high (441 ppi pixel density) and honestly, I can’t spot any level of pixelation. The manufacturers went for 1440p for marketing reasons, since 1080p provides density so high that no human eye can spot individual pixels. VR technology gave a proper reason for putting 1440p (or higher) resolution on smartphones, but since I don’t plan to use any kind of VR content on my HTC One (M8), 1080p is more than enough. The iPhone 7 has a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels (326 ppi pixel density) making all talk about 1080p being too low a resolution for a modern smartphone pointless.

Movies look awesome; brightness is excellent, making the screen visible even in direct sunlight. Web surfing is nice, with plenty of screen space; yes, it’s better on a 5.5-inch device, but even this 5-inch smartphone is almost too large for me.

Conclusion

It seems that we reached the point were getting a new phone doesn’t bring any visible performance jump. The only noticeable difference can be seen when running benchmarks while in real use you’ll see a performance jump of only a couple of milliseconds when opening apps, or switching from one app to another.

I can honestly say that a two-year-old flagship is still a very potent device. HTC One (M8) has a great display, its battery is still more than decent, the hardware can hold up against any new game or demanding app, and its build quality is superb. The audio quality is still unmatched, the phone can deliver outstanding sound, no matter is you use headphones or playing music over speakers. Once I hooked up my computer speakers to the phone, in order to check the quality, and was surprised that the phone managed to deliver a better sound than my PC sound card.

Overall, HTC One (M8) is one excellent device. I don’t need a new device since my One (M8) can perform all tasks that I use t for. Yes, the camera is subpar, and the phone can’t run the newest Android, but other than that, the device is superb. Don’t plan to change it until it dies from old age, or until the battery starts giving up. For now, it’s a device that can finish any task, a bit slower than the newest flagships.

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