Product Review: HTC One M8

When you’re looking to upgrade your Android device, perhaps it’s time to look at HTC’s newest flagship, the HTC One M8.

HTC One M8

One word describes the overall look, feel, and performance of this device: wow. And thanks to AT&T, I had the opportunity to test drive the phone for a few days.

Sleek design, high performance

The first thing I think I can say about this device is that it’s very smooth. The M8 improves on its predecessor 2013 model. The M8 features a quad-core 2.3 gHz Qualcomm processor. For comparison, the Nexus 5 has a 2.26 gHz Snapdragon processor. You probably won’t notice too much of a different between either device, but HTC made sure to beef up this device.

Next, the screen is simply beautiful. Here’s where I think the M8 really outperforms with its 5 inch, 1920 x 1080 screen. Pure high-definition. Also, even though M8’s screen is less than 1/4 inch larger I could see a subtle difference in the larger screen.

Truthfully, even with Nexus 5’s 445 ppi, the M8’s screen really appears more crisp than the Nexus 5. If you’re someone who does a lot of work on your phone, you’ll love the big, bold, high-definition screen — although if you compare this to Samsung Note 2 or 3, you’re losing valuable real estate with the 5 inch screen.

It’s all about the camera

Nexus 5 has a really great camera.

I know some people are complaining about problems with the Nexus 5’s camera, but I have no problems with taking high quality pictures.

Nexus 5

Nexus 5 Camera

HTC One M8

HTC One M8 Photo

Here’s where the Nexus 5 camera wins, but it’s not by much. Nexus 5 definitely takes more detailed pictures, and the colors are more vivid, but the HTC One M8 doesn’t skimp on its own performance. The One M8 touts HTC’s UltraPixel Camera in the rear, and a 5MP front camera. Each are capable of recording some quality HD video.

The One M8 has an interesting dual capture mode, which is a fun way to capture video and commentary of your surroundings.

Feature packed

The HTC One M8 includes a couple of cool features not available on other devices.

First, the M8 has a FM radio and an accompanying app for tuning in to local FM stations.

HTC One M8 FM Radio

I know, the radio isn’t that cool, but I can see using the radio in emergency situations.

Next, the M8 includes an infrared controller and TV app, which allows you to turn on your television and tune channels with your phone.

HTC One M8 Infrared

Unfortunately, the TV tuner app didn’t recognize any of standard over-the-air channels — CBS, NBC, ABC, or Fox — but it’s still awesome, and really saves having to hunt for the television remote.

Finally, the M8 sports two front-facing speakers — I’m not sure why more phones don’t have this — with HTC’s trademark, “BoomSound.”

HTC One M8 BoomSound Speakers

The speakers deliver, especially when compared to what the Nexus 5 has to offer. I know a lot of people watch videos or listen to music through other devices (headphones or Bluetooth speakers), but the advantage of the M8’s front-facing speaker comes when you try to use the speakerphone. I haven’t really found a good phone with a decent speakerphone option, but the M8 makes me change my mind. Clarity is the only way to describe the event.

Form and function

Hopefully I’ve said this enough: the HTC One M8 is a great looking and feeling device.

HTC One M8 in hand

 

And when compared with my Nexus 5, you will feel comfortable using the HTC One M8.

Nexus 5 HTC One M8

Battery bonanza

Generally, I’m pretty happy with my Nexus 5’s battery life. I can usually get through most days without charging my phone — a lot depends on use and calls. The M8 has decent battery life — it sports a 2600 mAh battery versus the Nexus 5’s 2300 mAh — only losing 29% of its juice after 14 hours of minimal use.

HTC One M8 Battery Life

The M8’s battery also performed well with more regular use.

Updated battery

Sadly, the M8 is missing wireless charging capabilities. Thus, you’re confined to finding a charging cable and outlet (or you could use an external battery). Fortunately, HTC provides one of the longest USB charging cables you’ll ever see.

Well, maybe . . .

Price

Is the HTC One M8 worth buying over a Nexus 5? Probably not. You can grab an unlocked One M8 on Amazon for $823, though most carriers have great deals on subsidized devices. If you could get the phone on an upgrade, it’s worth the price. Note too, most of the wireless carriers’ retail prices are less than Amazon’s, though the devices are carrier specific.

The One M8 is also available as a Google Play Edition device, though the phone costs $699. At that price, the Nexus 5, for about $300 less, is definitely more appealing.

Honestly, if the One M8 was available when I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile, I would have upgraded to the One M8. Yes, it’s that good.

The Google experience

Similar to other Android 4.1+ devices, Google Now runs on the HTC One M8 through the Google Search app. Unfortunately, because of HTC’s default BlinkFeed launcher, you’re going to miss the “OK Google” built-in capabilities of the Nexus 5’s Google Experience. Don’t worry though, you can sideload — you can’t install GNL from Google Play — the Google Now Launcher and the full experience.

NoinstallGNL

I should also mention that HTC’s Sense 6 software, which basically runs as a skin over the One M8’s Android 4.4.2 operating system, fixes a lot of the annoying quirks of previous versions. Sense 6 really feels, looks, and acts more like stock Android. So, if you decide that you don’t want the Google Experience, you can stick with Sense 6 and still be happy.

HTC is also committed to hearty software updates, which means the One is already running Android 4.4.2, and will probably receive the next few Android OS updates fairly quickly. Incidentally, the M8 boot screen already shows the “Powered by Android” slogan recently required on devices running Google services. that’s just one proof of how quickly HTC moved to update this device.

Weight

Finally, although both devices are similar in size and form, Nexus 5 easily feels lighter. The Nexus 5 weighs in at 130 grams, while the HTC One M8 is a hefty 160 grams.

That might not seem like much of a problem, but trust me, you can really feel the difference. Of course, when you add my Tech 21 case to the Nexus 5, the devices weigh the same.

Carrier speed

AT&T’s carrier network makes me regret my decision to move from Verizon to T-Mobile. Although I’m saving $50 each month in fees, I’m really limited by T-Mobile’s data network. Usually, that’s not an issue since I spend most days connected to my home or office WiFi, or I’m zooming around Oklahoma City on T-Mobile’s unlimited 4G LTE.

But, I’m currently sitting on my living room couch flopping between zero wireless bars at 3.85 Mbps (if I’m lucky to connect to LTE), compared to AT&T’s three bars, and 5.75 Mbps.

AT&T LTE (left) versus T-Mobile LTE (right) speeds
AT&T LTE (left) versus T-Mobile LTE (right) speeds

In full disclosure, and perhaps to save some T-Mobile embarrassment, I usually connect to T-Mobile’s HSPA and 3G networks at my house without too many speed issues:

TMobile3G

Unfortunately though, reliable data coverage on T-Mobile’s network is an issue — I like the unlimited data though, so it’s a toss-up.

The result

Overall, if you’re looking for a new device, and you’re not sold on a Nexus 5, you really need to check out HTC’s 2014 flagship device.

However, the HTC One M8 isn’t totally without its flaws. Most especially, I hate the placement of the power button on the top of the phone. This makes no sense, and it’s difficult to turn off the phone if you have smaller hands.

HTC really hits a home run with its One M8 phone, and I’m really loving AT&Ts coverage.

 

2 Responses to Product Review: HTC One M8

  1. The HTC One is a gorgeous phone. I demoed one a year ago and really enjoyed it as a handheld computing device. My only complaint was that its large size made it intimidating to use as a phone. I never felt comfortable holding it to my ear for phone calls, which is the actual purpose of a cell phone. I eventually bought the iPhone 5 because it plays well with my iPads.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.