When Samsung unveiled the somewhat underwhelming Galaxy S5, HTC brashly suggested buyer’s remorse will be coming soon to early adopters of the “next big thing”. They also promised competition will be “one-upped” by the sequel to the outstanding if not underrated 2013 HTC One, raising the bar of expectations way beyond the company’s real potential.
Making matters worse, the “All New HTC One” quickly became the unwanted star of possibly the loftiest leak fest in Android history. I realize you’ve probably heard this before, but the phone was truly the worst kept secret of all time.
The rumor bonanza baffled HTC to the extent they actually ran out of branding ideas, ultimately leaving it to their distribution partners to choose a moniker. Any moniker. As such, the 5 incher is called The all new HTC One (M8) by Verizon, the HTC One – M8 by Sprint, and HTC One (M8) at AT&T. That’s beyond confusing.
And it’s not even HTC’s biggest anxiety. I mean, sure, it’s bad that prospective buyers will have a hard time figuring out which model is newer based on names, but it’s much worse that the regular folk, you know, the non-geeks, may not be able to tell the difference when looking or handling the two either.
Sounds like a major identity crisis, so what we’ll try to do in the following lines is untangle the puzzle of the upgrade. Did HTC actually enhance anything? Is the HTC One (M8) better than the HTC One (M7)? How and, most importantly, is it good enough? Let’s see:
HTC One 2014 vs HTC One 2013 – design comparison
First things first, my head is starting to hurt from all the pseudonym shifts, so let’s agree to settle on one set of aliases. How about… the M8 and M7? Good? Good, so now all we have to do is find the upgrades.
Well, strictly from an aesthetic standpoint, the M8 and M7 are clearly not alike. But is the former actually better designed? Hardly. It’s marginally taller, wider and heavier, plus it’s not exactly compact, accommodating a set of rather broad bezels.
The build quality is stunning on the M8, with roughly 90 percent of the chassis made of robust, handsome aluminum (compared to 70 percent on the M7), yet the handheld all in all is pretty slippery and still prone to little scratches.
And then there’s the rounded corner aspect, which at the end of the day is a personal taste affair. I for one loved, loved, loved HTC M7’s rectangular vibe and, while I don’t hate M8’s “curves”, I feel they cheapen the exceptional build.
HTC M8 vs HTC M7 – display face-off
Instead of again offering my own subjective view on things and likely piss you off, I’ll ask you a very important question. It’s a biggie, so think it through. Do you believe bigger is better? If yes, then M8’s display is better. If no, then it’s not. Simple as that.
For the record, M8’s screen is a 5-inch Super LCD3 unit with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution, whereas M7’s is virtually identical, just smaller, at 4.7 inches. Resulting ppi? 441 and 469 respectively. Sure, there’s a gap there, but it’s barely noticeable in real life.
Processing speed, RAM and cameras
Phew, I was beginning to fear HTC truly did nothing to alter the 2013 One, aside from fixing what wasn’t broken – the design. But they did swap the 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 chip with a 2.3 GHz (2.5 in Asia) Snapdragon 801.
The performance bump isn’t drastic, yet it’s perceptible, and to be fair, there was nowhere higher to go. The Snapdragon 805 CPUs aren’t out, Nvidia’s latest Tegras are unworthy, and MediaTek still has a few things to learn before being invited in the big leagues.
Congrats to HTC for making the logical choice processor-wise, but what happened in the RAM department? Well, nothing. The M7 packs 2 GB of memory, the M8 likewise, and meanwhile, the six month-old Galaxy Note 3 carries 3 gigs. Face, meet palm.
But wait, there’s more. Embarrassment, that is. M7’s disappointing rear-facing 4 MP UltraPixel shooter is somehow alive, standing and rebooted for the M8. Why? Because… HTC is masochistic like that? Don’t know, I’m just spitballing here.
The fact of the matter is M8’s primary camera is every bit as mediocre as M7’s. Maybe worse, as it ditches optical image stabilization. And the much hyped Duo Camera is nothing but a useless gimmick. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it improves autofocus time, depth perception and post-processing effects, but does nothing for actual snapshot quality.
On the bright side, selfies. Vibrant, crystal clear, smooth selfies taken with a 5 MP front cam. Ugh!
Software and battery life
HTC’s Sense UI has traditionally had an overwhelming number of detractors and very few admirers. Only the balance is beginning to tip in Sense’s favor.
Not as intrusive as back in the day, the user interface, complemented by an increasingly convenient BlinkFeed, brings much more benefits to the table than downsides for a change, which made HTC feel assured enough to already unveil a Google Play Edition with “vanilla” Android 4.4 KitKat.
That’s double points for the M8 in its fratricide duel with the M7, and, believe it or not, the 5 incher puts another one in the win column thanks to battery life. Be honest, you didn’t really welcome the news of the 2014 One featuring a 2,600 mAh battery, did you?
That’s a measly 300 mAh north of M7’s juicer capacity, and, considering the size and processor boost, you undoubtedly expected similar autonomy numbers. However, two extremely reliable battery tests put the M8 significantly ahead of its predecessor, with results that exceed even those of the LG G2 or Galaxy Note 3. Wow!
Audio, connectivity, storage and pricing
Look at that, HTC somehow managed to make the outstanding BoomSound speakers better. Richer, louder, clearer and, possibly, the all-around best sound system in the mobile business. Oh, and remember how you weren’t able to carry around all your photos, videos and whatnot due to the M7 not supporting storage expansion? That’s no longer the case, and you can stick a 128 GB microSD card inside the M8.
True, the HTC One now starts at an inferior 16 GB of built-in storage, but hey, don’t you prefer to be able to expand that to 144 rather than be forced to settle for 32? I know I do.
The connectivity and sensors area offers no big surprise or shocker, with everything from 4G LTE to NFC present, but no swanky fingerprint recognition or heart rate monitor technology.
Pricing-wise, the M8 is around the ballpark we anticipated, namely $200 with 24-month pacts, $650 outright, and $700 contract-free in a Google Play edition. That’s no bargain, but it ain’t a rip-off either. And it’s mostly on par with M7’s initial costs.
Wrapping up, I’ll hold back from handing down a verdict and instead pass the mic to you. Is the HTC One (M8) significantly better than the One (M7), considering it’s got a punchier CPU, beefier battery, larger display, more gifted front camera, smoother software and extra microSD slot, but a so-so design, inferior ppi, mediocre rear shooter, and just adequate RAM?