Apr 02 AT 10:20 AM Sean Riley 8 Comments

HTC One (M8) Design and Hardware: Iteratively Brilliant

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The HTC One was almost universally praised for its hardware and design last year, which left us wondering how the company would follow it up. Not surprisingly, they chose not to mess with success.

The HTC One (M8) is an iterative update on last year’s design. While many seem to be using that term as a criticism of late, it is meant to indicate that someone is refining towards the ideal. That is certainly the case here.

Front

Looking at the HTC One (M8) from the front, there are only slight departures from last year. Starting at the top and moving down we see that the sensors have been gathered together with the camera in the upper-right rather than flanking the first of the two BoomSound speakers as they did on the original One. Speaking of the BoomSound speakers, they remain far and away the best speakers on any smartphone I’ve used to date and I wish we’d see more companies adopt this idea.

Moving on we have the now 5-inch screen, retaining the 1080p resolution of the 4.7-inch HTC One. I can’t say I notice any loss in clarity as a result of the bump in size, so I’m glad HTC didn’t go chasing a higher resolution. But you do notice the new screen size in the overall height of the device. The HTC One M8 is nearly 10mm taller than the previous One and 10mm taller than either the Nexus 5 or Galaxy S4, which both feature 5-inch displays.

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This height of the device is actually one of my few quibbles with the design. While I frequently carry a Galaxy Note 3, which is about 6mm taller than the One (M8), it is balanced out by the width of the device in my opinion. Now the aforementioned BoomSound speakers that I enjoy so much are no doubt in part to blame for this issue, but I do believe if the phone were slightly wider it would be a better fit. This elongated form coupled with the metal back leave me feeling all too often as though the phone is going to slip out of my hand. Were I to use the One (M8) as my daily driver I would almost certainly put a case on it both to protect it from a drop and more importantly to give it a grippier feel. That’s unfortunate as again the One (M8) is a beautiful device and shouldn’t really be covered up.

Immediately below the screen we have the HTC logo and just a plain black bar. The soft buttons from last year are gone; HTC has joined most of the Android world in using on screen buttons. With nothing outward going on here it would have been nice if this space could have been shaved down a touch, but those pesky insides have to go somewhere in a device this thin. Below the HTC logo is the second BoomSound speaker.

Sides

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Starting again at the top of the device we have the power button, which also conceals the IR blaster. This was one of my biggest problems with last year’s One, and it remains a terrible placement for the power button in my usage. The availability of the wake gestures makes it tolerable this time around, as you should infrequently need to use that power button, but it remains a standout odd choice. On the right side we have the microSD slot (supporting up to 128GB cards and taking up the space where the power button should be) and a volume rocker. The volume rocker is improved over last year and has a more perceptible “clickiness” to it. I use the volume up as the shutter button for the camera, so this is a welcome improvement for me.

At the bottom of the phone we have the 3.5mm headphone adapter and the microUSB port. The latter supports the Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 standard, which means extremely fast recharge times when using an appropriate charger. Unfortunately the charger included with the One (M8) is not one of these chargers.

The left side of the phone has only the nanoSIM slot, which will be a dual-sim in some locations.

Taken as a whole the sides of the device are rounded and smooth as opposed to last year’s squared off edges. While it wasn’t a problem for many users, I thought this was a design flaw last year and found the original One uncomfortable to hold due to the edges pressing into my hand. No such problem this time around, and I can’t imagine this won’t prove a better experience for anyone using the device.

Back

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The biggest change is of course the Duo Camera which added a second camera less than an inch above the UltraPixel camera. This is what enables some of the tricks that we’ll cover in our review of the One (M8) camera. From a pure design standpoint the only comment I have on the Duo Camera is that it falls exactly where the knuckle of my middle finger is located when I’m holding the phone in landscape mode to take a picture. That’s entirely a quirk of how I hold the phone, but I’m finding it a difficult thing to change. The phone will tell you that you are blocking the Duo Camera if you try to take a picture like this, but you can press on and take it without the Duo Camera functionality. Next to it, you will find the dual flash and the main UltraPixel camera.

That’s all there is to see on the back of the phone, but the brushed metal finish is worth mentioning as it looks fantastic. I have the Gunmetal Gray version of the One (M8) and while it’s a very subdued look it still conveys quality. HTC is touting that the One (M8) is now 90% metal (presumably speaking only for the body of the phone), which is up from 70% last year.

While I still see room for improvement with the One line, I can’t deny that holding the HTC One (M8) or looking at it you come away with the sense that this is a premium device.

Hardware

  • 5-inch IPS Display (1920×1080)
  • 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB ROM (microSD expansion up to 128GB)
  • 2,600 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4
  • 4MP BSI UltraPixel Camera
  • 5MP BSI Front-facing camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, WiFi a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz)

As we outlined yesterday there are going to be a number of posts over the next week on specific aspects of the HTC One (M8) followed by a final overall review which will be a distilled version of the previous posts. If there is anything you want to know about the hardware or design that we haven’t covered here please let us know in comments and we’ll either answer you in comments or address it in our final review.

Sean has been with Android and Me for over 4 years and covering mobile for the last 5. He occasionally muses about gadgets and tech outside of the Android universe at Techgasms.

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