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HTC One (M8) deep-dive review: Smartphone sophistication made better

JR Raphael | April 3, 2014
HTC is working to bring a sense of luxury to its smartphones -- and with its new HTC One (M8), it's closer than ever to delivering the ultimate high-end device.

My, oh my — that display and those speakers
The new One's increased footprint is partially a result of its 5-in. display, up from a 4.7-in. screen on the first-gen model. At 1080p and 441 pixels per inch, the LCD panel pops with brilliant, vivid colors and beautifully crisp detail. It's plenty bright, too, and easy to view both indoors and out.

Like most phones with LCD displays, the M8 has less dark blacks than you'll see on AMOLED-packing devices — but on the flip side, it also has more pure whites. All in all, it's a stunning screen and easily one of the best you'll find on a smartphone today.

And take note of this: As part of its new HTC Advantage program, HTC will fix a cracked or damaged display free of charge for up to six months with all M8 purchases. For the butter-fingered among us, that's a pretty significant piece of insurance to have. (The screen is also protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, which should help reduce the risk of breakage in the first place.)

Surrounding the screen are what may be the One's most distinctive elements: Its powerful front-facing stereo speakers. Man, those things are great. They have the same outstanding quality as the speakers on the original One, only with even more power — about 25% more volume capacity, according to HTC. Whether you're listening to music, watching videos or playing games, multimedia on a smartphone doesn't get any better than this.

Buttons and gestures
One thing HTC hasn't yet mastered is the placement of power buttons. The company has moved the power button from the top-left to the top-right edge of the phone, which may be a minor improvement but is still awkward and out of the way — particularly given the phone's tall height. Having the power button on the side of the device would have made it far easier to reach.

Thankfully, the M8 has some new motion gesture commands that let you rely on the power button less than usual. You can double tap the phone's display to turn it on, for instance — similar to the KnockOn feature in LG's latest devices, except it actually works consistently and is consequently quite useful. The only problem is that you can't double-tap again to turn the screen back off, so you still end up having to reach for the power button some of the time.

The M8 has several other useful gestures, all of which work impressively well: You can swipe up anywhere on the screen while it's off to activate the display and unlock the phone; swipe left to activate the display and unlock directly to your home screen; and swipe right to activate the display and unlock directly to BlinkFeed, a news-reading app built into the device (more on that in a bit).

 

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