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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.

Like most current Android phones, the M8 supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free payments and data transfers. It also has an IR blaster for remote control of your TV and other entertainment components. The phone does not, however, support wireless charging.

The new One can get 4G-level data on both LTE and HSPA+ networks, depending on your carrier and what's available in your area. The data speeds seem typical with the Verizon model I've been testing.

Voice call quality on the device has also been fine, though in-call sound seems to come only out of the left corner of the top speaker, so you have to position the phone in a specific way against your face for the volume to be sufficiently loud. That ends up being slightly unnatural for me, as I usually hold a phone up to my left ear when I talk, but it's easy enough to get accustomed to.

Unconventional camera setup
HTC is doing something unapologetically different with its smartphone camera setup — and depending on whom you ask, it's either a brilliantly bold move or a weak point in an otherwise strong device.

After using the phone for the past week, I'm convinced the actual truth lies somewhere in the middle: The new One can take some great-looking photos and allows you to do some interesting things with your images, but it does have some undeniable limitations.

Like last year's device, the M8 utilizes what HTC calls an "UltraPixel" camera. In short, it uses only 4 megapixels — a shockingly low-sounding number compared to what we see on most flagship phones these days — but according to HTC, those megapixels are larger and consequently capable of capturing far more light than what other phones use.

This year's device also adds a second rear-facing lens designed to record depth perception data — how near or far different objects are from you when you snap a shot.

If you're like most smartphone owners and use your phone for casual on-the-go photography, the end result is going to be a camera that's delightfully simple to use and capable of giving you perfectly decent-looking pictures. It does particularly well in low-light scenarios, sometimes producing images that are lighter and more detailed than what I can see with my own naked eyes.

The new One's images aren't flawless, though, and photo aficionados may at times feel let down by their quality. The biggest issue is just that they're inconsistent: While some shots look fine, others — especially those taken in bright outdoor conditions — tend to look a little washed out and under-saturated. They're certainly not unusable, but to the discerning eye, they're not always at the level of what other phones produce. The lack of optical image stabilization (which, curiously, was present in last year's model) doesn't help.


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