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INTRODUCTION

HTC’s flagship One M8 is an exceptionally crafted device. It oozes luxury with every micro inch of its seamless metal construction. With a top notch hardware and design cues that puts all of its competition to shame, one would expect this beauty to have enjoyed unparalleled acclaim among one and all. But even the mighty warrior Achilles suffered a fatal weakness in his heel, and so did our beloved M8 in its primary camera module.

The 4 MP Ultra Pixel technology on board the original ONE M8 has been subject to widespread criticism even among its owners. The sub-par camera performance on a flagship of this repute has drawn away countless potential buyers from owning the handset, which has forced HTC to rethink their Ultra Pixel strategy. With many mid ranged devices now churning out way better camera performances, the flagship M8 was apparently losing a lot of sales prospects. As such, a new iteration sporting a bumped up camera had for long, been imminent.

Enter the One M8 eye, HTC’s answer to unanimous industrial demands for a better camera. To our relief, this eye variant of the mighty M8 sports a highly capable 13 Megapixel sensor outsourced from Sony. At the same time, HTC still doesn’t deprive us of their old party tricks via the depth sensor up top. For the rest of the specifications, HTC has apparently kept their winning formula intact.

Does the Taiwanese giant, in their refurbished M8 eye, effectively seal off the only present loophole on their flagship? Let’s find out in our detailed review.

HORSEPOWER: ‘For the want to excel comes from within’

The One M8 eye is a top tier premium smartphone, as resonated in the spec sheet below

Model HTC ONE M8 EYE
Dimensions 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm’s
Weight 160 grams
Display 5 inches , 1920 X 1080 pixels, Super LCD3 (441 PPI)
Processor 2.3 GHz , Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Krait 400, Quad Core
RAM 2 GB
Storage 16 GB, expandable up to 128 gigabytes
Camera 13 MP Rear, 5 MP wide angle up front
Battery 2600 mAh
OS Sense 6 on top of Android 4.4 Kitkat
Price INR 38,000

DESIGN AESTHETICS: ‘For a thing of beauty is a joy forever’

The One series of smartphones from HTC are so gorgeous that they have elevated our expectations for hardware designing to such crazy high levels that are rarely met by anyone else, and exceeded only by the successors of the ONE bloodline.

Aesthetically, the One M8 eye is second to none!

The M8’s aluminum unibody is an engineering marvel of sorts, for it pushes the boundaries of premium on a smartphone, being almost 90% metal. The leftover is obviously plastic, which is so meticulously placed that it ends up adding to the overall aesthetics, rather than deterring away from them. Apple sorely needs to take in design cues for the antenna bands from the ONE. Just saying.

The slick metal chamfers are more prominent on the glacial silver model of the M8. There’s the lovely shine all around, be it the chamfers or the back. This is less observed on the gunmetal grey variant, whose highlight feature is the brushed metal finish. Further the duo camera setup is more profoundly visible on the popular gunmetal. So if you find the second camera/sensor a tad too awkward to the eye, you must choice between the silver and the amber gold versions.

Weighing a solid 160 grams with a width of 9.4 millimeters, the ONE M8 eye is far-fetched from the sleek profiles of many of its competitors. Further it’s a tad too lengthy for its modest 5 inch screen estate, making the top housed power button a challenge to reach. But the unusual length can be attributed to the unusually great boom sound speakers from HTC. These are two machine drilled stereo speakers with built in amplifiers that slaughter everything else on the market. Our addiction to these exceptional speakers makes us forget all about the unwieldy length of device.

The One M8 eye, in true words, is the mobile beauty to behold. Its luxury grade construction demands attention from one and all. It’s like holding onto a treasure that we would so love to preserve, tightly wrapped around cases, but one whom we won’t be able to for long, for there’s no fighting the urge to lust on its raw naked beauty.

HTC’s proprietary blink feed service is handy for quick social updates.

SOFTWARE: ‘For you’re only as good as you perform’

Initially, it was speculated that the One M8 eye would come rocking an updated Sense 6.5 UI, but it doesn’t. It’s the same old Sense 6 from the ONE M8 and E8 that we are so in love with. But surprisingly, the already minimal amount of bloatware that came bundled with these older devices, is further diminished on the M8 EYE.

There is no citation needed when stating that HTC’s Sense 6 builds on top of, the most toned down approach towards Android by any OEM. Much has been talked about Sense 6UI and how it has re-invented the wheel for performance.  Built on top of Android 4.4 KitKat, sense 6 offers the best user experience out of all other android skins. Gone are the days when android was targeted for sluggish performance and poor optimization, all thanks to the path paved by HTC with their revolutionary Sense 5 OS on their original One.

Key features:

  • Blink Feed: Blink feed is one of the best applications for sourcing content from all major social networking platforms. It’s the only stock app of its kind which finds love among all
  • Motion Gestures: These are shortcuts provided on the lock screen that provide greater comfort and utility. A double tap wakes the screen, a swipe to the right brings up the homescreen and a vertical tilt of the smartphone coupled with a volume key combination instantly brings up the camera. These are pretty neat and useful features that compensate for the huge chassis. Much to our disappointment, these work only when the device is held in the hand, and not when its kept put on a surface
  • ZOE: Zoe is a simple way to create, share and remix professional quality highlight videos from the captured images. There’s a dedicated Zoe app this time with the M8 eye

The software performs without any hiccups and is well integrated with the hardware, as we’ll find later in the review. For the impeccable performance churned out by the M8 eye is a testimony to its superior software optimization. HTC has done a fabulous job with its user interface. It’s our favorite implementation of Android, one that commendably succeeds in surpassing our joys with stock android itself.

THE NO TECHNICAL MUMBO JUMBO SECTION!

A latest report brings forth to light, the most common uses for a smartphone of our age. Going down a descending order, we tested Sony’s Xperia Z3 on each of these categories, and limelight only that information which matters the most to you folks, the consumers.

WEB BROWSING: ‘The most used feature on a smartphone’

A top of the line hardware coupled with an impeccable software performance, makes web browsing not only a breeze, but a joy on the beautiful 5’ FHD display of the M8 Eye. The smartphone doesn’t blink an eye irrespective of the number of tabs open or the duration of the browsing session, thanks to a flawless RAM management by the device. The equation is supplemented with an excellent battery life and ergonomics for a truly remarkable browsing experience.

GAMING: ‘Work hard, play harder’

With the proven combination of a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 and Adreno’s 330 GPU, the HTC ONE M8 eye doesn’t skip a beat even during the most intense gaming sessions. It has a potent combination of an excellently optimized hardware and software which enables the smartphone to maintain a relatively colder profile and achieve a solid battery life. These work wonders for prolonged gaming endeavors. To top it all, the Front firing boom sound speakers makes such gaming even more immersive.

A customized homescreen with personalized widgets.

ENTERTAINMENT: ‘Where the differentiation kicks in’

Stock Players:

  • Music: The stock music player by HTC features a rather simple, flat UI. It automatically searches for missing album art and even incorporates synced lyrics when the beautiful visualizer is in use. This time, HTC has even bundled an inbuilt support for high bit rate audio files, i.e. FLAC files. Although neat and well organized, the stock player is a tad too cumbersome at times. Creation of playlists is not as easy as it should be and equalizer support is a glaring absence. Navigation requires a learning curve that’s a bit too lengthy for our taste. After about a week, we finally switched back to the good, old Poweramp
  • Video: When it comes to video, HTC follows an even more toned down approach. There is no dedicated app for the same, and video capabilities are integrated within the gallery app itself, posing somewhat of a discomfort. Codec support is pretty rich and wide, with the device playing almost all media formats we threw at it flawlessly. Though, Apple’s quicktime videos were alienated and refused to play at all. But once again, due to lack of better organization and scarcity of available options, we found ourselves going back to Mx Player.

Boom Sound Speakers: The loudspeaker on the E8 plays like a dream. With deep lows, well balanced mids and clear highs, every instrument is heard in a never before fashion for a smartphone. It’s so good that it has radically changed long held perceptions about the viability and extent of use for speaker units on smartphones. Once you get accustomed to these speakers, there’s no going back. They absolutely spoil your ears with luxury and blow away the competition. The same can be said about the ONE M8 eye’s headset performance as well. The Audio quality simply surpasses the majority of competing devices.

HTC equipped the M8 eye with a class leading display and speakers that outmatch everything else in the market. Coupled with an amazing battery performance, the refurbished M8 strikes the perfect recipe for an uncompromised entertainment experience. Just do away with the stock players as soon as possible!

HTC has mastered communication on their One M8 eye.

COMMUNICATION: It’s about how you improve the core experience’

Since sense 5, HTC has taken strides towards de cluttering the home screen. One such brilliant implementation is HTC’s People app. The app is an all in one hub that features text messages, call logs, contacts and the dialer as one comprehensive application. The Interface is easy to use and offers the ability to re arrange and even delete various tabs. In short, the app is a joy to use and is well integrated with the rest of the device, unlike many similar third party apps on the play store.

HTC’s keyboard is one of the better alternatives in the market. With design elements taken from the widely popular swiftkey, keystrokes are highly responsive and accurate. With time, the keyboard keeps on getting better, as it keeps adapting itself to its owner’s typing style.It functions way better than Samsung’s keyboard and is on par with Google’s offering for the same.

On connectivity grounds, the hardware echoes exactly what’s going on with the software, i.e. inclusion of only the relevant metrics/sensors and ensuring an impeccable performance out of these. This approach may be a stark contrast to the likes of Samsung and LG but it’s definitely the one we find ourselves settling with. The pleasures of all-around optimization tend to weigh over ‘the cool’ over time. Nonetheless, you’ll find most of the connectivity options here including support for dual 4G networks, FDD and TDD. But since the device is specific to the Indian and Chinese markets alone, HTC has stripped the Wifi of its ‘ac’ compatibility considering how fruitless high speed wireless options are in these areas.

We’ve always found HTC offering genuinely mind-blowing reception across their devices and the M8 eye is no stranger to the trend. For the One M8 eye offers hands down the best call quality we’ve come across on a mobile device in a long time. It manages to surpass its own excellent bloodline, the regular M8 as well as the E8. At times when other devices failed to register anything better than EDGE (2.5 G), the mighty M8 eye was rocking HSPA speeds. There were no dropped calls, callers loved our voice at their end and downloads are blazing fast. The solid reception capabilities further compliment the already amazing battery life.

HTC have spared a lot of attention to even the minutest of details, and it all reflects in the user experience on top the ONE M8 eye. This is the way every company must go about with their R&D budget, i.e. improve upon the basics rather than adding up half-baked gimmicks.

The duo camera setup, now empowered with a 13 MP Sony CMOS sensor.

CAMERA: ‘A better pair of eyes initiate a better experience’

HTC have at last done away with their ‘popularly disappointing’ Ultra pixel technology and have finally equipped their flagship, with a camera that’s worthy of a flagship.

This section right here caters to the most sought after change to the good old One M8. Gone are the days of the Ultra pixel hype as HTC finally refurbishes their flagship for 2014 with a 13 MP primary camera unit. The duo camera setup with the depth sensor is retained, which when coupled with a much more capable IMX 214 sensor from Sony, yields far better results than the already 6 month old One M8. Further, the M8 eye, is as the name suggests complete with the eye software experience. More on the eye experience here.

Images taken in broad daylight are vibrant and detailed, though a tad on the warmer side. Color accuracy still is a bit off, but the end results are usually pleasing and leave us with little to complain. However, low light shots are better handled on the older M8 but in the absence of those super-sized ultra-pixels or with the comfort of an optically stabilized module, the exhibition of such an average night time performance was pretty much expected. Shots taken in poor lighting conditions are often noisy beyond use, necessitating the use of the flash. Speaking of the flash, it’s the same dual tone one found on the One M8, which means that it manages an excellent job of lighting up the scene without washing out the subject area itself. It’s a rarity that we find ourselves content with the performance of a flash on a smartphone.

Close up photography is where the original shined through and we’re pleased to report that the new variant continues the trend. With ample scope for in housed bokeh effects and a wider field of view, the M8 Eye with its improved camera further consolidates on its family’s strengths. Yet, there are times when even with repeated attempts, the M8 eye fails to register focus accurately, leaving the resultant output a blurry mess.

The HTC One M8 eye handles videos better than it handles stills. Videos are amazingly stabilized by the software, all by itself. Further, the device makes good use of its dual mics as audio is loud, clear and freed from distortions and far away noise.

The camera found on the One M8 Eye is indeed a better performer than the one on the regular M8. It may still be far from matching the likes of a GS5/Note 4 or an LG G3. Yet for HTC, it’s a quantum leap towards a positive direction, a direction that’s meant to pave way for its upcoming models.

TEST NOTES: ‘For knowledge is based on experience’

As we near the end of our review, we would like to bring forth a few test points to notice.

  • Excellent Software optimization: The software never depicted any signs of lag, nor did we experience any jitter. There weren’t any unexpected app crashes nor sudden device restarts even with heavy multitasking ongoing. This is the kind of software experience expected only from iOS devices. But in our testing, the M8 Eye not only matched the iPhone 6 for software reliability, but even exceeded the same. HTC’s sense 6 devices are now proving to be invincible in this regard, and this can only improve ahead, with the Lollipop update imminent for flagship HTC devices starting early next year
  • Striking battery endurance: The M8 Eye makes an amazingly efficient use of the 2600mAh at its disposal. With moderate to heavy use, the device lasts almost the entire day. A casual foray will get you about 2 days of battery life. Also, the extreme power saving mode works more or less as advertised. At 17% of remaining battery life, we enabled this mode and were able to squeeze in, a whooping 6.5 hours extra of moderate use until the battery exhausted upon us. The great battery life seems to be a byproduct of great software optimization by HTC coupled with a solid all round reception and memory management. The phone never heats up much, because of which there are no apparent battery drains as well
  • A gorgeous display: The super LCD3 display delivers the best from both LCD and AMOLED technologies. Colors are kept realistic while at the same time contrast rates are sufficiently high. The blacks are deeper than what you’d expect from an LCD panel. Sunlight legibility is respectable with no sweat whatsoever. The automatic brightness adjuster works well, with the dynamic changes to brightness almost unnoticeable. Although the minimum brightness is a bit on the higher side which may be of concern to some. Overall the display may not pose great numbers like many of its competitors, but our eyes love this panel on the ONE M8 Eye, the most out of all
  •  Negligible points of difference with the regular M8: The only area where the M8 eye significantly differs from the regular model is the camera. Even here, the camera output comparable at times, with the new eye variant triumphing the regular M8 with daylight shots, while the regular model still does a better job at night shots. There is finally lots of detail, but somehow, HTC’s image processing hasn’t been able to optimize Sony’s excellent sensor. A future software update might address the issue.

HTC-One-Eye-1

THUMBS UP FOR:

  • Luxury grade construction
  • Great, well balanced display
  • Software experience is second to none
  • Dependable Battery life
  • Exceptional loudspeakers
  • Price point makes it a steal today
  • Immersive gaming sessions

THUMBS DOWN FOR:

  • Camera can be further improved
  • Bezels need work upon symmetry
  • Hardware kept the same as the old regular M8
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