Welcome to the second article in our series Should I Upgrade? Here, we examine if the new iteration of a device is really worth it to purchase over its predecessor. Today, we’ll be looking at HTC’s flagship One-line and will compare the HTC One M7 (2013), and recently announced One M8 (2014).
The HTC One M7 (2013) was, without doubt, a stunning device – both in form and function. The issue with HTC was that they did not know how to market their devices – and while it won multiple plaudits from critics and reviewers, the device was a commercial failure.
1 year on, it seems like HTC is slowly learning from their mistakes. Marketing of the M8 has been rapidly ramped up, with their Facebook page wasting no opportunity to go noticed. The M8 builds on the M7’s foundations, and strengthens them immensely.
|HTC One M7 (2013)||HTC One M8 (2014)|
|Display||4.7”, 1080p SLCD3 display||5”, 1080p SLCD3 display|
|Processor||APQ8064T, Quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600||MSM8974AC 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801|
|Storage||32/64 GB non-expandable||16/32 GB, expandable micro-SD card slot|
|Rear Camera||Single camera, 4 MP UltraPixel with OIS||Dual cameras, 4 MP UltraPixel|
|Battery||2300 mAh||2600 mAh|
Similar as both devices might look, there has been a massive change under the hood – the whole heart of the device has been replaced. Both the GPU and CPU have seen a 1.5 generation upgrade from last year’s S600 to the S800. Unfortunately HTC has failed to include some features in the M8 from the M7, and also has continued with the less-than-desirable UltraPixel camera.
Design and Build
At first glance, you would be hard-pressed to find differences between the two devices. Both share the stunning design we’ve now seen HTC incorporate into their whole device line-up, and are built out of the same anodized aluminium unibody.
The M8, measuring 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm, has grown in every direction in comparison with the M7 (137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm), and has added thickness to the already thickest flagship. Still, this can be easily overlooked, because the device still feels solid in your hand, and is a stare-magnet akin to a Ferrari.
The M8 utilises even more metal than the M7 (90% to the M7’s 70%) and has resulted in lovely-looking curved metal edges. They offer a massive visual improvement over the polycarbonate frame of the first generation.
The haptic navigation buttons on the front of the M7 now appear on-screen, and in the way that Google wants them to. The back now also sports dual-camera lenses and a dual-LED flash, which make it distinct from the M7 there.
The M7 had a winning design which the M8 has improved upon, but not to worry – both devices are the two best looking ones on the market (sorry Sony).
Both the M7 and M8 utilise a Super LCD3 display, which is really similar to IPS. As with the M7, the M8 has stunning colour reproduction and viewing angles. The only thing that has changed is the real estate – it’s up from 4.7 inches to 5 inches.
Unless you desperately need the 0.3 inches, this is not going to be a reason for an upgrade.
Here is where the M8 has seen the biggest improvement, and rightly so. A year after the 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600, HTC has now slapped in the 2.5 GHz 801 (AC variant) in their M8 for the Asian market (US gets the AB variant at 2.3 GHz).
This is a massive jump in performance as well as power-efficiency. Not only has the clock-speed of the CPU been increased, the GPU has also been upgraded to the Adreno 330 from the Adreno 320 in the M7.
RAM capacity has remained the same, and frankly, that’s fine. It is true that the Xperia Z2 (Z1 comparison here) and Note 3 (review here) will be able to multi-task better with their 3 GB of RAM, but 2 GB is more than enough for the years to come. Even Google has been moving to reduce RAM consumption, with 4.4 KitKat requiring just 512 MB of RAM.
If there was a deciding factor for an upgrade, this is it.
UI and OS
Both devices have a near identical UI (after the M7 has been updated to 4.4.2 KitKat), so there’s really not much to compare.
The M8 is running Sense 6, while the M7 is awaiting it and is on Sense 5.5. Aside from the navigation buttons now being on-screen and slightly updated icons, both UIs are identical.
Just like the M7, the M8 will also be launching in Google Play Edition variant. The GPE variant offers a completely stock Android UI, which I believe is far better than any OEM’s.
Camera (or cameras?)
In recent years, the megapixels race in smartphones has lit up, and consumers demand the largest values. However, photography enthusiasts know that the megapixels alone do not make a picture better – sensor size and post-processing are equally important too.
HTC took a big risk in 2013 when it announced that the HTC One would feature a 4 MP camera with their “UltraPixel” technology. This sacrificed resolution for larger sized pixels and the camera promised better performance in low-light conditions and a handful of other sought-after goodies (it did, but suffered in the day).
This year’s model continues on the “UltraPixel” path, but there’s a twist: The M8’s main camera is very similar to last year’s model, and it features 4 MP, a 1/3” sensor, a pixel size of 2µm, and video recording capabilities of [email protected] / [email protected]
The new model, however, packs a dual-LED flash instead of a single LED flash, and it also boasts a 5 MP front-facing camera instead of a 2.1 MP unit. Unfortunately, HTC has also decided to drop the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), which is a big help in low-light photography.
More importantly however, is the fact that the new model packs two main cameras instead of one. In a nutshell, there are two cameras on the back of the One M8, one of which is the 4 MP UltraPixel unit. The second one has the task of gathering depth information (similar to how 3D works).
As such, this unique camera combo, combined with the camera app, offers a wide range of interesting post-processing options, such as “UFocus.” This gives a bokeh effect, similar to what you would obtain from a DSLR when setting a low aperture and isolating the main subject. While it does do its job, the quality is a far cry from DSLRs, and we think HTC should have kept the OIS instead.
While the M7 came with a non-expandable storage of either 32 or 64 GB, the M8 has eschewed the latter capacity for a 16 GB variant. However, now, both the 16 and 32 GB models come with a micro-SD card slot.
Perhaps the only valid criticism of the M7 aside from the camera, the inclusion of it in the M8 will win it many points for those who love to add tremendous amounts of storage to their devices (not that 64 GB is tiny, but in the face of a 128 GB micro-SD card…well).
Both devices come with non-removable units, but the M8 has increased the capacity from 2300 mAh to 2600 mAh. While this is the least capacity of this year’s flagships – it actually manages to beat the M7 and sometimes even the LG G2, which ran away with battery tests last year.
An important addition to the battery efficiency arsenal of the HTC M8 is the presence of the Extreme Power Saving mode, not unlike what the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S5 has. Only allowing access to basic features such as calls, email and text messaging , HTC claims the said mode will stretch a mere 5% of charge left to a whopping 15 hours.
While the M7 struggled to keep a full charge for long, the M8 has seriously improved upon that, and is certainly a massive plus for an upgrade.
Should I upgrade?
This shouldn’t even be a question, but if you still are confused, the answer is a resounding yes. What HTC has managed to do with the M8 is improve a device that already was so perfect.
While it is true that the M8 still has the low-resolution UltraPixel camera, the truth is, the majority of us simply share images on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook where resolution hardly matters. For someone who wants a better camera experience than the M7, though, have a look at the Z2 or Galaxy S5 instead.
The HTC One M8 will be available for purchase at all telco stores from 5th April at S$998. Will you be upgrading?
If you can’t afford an upgrade just yet, don’t be disheartened. The M7 is still a brilliant early-2013 flagship and will last you at least another year with ease.
Pricing and release details for Singapore still have not been confirmed, but expect to see an early-April release of the M8.
What do you think of the M8? Will this be the phone to beat, or will the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 surpass it?