HTC One M8s review

A cheap smartphone with high-quality hardware and design - too good to be true?

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Our Verdict

At first glance, the HTC One M8s looks like a phone twice the price, with a vibrant screen and good hardware. However, the more you use it, the more you realise the only thing premium about it is its shiny shell.

For

  • High-quality hardware
  • Great BoomSound speakers
  • Good general performance
  • Sharp screen
  • Nice design

Against

  • Rubbish battery life
  • Heats up easily
  • Mediocre camera
  • No IR transmitter
  • Sickly screen colours

Wondering why there's no HTC One M9 Mini? One may turn up someday, but until then the HTC One M8s is here to give us 90% of what that phone would provide, apart from being significantly smaller than the top dog.

The HTC M8s nicks the shell off last year's best HTC phone, the One M8, which means it looks and feels top-end while costing a good £150 less than the most expensive mobiles. Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?

At about £340/$550/$720 SIM-free or free on a contract of £20-30 a month, the HTC One M8s will be a sound buy for many. Just make sure you know what you're getting.

With hardware eerily similar to the £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, this is very much a mid-range phone selling at an upper mid-range price. It's in no sense an 'upgrade' to the HTC One M8 - camera performance isn't hot and insufficient taming of the Snapdragon 615 processor leads to woeful battery life.

There are problems that need fixing here.

Design

We get to start with a highlight. The HTC One M8s has a lovely design, one good enough to pass off as a £500-plus phone among your less tech-savvy friends.

At first, second and third glance, it seems to use exactly the same shell as last year's HTC One M8. However, the HTC One M8s is a shade thicker, 0.2mm to be exact, than the M8, at 9.6mm. You'd struggle to notice this, even with one in each hand, and I wouldn't be surprised if the rear shell component is the same. After all, it'd cut down on tooling costs.

HTC One M8s review
The HTC One M8s is a svelte 9.6mm, but slightly thicker than the One M8

There's no drop in the quality of materials, either. The One M8s has a bruised aluminium rear and its smooth curvature is a treat for the hand, helping you forget this is actually a fair bit chunkier and heavier than most manufacturers' high-end phones. It feels just as good as the HTC One M9.

The phone comes in silver, grey and gold, predictably mimicking the colour styles of the One M8. We're testing out the grey version, and it's both serious-looking and seriously good-looking.

Considering that people have previously paid the same amount for some watered-down 'mini' version of phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, you can't help but be a little impressed.

For ports, sockets and buttons, the HTC One M8s shadows, you guessed it, the One M8. And it's here we find one of the few niggles with the phone's design.

This isn't a giant phone, but it is a large one, and we're a little disappointed to see that the power button still lives at the top rather than the side. The result is that at times you may have to wiggle the HTC One M8s down your palm to reach the button and bring it out of sleep.

HTC One M8s review
The bruised aluminium rear and curved edges look fantastic

HTC fires back with a partial save, as you can turn the phone on with a double tap if you switch on gestures. But there's no ergonomic replacement for a power button that fits under your thumb: it just feels like home, simple as.

Given that HTC has included a side button on the One M9, there's no clearer sign that the One M8s recycles some leftover One M8 bits.

The phone uses two pop-out trays, one on each side of its body. The left holds the nano SIM, the right the microSD card. You get 16GB or 32GB storage, although most retailers seem to be stocking the 16GB version only.

We're skirting around the main event, though, the BoomSound speakers. As its adventures into odd camera tech have largely failed, top HTC phones tend to get props for two main reasons: build and sound quality.

While the HTC One M8s hasn't been fitted with the new Dolby sound mode of the M9, it does have those famous well-above-average front speakers. As good as they've ever been, they sound richer and fuller than 95% of the competition.

HTC One M8s review
Front-facing BoomSound speakers provide rich sound quality

I got to pit the HTC One M8s against Sony's Xperia Z3+, and it makes Sony's speakers sound terribly thin and harsh, especially at top volume. The One M8s' speakers are simply far beefier-sounding.

One of the few phones to compete comes from a surprising place, with the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 5.5-inch. It's louder and offers comparable sound quality, although it 'pushes' its drivers and sounds less composed at top volume.

Thanks to Three UK for providing the review unit.