You’re probably used to reviews where we say phones are similar, or that various products look the same, but the M8s is quite literally the exact same phone as the M8 from 2014, with only a few changes here and there.
One of changes is the processor, which in this model jumps from the quad-core powerhouse that was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 to the more power optimised octa-core (yes, eight cores) Snapdragon 615.
That change hasn’t made a huge impact to the overall performance of the phone, though, and we found the newbie, the M8s to be very much a clone of its similarly named brother.
Little to no lag was exhibited as we used the phone, jumping from app to app and surfing the web, making phone calls, and doing all manner of work, as the phone’s newly updated processor handled its own as it does in the other models we’ve seen this chip used in.
The screen is also the same, with a lovely 5 inch Full HD display used here, the same as what we saw last year, complete with compatibility for HTC’s DotView cases which provide a lovely retro look to your otherwise closed phone case when you pick it up off your desk or take it out of your pocket.
Even HTC’s take on the operating system is the same, with Sense 6 still sitting around on this model, compared to version 7 on the One M9.
It still supports a few custom themes like last year’s M8, sure, and HTC’s BlinkFeed news feed page can be turned off in case you don’t want to use it, but it feels so much like last year’s phone, you’d be excused for thinking it was the same.
But it’s not, and that’s not just because the chip has changed, but because HTC has changed a few things, some for the worse, some for the better.
For the worse is the removal of the infrared port, pushing this phone back to the mid-range with that omission. Apparently, if you want your HTC phone to have an IR blaster and work as a remote control for your TV, you’re going to need to splurge on the One M9 because this phone just doesn’t have it.
But you do get something even the One M9 doesn’t have, and what the M8 so desperately needed: more megapixels, and that’s for the better.
For the past few years, HTC tried to convince us that we didn’t want megapixels, but rather “ultrapixels”.
That was HTC’s nice way of saying “we have a bigger sensor than the competition” before mobile makers started getting the hint and doing it themselves. In fact, as good as an ultrapixel sensor was before everyone did it, and as good as it was for handling low light, it still only captured images in 4 megapixels.
They were a slightly better quality than the 4 megapixels you would get out of other phone cameras, but 4 megapixels doesn’t mean much in a world dominated by a minimum of 8 megapixels on a standard mid-range to flagship smartphone.
Now practically every smartphone maker has their own version of “ultrapixels” and HTC’s concept is more or less irrelevant. We’ve even seen what almost constitutes an admission of that with the One M9 where the company ditched the technology and went with a Sony camera in that phone instead of using its own.
So with ultrapixel sensors pretty much history, HTC has had to change the camera previously found in the One M8, replacing that 4 ultrapixel sensor with something more usable, with the M8s sitting at 13 megapixels.
That means the One M8s technically has the megapixels the M8 desperately needed, and the M8s even keeps the dual camera around, something that went missing on the One M9.
“Dual camera?” you say to yourself inquisitively. “I don’t recall a dual camera.”
In 2014, in an effort to not throw attention back to an ultrapixel sensor that hadn’t had a lot of work done to it, HTC included a new camera that could capture a different image at a different focal length and basically provide neato effects to the photography. It was a little like the Lytro “light field” concept whereby you could change your focus points after you had taken the photo, though HTC’s made it more about effects, allowing you to change the background of images to look more drawn, or add falling leaves, bubbles, and snow, with an animated flair.
It did this by taking two photos, each with a different camera lens, and then merging them for what was essentially a dual-mode system, which was definitely interesting and semi-groundbreaking, but not amazeballs useful, and frankly, we’re not sure we know anyone who used it for more than the first five minutes they were playing with the technology.
In the One M9, HTC basically signalled that the dual camera technology was now unnecessary and removed it, opting for a 20 megapixel camera from Sony with only one lens.
But here in the One M8s, the dual-camera is back, paired with a 13 megapixel shooter and providing those two lenses, and it now even sports some new effects.