“Even in the shadows of its sibling, the One (E8) manages to have its own distinct style and offers flagship-level specs at a more affordable price point than the premium M8”
While everyone, including us, might criticise Samsung’s “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” methodology, it seems another company is following its footsteps quite well. While last year, struggling smartphone maker HTC put its hopes entirely on the shoulders of the brilliantly-designed HTC One (codenamed M7), this year the brand is making sure not to repeat the mistake and use the pull of its current flagship, the One (M8) to the max. Perhaps that’s why, it has introduced its mini variant, the M8 Mini 2, an affordable plastic-clad variant, the E8 and even the One M8 for Windows Phone. But the question is whether HTC would be able to offer the same blend of style and performance with these variants or will they just carry the branding of the top-tier M8? At the same time, it remains to be seen if these devices have enough differentiating aspects, else they’d overlap each other and end up confusing the consumers. We've been using the recently-launched One E8 since the past week and here's our experience.
|Short on time? You can go through our HTC One (E8) review in pictures|
If the M in the name of its progenitor stands for Metal, we can put our money on the E in its affordable variant stands for ‘Elegant’. To bring the E8 to an affordable price point, the brand may have cut a few corners, but they certainly don’t affect the looks department. If both the M8 and E8 and placed together, then it could be difficult to tell the two apart, especially from a distance. The HTC One (E8) looks almost exactly like the M8 right from the BoomSound speakers on the front, to the placement of buttons and ports. The rounded edges and curved rear also give the same impression and so does the zero-gap construction.
However, things change when you hold the smartphone in your hands. With the use of plastic, the weight of the One (E8) is lower than its sibling (15g to be exact) and that’s a good thing since you can easily hold the device for long. The smartphone’s rear is curved at both the sides, which fits very nicely in the hand and makes one-handed usage possible. With 9.9mm thickness, the E8 is quite thick compared to today’s standards and even a tad thicker than its brother. We didn't face any problems in using it and moreover, it also feels sturdy. While the smartphone features a 5-inch display panel, it’s easily one of the tallest ones out there compared to others sporting similar screen sizes. This is because of the dual speakers at the front and the seemingly-useless strip with HTC’s branding just below the display.
Along with the BoomSound speakers, the front is fairly standard with a proximity sensor, a notification LED and a front camera occupying the area above the display. The notification light is cleverly hidden in the top speaker grille, and provides visual indication about missed calls and messages. There are no hardware capacitive buttons, since the device uses virtual keys for navigation.
As mentioned earlier, the location of the controls, as well as the micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone socket is the same as the One M8. Also, the volume rocker is flush with the edges, and hence it’s slightly difficult to register whether the volume has changed or not. Sadly, just like its sibling, reaching the power button on the top every time you want to wake the smartphone or put it to sleep is a difficult task. Thankfully, the device offers support for numerous gestures, which solve the issue and we’ll discuss about them in the software department. Similar to the M8, the left and right spines of the phone have slots for inserting a microSD card and the SIM, except that the E8 gobbles up two of the latter.
Another thing that's different between the M8 and E8 is that the latter misses out on an infrared blaster. So, you can’t use the E8 to control the TV or other electronics. However, because of this, the top of the E8 has a slightly better look, since it houses the power button in a metallic avatar at the centre. Other obvious difference between the two is the build quality. We won’t deny the fact that the One (E8) loses out on premiumness because of its plastic body, but that doesn't mean that it’s bad in any way. In fact, it has a few advantages such as not being prone to slippage and its comparatively lighter weight. Plus, the E8 offers a much better look-and-feel compared to other plastic-clad smartphones out there.
One grouse we had with our white review unit is its glossy back, which is a fingerprint magnet. However, the brand is also selling other variants in black and grey hues, which have a matte texture at the rear. If you notice the device closely, you’ll see that it the metallic power button is silver, and the same accents surrounds the camera unit and LED flash at the back. While it’s not that clear in our review unit, in other colours like black, these accents are in gold, which also add a lot to the style.
HTC always tries to tread its own path compared to its competitors. When it launched the One last year, it was the only flagship with a screen size of 4.7-inches, and its successor also holds the same title with its 5-inch display. Most other premium flagships these days sport larger screens. The E8 also has the same 5-inch display based on Super LCD 3 technology and bears a full HD resolution like its sibling. With a pixel density of 441ppi, the display is really gorgeous. The viewing angles are great and ample brightness levels lets you view the screen even under direct sunlight.
The protective layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 ensures that the phone isn't affected by minor scratches. The touchscreen is also extremely responsive and we never faced any problems while performing multi-touch gestures or playing games.
The HTC One launched last year was a bold step from the brand considering it openly challenged smartphone manufacturers to innovate in the camera department beyond megapixels. With its 4MP UltraPixel camera, the One proved that the quality of an image can be improved by packing in larger pixels, instead of a large sensor. Its successor, the M8, took camera innovation to another level by adding a dedicated sensor at the rear along with main sensor – a first for any smartphone camera. The additional sensor captures depth information and hence allows Lytro-like effects including the ability to change focus between subjects, copy and paste, add seasons, and more.
But all this came at the cost of the actual image quality, as you can see in our camera comparison between the One M8 with other flagships. The M8 wins in low-light photography because of its large sensor size and effects department thanks to the depth sensor, but loses out in all others because of low megapixel count. Perhaps that’s why the Taiwanese smartphone maker dropped it and added a more conventional 13-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor on the HTC One (E8). An LED flash is also available to help in shooting poorly-lit scenes.
The interface of the camera app is similar to the M8’s, offering granular controls over the image and video settings, as well as providing various modes. In terms of image quality, the camera churns out decent results. It captures a good amount of detail and colours as well, though colour reproduction was a tad off the mark. One thing worth highlighting about the E8’s camera is its super-fast shutter speed – it captures the scene so fast that we sometimes have to check the image preview to see that image has actually been captured. So, if you want to capture action shots, then the E8 will not disappoint you at all. We also loved the macro shots captured by it. During night, it’s able to capture usable images, though they’re obviously grainy when zoomed in. Overall, the camera on the HTC One (E8) is pretty good, but falls a little short compared to other devices in its price bracket like the Samsung Galaxy S5 (camera review) and Oppo Find 7 (camera review).
Here’s a look at the images captured from the HTC One (E8). Click on the thumbnails to view them in their original sizes.
|Want a detailed overview of the smartphone’s camera performance? Read our HTC One (E8) camera review|
You can also capture Zoes, which are short videos of up to 3.6 seconds that can be shared over social media. Zoe is also a social network, where you can follow others and interestingly, you can also make a video by combining several images or remixing videos created by others.
At the front, the smartphone sports a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with BSI sensor, which is great for capturing selfies and making video calls. We loved the idea of countdown timer for clicking a picture as it gives you a few seconds to settle before clicking your selfie. Its premium sibling, the M8 is also adorned by a 5-megapixel secondary shooter though that boasts ultra-wide angles, making it easier to click group selfies.
Talking about video shooting capabilities of the cameras available on the One E8, both support full HD recording.
In a way, the camera combination is same as HTC’s mid-range phablet, the Desire 816 (camera review), though it didn't include a few features like Zoe. Plus, thanks to the faster processor, the E8 can click pictures almost instantaneously.
HTC was one of the first Android manufacturers to differentiate its software interface with a custom layer referred as Sense. The custom overlay has now reached the sixth iteration and it’s also available on HTC One (E8). Sense 6 is based on Android KitKat 4.4.2 and comes with a vastly-different UI than stock Android along with a number of features baked in.
We have already discussed the Sense 6 UI in detail in our HTC One (M8) review, so we won’t go into details. However, we would like to highlight the extremely useful Motion Launch gestures. If you don’t feel comfortable in hitting the power button just to wake up the display, then all you need to do is a double tap or swipe in an upward direction and voila. The gestures go beyond just turning on the display as you can jump right to BlinkFeed with a swipe from left to right, or initiate voice call by swiping downwards. If you hold the phone in landscape orientation and press the volume buttons for a few seconds, then it’ll activate the camera app. It must be noted that the gestures are optimised to work when the device is kept on a flat surface, though it works well in other instances as well. Here’s a video of some of these gestures, made on the One M8.
The other staple feature of the Sense UI, BlinkFeed is also available on the handset as a dedicated home screen. In simple words, it’s a visual feed of various news sources and social networks pre-selected by you. Thankfully, if you don’t like it, then you can get rid of it easily. Another interesting feature of the UI is Kids Mode, which as the name suggests, offers a controlled environment with age-appropriate apps and games before you hand over your smartphone to children.
There are also several preloaded apps on offer including Fitbit, Polaris Office, Twitter, and WeChat amongst others. Most things remain the same between the E8 and its sibling in the software aspect, but it does miss out on the Sense TV app, which works in conjunction with the IR emitter in the M8 to control home electronics and appliances.
While the outards of both the HTC One (M8) and its affordable sibling, the One (E8) might be different, their innards are the same. This means that the One E8 delivers top-notch performance all thanks to Qualcomm’s latest-gen Snapdragon 801 processor sporting four cores ticking at 2.5GHz. Complementing the chipset is 2GB of RAM. As expected, the smartphone didn’t show any trace of lag while moving between screens or switching between multiple apps. The Adreno 330 graphics processor ensures that the device offers smooth gaming experience and we loved the speediness of playing resource-intensive titles such as Riptide GP2 and Shadowgun: Deadzone.
For memory, the phone comes loaded with 16GB storage. However, HTC’s custom UI Sense 6 along with Android takes quite a bug chunk of it, leaving about 9.8GB space accessible to end users. But don’t worry, as the vendor has overcome the storage expansion limitation faced by the original One and you can add microSD cards of up to 128GB in size. The device also supports USB On-the-Go capabilities.
The smartphone sips juice from a 2,600mAh embedded battery and it manages to keep up with all your demands well. In day-to-day usage, we got a backup of more than a day and even while playing games, viewing videos and using GPS for navigation along with cellular connectivity, the battery lasted almost a day. The One (E8) scored an impressive 11 hours playback time in our standard 720p video loop test with 50 percent volume and brightness.
In case you’re running out of battery, then you can activate the Saver mode. Just like its brother, the device also comes with Extreme Power Saving Mode that gives you access to essential functionality only such as phone calls, messages, etc., but it’s able to squeeze out more battery juice even if it’s down to 10 percent.
The One (E8) will also be loved by those who enjoy listening to music or watching videos on their mobile devices, as it boasts powerful dual speakers at the front, The BoomSound speakers easily beats all other phones when it comes to sound output.
In terms of connectivity, the mobile is as loaded as it gets. In fact, it boasts of a few features which none other flagship can. Not only does it offer dual-SIM support, it’s also compatible with CDMA networks. Although, it must be noted that the One E8 is one of the very few devices accepting nano-SIMs, and while the first slot supports CDMA or 3G networks, the second only supports GSM.
Other connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC and Wireless Display.
At first, the idea of doing away with the biggest USP of the HTC One (M8) – its 90 percent uber-premium metallic body – and replacing it with a polycarbonate shell felt absurd, but our experience with the E8 begs to differ. Even though it's not as stylish as its sibling, it manages to have its own distinct identity and offers the same flagship-level specs that power the M8. Moreover, while HTC might have stolen a chapter from Samsung’s playbook, it has played its cards cleverly, as it doesn't look like the E8 will be cannibalising the sales of the M8. At the price of Rs 34,990, the HTC One (E8) (FAQs) is aimed at an entirely different segment than its brother, which costs a good Rs 10,000 to 15,000 more.
Coming to the competition, there aren’t many devices that can match up to the E8. Interestingly, Samsung’s current flagship, the S5 made life difficult for its brother and now with its price cut, it also poses a threat to the One (E8). Priced around Rs 37,000 currently, the Galaxy S5 (review) offers a similar spec sheet with a better camera, but looses marks because of Samsung’s legacy plastic design and single-SIM support. There’s also the cut-down variant of the Oppo Find 7 (review), the Find 7a, which offers almost similar specs as the E8 with a bigger display, though we aren't as impressed with its looks. If you're a CDMA user, then the HTC One (E8) is pretty much the best option out there, but otherwise too, the One (E8) is a stylish and powerful smartphone for its asking price.
Photos and video by Pratik Vyas