Tech Reviews

HTC One M8 for Windows 8 Review

There’s no doubt that the Windows 8 mobile platform has been growing, and improving, from the operating system’s earlier beginnings, and the HTC One M8 is offering one of the best hardware configurations available for Windows 8 customers to date, but not without a few drawbacks.

Microsoft is no where near the popularity of Android or iOS, but growth is growth and things have been slowly improving for both investors and customers. The last Windows 8.1 update for mobile was a giant leap forward for the market, and Windows is now capable of touting itself as a self-made platform, that is able to function as a customer’s only device.

While Microsoft’s lineup is expanding, it’s expanding slowly. Up until now, Lumia phones were really the only thoroughbred option that customers could choose from when shopping for a Windows 8 phone, and most of those designs were focused on social-media and high-resolution cameras as there main draw.

The introduction of the HTC partnership sparks confidence in the platform, and offers the Windows 8 OS to a more conscientious smartphone shopper, with the specs to rival any and all competitors in its price-range. It’s a safe move for Microsoft, as the phone itself has already been reviewed and tested on the market, while HTC has the chance to sell more phones, just by installing new software. So far, it’s win-win.

Back in March we gave gave the HTC One M8 with Android 4.5/5 stars, stating that it was one of the crowning achievements of the manufacturer, and a sure sign that the mobile-line was continuing to offer another strong option in the Android OS market. Now five months later, the hardware is staying the same, but the software is changing, and how the two work together is at the center of this review.

The signature design of the original M8 remains the same, customers will notice the same aluminum unibody chassis, they are given a 1080p display running on a Snapdragon 801 processor with the UltraPixel Duo Camera that won over reviewers earlier this year.

Popular HTC features like the BoomSound speaker system, button placements and the powerful 2,600mAh battery are also present in the Windows 8 version. It’s a tight-package and one that previous Windows 8 phones couldn’t offer to its customers.

The first of the drawbacks to this phone is that it’s a Verizon-exclusive for now, T-Mobile announced that it will carry the phone by the end of the summer but so far AT&T has not made any announcements on when it will release its phone (eventually it will be released when the exclusivity period is over).

The exact model given out for reviews was a gunmetal gray, 32GB storage option that allows a microSD slot to boost the internal storage to 128GB. The device features a quad-band LTE with quad-band HSPA+ alongside a quad-band GSM/EDGE for coverage. This collection of options are available almost anywhere in the world that a mobile phone could operate on, a definite advantage for those that travel.

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Turning on the phone you will choose between two different operating systems (if only this was more of an option in today’s market) hopefully if the HTC One M8 proves to be a steady attraction to customers, this will become a growing trend in the market.

Running on the M8 is the Windows Phone 8.1.1 update, an absolutely critical update that anyone shopping for a Windows 8 phone must look for, because the Windows 8.1 update is what made the Windows OS worth checking out in the first place. You will get all of the great features that you see on television and internet commercials like Cortana, your Live Tiles, easy to use quick controls, folders and other UI upgrades that come along the Windows 8.1 update.

When the HTC One M8 for Windows was first introduced, many people questioned how Microsoft and HTC would work together when it came to HTC’s proprietary software. HTC has many great features that it offers on its phones, like BlinkFeed, Sense TV and the Duo Camera. I was pleased to see that Microsoft did allow these features to run alongside the Windows 8 OS in the M8 device.

One feature that did not make the cut was Zoe however, but there are no shortages of apps and Windows 8 photo-management software functions to make up for the loss. Features like BlinkFeed and the HTC Video Highlights feature became separate apps on the devices, instead of residing in a built-in panel.

If you are a fan of the Dot View case then you should be happy to know that it is still supported on the HTC One M8 phone. It even comes with a new feature, by swiping down you can instantly interact with Cortana, a terrific improvement.

The camera, along with all of the hardware on the HTC One M8, didn’t see any upgrades but it also performs just as well as the Android version for the most part. This performance continued as I tested the battery and the quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB of RAM. It did seem that the Windows OS system wasn’t perfectly optimized for the hardware yet, nothing that would make a dramatic impression on the user, but while testing multitasking and different mobile games, it did feel that the Windows 8 version would slowdown or perform a little choppier compared to the Android version.

This will most likely be smoothed out over simple updates as drivers and software become more optimized, and again, it was something that I would have noticed if I wasn’t doing a side by side comparison, and it wasn’t a major factor in my day-to-day use.

You can pick up the M8 for Windows for about $100 with a contract, so that puts the device in a completely separate class than most high-end smartphones which cost, on average, twice that amount. The device is in itself an important step for Microsoft, allowing customers to choose a phone that runs Windows 8 that isn’t a Lumia device. HTC has a strong customer base, and a few terrific hardware and software configurations that many people would welcome when jumping to the Windows 8 OS. Right now it’s the only show in town that isn’t a Lumia device, so there’s nothing else to compare it with except the exact phone on Android, or a Lumia model that is designed for a different user in mind.

In the end if you are looking for a new Windows 8 phone the HTC offers terrific hardware and unique features, while the Lumia sticks to its amazing photo-centric stylings while offering 20 MP and 41 mp options on the Lumina 1520 and Lumina 1020 respectively.

If you are shopping for the HTC One M8 specifically, and you want to know which software option is better, it is mostly preference at this point. The Android version does run a little smoother, but I don’t think that difference is enough to sway anyone that would have preferred the Windows 8 OS to begin with.

If you are shopping for a Windows 8 phone and are choosing between Lumia and HTC One then you are going to have a harder choice on your hands. The HTC One M8 offers a terrific low-cost option that runs on tested hardware and unique features like Boomsound that only HTC offers, but Lumia has the title for the best camera work on the OS. It’s a terrific option for anyone shopping Windows 8 on their phones, and one that should be at the top of your lists when comparing other devices.