HTC’s excellent One (M8) remains one of my favourite smartphones of this year. It managed to get a lot of things right, from the beautifully-designed chassis, very light software skin and surprisingly good battery life, but stumbled a little at the final hurdle: the camera. Many bemoaned the fact that HTC retained the 4MP UltraPixel sensor, while adding the depth sensor for some genuinely cool effects. Don’t get me wrong, it is a much-improved camera compared to last year’s HTC One, but I personally wished it captured images at higher resolutions.
It is a criticism HTC has heard many times, and perhaps it is for that same reason the company has come out with the One (E8): a similarly-designed smartphone featuring a polycarbonate shell and a large 13MP rear camera sensor. It is also priced significantly cheaper too: the One (E8) is rumoured to be priced at RM1,699 when it is launched later this year. So how’s the One (E8) like?
Essentially, the One (E8) is a twin brother to the One (M8), with a few exceptions. Besides the less-premium polycarbonate shell, the hardware on the E8 is pretty much the same as the M8, with the omission of smaller pieces of hardware like the IR blaster. The power button has also moved to the center of the top of the phone (a position that is still uncomfortable). Here’s a comparison between the One (M8) and One (E8):
The unit that we received is a beautiful bluish-grey colour, and is the only colourway which is offered in a matte finish. Holding it, the E8’s back is not only matte, but also has a rubberised feel to it, which again fixes the slippery feel of the metal-clad M8. HTC has proven before with the 8X Windows Phone device that it can make some pretty handsome smartphones using polycarbonate, and the E8 is yet another testament to HTC”s hugely talented design team.
Placed side by side, it is hard to discern the difference between the E8 and the M8. Both have virtually the same dimensions (the E8 is slightly thicker) but the M8’s heft gives it away – it is a good 15g heavier than the E8. And yet, the E8 still retains a solid feel, while the curved back of the M8 is faithfully reproduced here as well. The awesome BoomSound speakers are present, too. In short, the E8 feels really, really good.
Moving into the software. The HTC One (E8) again is the same as the M8, offering the light HTC Sense 6.0 skin on top of Android 4.4.2. The Motion Launch features are supported here as well, so you can double-tap to wake the device and double-tap again to lock it – very, very useful if you’re just checking your notifications.
And so, the biggest difference between the two HTC Ones: the rear camera. While the M8 had a sophisticated Duo Camera setup, the E8 goes for a more traditional 13MP sensor. There’s no fancy depth sensor here that allows for UFocus effects, and from our observation the E8’s camera is somewhat slower than the M8 in locking focus – though both sensors are happy and quick shooters. It is a little too early for us to judge image quality for now, but here are some sample images from the 13MP rear camera (click on each image for full resolution):
As for the front shooter, while HTC retained a 5MP sensor on the E8, it isn’t the same sensor as the one on the M8. The M8’s front-facing camera has a wide-angle lens, and appears to take better shots. We’ll be testing the cameras on the two device a lot more in the coming days, so stay tuned.
As far as first impressions go, the HTC One (E8) certainly leaves a very good one. The build quality is superb, it feels really comfortable in the hands, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks and shares the same hardware as the flagship One (M8).
But the killer feature here is something that is yet to be announced: price. The E8 is expected to be available in Malaysia in the coming weeks, and our sources have indicated that this phone will retail at RM1699 – a full RM700 cheaper than the M8. With the exception of the OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi 4 – both of which aren’t officially available in Malaysia anyway, this makes the HTC One (E8) the most affordable Snapdragon 801-powered Android smartphone you can buy.
At a time when HTC has always been accused of being slow to react to the market, it has just dropped its hat on the smartphone price wars ahead of its contemporaries.