Very similar in design to this year’s HTC One M8 , the One E8 is a plastic version of the flagship metallic phone. Originally destined for China, the E8 has started to pop up in other Asian countries like India, Singapore and Taiwan. HTC has yet to announce availability for other regions, though.
With an off-contract price of S$698 in Singapore — which converts to roughly $560, £330, or AU$600 — the E8 isn’t cheap. For its price, however, bear in mind the phone has the performance chops to compete with blockbuster devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 .
While it is a good phone, the E8 lacks a standout feature to make it a must-have. At best, it offers great specs for a slightly lower price than other top-notch phones. You don’t get the cool refocusing features from the One M8’s dual camera, but it does come with some of its software features, such as the ability to quickly take a picture when the screen is off.
Think of the One M8 with a plastic shell and that’s basically the E8. If you were already a fan of HTC’s recent designs, you should like the E8 too, since it doesn’t add much new. The handset comes in three colors: white, red and gray.
Unlike the One M8, with its black bands wrapping around the back, the E8 goes for a much cleaner, shiny look. That’s because the phone is made of plastic instead of being all metal and needing an area for the radio antennas.
The E8 has the same front-facing “BoomSound” speakers, gentle curves that fit comfily in your palm and a 5-inch Full HD (1,920×1,080-pixel) display. Depending on the country where it’s sold, the phone may come with dual-SIM slots, though this is at the cost of being able to connect to 4G LTE.
Like the M8, the E8 is well-constructed and solid. I really like how the phone feels in my hand, though I can’t quite get on board with the slick oily feeling that comes from prolonged use, due to the plastic chassis. Holding the phone feels natural even in landscape mode, as the curves make holding it easy. This makes playing games pretty comfortable, too.
Located right on the top at the center of the phone is the power button. It’s quite a stretch to reach normally, but these finger gymnastics are a minor concern as you’ll only need to hit this button to turn off the phone, since you can double-tap the screen to turn it on.
Internally, the phone has a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. There’s a microSD card slot if you need more space. The phone has 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
At the back of the phone, you’ll find just a single 13-megapixel camera with an LED flash (instead of the dual-camera setup on the M8). The rear cover isn’t removable and the 2,600mAh battery itself is embedded. The phone has a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter for taking higher-resolution selfies than usual.
Software and features
HTC has one of the best custom skins for Android in the market, and the E8 runs the latest Sense 6 UI — similar to the one found on the M8 and Desire 616 . It’s based on the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system, which is the very latest version of Google’s mobile software.
Sense 6 has a clean look with color-coded apps. Supposedly, this will help you quickly identify what you’re doing — though I think this should be pretty obvious. Apart from that, BlinkFeed, the news aggregator introduced last year, is onboard, though you can choose to ignore and disable it if you don’t need its features.
More importantly, the gesture controls found on the M8 are present. Called Motion Launch, these features do quite a bit even when the phone’s screen is turned off. You can tap twice on the screen to turn it on, swipe downwards to make a voice activated call, swipe to the right to head straight to BlinkFeed, or just swipe upwards to quickly unlock the phone.
When the screen is off you can quickly turn on the camera by holding the phone in landscape mode and pressing the volume down key.
These are really cool features to have, though I wonder if it’s possible to add these to other phones as well, since they’re just software tweaks.
One of the best things about the One M8 was the ability to magically refocus a picture using the dual-camera setup, but this is missing on the E8. Unlike the relatively low-res images captured by the M8, however, the E8’s 13-megapixel shooter does give you pictures with a lot more resolution.
The higher resolution allows you to zoom in to check out details that would have been otherwise smudged on the M8. The white balance looks to be just right, and HDR pictures seemed to have a dramatic flair that made the pictures pop.
One thing HTC is known for is the fast shutter of its cameras, and the E8 is no different. Shot-to-shot times were pretty snappy and it was quick to focus as well. If there’s one thing the E8 does better than the flagship M8, it’s probably here in the camera department.
The front 5-megapixel camera lets you take better-quality selfies, though HTC could have borrowed a page from LG by using the phone’s display to illuminate your face for taking images in areas with low light. To help with the picture-taking, you can tap the screen to start a countdown timer. While I’m not really a selfie person, I’m sure this will be appreciated by those who are.
With similar hardware to the M8, the E8 delivers virtually the same level of performance. In the Quadrant benchmark, the phone scored 23,577 — almost matching the M8’s impressive 24,593. On the multithread Linpack test, the E8 got a high score of 847.571 MFLOPs over 0.2 seconds — comparable again to the One M8’s 878.5MFLOPs.
Every day use was equally great. The phone performed well, breezing through whatever I threw at it. The E8 absolutely delivered performance levels befitting a high-end phone.
I made a few voice calls to test out the phone, and found the audio quality to be crystal clear. No one made any complaints to me about how I sounded, which I took to be a good sign.
The front-facing BoomSound speaker system is powerful and loud, and I liked that I could hear the phone ringing in noisy places. BoomSound has honestly been one of the standout features of HTC’s recent smartphone lineup.
The phone has a non-removable 2,600mAh battery, similar to the M8. While we’re still testing out the battery life in our official CNET Labs video battery drain benchmark, I can say the phone easily lasted a day of moderate use with two email accounts, Twitter and Facebook all on push. Check back soon for an update on the final result. If you need to keep your phone chugging on a little bit more, you can also turn on the phone’s extreme power-saving mode.
HTC’s plastic E8 may not have all of the hardware of the flagship M8, but it does have enough to deliver high-end performance. While the E8 is a quality device, it just doesn’t have the wow factor to truly impress. Perhaps the one thing that might catch your eye beyond the glossy colors is the phone’s price compared to the expensive M8.
Compared with say, the $349 (£299, AU$399) Google Nexus 5 or the $270 (£160, AU$290) Xiaomi Mi 3 , the One E8 is pretty expensive. Without a standout feature, I find it hard to recommend.