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HTC One E8 review: No metal? No bother

A plastic clad version of the M8 arguably loses one of its most important features. But does it matter?

Taking a HTC One M8 and doing away with its most redeeming feature might at first seem like a pretty bad idea. The aluminium construction of the M8 is stunning – it’s the best feeling phone on the market today. But think about it a little longer – many of us, perhaps most of us, use our phones in cases today, and in fact the M8 (and the E8) have one of the coolest protections around in the Dot View case. The minute you snap on any case, the benefit of the fantastic material is lost, so you could argue the phone may as well be made out of whatever is cheapest!

On the whole, that’s exactly what you need to think about when you decide how you feel about the E8. The plastic body isn’t the only change from the M8 – the Duo Ultrapixel camera is replaced with a conventional 13-megapixel sensor and the IR remote functionality is no more – but accepting this downgrade is likely to equate to a saving of around £150 on the SIM-free price (UK pricing and the release date are yet to be confirmed at the time of going to press).

The good news about the E8 is that, materials aside, it feels identical to the flagship device. The touchscreen on the M8 has an incredibly fast response time, which is also present here. The screen is exactly the same, the processor model, memory and storage are identical and the software is the Sense 6 UI skin on top of Android KitKat that we are so used to seeing across the HTC range now. A full complement of wireless connectivity is included and audio is excellent courtesy of the BoomSound speakers with dedicated amplifiers.

Up for some debate is whether the switch from an Ultrapixel (effectively four-megapixel) Duo rear camera to a 13-megapixel unit is actually a downgrade. You lose the ability to do fancy effects with the depth information captured by the secondary camera, but to date, this functionality has remained largely a gimmick and won’t be missed by most. The higher megapixel count offers increased detail and the ability to more effectively zoom/crop images, and although the E8 camera isn’t as good as, say, the Galaxy S5 or LG G3, it can take good pictures – even in low light.

The HTC camera app is excellent (and virtually identical to that on the M8), allowing saving of custom camera modes. The software is lightning fast and some of the innovative features that were dropped from lower-end devices such as the One Mini 2, features like Dual Capture and Zoe Camera, are present on the E8. A Selfie mode is included to make the most of the five-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera, which is certainly another highlight.

Just because the E8 is made out of plastic, doesn’t mean that it isn’t well made. This is a HTC device after all. Fit and finish is top notch, there is no flex or creak and it feels solid in the hand. The glossy colour options are a little bit slippery, but look stunning in the flesh – more so than the matte versions. The E8 weighs a little less than its metal cousin as you would expect, making it slightly easier to handle, although make no mistake, with a five-inch screen and large bezels necessitated by those speakers, this is not a small phone.

No release date has been announced for HTC One E8 in the UK, but if you import the E8 in single or dual-SIM versions from abroad, you will be getting a great smartphone at a little bit of a knock-down price.

For more reviews on the latest devices, make sure to check out the new issue of Android Magazine.