When HTC took the wraps off the successor to the One, the One M8, earlier this year, there were many who sighed in rapture at the amazing design. When a few months later, it revealed its brother, the One E8, the reaction was similar to that given to the iPhone 5c in the wake of the 5s. That was because for many people, the E8 was just a lower-priced plastic variant of the ‘real’ flagship. But is that a valid perception?

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It ain’t the M8, but it ain’t an eyesore…

A ‘plastic M8’? Well, just as the M8 wore its metallic build with pride, there is no getting away from the fact that the the E8’s inherent plasticity. We got the white model and well, while it is definitely not in the eye-popping category of the M8, it is certainly not an eyesore either. Seen purely from the front, it can be mistaken from a distance for the M8 as it has similar curved edges, and a 5.0-inch display with dual speakers above and below it, as well as a front facing camera above it. But flip it around, and there is no way you can mistake this for the M8 – for although it too arches outwards gently like the M8, it is made of glossy plastic rather than the shiny metal that caught our eyes in the M8. The camera and flash placement is different too, with the flash being placed above the camera, which incidentally is not an ultrapixel affair as seen in the M8. There is evidence of change in the sides too – the left hand side, which was bare in the M8, now holds the dual SIM tray, and on the right hand side resides a memory card tray and the volume rocker.

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In terms of size and proportion, the E8 is not too far off the M8 – it is 146.4 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm against the 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm of the M8 – and this difference is not noticeable when you hold the device. What IS noticeable, however, is the weight – the E8 tips the scales at 145 grammes, which is about a tenth lighter than the 160 grammes of the M8. Considering that the E8 is as long as the M8, we were once again disappointed to see the power/display button being placed bang on top of the device, which makes it difficult to reach. Yes, you can double tap to wake up the phone (as you could in the M8), but we still think that any phone with a display of five inches and above really should have the power button on the sides for easier access. Speaking of easy access, we also think HTC could have made the volume rocker easier to find – it also blends into the phone and is difficult to spot.

But those little quibbles apart, we must say that we found the One E8 very comfortable to hold and use. It did not feel as slippery as the M8 and was lighter too. And well, we think it looks very classy indeed in black. No, it will not turn heads the way the M8 does, but we can see people flaunting this phone too. It is well-designed in best HTC tradition and is a looker.

…or a wimp!

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But for us, the REAL strength of the E8 is its hardware, which matches that of the M8. You have the quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5 Ghz, with 2GB RAM and 16 GB storage expandable using a memory card.

The display is a full HD affair with a pixel density of 441 ppi, and the speakers flanking it are BoomSound. Both devices have 5.0-megapixel front facing cameras and connectivity options include 3G, NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The biggest difference comes in the matter of the camera – where the M8 came with an ultrapixel camera championing HTC’s Duo Camera concept (two cameras for better depth of field), the E8 goes with a more conventional 13.0-megapixel shooter. Those obsessed with tech specs will also point out that the M8 had infra red connectivity, but then the E8 has an ace of its own up its plastic sleeve – it comes with dual SIM support, making it perhaps the most powerful dual SIM device in the Indian market, which incidentally, LOVES twin SIM devices. Like the M8, it too comes with Android 4.4.2 with HTC’s Sense interface running above it, complete with Blinkfeed and Zoe, and the option to turn on gestures and tweaks in the interface (tap to unlock the phone, use volume buttons for camera, and so on).

A performer in the tradition of the One

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In terms of performance, we could not find too much between the One M8 and the E8. The E8’s display is a very good one and is great for watching videos and browsing the Web. And all that hardware muscle under the hood means that you can pretty much play any game you want on the E8 without any problems. The front facing speakers continue to be a HTC USP – honestly, no other brand’s phone has really come close to matching even the original One in this regard – and sound quality in general was very good indeed.

Of course, the big question that many might ask is: does the camera make a difference? Well, to be brutally honest, we actually think that in normal light, the 13.0-megapixel shooter on the E8 more than holds its own against its more hyped ultrapixel cousin on the M8. In low light, however, there is no doubt that the M8 is the superior, showing greater detail. A notable difference also was that the E8 seemed to heat up less than the M8 while taking photographs – whether this is due to the metal or plastic factor or the fact that the M8 had two cameras on its back, we cannot say.

Photo Samples

Click to open the full sized version on Flickr

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Call quality was very good, and battery life was pretty much as we had seen on the M8 – it is not exceptional, but a charge should see you through a day with about an hour of calling, push mails and social networks turned on and some photography. Put both SIMs in, however, and we would advise not going too far from a charging point in the day, especially if you switch between them frequently. But then, that is a peril that comes with most dual SIM smartphones. Benchmark junkies can check the Antutu Benchmark scores of the device – the E8 might be literally lighter than the M8, but is no flyweight in the performance and hardware department.

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Conclusion

All of which leads us to the conclusion that not only is the HTC E8 more than just the M8 in a plastic case (as some believe) it is actually one of the best HTC devices we have seen for a while. Yes, it will not turn heads with its design and build the way the way the M8 does (we are not sure there are too many phones that can do that incidentally) but it delivers most of that worthy’s hardware and software muscle and more critically, cures almost each of its perceived ills – the camera’s megapixel count, dual SIM connectivity, and last but not least, the price. At its price of Rs 34,990, it is comfortably more affordable than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG G3, the Sony Xperia Z2 and of course, HTC’s own M8, all of which were launched at prices that were at least a third higher than that of the E8.

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Honestly, we cannot think of a better value for money flagship-level Android device. Yes, it costs more than a Nexus 5 or a Xiaomi Mi 3 (which pretty much has turned the price-performance equation as we know on its head), but comes with better hardware and pretty much outperforms them in the camera and sound departments (and has dual SIM connectivity). So much so that we wonder if HTC should have released it before the M8 and given the competition a price shock. Who knows what might have happened then…

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Associate Editor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.