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HTC One M8 vs One M9: Worth an upgrade?

The HTC One M9 appears identical to last year’s One M8 on the surface, so is it worth an upgrade if you already own the One M8? Check out our full comparison review to see what the main differences are.

At a glance

Phone HTC One M8 HTC One M9
Weight 160g 157g
Screen size 5-inches 5-inches
Screen res 1080×1920 1080×1920
Processor SnapDragon 801 SnapDragon 810
Storage 16/32GB 32GB
microSD slot? Yes Yes
4G? Yes (Cat 4) Yes (Cat 6)
Rear camera Dual 4MP ‘Duo Ultrapixel’ 20.7MP
Front camera 5MP 4MP

Design

Put the One M8 and One M9 side-by-side and most people would struggle to work out which was which. The One M9 sports a very similar one-piece metal frame, with an almost identical weight and thickness, and while we still love the solid and sleek design, there’s no reason here to upgrade from the One M8.

Screen and media

Likewise, if you’re hoping that the One M9 will be a better way to enjoy your movies and other media on the go, you’re out of luck. The One M9 rocks yet another 5-inch Full HD LCD3 display, so the resolution and picture quality is basically the same.

And like the One M8 before it, the One M9 packs a pair of BoomSound stereo speakers. Audio quality is just as strong and beats most other handheld devices out there, but if you’ve already got the One M8, you won’t be missing out.

As for storage to carry around a massive media collection, the One M9 once again has a maximum 32GB of internal space, expandable by a further 128GB via microSD. So again, no difference.

Performance and battery life

The One M9 is powered by the latest Snapdragon 810 (compared with the One M8’s Snapdragon 801) and enjoys an extra 1GB of RAM, but we didn’t see any real improvement in everyday use.

There’s still the occasional little pause when skimming through HTC Sense while icons redraw themselves, but nothing too distracting – it’s just not something we’d expect from a premium handset. Like the One M8, the One M9 can of course play the latest games and won’t struggle with intensive tasks like video editing or playing back 4K movies.

As for battery life, there’s once again no real upgrade. We used the One M9 as our everyday handset, just like the One M8 before it, and found that once again we squeezed roughly a day and a half of regular use from each charge.

Cameras

This is where the HTC One M9 really differs from its predecessor.

The One M8 bravely broke convention for its main camera tech, sporting a pair of 4-megapixel ‘Ultrapixel’ shooters on the rear. Resulting shots were generally brightly lit with realistic tones, but also lacked the detail found in rival smartphone snaps. And while the ability to change a photo’s focus post-snap was quite funky, it was also mostly useless (and easily replicated on single-lens smartphone cameras).

For the One M9, HTC started from scratch, packing in a completely refreshed 20.7-megapixel lens. And while the new sensor makes for much more detail in your shots, plus full 4K video recording, it still isn’t up to snuff for a premium flagship phone. Photos are simply flat and lacklustre and there’s no image stabilisation, which is a real surprise.

Verdict

The quick and easy verdict is thus: If you already own the HTC One M8, there’s no need to splash out for the updated One M9.

Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S6, which is a massive improvement over the Galaxy S5 in almost every area, HTC hasn’t added any real must-have features or boosted any existing ones for its latest flagship. You get the same screen, same design and a mildly updated camera which still can’t defeat the optics of rival smartphones.

Note that we’ve refrained from talking about differences in the HTC Sense software as the One M8 will be updated to HTC Sense 7, the same software running on the One M9.

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