Posts Tagged ‘review’

I’ve been putting off finishing my HTC One M8 review for a couple months. I’m hoping to finish it soon, but for now, here’s my draft…

A Dilemma

Before I start my review, I need to explain the technology dilemma of new phones, and new laptops and desktops, too, for that matter. Technology has come to a performance and feature point that it’s hard for manufacturers to prove any necessity their new products in these categories. Case in point – my previous phone, the Galaxy Nexus, was perfectly fast for everything I did with it. Sure, it wouldn’t launch apps or take photos as quickly as the newer devices, but it was acceptably fast, so much so that, as I shopped for a new product, the newer devices weren’t obviously beneficial.

I imagine my dilemma similarly affects the PC market. For the average consumer, is the laptop of today that much better than the laptop of two years ago? If you spend most of your time plugged in, as many users I’ve met do, will they notice the processor speed? The display? They’ll definitely recognize the SSD speed and touch. Yet their old systems are acceptably fast. Lucky for them, new laptops are affordable. Desktop PCs? That’s a different story – there’s nothing really new about them that you’d need to upgrade, and you don’t see many shipping with SSDs.

Phones, unlike laptops and desktops, are lucky in that they are a) popular to drive consumers to buy when upgrades are unnecessary, and b) have sex appeal. You rarely tell anyone these days about their chic new laptop. Well, you used to… That desire has shifted to the phone, now a mini laptop in itself. Yet, beyond the better battery life, what makes a phone better today, other than you can get a new model up front, and paid off [again] in two years?

Anyway, I ignored all that introspection and needs analysis. I bought HTC One M8.

The Phone

First, let’s talk about the One. It’s beautiful. It’s slick. A bit too slick, as the aluminum is so smooth I often was afraid it would fall out of my hands. Thankfully, HTC provides one free screen replacement in the first six months. I like little support touches like that. The HTC Dot View case solved my grippiness issue, which I’ll discuss below. Wow, though – it’s a beautiful phone. I had a number of people ask me “Hey, what phone is that?” and often times heard “I think I’ll be switching to an Android phone next. Wow, that screen is big.” Maybe Google should be courting HTC for the its next Galaxy phone?

The Camera

The HTC One takes great photos. So why isn’t it my favorite camera? First, we need to explain the difference between HTC’s approach to phone cameras compared to practically everybody else: bigger pixel sensor size versus more pixels. The One sports 2 micron sensors vs. the 1.3 micron sensors used by practically every other flagship phone from Samsung, Google, and even Nokia. However, it only has a 4 megapixel effective resolution, versus 13+ on the others. True, the larger sensors bring in more light, and make the HTC One an excellent low light level camera. But when it comes to image quality, that lack of additional resolution makes every shot a make-it-or-break-it affair. With a 16 megapixel imager, for example, you could get a large shot and crop to something perfect. But with 4 megapixels, you’ve got to get it right the first time, lest you risk cropping to Facebook resolution. Definitely nothing good to print, and sometimes so few pixels there’s nothing good to display, either.

To be fair, the One takes excellent photos. Albeit quite a bit overexposed when there’s too much light… You can’t get balanced exposure between, say, the sky and the grass on a partly cloudy day. If you focus on the grass, the sky turns white. If you focus on the sky, the grass turns almost black. It sounds like something that can be solved with software… I’m hoping HTC has something in the works.

A few bugs I noticed, in case HTC is listening:

  • You can’t add stickers to a photo taken with a flash or low light. I have no idea why.
  • U Focus is not available for flash or low light photos, either.
  • Facebook uploads from the HTC One M8 appear to be very low resolution. I’ve seen this issue on many HTC Android phones. It looks like HTC has their own Facebook for HTC, but I can’t exactly confirm which uploader is being used when sharing.

The Dot View Case – The Sleeper Accessory Success story to what Austin Powers was to Sleeper Movie Successes

Long title, but true. The Dot View case may seem like a gimmick, but it does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. Lined with little holes that form letters and shapes when combined with the One’s screen gestures, you can check the time, make a phone call, answer and decline phone calls, and see if you have any messages all without ever looking at your screen. Samsung and other manufacturers have done similar things by putting cutouts in cases, too. Yet HTC’s approach is unique, and very, very cool. I think many folks who have seen my little demos of the Dot View case are thinking the One is their next phone. Maybe it’s just sheer luck for HTC, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s contract isn’t about to expire this year. Good thing I’m not in charge of a survey! <grin>

I’ve spent the past few days using Dell’s solution for those who need a keyboard for their Venue Pro 8 tablet. It has come in handy when needing to write emails and edit documents. I have yet to write code with it, although I plan to soon. Unfortunately, while the keyboard and case match the Venue Pro 8 perfectly, it’s hard to recommend this accessory for medium to heavy duty work until Dell treats the keyboard with the attention to detail afforded its laptop-bound brethren.

Every time I use a compact keyboard I am reminded all designers of such keyboards must be sadists. They move keys around to obscenely hard to reach places. Sometimes they remove keys altogether, making the keyboard worthless. Dell’s Tablet Wireless Keyboard for their Venue 8 Pro is no exception. Take a gander at the photo below. Why does the keyboard need two Alt keys? Couldn’t that second Alt be used for the apostrophe, which is explicably a Function key combination? Why is the question mark key on the left, next to a full size shift key, when it could have been put in its normal position next to a smaller right shift key?


That’s not to say it’s all bad. Actually, the keyboard itself is quite good for short emails and corrections to documents. Expectations are usually low for compact keyboards, so this is better than some when it comes to comfort. I didn’t make many mistakes, although any time I needed certain punctuation I had to stop and think. It’s the ergonomic and functionality decisions, and aforementioned omissions, that make absolutely no sense. For example:

  • The keyboard has no backlight. If Microsoft can insert a backlight in a keyboard half as thin, why can’t Dell?
  • Two watch batteries are required. Yes, it comes with them, but those things are expensive. Why isn’t there a rechargeable battery that could charge via MicroUSB from the Venue Pro’s USB port?
  • I said it before, but come on – what in the world were they thinking with the apostrophe and quote keys? They’ve moved from a normal location – next to : and ; – to requiring a Function Key combination. But they left { and } intact? Who uses those often while typing in Word or web sites? Maybe developers, like me, but we need the quote and apostrophe, too!
  • The keyboard connects magnetically to the case – which is awesome – except, the keyboard doesn’t deactivate itself when the magnet is engaged. That causes key presses to turn the tablet on, thus draining the battery. It also drains the keyboard’s battery. It sounds like a simple engineering task, magnet turning off the power circuit, but maybe I missed something? The magnet is also a bit weak. Don’t treat this like Microsoft’s Surface keyboard. You’ll want to place the keyboard elsewhere if you’re only going to use the Venue Pro 8 as a tablet.
  • If the on-screen keyboard can fit all keys on the Venue Pro’s screen, why can’t the physical keyboard that has more physical room?

If you were a product manager, would you let this thing ship with such obvious issues?

Those gripes aside, I like the keyboard, and its design complements the Venue Pro 8. The design of the folio case, it’s built-in pen holder, and magnetic grip of the keyboard to the case all make this a worthwhile addition to your Dell Venue Pro accessory list. Just don’t expect to get much work done with it if you need apostrophes, dashes, or quotes.

Pros: Keyboard perfectly matches contours of the Venue Pro 8, and connects magnetically. Package comes with a case that looks very nice and can hold the digitizer pen. Keyboard can be left in the car, at home, and so forth, so you don’t have to carry it around when not needed.

Cons: The keyboard + case combo seems to weigh as much as the Venue Pro, practically doubling the weight. Alcohol must have been involved when deciding the keyboard layout. The magnet is a bit weak. The keyboard isn’t good for any long documents due to the layout’s inexplicable key locations.


Figure: The keyboard connects magnetically to the flap on the case.


Figure: The keyboard looks great even when not being used. That doesn’t mean it folds back like the Surface – it will fall off if you treat it like Microsoft’s prodigy.


Figure: The keyboard runs off two CR2025 3 volt batteries. The tray is a bit difficult to remove.


Figure: The keyboard.


Figure: Unwrapping.


Figure: The packaging. Front.


Figure: The packaging. Back.