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HTC One M8 or Google Nexus 5: Which should I buy?

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by Ryan Whitwam, 26 Mar 2014Features
HTC One M8 or Google Nexus 5: Which should I buy?

After more leaks than anyone could have expected, HTC has finally announced the HTC One M8. There were no big surprises thanks to all those leaks, but seeing the device officially unveiled makes it a bit more real. This is HTC's big play to remain relevant in the smartphone market. Last year's One was a hit with owners and reviewers, but it didn't have the same broad appeal other devices did.

Read more: HTC One M8 vs Google Nexus 5: Full spec comparison

The new HTC One M8 is packing very high-end specs and comes with the newest version of Android – just like the Nexus 5. These two phones have a lot in common, so let's see how they stack up.

Like last year, the HTC One is clad in a unibody aluminium shell that puts most other devices to shame with its superb build quality. The new One is a bit more rounded on the edges than most devices with a metal frame, which should make it easier to hold on to. HTC has finally got on board with on-screen buttons, just like the Nexus 5. Google's flagship doesn't have the same super-premium construction as the HTC One, but the soft-touch plastic casing is actually very nice for a Nexus device. It feels good in the hand and has a clean, understated look.

As is the case with almost all flagship devices in recent memory, the new HTC One and Nexus 5 have speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM-based chips. The Nexus 5 came out late last year, so it shipped with the Snapdragon 800 – definitely the top-of-the-line when it launched. This is a quad-core chip clocked to 2.3GHz paired with an Adreno 330 GPU. It's more than fast enough to handle anything Android can throw at it.

The new HTC One is taking a little step up with the Snapdragon 801. This chip is still quad-core and clocked at 2.3GHz, but is a little more efficient than the 800. It also has a slightly faster version of the Adreno 330 GPU. The difference in performance between the two in raw numbers will be negligible, so any real-world advantages will come thanks to software optimisations.

The Nexus 5 uses only internal storage, but the HTC One offers a microSD card slot. That's a big deal to some people. Many of the potential buyers who place emphasis on having an SD card are also fans of removable batteries, which neither phone has. Although, the HTC One has a slightly larger li-ion cell at 2600mAh versus the 2300mAh battery in the Nexus.

HTC bumped the screen size up to 5in to match the Nexus 5 and other flagship smartphones – so you're looking at two 1080p LCD displays. Any differences will be minor, but HTC has a reputation for using very high quality display panels. Ultimately, this point shouldn't sway you one way or the other.

If audio is important to you, the One M8 blows the Nexus 5 out of the water. The front-facing BoomSound speakers are 25 per cent louder, which is almost hard to fathom. Sound is clear without distortion even when cranked up thanks to the high quality drivers HTC is using in the One, along with a new multi-band amplifier. The Nexus 5 has a regular mono speaker on the bottom that sounds okay, if a little on the quiet side.

As for the cameras, HTC is again doing something new. Last year it introduced the Ultrapixel camera – a lower resolution sensor with larger pixels for better low-light performance. The new One builds on that with the Duo Camera. Again, it's great for dim environments, but there is a second camera that allows you to tweak the focus after you've taken a picture. It's sort of like a Lytro in your phone, but it's doing this in software instead of hardware. This goes along with all of HTC's Zoe camera goodies that can make it easier to capture moving targets, and includes some cool photo effects.

The Nexus 5 is a good device, but the camera is probably the weakest aspect. It's a fairly average 8-megapixel sensor that doesn't do anything cool – unless you consider Photospheres to be of use. The low-light performance is a bit below average, and it pales in comparison to the M8. In good light, the Nexus 5 can probably best the One simply by virtue of having more pixels. Still, how often are you taking pictures in ideal lighting?

On the software side, the new HTC One is shipping with Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is the current version (at least for the moment). HTC's Sense overlay used to be a bit of a disaster, but it was dramatically cleaned up starting with last year's One. Sense 6.0 includes a number of cool features like an extreme power saving mode, improved BlinkFeed, and all those camera features mentioned above.

The Nexus 5's software experience comes with two main selling points – it's completely free of OEM skins, and it gets updates right from Google as soon as they are available. Sense 6.0 is about as good as an OEM skin gets, but many Android fans will still prefer the pure experience with its cleaner UI, and you can't overstate the value of frequent updates. Google is probably going to roll out a new version of Android this summer, and the Nexus 5 will have it right away. The HTC One will have to wait at least a few months.

The final difference is price – Google sells the Nexus 5 for an obscenely low price. You can get the 16GB Nexus 5 for a mere £299 in the Play Store. The new HTC One can be had for around £530, so if you're not getting your phone on a contract, that's obviously a lot more dough to cough up.

For more on the new flagship smartphone from HTC, see our hands-on with the HTC One M8. If you're interested in how the M8 stacks up against other high-end phones, we also have a raft of spec comparisons pitting the freshly launched handset against the Sony Xperia Z2, Samsung Galaxy S5, and Apple iPhone 5S.

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