HTC 8S Review: S for Savings, S for Special

HTC 8S Review - Dialaphone

    We Liked

  • Great design
  • Low price
  • Impressive battery life
  • We Disliked

  • Dull display
  • Rating

  • 4 out of 5 4 out of 5 4 out of 5 4 out of 5 4 out of 5



The HTC 8S brings Windows Phone 8 to the mid-range market, offering the brand new operating system at a much lower cost than the high-end handsets that have recently launched.

With NokiaSamsung and HTC itself having recently released Windows Phone 8 flagships, can a cut-price device stand up against these high-profile handsets, and will Microsoft’s new platform perform well on a mid-range smartphone?

Key Features

  • Dual-core, 1GHz Qualcomm processor
  • 4-inch super LCD display
  • 4GB internal storage
  • 5 megapixel camera
  • 720p video recording at 30fps
  • 10.3mm thick
  • Windows Phone 8
  • 1700mAh battery
  • Beats Audio

Design and Build

With a polycarbonate body and textured backplate the HTC 8S has a comfortable and ergonomic design that differs quite significantly from the Taiwanese firm’s recent Android efforts. The device is available in a range of colours, possibly inspired by the design of the Windows Phone 8 software itself, and bears a close resemblance to the HTC 8X.

Pulling off the same design trick that has been seen in the bodywork of that high-end device, the backplate of the HTC 8S curves outwards towards its edges, creating an impression  that the handset is much thinner than it actually is. At 10.3mm thick the device is not amongst the slimmest around but feels much more slender due to the clever way in which its rear panel is constructed.

Standing out from the main body is a lower section of a contrasting colour which, when removed, gives access to the SIM and microSD card slots, with up to 32GB of external storage being supported.

Screen Performance

Considering the lack of bulk in the HTC 8S, the  size of the display  is impressive. The handset is little bigger than the iPhone 4S but, at 4-inches, squeezes in an extra half inch of screen space, offering a suitable platform for its software but keeping the whole handset quite compact.

The super LCD display doesn’t quite match  the dazzling quality seen on the HTC 8X but still performs well, although small text on webpages can be difficult to read without zooming in. However, the way in which the Windows Phone 8 user interface is designed and laid out is very crisp and clear, making up for any lack of definition from  the display itself. The inclusion of a lower-spec display is no doubt a cost-cutting measure on the part of HTC and while the screen  isn’t as bright and impressive as that on the WP8 flagships it is more than enough.

Under the Hood

Keeping the HTC 8S running is a dual-core, 1GHz Qualcomm processor, the slowest we’ve so far seen on a Windows Phone 8 device. Despite the lower speed, the processor doesn’t appear to have any problems with handling the handset’s functions and everything runs smoothly. Hold-ups in the fluid way in which the WP8 user interface animates itself, and any sort of lag at all is conspicuous by its absence

The only noticeably slow aspect of the HTC 8S is the speed at which it loads webpages. However, the performance is comparable to many mid-range Android devices and the difference between what is seen here and that of high-enders such as the Nokia Lumia 920 is only a matter of a few seconds and nothing that causes real trouble.

Battery Performance

Considering that the HTC 8S has a less powerful, 1700mAh battery than its high-end cousin we were surprised to find that its battery life was noticeably longer. The device easily lasted a day of moderate use on one charge, with enough power left to last into a second day.

Usage during this time included taking photos, browsing online and playing games and while the battery may not perform as well under heavy use it is still impressive nonetheless. We imagine that this increase in battery life is due to the less resource-heavy display,  as bright screens generally require a huge amount of power.

A slight drop in display quality in exchange for a big increase in battery life is a good trade-off and something which may well make the HTC 8S very appealing to consumers.

Operating System and User Interface

Windows Phone 8 has grabbed many headlines recently, with the slew of handsets released for the new platform garnering mostly good reviews.  Although having had its foundation software rebuilt, Windows Phone 8 keeps the best features of its predecessor and evolves them into a powerful operating system.

The distinctive Live Tiles that make up much of the user interface can now be resized, giving an extra dimension to the homescreen and allowing it to contain even more information. Along with this the People Hub, which pulls all of the user’s contacts together and places updates, messages and contact details in one place, has been revamped, with extra features which allow the user to group contacts together and share messages, calendars, photos and the like.

Even with the less-powerful processor that we mentioned earlier, the software performs brilliantly with the lack of lag in Windows Phone 8 lending itself well to intensive tasks like multi-tasking.

Additional Features

HTC’s 8S is refreshingly clear of bloatware, with just a few apps added by the manufacturer to expand  the functions of Windows Phone 8. A number of small additions such as the very useful Converter (which converts currencies, weights, measurements and so on) are included but the main addition is Photo Editor.

Offering a platform for the post-production of images, Photo Editor gives control over aspects such as colour and brightness as well as presenting a range of vintage effect filters Windows Phone 8 doesn’t have anywhere near the number of photo-editing apps available for it that iOS can boast so the inclusion of Photo Editor is a good thing.

Along with this, Windows Phone 8 users get access to 7GB of free space courtesy of Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-storage service, which is upgradeable to 25GB at a price. With only 4GB of internal storage available within the HTC 8S the added SkyDrive space is very useful, providing an easy-to-access online place for extra photos, music and movies to be kept.

SkyDrive also integrates brilliantly with the WP8 user interface, making it easy to upload documents form the Office app and images from the photo gallery.

Camera and Video

The HTC 8S’ 5 megapixel camera isn’t capable of producing the same high-quality images as Samsung’s ATIV S or the Nokia Lumia 920 but is good enough to create quality photos that are ideal for sharing on social networks.  The compact size of the handset and fast performance of the software makes the HTC 8S ideal for quick snaps.

The Windows Phone 8 camera app itself works brilliantly, providing a minimalist interface that makes functions easy to access. Especially impressive is the autofocus feature which reacts quickly when the app is opened, again making the HTC 8S great for quick capture.

Video can be recorded at 720p at 30fps and although it can be occasionally jumpy its quality is certainly passable for a mid-range device. An advantage of 720p video is that the resulting files are smaller than if they were captured at 1080p, making them better suited for uploading to a variety of online services.

Connectivity and Multimedia

HTC’s 8S has Bluetooth support and a microUSB socket mounted on the bottom of the handset. However, Windows Phone 8 has introduced over-the-air updates and this, along with the SkyDrive support, means it’s possible to set up the handset and transfer files, music and other media without ever connecting it to a computer.

Beats Audio is also built in to the HTC 8S, continuing its manufacturer’s long-running association with the sound tech firm. While audio performance isn’t quite up to the standard of the HTC 8X it is still clear and crisp, and the HTC 8S outperforms many comparably-priced devices in terms of sound quality.

Performance and Verdict

HTC has done a brilliant job of bringing Windows Phone 8 to an affordable mid-range device  and whilst the handset has a slightly-lower spec than the likes of the Nokia Lumia 920 and lacks the storage space of Samsung’s ATIV S, its price is considerably lower. A small drop in performance is a result of a big drop in price, and this is no bad thing at all.

HTC has also made its cuts cleverly. With an operating system that looks as good as Windows Phone 8 the handset can get away with a slightly lower quality of display. Similarly, the 5 megapixel camera is not as powerful as those on the flagships but still performs well enough for the kind of quick snaps for which a mid-range handset may be used.

While being a contender in the Windows Phone 8 world, the HTC 8S also outperforms many similarly-priced Android devices such as the HTC Desire X and offers a real alternative to Google’s mobile platform. If Microsoft is to make a real dent in Android’s market share it may well be with a mid-range handset rather than a flagship. And the HTC 8S is more than up to the job.

20 thoughts on “HTC 8S Review: S for Savings, S for Special

    • Hi, Sanstosh

      You’re right, while 1.7GB of internal storage may not sound like much it is enough for plenty of apps and games. The only trouble which users may run into is if they use apps which contain large amounts of data, such as Spotify. Otherwise music, photos and other media can be stored to a microSD card leaving plenty of room for the apps themselves.

      Do you have any questions about the device?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  1. Hi, great video!
    Could you please tell me if the built in speaker is Beats audio. As I didn`t know if it was meant for beats headphones, or it has a built in Beats audio. Also, does the device have Microsoft Office built in? Where you can create and edit documents.
    Thanks!!!

    • Hi, Seb

      Beats Audio will not work through the handset’s loudspeaker, instead coming into play when headphones are connected. However, although the sound enhancements are optimised for Beats Audio headphones there is an improvement in sound quality through any headphones that are used with the device.

      Also, Microsoft Office comes as standard on Windows Phone 8 handsets and provides a brilliant interface which is easy to use and integrates fully with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-storage service.

      Did you have any other questions about the new device?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone.

  2. Hi,
    I have heard that the margin of the screen discolourizes if you push it a litle bit harder. Mainly on the right side of the phone. Did you notice this failure?
    Thanks!

    • Hi, Isti

      We didn’t notice any serious discolouration of the screen when pressing on it, with the handset’s UI continuing to function well.

      Did you have any other questions about HTC’s new device?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  3. Hi,

    Is this phone uses A9 or old A5 CPU like Desire X? I guess 8S has Adreno 305 GPU right so does it perform compared to Adreno 205? Also, is the sound quality through headphones is as good as iPhone?

    Thanks!

    • Hi, Sinha

      The HTC 8S uses Qualcomm’s Krait CPU, which has similar architecture to the ARM Cortex A15. The HTC 8S uses the Adreno 305 GPU as well and we found that the graphical capabilities of the device are excellent, especially so when considering its price range as well.

      Did you have any other questions about the handset?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  4. Dear Chris,

    Will apps like spotify (or other music apps) be able to store there content on the micro SD?
    I’m planning on using it as a music device aswell, but the 4G won’t be enough for the high quality spotify music.

    Kind regards,
    Matt

    • Hi Matt

      Unfortunately, Spotify doesn’t currently allow you to store music from the app to a microSD card. However, there are several reports which suggest that the developers of Spotify are planning to introduce this feature in the future as a way of combating the low storage capacity of some handsets.

      Do you have any more questions about HTC’s new smartphone?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

    • Hi, Luuk

      The operating system on the HTC 8S takes up 2.38GB of of the 4GB of internal storage that the handset has. However, the HTC 8S supports microSD cards of up to 32GB in size and Windows Phone 8 devices come with 7GB of free space of Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-storage service, leaving more room for the user to store music, videos and photos.

      Do you have any other questions about the device?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  5. Thanks Chris, this is a fantastic review and exactly what I was looking for. I feel your views on value, battery life and Windows Phone 8′s practical and aesthetic minimalism align with my own, and so I’m pleased to hear you aren’t pounding it just because of a lack of apps, low resolution screen and specs that aren’t top of the line (something I’ve found frustrating with many other tech review sites). Consider me a new reader of your blog :).

    My only question is, can I tether on a Windows Phone handset?

    • Hi, Oliver

      Microsoft has introduced a number of new features with Windows Phone 8. In particular, tethering is now available to users of the platform so it can be done with the HTC 8S.

      Do you have any other questions about the handset?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  6. Hey Chris, thanks for a great review! And it was also the first one I managed to find about the 8s.

    Questions: I’m thinking of getting HTC 8s or going with Nokia Lumia 800.
    Do you have any experience with those two, how would you compare it?
    I really like the design and build quality of Lumia 800. How would you rate the 8s build quality?
    Next Q: battery life – you say it’s great with 8s; what about 800?

    And yeah, I know the difference in Windows Phone versions – how much more would you recommend WP8 over WP7.x?

    • Hi, Jabco

      Many older Windows Phone handsets (such as the Nokia Lumia 800) suffered from having poor battery life, something which has been sorted out with the new version of the platform. We also found the build quality of the HTC 8S to be very good, although the Lumia 800 was also sturdy and well made.

      As for the different platforms which each device runs, Windows Phone 8 is a great upgrade to Windows Phone 7, doing everything that the earlier OS does and more. Really, if you’re choosing a Windows Phone device we would recommend WP8 over the earlier iteration, with any further choice being made on the specifics of the handsets themselves.

      We hope this was helpful.

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

    • Hi, Maddy

      The OS on the HTC 8S takes up 2.38GB of the internal storage, leaving 1.62GB available for the user. However, Windows Phone 8 devices have access to 7GB of free space on Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-storage service and the HTC 8S can support microSD cards with up to 32GB of extra space. While the handset has limited internal storage, these options give the user more room for photos, music and videos.

      Do you have any other questions about the handset?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

    • Hi, Pemko

      We’re glad you liked our review. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t allow users to install apps to the SD card, but all of your phone’s media can be kept there to free up space in the handset’s internal storage.

      We hope that’s helpful.

      Chris, Dialaphone

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