Google Nexus 6 vs HTC One (M8) full review

We're pretty excited about the Nexus 6. The next Google-branded, Motorola-made Android phone offers a bleeding edge specification at a reasonable price - and a first glimpse at Android Lollipop in a smartphone. But these days you can pick up an HTC One M8 for a little more than £300. And the HTC One M8 remains an exceptional handset. We compared the spec of the Nexus 6 with our extensive knowledge of the HTC One M8 to see if you should wait and buy the Nexus, and go out and grab a bargain with the HTC. See: Best smartphones of 2015.

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: UK price and availability

The Nexus 6 is now available to pre-order in the UK, and in principle at least is available to buy right now. (We say that because it is not currently easy to get hold of one, from Google Play.) UK pricing is at least confirmed: the 32GB model costs £499, and the 64GB model will cost £549. O2 and Vodafone have already confirmed that they will offer the Nexus 6, but not confirmed their pricing. At the time of writing only the 32GB model is available for pre-order.

It's worth pointing out that unlike other Nexus devices the Motorola-made Nexus 6 is not a significantly cheaper smartphone than its rivals. It is well priced for the spec, certainly. But gone are the days when the Nexus 5 was unbelievably good value.

The HTC One M8 is widely available SIM free, PAYG, and on contract. At launch the M8 cost a classic £550 on a SIM-free basis – at the time that matched key rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s. Since the device has been around for a few months now, you can find it for less. Indeed, a quick scoot around the web shows you can get the HTC One M8 for as little as £340 inc VAT.

Right now the HTC One M8 is both cheaper and more readily available than is the Nexus 6. You'd expect that: it's been around since March 2014, and the Nexus 6 is launching only now - eight months later. Is the Nexus 6 worth the additional expense? Let's find out. (For more, see: Nexus 6 vs LG G3 comparison.)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Design and build

The Nexus 6 measures 159.3x83x10.1mm, and weighs in at 184g. The metal Nexus 6 is water-resistant. You'll find the Nexus 6 in midnight blue or cloud white.

The HTC One M8 is a beautiful handset. It has a uni-body aluminium design in which the metal wraps around to the front rather than having a plastic strip around the edge. It has a brushed look and has been treated to gain its glossy finish, being constructed of around 90 percent metal.

The 146.4 x 70.6mm HTC One M8 is slightly smaller than is the Nexus 6, and at 9.4mm it is a bit thicker. In part this is because of the smaller display, which we will discuss in the next section. But credit where it is due: the HTC One M8 is thin and light and well built. The M8 is available in three different colours. The most popular is likely to be 'Metal Grey' but there's also 'Artic Silver' and 'Amber Gold'.

Understanding that this is entirely subbjective, we have to say that we prefer the look of the HTC One M8. But these are two outstandingly well-built smartphones. (See also: Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6 comparison.)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Display

The Nexus 6 features a super-high-resolution Quad HD (2560x1440) display. It is a 5.96in a screen, giving a pixel density of 493ppi. You know it is going to look amazing.

Protected with Gorilla Glass 3 the Nexus 6 display is based on AMOLED technology. When compared with LED AMOLED typically offers excellent viewing angles and better contrast with deeper blacks, but colours can sometimes be overly vibrant or oversaturated.

The HTC One M8 has a 5in Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen. It has a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution, which makes for a pixel density of 441ppi. The HTC One's display is crisp, vibrant and looks great. The new panel has an improved contrast ratio and viewing angles. One thing we particularly like about the M8's screen is its silky gloss finish which, more than other phones, means your finger glides brilliantly across its surface. It's just another detail which makes this phone feel so premium.

But, ultimately, it is very difficult to look beyond the Nexus 6's display. It will be a cracker. (See also: Nexus 6 vs Sony Xperia Z3 comparison.)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Processor and performance

Powering the Nexus 6 is a 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU, a quad-core chip which it couples with onboard Adreno 420 graphics and 3GB of RAM. Expect fast and responsive performance.

The HTC One M8 has been given the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. The 801 quad-core chip has a clock speed of 2.3GHz, and there is 2GB RAM.

We've spent quite a while with the HTC One M8 and performance was excellent. It also aces third-party benchmarks. The spec would suggest that the Nexus will be a more powerful device, but it is hard to conceive of it being noticably faster than the HTC One M8. (See also: What's the fastest smartphone 2014?)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Storage

As we mentioned above, the Nexus 6 that is available comes with 32GB of storage as standard. While the Nexus 6 also comes in a 64GB version, it's not yet available - even for pre-order. Disappointingly, there is no expandable storage.

The HTC One M8 comes in 16GB- and 32GB flavours, and employs support for microSDXC, allowing you to add an extra 128GB of storage. That is a victory for the HTC One M8. (See also: Nexus 6 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comparison: What's the best Android phablet?)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Connectivity and audio

In these respects, there are two very well-matched phones.

We love the Nexus 6's dual front-facing speakers, and area in which the HTC One M8 was a trailblazer. The Nexus 6 is a 4G phone with support for dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, DLNA and so forth. The Nexus 6 also suports Qi wireless charging.

Select the HTC One M8 and your phone will come with the latest in connectivity tech. That means 4G LTE (LTE Advanced with the G3), Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Cameras

It is very difficult without extensive testing to make any sort of judgment on the Nexus 6, while we have tested the HTC One M8. So we will not pick a winner here, just outline the Nexus 6 specs and give a detailed overview of the HTC One M8's camera.

The main camera on the Nexus 6 is a 13Mp camera, reportedly better in low-light with a dual-LED flash. It features optical image stabilisation and HDR mode. The Nexus 6 also has a 2Mp front-facing camera.

Turning to the HTC One M8 and with Sense 6.0 the camera app has had a redesign and we like the stylish and minimalist approach. It's easy to use but there are plenty of settings to play with if you're feeling adventurous. They're easy to find if you're looking for them.

HTC splits the camera app into different modes with the front camera even labelled as 'selfie'. The back of the HTC One M8 is home to two camera lenses. HTC calls this the Duo Camera and it's one of the main new features of the smartphone. You might think they are for taking 3D photos, like the old LG Optimus 3D but that's not the case.

The first camera, the one closer to the middle of the phone, is the Ultrapixel camera found on the M7 – with some improvements. According to HTC, the ImageChip 2 means the camera can shoot faster and capture sharper images.

The second camera is an interesting addition and is there to capture depth information. This 'metadata' is attached to the photo taken with the main camera and can be used later on. Similar to the Lytro camera, the HTC One M8 Duo Camera allows users to refocus a photo after it's been taken. We've had a play with this and it works pretty well, although it's quite difficult not to cover the second lens with you finger. Luckily a message pops up on the screen to say you're blocking it. We've been playing around with the Duo Camera and here's what it looks like.

Refocusing is only available for still photos, not videos. The M8 can record video in Full HD, not 4K. HTC's Zoe (now an separate app for automatically editing video) has had an update with more of a social aspect and will be made available for non-HTC phones later this year. Video quality is unimpressive. There's no stabilisation and footage wasn't as sharp or detailed as we'd have liked.

The HTC One M8 has a dual-LED flash. It works reasonably well, but images are still obviously taken using a flash and - in most cases - you won't need it as the Ultrapixel camera does a grand job when there isn't much light around. A cool feature which we've not seen elsewhere is the ability to not only manually adjust settings, such as ISO, but then save them as presets to use later. This means you can come up with your own modes for different situations. (See also: The UK's 44 best Android smartphones of 2014.)

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Battery life

The Nexus 6 features a 3220mAh battery that supports fast charging. Google says you can get six hours of use from a 15-minute charge on the Nexus 6. Android Lollipop offers remarkable battery life when compared to KitKat, if little improvement in raw performance, too.

The HTC One M8 has a 2600mAh battery cell, which is a good start. In terms of real-world battery life, the One M8 lasted for roughly 24 hours. That's with average use: some phone calls, text messages, web browsing, gaming and watching YouTube videos. It's also with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth left turned on, and regular synching with a Bluetooth activity tracker. Expect to charge the One M8 each night unless you're very frugal.

The HTC One M8 has an 'Extreme Power Saving mode' which the firm says will ensure the handset lasts up to 30 hours from 10 percent charge. You're limited to phone calls, texts, emails and the calendar and calculator apps. We tried enabling it with 9 percent battery remaining and there was still charge a full 24 hours later, albeit with very minimal use. As an emergency mode, it's great.

The bigger battery cell will help the Nexus 6, as will the vanilla software. But it has a bigger, brighter display. Again, we can't pick a winner here, but we expect that both handsets will offer the required minimum battery life. See also: 13 best phablets of 2014 UK: What's the best large-screen smartphone?

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Software

The Nexus 6 is the first smartphone to run Android Lollipop - and it is a vanilla implementation of Android.

The M8 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, and adds in HTC's Sense user interface. HTC seems to have taken some inspiration from LG's KockON feature because the M8's display can be switched on and off with a double tap. However, the firm has taken things a step further with Motion Launch Gestures: extra tasks you can do despite the screen being off. Swiping left opens the widget panel and a swipe right will take you straight to BlinkFeed. You can also unlock the phone with a swipe upwards. Plus, you can launch the camera app by holding the phone in landscape orientation and pressing a volume button. (See also: Android Lollipop vs Android 4.4 KitKat comparison review.)

We like these gestures and they're just the kind of handy additional features which make life easier. BlinkFeed is a love-it-or-hate-it feature but, either way, HTC has made some updates to the news feed feature. You can now search with keywords and the experience is better thanks to more publications and a better 'flow' as the firm puts it. Bundles are a new feature which will provide, well, bundles of news on the same subject.

There are other minor tweaks, but customisation has been improved with the ability to select different theme. In a similar way to other phones which use themes, a wallpaper is tied in with a particular colour which is then used throughout the software such as the settings menu. We haven't tried this out yet but you can also choose a different system font to create a very different look and feel.

Generally speaking we are fans of the simpler implementations of Android. But we know some people love HTC Sense and the other additional features.

Nexus 6 vs HTC One M8 comparison: Verdict

First, the caveat. Without properly testing a Nexus 6 we cannot make a cast-iron verdict. This comparison is based on lengthy testing of the HTC One M8, and on the known specs of the as-yet unseen Nexus 6. Given the limitations of this, we can still say some things for certain. As you would expect from an older handset the HTC One M8 will be cheaper than is the Nexus 6. And it is a great phone. Based on the specs the Nexus 6 will have a much superior display, and it should operate faster due to its more powerful spec and less fussy software. But the HTC One M8 offers expandable storage and a camera that the Nexus 6 will have to really go some to beat.


HTC One (M8): Specs

  • 5 inch, Full HD 1080p, 441 PPI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core, 2.3GHz
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0, HTC BlinkFeed
  • 16GB, available capacity around 10GB
  • microSD (up to 128GB)
  • 2 GB DDR2 RAM
  • Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, barometer
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
  • dual-band Wi-Fi up to 11ac
  • micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high-definition video link (MHL)
  • Infrared
  • HTC BoomSound - Dual front stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers
  • HTC UltraPixel Duo Camera
  • 5Mp front camera with wide angle lens
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm
  • 160g

Google Nexus 6: Specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor at up to 2.7GHz
  • 32/64GB storage
  • 3GB RAM
  • Android Lollipop 5.0
  • 13MP main camera with optical stabilisation, dual-LED flash, support for 4K video at 30fps
  • 2MP secondary camera
  • 2560 x 1440 pixels, 5.96 inch Quad HD AMOLED, capacitive touchscreen
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • Wireless charging
  • 82x159x10.4mm
  • 183g