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HTC One M8 Camera Review

53

Conclusion - The Good

  • Good color and exposure up to highest ISO settings
  • Very comprehensive imaging feature set including DuoCam
  • High degree of user control in camera app
  • Responsive and quick in operation
  • Useful manual mode, allows up to 4 sec shutter speed
  • Excellent build quality and premium materials
  • Nice 1080p screen with good viewing angles 
  • Decent 5MP front camera
  • Very good stereo speakers
  • Good sound quality in video mode
  • Comprehensive editing options in gallery app

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Less image detail than competitors
  • Grain and and loss off fine detail even at lowest ISOs
  • Tendency to slightly underexpose in bright conditions
  • No OIS means more danger of image blur in low light and shaky video
  • Strong moiré and purple fringing
  • Channel clipping in highlight areas leads to cyan skies
  • Slightly convoluted menu structure in camera app
  • No focus assist light means camera has trouble focusing in very low light
  • Unusable digital zoom
  • Inefficient HDR mode
  • Small panorama output, many stitching errors in Pan 360 images
  • DuoCam features not more than a gimmick in current state of development
  • DuoCam easily covered with index finger
  • Strong compression and artifacts in video footage
  • Strong rolling shutter in video recording

Overall Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the HTC One M8. With its excellent build quality, all-metal body and vibrant screen it immediately feels like a premium device when you hold it in your hands and use it. It's loaded with imaging and non-imaging features alike and thanks to top-notch hardware components always  feels snappy and responsive in operation.

Unfortunately the HTC is being let down by the image quality of its 4MP camera module. It delivers decent exposure and color across the ISO range but cannot match the level of detail captured by its peers and is plagued by a variety of image quality issues and artifacts that we would not expect to see even on cheap compact cameras.

The DuoCam is a unique new feature that makes the M8 stand out but cannot make up for the sensor's image quality problems. Ufocus and the other DuoCam features need more work to improve the image results and turn DuoCam from a gimmick into a genuinely useful function.

Overall the HTC One M8 has a lot to offer for gadget lovers and users who like to spend time playing with and testing features, but mobile photographers who are concerned about image quality are better served elsewhere. Samsung's, Sony's and Nokia's current high-end models, the Galaxy S5, Xperia Z2 and Lumia 1520, have to make do without the DuoCam but otherwise offer similarly comprehensive feature sets and are clearly ahead in the image quality department. Apple's iPhone 5s comes with a more streamlined imaging feature set but in terms of image quality is still one of the best options. 

Features & Operation

The One M8's camera app is easy to get to via shortcuts on the home screen or the volume rocker and opens up swiftly, giving you a good chance to capture that decisive moment. Once you've opened the app its abundance of modes and parameters can, especially for novice shooters, feel a little overwhelming at first.

The menu structure is not always quite intuitive either but the One M8's camera app offers a degree of user control that is matched by very few competitors. You get control over image parameters, such as saturation and contrast,  you can create your own custom modes and there is a proper manual mode that allows you to set shutter speeds that are fast enough to freeze motion or slow enough to create blur effects when you want them.

In terms of the sheer number of imaging features there a very few smartphones that can keep up with the HTC. Its abundance of cameras modes and functions will keep you busy for a while but the One M8's headline feature is of course the DuoCam. While it's fun to play with the subject isolation effects offered by the Ufocus and Foregrounder functions, the image results are rather sobering.

The system struggles to properly isolate subjects from the background and the focus transition is very abrupt, giving the images a "fake" look. In its current state of development Duo Cam is not more than a gimmick and if you want to shoot a portrait with perfect subject isolation and smoothly blurred background no alternative to an APS-C or full-frame DSLR and fast prime lens.

Further imaging features include the Zoe camera we had already seen on the original One and the Dual Capture function that allows you to take an image with front and rear camera at the same time. The Pan 360 mode offers the best UI of a spherical panorama app that we've seen so far but, like in the sweep panorama app, the stitching of the image output is far from perfect. 

Image Quality

Unfortunately the One M8's camera shows many of the flaws that we also saw on the original One and the image output cannot match the device's excellent build quality or comprehensive feature set. The camera maintains good exposure and color across the ISO range, with only occasional slight underexposure in bright lighting conditions or when shooting with flash. However, when viewing images at larger magnifications it's obvious that in good light the HTC's 4MP sensor cannot resolve the same levels of detail as its higher resolution peers.

In addition the images are blighted by strong moiré and fringing and on sunny days portions of the sky frequently turn cyan, presumably caused by channel clipping. The small image size also means that you have very little flexibility when cropping a photo, for example for posting on Instagram or similar image sharing sites, and that the digital zoom is virtually unusable.

In lower light the M8's "ultrapixel" sensor has no discernible advantages over the competition's 13, 16 or 20MP chips either. Both noise and softness through noise reduction are visible from low ISO levels and become more intrusive as you go higher up the range. From ISO 1250 upwards very little fine detail is left and the highest settings should be reserved for emergency use. The lack of a focus light means that the focus gets very slow in very low light, with an increased risk of out-of-focus images.

The Final Word

Since their introduction with the original One HTC's "ultrapixels" have not been able to convince us in any device. The One M8 is no different and the underwhelming image output from its camera stands in stark contrast to the phone's otherwise excellent performance, build quality and comprehensive feature set.

In the recently announced One Mini 2 HTC has already swapped the predecessor's "ultrapixel"-sensor for a more conventional 13MP unit. We can only hope HTC will make the same decision for the One M8's successor, so that we get to use HTC's innovative imaging features in combination with an image sensor that is more adequate for a phone of otherwise such high caliber. 

7.1

Summary

The HTC One M8 is loaded with features and beautifully designed and built but the image quality of its camera cannot keep up with the otherwise great performance of the phone. Images show little detail and a variety of artifacts across the ISO range. Panorama and HDR modes produce underwhelming results and the DuoCam is in its current state of development not more than a gimmick. The One M8 can make a great device for gadget lovers without any imaging aspirations but mobile photographers are better served elsewhere. 

Sample Gallery

There are 42 images in our HTC One M8 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. 

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HTC One M8 Sample Gallery
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Comments

Total comments: 53
Bilgy_no1
By Bilgy_no1 (4 days ago)

The 'UltraPixel' marketing would have had some credibility if the sensor was bigger than the usual 1/3" size. Theoretically, it's better to use more pixels and downsample in low light. At least in good light, you'd have more detail. Nokia's approach (now copied by Sony) is the way to go.

In general, exposure and colour is pretty good, so in good light you're left with some nice looking shots, on screen. But when you zoom in just a bit, the detail falls apart quickly.

Apart from IQ, my biggest gripe is with the operational speed of the One M8. When viewing a photo full screen, you tap the screen to display the options: they slowly slide into view from the bottom. It almost takes a second before the second row (Back, Home, App Switcher) buttons are available. The Back button is needed to get back to shooting mode, so it's a pain to wait for it to show up. The processor is fast enough to display this immediately, so the animation is useless and annoying.

0 upvotes
hrhken
By hrhken (3 months ago)

I have the HTC ONE M8 after owning th M7. Two weeks of use, indoors and out. As a point and shoot, the M8 took a small step backwards, HOWEVER< Using THE FULL FEATURE SET, I can get better results than the M7 if not in auto mode. I am starting to like the M8 camera, a bit more.

0 upvotes
Lukemynick
By Lukemynick (3 months ago)

Thank you for the great review.
So the score has actually gone down from 7.5 IIRC to 7.1. What gives? I was hoping for improvement, not regression, so... no-go.

Btw HTC opt for conventional 13MP sensor for their One Mini 2, Desire 816, and even One Ace. As such I beg Connect to review any one of those.

Please do, and thank you again.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (3 months ago)

Just like with our cameras reviews we'd expect slightly better performance form a new model to get the same score as an older one.

0 upvotes
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (3 months ago)

Remind me why these phone reviews appear on the front page of DPReview. Were the readers of that site interested, they would be watching this one.

1 upvote
tkbslc
By tkbslc (3 months ago)

Got you to click, didn't it? That's why.

2 upvotes
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (3 months ago)

Clicked to complain, not to read.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (3 months ago)

Well, it wasn't written for you then but the people who are interested in phone camera reviews. There quite a few of those.

1 upvote
tkbslc
By tkbslc (3 months ago)

Angry clicks and happy clicks get the same number of ad views....

2 upvotes
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (2 months ago)

This is not entirely dissimilar to saying that it's fine to put links to TV reviews on the DPReview home page because some people who read DPReview are also interested in televisions. Really, what percentage of DPReview readers go to that site to find phone camera reviews?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (2 months ago)

Nobody is interested in everything. Some people look at DSLR reviews, some at compact reviews, some at lens reviews and, believe me, an increasing number is looking at smartphone camera reviews. There would not be much point in doing them otherwise.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (2 months ago)

Can you take pictures with TVs? What kind of a dumb analogy is that? Phones have ever improving cameras in them which allows you to use them as a photographic tool. A Camera review of a TV would be 0 pages.

1 upvote
Daniel L
By Daniel L (3 months ago)

Had the last HTC one, which died while charging after one year of use. I would not touch any electronic devices that carries HTC brand. That phone was nothing but trouble from software to hardware, I have never experienced so much disappointment in an electronic device before.

Just replaced the dead fish last week with Galaxy s5 because The big iPhone is no yet next available!

....and DON'T BUY INTO 4MP image resolution crap. It's stupid. Who cares about better image quality on cell phone if you can't zoom enlough? I want to be able to zoom in images, read prints i can't tell from naked eyes, or similar purposes where cell phones picture are good for. I don't plan to do studio works with them. 4MP camera is as good as crap.

0 upvotes
LauP
By LauP (3 months ago)

>I have never experienced so much disappointment in an electronic device before.

While I agree with you on a relatively poor camera, I think you'd find very few people who agree with the rest of your assessment.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (3 months ago)

Well, I liked both the original One and the M8 very much for their phone/mobile computing capability. the're also both very nicely made. the camera is really the only point of criticism. Unfortunately, if you like taking pictures with your phone it is a very major one.

0 upvotes
Interceptorv12
By Interceptorv12 (3 months ago)

My work colleague had Galaxy S3 started smoking while on charge and eventually expired, so by your logic people should stay away from Samsung as well.

0 upvotes
Daniel L
By Daniel L (2 months ago)

@interceptorv12
No, why stay away from Samcrap? You should avoid Androids junk at all cost!

0 upvotes
sebastian huvenaars
By sebastian huvenaars (3 months ago)

I was showing interest in this phone, and then the camera results came rolling in from the web.

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (3 months ago)

If there is one thing that HTC has helped the photography community, it is that HTC debunked the myth of using less pixels but keeping sensor size unchanged results in better picture.

I have to admit that I was a believer. I have converted after seeing HTC One's samples.

1 upvote
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

They didn't really debunk anything, it's always been a balance, go too far in either direction without increasing efficiency (too many pixels for the sensor size OR too few) and you end up with something that suffers by comparison, not a shocker.

0 upvotes
MistyFog
By MistyFog (3 months ago)

Many people have already known this to be a fallacy. I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to warn people not to fall for this scam but to no avail. There are many, who in reality are totally clueless about photography, yet think themselves as smart and sophisticated when they parrot HTC's marketing talk.

The only thing this sad episode really proved, is how totally clueless HTC's imaging team really is. Like I've always said, they're a bunch of salespeople wearing lab coats.

0 upvotes
Becksvart
By Becksvart (3 months ago)

Thones phones and their lattes.

0 upvotes
Tonkotsu Ramen
By Tonkotsu Ramen (3 months ago)

cell phone cameras have come a long way, but HTC seems to want to stay in the past. They'll be rewarded with low sales. Hope they take the next gen more serious.

2 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (3 months ago)

I guess "low sales" based on camera quality will depend on how many people buy phones with that as the primary criterion.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (3 months ago)

Pretty weak camera quality for a flagship phone. Looks like they went to a new camera module for the newest HTC One Mini 2, so maybe they are wising up.

1 upvote
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (3 months ago)

Having a separate depth sensor means there are alignment issues, which are not helped by lower resolution. It would be interesting to see if the depth sensor could be used to stitch actual 3D models more accurately, but the simulated DoF effect looks too crude to be of much use -- at least for now. Obviously, shallow DoF "like professional cameras give" is what every tiny camera wants to fake this year....

0 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

They already released a phone with dual cameras for 3D, and a 3D display, and it actually worked... But nobody really cares about recording 3D content or watching it on such a small screen, at least that concept flopped quicker.

0 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (3 months ago)

No, I'm not talking stereo pairs or single-view depth maps -- I'm talking about stitching true 3D solid models, like we use to drive 3D printers. There's a lot of tech for this, but I suspect there would be a healthy niche market for a phone directly spitting-out a printable model.

0 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (3 months ago)

The depth sensor is a stupid gimmick and doesnt work well. They should just put a 2/3 or larger sensor in there with a decent lens.

0 upvotes
BradJudy
By BradJudy (3 months ago)

I think the issue that you've demonstrated with Ufocus is because the depth measurement is so much lower resolution than the actual photograph, not capturing small objects like the bicycle parts or doing a good job detecting exact edges. Because the Google app uses motion/parallax with the main camera sensor to identify depth, it's at the same resolution as the image and can (in theory) do a better job in these aspects.

0 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

In practice both produce poor results by overdoing the effect, introducing artifacts, errors in edge stitching etc. I wasn't very impressed with it on my N5 anyway, haven't tried it again since initial testing. LG's more subtle effect seemed to work better during a comparison I saw but it wasn't very comprehensive.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (3 months ago)

Another no-go. My Nokia 808 won't be beaten in IQ for another year for sure.

Unless Samsung or Sony comes out with a large-sensor, thick cameraphone with a prime, wideangle, bright lens. Samsung have released three small-sensor zoom/"Kamera" models (pretty good ones for a zoom camera but, at the same FoV, can't rival IQ-wise the large-sensor prime-lens 808); hopefully they also release a large-sensor fixed-FoV lens one as well.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

I don't see Samsung releasing a fixed FL anything outside of phones, zooms appeal to the masses and Samsung's all about mass appeal. I'd really like to see Sony take the QX concept to it's logical evolution and release a couple of prime editions, or at least one at 35mm with the 1" sensor...

It would HAVE to be significantly smaller than the two existing models, maybe even as small as something as a Panasonic 20/1.7... That'd be eminently pocketable and a MUCH better alternative than a smaller sensor P&S or phone. It makes sooo much sense, just gotta market it right. It's not like the concept of selling zoom to smartphone users really caught fire (existing QX).

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (3 months ago)

"I don't see Samsung releasing a fixed FL anything outside of phones, zooms appeal to the masses and Samsung's all about mass appeal."

Well, when done right (significantly better IQ than the 808, OIS, 4K video, brighter lens etc.), such a model would make almost all existing Nokia 808 / 1020 users not happy with the ecosystem / the OS / the phone's allowed-for capabilities (e.g., phone call recording) switch. (I'd say there are millions of them.) I'd too switch to a high-end Android if and only if the camera would be comparable to that of my Nokia 808.

1 upvote
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

Wow, you really think there are a million 808 users out there? Like actively using it as their daily driver? Seems far fetched, but even if there are, that's a very niche market. Samsung probably sells a million SGS5 just during launch week, pretty sure I remember seeing something about the SGS4 selling a million in under two weeks anyway.

Point is, few OEM (not even HTC) would build a phone hoping for a million sales at most. Frankly I don't see why you'd suffer thru the 808 just for the camera, I'd much rather just carry two devices but that's just me. Is Nokia's current Lumia THAT far behind the 808 that you'd give up the app ecosystem and everything else on a modern phone just for the better camera?

I think the modular approach is reasonable for people that want a truly great camera on their phone (rather than two devices), somebody just needs to chase the concept further. Phones aren't gonna go back to 12-15 mm form factors anytime soon.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (3 months ago)

"Wow, you really think there are a million 808 users out there? "

Nope, it was the cumulative number of the 808 and the 1020. (See my OP.) I'm certainly aware of the 808's only selling some hundreds of thousands - after all, it wasn't advertised at all and was only really targeted at camera and Symbian enthusiasts, not the Average Joes.

1 upvote
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (3 months ago)

Thanks for the review. Yep, this phone looks pretty terrible camera wise. Not sure how you can beta test it and say yeah, lets release it the way it is??

As to the people on here that complain about every cellphone review. If you don't like them why are you even reading the review, or even commenting?

You guys NEED to wise up. This is not 1995, it's 2014. Cameras as we knew them are a dying breed. Hardly any young person prints anything anymore.

I have taken some pretty darn good pictures with my phones. Can I make a 20x30 print with them, no. Do I need to or want to no. My children and grandchildren see them just fine in emails I send them, and in return I get shots of them from their cellphones. What else you want, a picture from a 80mp MF back you are going to look at on your computer screen at 100??

I am not suggesting you throw away your cameras. I still own a LOT of them. But the average young person probably does not even OWN a real camera anymore.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Philip Goh
By Philip Goh (3 months ago)

I would be interested in seeing how the HTC One M8's camera stacked up against the Moto G. We'd be comparing a phone from the top end of the market with a phone from the bottom end.

The Moto G gets a lot of flak for its poor camera, but looking at the samples above I don't think it's much worse than the HTC One M8. A review comparing these phones side by side will be very interesting.

0 upvotes
Robemo
By Robemo (3 months ago)

Never understood these 'camera-phone' reviews. I don't know anyone who is serious about photography that uses a phone. I do know a lot of people using their phone for taking 'social events' pictures and then sending them to friends. They don't give a hoot about 'ultimate' quality images. It's about sharing a very basic image. Most of the time the images stay in the phone until memory runs out (and then they come to me ...'Help, my camera is not working anymore !'). If they ever print such an image, which they seldom do, it will be postcard size. The images in this review of the M8 look good enough for that for sure. Make these reviews more realistic by aiming at how almost everyone uses their phone and not by reviewing it for the rare geek that uses their camera phone like a Hasselblad.

Ron

4 upvotes
majicmoments
By majicmoments (3 months ago)

I totally agree.. DPR is churning out these darn things like a production line.. Good people at DPR, this site is viewed by photographers of all abilities.. please do more interesting things with cameras..as well as your decent reviews. If you are going to show us the latest phone or gizmo, then take a hint at what Ron suggests.. to give it meaning in our photography.. Azmi

1 upvote
Impulses
By Impulses (3 months ago)

So they shouldn't compare IQ at all? Even if the majority of users will not do anything with the shots but post them to FB that doesn't mean they don't give a hoot about IQ... You do realize displays are getting better and better all the time on tablets, laptops and even TVs no? 1080p (2MP) is like the minimum people will accept across those devices now and they WILL pinch and zoom and often look at pictures in more detail than any "serious photographer" would while printing.

Frankly I don't much care about the camera on my phone because I won't use it for anything critical or memorable, I have other cameras, but for PLENTY of people now their phone is their SOLE camera and it'll be called to capture everything from first born sons to weddings. Your snobbish attitude is wholly unnecessary, if you don't care for a technical review of a smartphone camera and just want a subjective by the seat of your pants comment then read any of the dozens of tech blogs.

1 upvote
Danny
By Danny (3 months ago)

People who are 'serious' about photography often take the worst boring images. Pixel peeping my @ss, it's not the camera, it's the person behind it.

4 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (3 months ago)

"I don't know anyone who is serious about photography that uses a phone."

Well, actually, the Nokia 808 can easily rival even DSLR's with decent ($1000+) lens used in their "sweet spot" (FoV and aperture combo) under small-sensor-friendly circumstances (low DR, plenty of light).

The 808 has an exceptionally good lens, corner-to-corner, and the sensor-lens combo is capable of some VERY serious detail retention. I just love mine.

2 upvotes
hydrospanner
By hydrospanner (3 months ago)

"I don't know anyone who is serious about photography that uses a phone."

Then go crawl back in your third world hole and quit posting here. Every one I know that knows a viewfinder from a lens mount carries a smart phone, and every one of those smart phones has a camera. For a photo enthusiast, the quality/capabilities of their camera's phone, while not everything, are a greater factor in their purchasing decisions than an average person, so reviews like this can help them get a phone that best balances their need for features and a (relative) quality camera.

Only an idiot would complain that a smart phone doesn't stack up against a dedicated camera. That's not at all the point. By that rationale, dpr should only review "full-frame" and larger sensors, because anything smaller is pointless.

2 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (3 months ago)

I used to say the same thing until I got a good camera phone. Now my phone is my most used camera and I only take my DSLR for planned portrait sessions or special destination landscape shots, etc.

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (3 months ago)

I am sorry this review is not of interest to you but there are a lot of people who do take pictures with their phones and who do care about the image quality of the cameras on those phones. Those are the people we target with these reviews.

2 upvotes
DrGonzoIsHere
By DrGonzoIsHere (3 months ago)

I don't understand people complaining about these reviews, I much prefer DPR do a camera phone review than any of the other tech sites. I often use my phone when my camera isn't at reach, so a camera phone I have with me all of the time is invaluable.

Anyhow, great review and a big dissapointment with the M8, I just hope HTC can stay afloat for another year, with a new look on their camera technology, as the current 'less is more' philosophy isn't working.

2 upvotes
Robemo
By Robemo (2 months ago)

As was to be expected lots of juvenile reactions and name calling.
But the facts are undeniable. Yes, the 808 is a wonderful machine (I have one), but no, it still does not come close to a camera (I have one too). If people are happy with their phone, good for them. Who cares, certainly not me.
But still these reviews are not completely fair and actually a bit misleading. Many if not most of the users of cameraphones will be completely happy with the results of the models that are reviewed here. While the reviews suggest huge differences, they are irrelevant to most. That is the reality I see all around me. Sorry Lars.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (2 months ago)

Sorry to disagree. I would not recommend the One M8's camera to anyone, it's clearly worse than its direct competitors in most respects. If you are at all interested in the image quality that comes out of your smartphone you'll want to get something else which is why this review is very relevant. If you don't care about the IQ of your phone then of course it's not relevant to you and there's not much point in reading it.

1 upvote
Robemo
By Robemo (2 months ago)

You are entitled to your opinion as am I. A pitty that you, like some of the name callers here, try to make it a personal thing by trying to put words into my mouth. My remarks had nothing to do with whether I care for IQ of phones or not. It had to do with the fact that the reviews could be more helpful for more people. Positive criticism. Not a personal attack. But feel free to ignore it and cary on the way you do. No harm done and looking at some reactions you have a nice group of civilized followers ...

0 upvotes
hydrospanner
By hydrospanner (2 months ago)

Yeah, all except the fact that "your remarks" are based on your lack of perspective.

If you care so little about the subject, why keep commenting? Nobody here wants to know what you have to say after you've proven how ridiculous you are.

0 upvotes
Robemo
By Robemo (2 months ago)

Aahhh, I see. And you represent the average intellect in this forum I guess?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (2 months ago)

Easy on the insults please or I will have to delete a few comments here. Where do you think is my review attacking anybody or anything on a personal level?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 53
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