Perhaps surprisingly to some, but less so to those in the know, the first HTC One was the phone that wowed critics and continued to win awards and plaudits throughout its yearly lifespan, even though rival devices sometimes outgunned it in specifications sakes.

A few of those rivals also sold considerably more units, proving to be more popular generally. But those who opted for the more niche device spent much of the year with a wry grin. The HTC One was, and still is, much loved.

And so we now have a replacement, also called the HTC One, although in technical terms it will be referred to as the HTC One (M8) and Pocket-lint got the chance to check it out to see if the company managed to capture the magic once again.

From our 15-30 minute play with a device featuring unfinished Sense 6 software, we can safely say it has. For a start, HTC has managed to up its game even further with the build quality. The rear aluminium casing is gorgeous and the tapered edges sit nicely in the hand.

Thanks to a side effect of the machine tooling process, the gunmetal grey back has a flecked effect (it will also be available in silver and gold) which gives it a unique finish. It’s slightly larger than the original HTC One – now to be called HTC One (M7) – but still feels manageable, albeit substantial.

The screen uses the same technology as the first phone – IPS LCD in effect but not name. However, it is now 5-inches. It’s a 1080p display with a 441ppi and fronted by Gorilla Glass 3. And from our play so far is extremely responsive.

In power terms, things have progressed somewhat. The HTC One (M8) uses the latest processor from Qualcomm, a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset and 2GB of RAM. NFC is on board too, as well as a second processing unit mainly used by HTC for its Motion Launch feature.

Motion Launch is the company’s name for the new gesture controls for start-up and shut down. While the phone still has an on/off button, you can now simply raise it from its slumber by double tapping the screen. Double tapping it again will switch the device off.

Other gestures work too. Swipe from left to right when off will open the phone straight to Blinkfeed. We tried this out a bit, but couldn’t tell you much more about Sense 6 because, at the stage we saw the phone, it wasn’t fully ready.

Android 4.4.2 KitKat was on board and everything ran very smoothly indeed. HTC also told us that the 2,600mAh battery is 40 per cent more efficient than on the previous HTC One, but we couldn’t obviously find that out for ourselves during the brief session. The device features Qualcomm’s Fast Charge technology, so can be powered to 80 per cent in just one hour of charging.

The main feature of the new phone, or at least the most talked about, concerned the second camera lens on the rear. Duo Camera allows for depth reading in photographs and therefore provides some cunning new functionality. You can take a picture that is layered, allowing you to subsequently refocus on parts of the image after the event. Also, you can animate the photo, add different effects which apply to different layers in the image and much more.

Again, we need to see this feature at work in a much more in-depth environment, but we have to say we were impressed on initial viewing.

Audio has been improved on the HTC One (M8). We were told it was 25 per cent louder, but the main technological advancement we found of use was that amplification now looks at different elements of a music track and raises the right parts, while leaving others so that they don’t distort. It made, on a very brief listen, for a much cleaner, clearer experience.

HTC also told us that the new HTC One will come with 16GB of on-board storage, a microSD card slot capable of expanding that by a further 128GB and 65GB free Google Drive cloud storage space from the box.

Pocket-lint will be reviewing the final phone shortly, so check that out to find out more and what we definitively think of HTC’s latest flagship. For now, our first thoughts are that this could be the most beautiful Android handset on the market. One to set a standard by which others will need to attain.