Two phones that have been selling like hotcakes this past month are the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy Note. Both powerhouses, the defining commonality between the two is a question of inches - both the Note and the One X are sizeable beasts that couple ample specs with a handful of phone. So how do they compare? Will the 4.7-inch One X hit the spot with its quad-core power or will the victor be the Samsung Galaxy Note, measuring 5.3-inches and endowing the gift of penmanship upon its bearer?
Neither of these phones inspired us in terms of design, but one thing they both do very well is hide the fact that they're so very big. On the one hand, you've got the HTC One X, slender dimensions and curved backing. While plastic, it feels solid with its polycarbonate unibody and it sits in the hand and pocket without an problem. Moving onto the Samsung Galaxy Note, its additional fascia size makes its slender profile feel unnaturally slim. That said, it is bigger, markedly so and is too big for most to use comfortably in hand and pocket.
Both phones are constructed entirely out of plastic, with the HTC One X being a unibody construction it has no removable battery. Design flourishes include glossy sides with matted backing and it comes in black and white. That said, the black version looks a bit like a scuffed grey in our opinion. In turn, we'd go for the white every time.
The Samsung Galaxy Note looks like a bigger, more curvaceous Samsung Galaxy S2. It has an attractive chrome-like trimming along its sides and feels comfortable in our large hands. It has a removable battery cover and in turn doesn't have quite the same solid-factor as-found on the HTC One X. Also, with the chrome-like sides being rounded and high-gloss, it's pretty slippery. That said, our unit has been with us for a few months now, has experienced a fair few knocks and drops and we can attest to it being one hardy handset though please - don't test the theory with your own Note.
While both large, the screens on the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy Note are very, very different. Starting with size, HTC's offering is 4.7-inches while Samsung's Note is 5.3. In addition, resolution is also different to accommodate different aspect ratios. The HTC One X comes in at 1280x720, while the Samsung Galaxy Note is 1280x800.
While resolution alone might make you think off the bat that the Samsung Galaxy Note wins out, thanks to the size difference, the HTC One X actually packs a higher concentration of pixels making for a sharper image.
Aside from size and resolution, another area the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy Note differ is screen tech. The One X an uses LCD 2 panel while the Note uses Samsung's Super AMOLED technology. There are a few factors associated with the types of screen.
- AMOLEDs have better blacks and more vibrant colours, usually making things like photos look better without any tweaking, they also do wonders for user interfaces and videos.
- The AMOLED screen on the Note uses pentile technology and is therefore less sharp than a non-pentile LCD (pixels share their green sub-pixel making for less detail)
- LCD displays can arguably deliver greater colour accuracy. While images may not look as vibrant and saturated, they look more representative of how they will be outputted to a monitor or printed.
The Samsung Galxy Note looks absolutely incredible, there's no denying. Blacks are endless and colours really do pop right out at you thanks to the screen's vibrance. That said, the screen isn't quite as clean when delivering a uniform colour as on a quality LCD panel like that of the HTC One X and sharpness is noticably lower.
While not offering quite the levels of vibrance and saturation as the Samsung Galaxy Note, the HTC One X delivers a fantastic picture overall on amongst the best LCD display we've used on a mobile to date. In addition, by minimising the distance between the Gorilla Glass fascia and LCD panel, viewing angles and outdoor visibility are superb, beating the Galaxy Note.
So while we're torn as to which display rocks our world harder, with the HTC One X being sharper and superficial like a back-lit sticker, it's our victor. A first in the face of AMOLEDs? Maybe, but try them out side by side, you'll see what we mean.
Both running Android, the HTC One X has the latest version available, Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0. while the Samsung Galaxy Note runs Gingerbread or Android 2.3. It's worth bearing in mind that the Galaxy Note will be getting the upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich in the next few months if you're prepared to wait.
On top of Android, both manufacturers have overlaid a custom skin, limiting the amount of true Android you actually see, but adding other functionality to the phones.
HTC's is called Sense 4.0 while Samsung's is TouchWiz 4.0. Touchwiz is lighter than HTC Sense however still offers a redrawn UI, menu system and trademark Samsung Aesthetic with some programs, widgets and hubs. These hubs could add value, potentially, at a push, however we're inclined to see them as bloatware. Sorry Samsung.
HTC Sense does doesn't have hubs but instead a much more integrated set of applications and widgets as well as what is in our opinion a considerably more attractive UI. It's heavy. Lighter than Sense 3.5, but still, heavier than Touchwiz and heavier than it should be. Some of the user interface is sensational, the overview mode, the widgets, the lock screen, however once they hit a happy place, they kept adding, re-imagining ICS's already great multi-tasker and throwing their locations service in there.
That said, we prefer it to Touchwiz. We're playing with fire favouring it as many Android purists use Sense as a poster child for 'how Android smartphone makers get it wrong', but their latest version is a big improvement, is easier on the eyes and sits better with our day to day use.
As far as keyboards go, we favour the HTC One X keyboard over that of the Samsung Galaxy Note in landscape, and if you don't tweak any settings, the Samsung Galaxy Note edges slightly ahead in portrait. The Note looks most like the stock Android keyboard however packs S-Pen support as well.
What's great about the HTC keyboard however is you can activate a Swype style input through the settings without having to swap your keyboard out. If you activate this, it turns the large phone into a potential one handed handset which we can't say for the Samsung Galaxy Note in any circumstances.
Two camera phones that are well and truly head and shoulders above most of the competition, the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy Note pictures are impressive to say the least. Both sporting 8-megapixel cameras, the HTC One X packs an f/2 lens and a 28mm wide angle while the Samsung Galaxy Note lens packs an f/2.6 with a slightly less wide angle.
Jumping into the images and the outdoor shot shows that the HTC One X has ever so slightly more dynamic range between lights and darks, though both look very lively and vibrant. The shot does a good job of illustrating how attractive the slightly wider angle makes pictures look with the building edges framing the shot nicely on the One X.
Indoors and in the dark, we can see that the One X has pulled a lot more detail out of the brick work than the Samsung Galaxy Note. Turning on the lights and the One X has done a better job of not washing out the side of the image with the light source. The shot looks sharper and while some may put this down to edge sharpening, we don't mind this as it results in an overall more pleasing image.
So the Samsung Galaxy Note has won across the board so far, however when it comes to macro, the Samsung Galaxy Note was able to focus closer and retain more detail as can be seen in the stone.
Both stunning, but our preference? The HTC One X.
Storage and Connectivity
Expandable vs. non-expandable, that is the question. HTC kindly offer 32GB of onboard storage on their One X as well as 25GB of Dropbox cloud space for two years. This is perfectly suited to anyone with an all you can eat data allowance for whom 32GB physical storage is ample.
In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Note has 16GB of on-board storage, however offers expandability via microSD card. This means you can get a total of 48GB on it should you so choose.
Web browning both phones is speedy and impressive thanks to the power under the hoods. The Samsung Galaxy Note benefits from a larger screen and is our favourite of the two in terms of overall experience, though the HTC One X holds its own thanks to its incredible resolution and whites look considerably more accurate on the Super LCD 2 panel than on the Note's HD Super AMOLED display.
Dual-core vs. Quad-core, that's what it comes down to however the reality is, the processor affects far more than just speed, impacting battery life and stability as well.
With its 1.4GHz dual-core Exynos processor, the Samsung Galaxy Note powers through day to day tasks with no hiccups, it plays back games incredibly well and the UI looks smooth. It even ploughs through high res video files and is rammed with codecs for drag and drop playback with no encoding necessary. That said, what is odd is the fact that some menial actions such as pressing the home button take a full second or so to register.
The HTC One X is just quick. It consistently makes short work of everything from a phone call through to a 3D game. Not questioning the speed therefore, we can move onto other factors that spark our attention - stability.
The Samsung Galaxy Note has been out longer, its processor was created in house by Samsung and it has also got the advantage of having its radios within the Exynos chip, in contrast to Tegra 3. In turn, our HTC One X reset itself on a couple of occasions and didn't always register our micro SIM card immediately. That said, stability wasn't our biggest gripe with the HTC One X, battery was.
The Note has a giant 2500mAh battery in contrast to the 1750mAh battery on the HTC One X. In a real world situation, this works out to the Galaxy Note dying after a pretty full day of semi-intensive use. Much to our dismay, the HTC One X hardly lasted a working day.
As far as call quality goes, both phones deliver good microphone performance and volume, however the HTC One X speaker is significantly clearer than the Samsung Galaxy Note pushing it ahead and making for a very mixed comparison.
The HTC One X is an incredible phone. It offers better call quality, a better camera, a better quality screen in our opinion and a faster processor. It also works better as a phone thanks to the size, with the aspect ratio making it very well suited to video playback. That said, we'd sooner recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note based on one factor alone - battery life. The Note also offers a larger display, S-Pen support which works very well and expandable storage. It's unfortunate that we couldn't even get a full day out of the European Tegra 3 powered HTC One X. If HTC were to optimise the power management, we would change our verdict. In its current state though, our comparison winner is without a doubt, the Samsung Galaxy Note.