The HTC One X has landed, the UK's first quad-core phone and HTC's flagship phone for the first part of 2012.
When The HTC Sensation XL came along last year with its 4.7-inch display, it was one of the largest handsets on the market and in turn was embraced by a minority. Cue April 2012 and after a host of larger devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Note and HTC Titan have hit the main-stream, no one is batting an eyelid with the arrival of the One X and its 4.7-inch screen. That said, while the screen size might not be making waves for the HTC One X, the quad-core processor, HD resolution and f/2 lens certainly are.
HTC One X: Design
The HTC One X bears a simpler aesthetic when compared to the HTC Sensation XL, with a clean white plastic frame surrounding the Gorilla Glass fascia. Micro-drilled holes reside above the glass up top to accommodate the in-call speaker, while three capacitive buttons lie at the base of the glass.
Working our way round the back of the HTC One X, the top portion houses a microSIM card slot which needs to be ejected with a proprietary pin. Next door lies the 8-megapixel camera while in the centre of the back is an HTC insignia. In the lower portion are more micro-drilled holes for the loud-speaker and a beats audio logo.
We have concerns about the camera mount. It juts out of the back of the One X unprotected, attracting both fingerprints and scratches.
Ports are few and far between with a micro USB port on the left and a 3.5mm headphone jack up top. There’s also a power button next door and finally a volume rocker to the right.
In a random bout of design decision making, the matte finish on the front and back of the HTC One X is contrasted with a glossy finish on the sides. We assume this is to make sliding up and down the volume rocker easier while maintaining a grippy back, though we’re not huge fans visually.
The design is bottom heavy and well weighted. It also looks good and certainly does the job of elegantly sporting a large 4.7-inch display. Does it physically feel like a flagship HTC phone though? We’re not so sure. The plastic build lacks the rigidity of the HTC Sensation or One S, but at the same time doesn’t offer the design innovation of the Nokia Lumia 800. Very good, not great.
HTC One X: Screen
The screen on the HTC One X is nothing short of spectacular. At 4.7-inches and at 720p, it is comparable to that found on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in terms of resolution, however it forgoes AMOLED technology in favour of Super LCD 2. What you end up with is a non-pentile display with fantastic pixel-density and eye-popping, natural, warm colours - it looks like a backlit sticker.
Viewing angles are even more impressive, reminding us of the new iPad thanks to the combination of size and sharpness. We would go so far as to say side-on legibility of text is approaching paper - a far cry from the washed out qHD panel on the HTC Sensation.
Colours are vibrant, blacks are deeper than almost any other LCD we’ve seen to date and the glass feels rich when swiping and gliding across it. It is very reflective, though this doesn’t seem to hamper outdoor viewing with the HTC One X delivering fantastic screen brightness.
HTC One X: Interface
Sense 4.0. Lighter, simpler, better? We’d say so. We were fans of the HTC Sense of old. It had its place when Android was a more immature OS. By Sense 3.5 however, it was starting to weigh down heavy on the user experience. Now with the advent of Ice Cream Sandwich, Sense has been streamlined.
While HTC haven’t delivered stock Android, they have compromised. Gone is the non-customisable dock, bold flip-clock widget of old and spectrum bokeh wallpaper. HTC Sense 4.0 offers a skinny hairline clock, customisable 5-icon dock and resizable widgets.
Speaking of resizable widgets, widgets look cleaner and operate more smoothly although they can still take a second to activate fully despite the quad-core processor.
Key UI elements have also moved towards the stock Android experience such as the apps drawer - now side-scrolling and the notification bar which has sacrificed the option to toggle settings in favour of a simple shortcut to the general settings. This is one Sense 3.5 feature we wish made it through to 4.0.
HTC has retained their lock-screen of old with two additional styles, ‘Productivity’ and ‘People’. The ‘Productivity’ lock screen indicates any missed calls, calendar events or notifications. The ‘People’ lock screen displays a grid of contacts who’s details can be expanded by dragging their shortcut into the central ring. These work well, reaffirming HTC’s lock-screen supremacy over other OEMs.
Unlike other Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) phones, long pressing the home button doesn’t pull up the task manager. Instead HTC have a 3D card system that, like Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) illustrates running apps in a suspended state. While this is more informative than the stock task-manager, the 3D effect HTC have used looks a little over-done, often displays blank screens and is at odds with the remainder of Sense 4.0’s simple aesthetic.
Without a doubt one of the best, most usable keyboards on any handset, the HTC One X QWERTY is spacious, large and depending on your entry field, has arrows when needed. Customisable, it enables Swype style input which can be activated in the settings and also features a calibration tool - enabling the most bespoke typing experience possible.
HTC One X: Camera
8-megapixels, f/2 lens, Back-side illuminated Sensor, it doesn’t get much better than this on paper for Android phones, but what's on paper's only ever half the battle.
In terms of usability, the camera on the HTC One X is an absolute joy. It's fast, the UI is intuitive and pictures open and render very quickly. Focusing is a doddle with touch-to-focus and scene modes can be quickly accessed. There are oodles of effects as can be seen below, and a wealth of capture modes ranging from panorama right through to HDR. The burst mode records images at 5 frames per second and you can even capture photos mid video recording.
Moving onto picture quality and it's great quality across the board. Outdoors images capture very quickly and offer wonderfully balanced colours and exposure. The sample grid above should serve as a pretty comprehensive example of just how capable the camera is - and these were taken on pre-release software.
An example of the results of burst mode can be seen below:
Close up shots look incredible. Thanks to the f/2 lens, we can capture more depth of field than on most other mobile snappers and the fantastic sensor coupled with capture speed means detail is paramount.
Moving indoors and once again, the HTC One X camera prevails. The shot of the cat was taken with the lights off, curtains closed and sunlight leaking in. The shot in the bar was very dimly lit and taken on the fly. It demonstrates good noise handling, ambience and detail. As you can see at the bottom, flash performance is also on-point and the panorama results are amongst the best we've seen to date making for a very competent overall cameraphone.
At full HD, video shot on the HTC One X certainly looks impressive on the phone itself. We're glad to see that exporting it doesn't expose gaping holes in the quality. Below are two sample videos. One is shot on pre-release software however illustrates how the camera copes with a sun kissed sky and a bustling city.
The second video is taken on a moving train in a bid to demonstrate moving objects further illustrate just how fantastic the auto-focus on the HTC One X is.
What adds to the quality of the output is the ease of capture within the HTC One X camera. Rather than go into video mode in order to record, there is just one camera mode, with a record button below the shutter release. Simply tap record and with a short pause and a beep, you're recording.
HTC One X: Connectivity and Storage
Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, Bluetooth, NFC, MHL, the HTC One X packs everything you'll need to get you connected. We had no issues with call quality and the GPS was one of the quickest we've used in a while to pin-point our location.
Occasionally, we couldn't make calls while connected to a 3G network. There's a possibility this is network operator related, but it did happen more than once and require we turn data off to remedy it.
Web pages load well and HTC have customised the Web Kit browser so users can easily define whether whether they view mobile or desktop versions of sites. There is also a reading mode which simplifies pages and the screen makes for a perfect text display experience.
While non-expandable, there's a total of 32GB on board the HTC One X with around 25GB of that usable for personal files and media.
HTC One X: Performance
So far, we've easily got a 4.5* review, bordering on 5*. The best screen we've used on a phone, amongst the best camera. Solid build albeit slightly uninspired design, but all round, cracking stuff from HTC. Sadly however, performance is where things go a bit awry.
First off, in-spite of being blisteringly fast with the likes of web pages and 3D games and chewing through Flash video without batting an eye-lid, the UI occasionally stutters and has to reboot itself. Anyone who's used a custom launcher or HTC Sense has probably had this happen to them. No biggy, but feels buggy on a slick flagship.
Now onto our biggest gripe, battery life. Using the HTC One S liberally, we managed to drop down to 18% battery in the space of 5 hours and 5 minutes. We didn't intentionally blitz it, no movies were watched and tethering was only active for about 30 minutes. That said, sync settings were on and the screen was getting a fair amount of usage. Using the phone a lot also heats up the camera surround a fair bit.
In turn, if you get this powerhouse handset, you have to learn to pay attention to your power consumption. For a full day - turn off auto-sync and 3G when not using them. Keep screen brightness low. On our final day with the One X, it lasted from morning to night following these tips.
HTC One X: Conclusion
HTC have managed to deliver our favourite screen on any smartphone in the One X. The camera is also stunning, easy to use and captures great results as does the full HD video. That the HTC One X has a quad-core Tegra 3 processor means you're about as future-proofed as you're going to get should you pick one up.
There's a big but however. The battery-life. With an 1800-mAH battery and a feature-set that screams "USE ME. PLAY WITH ME", the HTC One X hardly lasts a working day, let alone a waking day. There are measures you can take to improve your battery, but the phone is just so good, we're begrudged to implement them.
In turn, the HTC One X leaves us conflicted. If you want the best screen around, a stunning camera and don't mind plugging it in at every opportunity, get one and revel in its magnificence. If however you're away from power-ports for long periods and can't abide your phone dying on you, we’d suggest you hold off for the HTC One S. The S promises many of the same benefits of the X with a 4.3-inch screen and better power management.
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