HTC ONE X HARDWARE
I can you tell you straight away that the One X is a beautifully made device. Before the screen is even turned on, the device could win phone of the year on looks alone. I’ve always been a bit of hater of big screens and although the One X is on the larger side at 4.7 inches, the curvature and smooth lines make it feel smaller than it is. I know it must be a hard job to make a phone look reasonable even though it can have a huge display but HTC have shown that with a bit of hard work, it can be done with amazing results. There’s nothing awkward or uncomfortable about the One X and its leaps and bounds ahead of looks and design compared to HTC’s last few efforts like the Desire and Sensation range. It’s simply a great looking HTC ONE X from any angle.
The One X adopts a curved profile reminiscent of the Galaxy Nexus — hold it sideways and you’ll notice how the top and bottom edges very gently curve up. The majority of the case is a seamless matte plastic that feels glossier (that is, more slippery) than it looks, but not enough to raise any particular concern about dropping it. It has a similar appearance to the material that Nokia has started using on its higher-end devices, though HTC’s has a little less texture to it. There is a black and white version of the HTC ONE X; we had the black and it looks absolutely fantastic although due to the material I would be a little worried about staining with the white one. The case has a tendency to show and retain dirt very easily. With the black version, it’s not much of a problem but I could easily see a white version being stained considerably. This may be why most white phones are glossy, even when other colours of the same device are matte (the aforementioned Nokia’s, for instance) — a glossy surface is less likely to pick up grime, and that becomes more important when the colour doesn’t hide it.
The physical characteristics of the HTC ONE X are what make it such a joy to look at. The glass covering the display is gently curved and contoured into the bezel giving it a slick, streamlined appearance.
The earpiece and speaker grills are literally tiny holes, laser drilled smoothly into the casing which you cant even feel if you run your fingers over them – minimalism at its best. Gone are the days of the Sensation with its ugly metal earpiece grill. The camera, which is surrounded by an attractive matte silver ring, is raised just enough so that the loudspeaker picks up a “megaphone effect” when you’ve got the HTC ONE X sitting on a table; furthermore, the design prevents the camera lens (which is flush with the top of the ring) from getting scratched this way.
On the left hand side, you have just the micro USB charging port embedded into the casing. On the right, you have glossy volume rockers which fit right into the glossy band around the phone. At the top, you have the power/stand by key on the right and headphone jack alongside the noise cancelling mic on the left. On the right shoulder of the device, you have the micro SIM tray which pops out just like the iPhone. The only intrusion of the casing at the bottom of the phone is the main microphone, keeping in line with the minimalist effect HTC are going for.
At the front of the device, sits the beautifully curved glass display with the 3 Android capacitive keys underneath. Above the display are the earpiece and 1.3 megapixel front facing camera. At the back you have the HTC logo and Beats audio branding in between the Camera and flash which sit at the top and the loudspeaker at the bottom. I would say that the only omission and downside to the design is the lack of a dedicated camera button. It’s weird how much Smartphone manufacturers want to push the capabilities of cameras on phones and yet don’t bother having a dedicated camera key. The all new look of the device certainly isn’t sacrificed by size. Make no mistake, the One X is thin. It’s easy to be lulled into believing that it’s not, considering that it was announced at the same time as its One S stablemate which clocks in at an outrageously skinny 7.8 millimetres. The fact is, though, the One X is still a sub-9mm device — 8.9, to be exact. It’s perfectly balanced in the hand and never feels remotely chunky (again, all bets are off if you’ve had a chance to play with the One S). And as with many HTC’s in recent memory, the One X features a sculpted shell that makes it look and feel even thinner than it actually is.
HTC ONE X DISPLAY
The One X’ display is without a doubt, the best display I have ever seen on a mobile phone.
Seriously, I’ve tried and tried and have yet to find fault with it. It’s got a near perfect 180 degree viewing angle and amazing colour reproduction. The display of colours is the best on the mobile market with vivid accuracy, really bright whites and pure blacks. Its a 720p screen which brings it on par with the iPhone’s Retina display where the individual pixels become invisible to the naked eye. It also lacks the infamous pentile subpixel arrangement commonly employed on high-resolution AMOLEDs like that found on the One S, and it runs circles around the Galaxy Nexus’s 4.65-inch Super AMOLED for overall quality. The biggest reason why manufacturers choose AMOLED over LCD is because AMOLED screens are thinner and self illuminating meaning less power consumption and thinner devices. Despite this, the One X is still beautifully thin with an LCD display.
HTC ONE X SOFTWARE & PERFORMANCE
As I’ve said, the One line represents something of a philosophical rebirth for HTC, and that’s as true in the software — Sense 4.0 — as it is in the hardware and the branding. Yes the HTC ONE X does sport Android 4.0 but it still implements its Sense skin over it. HTC made it clear that they wanted to tone down Sense as on previous phones, Sense kind of dominated the Android OS and it had to take a back seat to HTC’s skin. The company were aiming to integrate Sense more tightly with the platform and to make it less of a bright, over designed, in-your-face experience than it’s been in the past. Now this has and hasn’t happened. Some areas of the software are much better. Take the notification tray for example. On previous phones, when you pulled down the tray, it showed you recently used apps with notifications below which was just stupid. Now, the recently used apps are gone giving you more room for actual notifications. Also, as Android 4.0 has an integrated task switcher, the recently used apps function is redundant.
However, despite the above, there are places that HTC haven’t gone far enough to tone down. Now these shortcomings aren’t derivative to the whole experience, they’re just minor niggles that don’t really give you any benefit to use. The biggest of these is the task switcher. In the original version of Android 4.0, (the version on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus) the task switcher is laid over whatever screen you’re on and shows you a stack of open apps each with a thumbnail. It’s very easy to look at what’s open and close the apps you don’t want to use, then carry on with whatever you were doing. You don’t need an app to do this as its part of the core Android software. But for some reason, opening up the task switcher on the One X takes you into an app that shows you which apps are open and only shows you one thumbnail at a time. You then have to swipe an app away to close it, similar to the cards mechanic on WebOS. The fact that anyone feels this is a necessary inclusion perhaps speaks to a deeper issue on HTC’s or Google’s part, because under no circumstances should an average phone user ever need to actively manage the apps that are occupying RAM — especially on a device with 1GB of it. There’s no reason why this should work in an app as its a standard part of the Android operating system. HTC’s version of task switching offers no practical value to the average user’s experience. I can’t lodge a single complaint about the One X’s performance, though — this phone screams, and it has the benchmark scores to back it up. I used the phone heavily for gaming, web browsing and other intensive tasks and can’t recall a single incidence of lag or stutter anywhere in the user interface. That’s saying something, because Android phones that initially appear to be fast have a tendency to “bog down” over time and during certain operations like app updates and account syncs, but not the One X — it was smooth sailing at all times.
I used the Google Chrome browser (which is still in Beta) and it worked like a dream. Pages loaded up quickly and pinching and zooming was a breeze. I did notice that long term browsing or gaming does make the HTC ONE X hot but not to the point that it’s uncomfortable at all. In terms of the battery life, I was worried it was going to be woeful due to the 4 cores spinning around inside but I was suitably impressed. Power testing the device involves having Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS turned on and consistently web browsing, watching videos and playing games. After doing this, the battery finally gave up after 5 hours which means you should easily get a day out of it with general use.
Audio quality is also great across the board. HTC ONE X calls sound excellent and less distorted and somewhat muffled which was a major problem with the Sensation range. Usually, loudspeakers of smartphones are quiet and sound tinny but the One X’s was actually loud and clear. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to listen to music if you haven’t got speakers to hand. The audio quality through headphones is where it really shines though, music is crisp and the balance of highs, lows, treble and bass is incredibly clear and accurate. The One X carries the Beats Audio branding, as most HTC devices are now expected to (HTC owns 51 percent of Beats, after all). I find it ironic that the One series’ tagline is “Amazing Camera, Authentic Sound” when Beats’ audio processing is anything but authentic — in fact, if anything, it intentionally diverges from the artist’s intentions. Every time I hear music with Beats enabled, it just sounds like bass boost to me, which is a trick we’ve seen in various forms in portable audio products for at least 30 years. It does seem like a gimmick and I’m pretty sure that most users will leave Beats audio turned off when using headphones.
HTC ONE X CAMERA
Along with audio, the camera talents have also been a consistent selling point of the One X according to HTC. On the software side, I believe that the One X’s camera functionality — ImageSense, as HTC calls it — is the best and easiest use of any Android device on the market. In some ways, it runs circles around the benchmark-setting iPhone 4S as well. I’m loving the fact that HTC has integrated photo and video modes into a single viewfinder — there’s no switch you need to toggle, then wait several seconds while the camera changes modes. You’re simply always in both modes at the same time: if you want to take a still shot, you press the shutter button, and if you want to start recording a video, you press the video button. Both operations happen more or less instantaneously, and HTC’s managed to quash almost all shutter lag in the still mode — that was a big deal with the Galaxy Nexus, so it’s good to see the One X follows suit. And unlike the Nexus, the One X’s autofocus is consistently fast and accurate. The HTC ONE X allows you to take still images at the same time as recording video and the images never lack any quality when taken during this process.
Unfortunately, that’s where the compliments stop. The actually image quality is very underwhelming despite all the new optics that HTC have introduced. Images seem washed out and colourless and if you have any text within an image, pinching and zooming into the picture on the HTC ONE X shows you how blurred that text is. I was hoping that images from this device would be indistinguishable from dedicated digital cameras but images just scream out camera phone and the quality really gives it away. It’s not brilliant in low light situations either as you’ll need the flash to try to reduce noise. Unfortunately, video recording also has the same issues which does an OK job, but wont come near to replacing your dedicated camera. The image quality isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just nowhere near to the standard that HTC have been shouting about.
First of all, I think HTC’s Sense skin can do a lot better. There are instances where you’ll find the interface adhering to Sense more than Android. On the bright side, compared to older versions of Sense, HTC have improved slightly and let a bit more of Android shine through. Despite the quality of the camera, I can honestly say that the HTC One x is one of the best smartphones I have ever used and so close to being the perfect Android phone. HTC have done wonders with their new One series of handsets and I’m glad to see them back on the right track. If you are after an all round great Android phone that provides speed, reliability and design, look no further. The One X is almost perfect in everything it does. The Sense interface doesn’t detract from the experience and that display is just gorgeous. This is probably the best smartphone available at the moment and a sure fire nomination for phone of the year. The only lacking feature would probably be the camera and if that’s important to you, I would probably wait and see what Samsung do with the Galaxy S3. I cannot stress enough though, that despite the camera, the One X is a fantastic handset.