After years of continued growth and ever increasing profits HTC was hit hard by its failures last year after it flooded the market with a number of ordinary android phones each indistinguishable from the last. Two thousand and twelve therefore marks a new Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) filled beginning for HTC as they attempt to wrestle back the initiative from Samsung, the Galaxy SII and incoming SIII. The HTC One X is the flagship phone in HTC’s One family spearheading its planned revival and is certainly a piece of hardware to rival the very best smartphones on the market, let alone the best android phones.
Hardware and Build Quality
Dimensions: 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm
Screen Size: 4.7inches (1280×720)
HTC’s devices have exuded stunning build quality ever since the unibody HTC legend was released in 2010 and the One X is no exception to rule. In this instance HTC has left behind the aluminium unibodies of the Legend and Desire HD and has outfitted the One X with a polycarbonate unibody like the one recently seen on the Nokia Lumia 800/900. While you may at first think that polycarbonate unibody is just a marketing term for plastic be rest assured that this isn’t the sort of plastic you might find in a sub £150 device. Instead the One X is covered by a high quality soft touch back with glossy yet still extremely high quality plastic. Indeed during the review no creaking was noticed at all. On the left hand side of the device you will find a micro usb charge/sync port and on the right hand side there is just a solitary volume rocker. On the top of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack, access to the Micro SIM slot and the power button. Being a 5.3 inch device people with smaller hands might have preferred HTC to place the power button of the side of the device like on Samsung’s Galaxy SII, although personally we found after a little bit of use it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. The 4.7 inch (1280×720) screen is covered in gorilla glass and inside the phone is NVIDIA’s brand new Tegra 3 quad core chip. Finally a slightly negative note is that there is no slot for expandable memory so users are stuck with the 32gb of on-board storage (along with 25gb of dropbox cloud storage).
The display is arguably the crown jewel in the HTC One X presenting incredibly crisp images all in stunning 720p. The display measures 4.7 inches and certainly represents the outer-limit we would be willing to accept on a smartphone. Compared to the iPhone 4 the display is absolutely huge and certainly takes some getting used to. The benefits to web-browsing, games and videos swiftly become apparent, however, and if you think you can live with such a large phone then you won’t be disappointed with the added real estate such a large, high resolution display provides. The One X is not the first phone to use a 720p display, the Galaxy Nexus also used one, but unlike the Galaxy Nexus it is a SLCD2 display not pentile. Pentile has become increasingly synonymous with grainy images due to its pixel arrangement and while these deficiencies may have been blown slightly out of proportion the One X’s display contains none of these problems. Viewing angles were extraordinarily wide with only a slight loss in brightness noticeable. Blacks were deep and whites were especially vibrant and lacked the greyness often displayed in the Galaxy Nexus display. Overall the One X’s display has certainly set a new benchmark in mobile phone displays and after Samsung announced that the SIII will also come with a pentile display it looks like we will have to wait until the iPhone 5 to see a rival to this display.
When HTC launched the One X one of the areas it was clear that they had paid the most amount of attention to was the camera. The camera is an 8MP shooter with an F2.0 28mm lens and while the images it produces are vibrant they lack some sharpness. It is certainly the best camera that HTC has produced but isn’t necessarily the huge leap forward HTC had us thinking it would be. More impressive, however, is the actual suite of software that HTC has provided when using the camera. It is possible to edit ISO, white balance and even add filters similar to those on instagram. Finally HTC has also provided the camera with an excellent burst mode as well as the ability to take still shots while at the same time recording video. Overall the camera is good but not excellent and although HTC’s software is very promising there could still be improvements to both the lens and software.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Having such a large high resolution display certainly takes its toll on battery life and while the average user might find the 1800mAh battery to be adequate, power users may wish that HTC had either included a removable battery or a larger, 2100mAh battery as seen in the upcoming Galaxy SIII. With mid to high levels of usage the phone is just about able to get through the day with wi-fi and push emails turned on. Gaming and watching videos severely depleted the battery, however. A fifteen minute game of Temple Run, including a high score of 1,107,666, on medium brightness depleted the battery 10%. Therefore as long as you are not wanting to constantly play 3D mobile games or watch videos the One X’s battery is perfectly capable of getting you through a day of emails and light browsing. It still would have been nice to have a slightly larger battery though.
Regarding audio quality the One X is excellent with calls coming through the speakers very clearly and people able to understand us with ease. Although many manufacturers seem to fall down on this area these days the One X merely produced the sort of call quality we expect from a flagship phone.
Performance and benchmarks
Apart from the display the other area that stands out on the One X’s spec sheet is Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad core processor. Previously only seen in Asus’s Transformer Prime, Tegra 3 is Nvidia’s latest mobile cpu and the first quad core mobile cpu to reach the market. The most important question though is what does that mean in practice. You’ll be pleased to know that the processor performs exactly as you would expect. Sense 4.0 flies under the finger with apps opening extremely fast and even the most intensive games, such as those found in Nvidia’s tegra zone run without a hitch. Rapidly flicking between home screens on previous HTC devices was both slow and cumbersome yet on the One X there were no such problems. Although this probably has as much to do with HTC’s newest skin as much as the processor itself.
While performance in everyday usage is exactly what you would expect the benchmarks showed that while the Tegra 3 is certainly fast it isn’t as big of a leap forward as you might expect compared to some of the newer dual cores entering the market such as the Snapdragon s4 found in the US version of the One X. The Quadrant benchmark returned an average score of 4,573 with a top score out 4880. In smartbench 2012 the average score in the productivity index was 4610 with a high score of 4682. On the gaming index of smartbench the average score we got was 2707 and a high score of 2722.
Many people who heard HTC was shipping the One X with Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) would have let out a collective sigh when it was also announced that upon ICS would be HTC’s sense skin. While HTC may have aided user experience with its skins back in the days of Froyo, Android has improved dramatically since then to the extent that HTC’s skin upon its gingerbread devices was actually a detraction rather than a selling point. Thankfully HTC has remedied this problem for the most part with Sense 4.0 proving to be only a light skin. Whether or not Sense 4.0 actually a benefit is debatable but we found that it certainly did not take anything away from the device. Gone are the overly laborious animations replaced by a simple change to the next homescreen. Even HTC’s famous weather widget has been toned down slightly so that it is less intrusive. Android purists will no doubt still bemoan the fact manufacturers still feel the need to add skins to their devices. Thankfully in the One X’s case the skin is light enough not to ruin the experience although if we are honest it would be nice to see a uniform android experience pushed by Google such as that of the Galaxy Nexus.
The One X is a sparkling return to the top of the smartphone market for HTC and should certainly be considered when looking for a new phone. We would say that currently it is the top android phone on the market with excellent design and build quality. Battery life is a slight concern although certainly in no way a deal breaker especially when performance and the display are so good. It would also be nice to see manufacturers stop loading their skins atop of android although in this case Sense 4.0 is a much more simplistic skin that doesn’t detract from the phone itself.