HTC One X Review
HTC One X
Written by Damian Carvill
The X is the flagship new handset from HTC’s One series, a range of smartphones announced during this year’s Mobile World Congress and designed to regain market share after Samsung’s Galaxy S2 and the iPhone 4S stole most of the attention in 2011. And grab the attention the One X does in spades. A 4.7-inch screen on a handset that’s only 2cm longer than the iPhone and packing a quad-core 1.5GHz processor that makes it the most powerful Android phone on the market, the One X specs are immediately designed to impress.
So how does it shape up once it’s up and running? Let’s take a closer look.
Straight out of the box, the One X is sporting HTC’s familiar curves and is dominated by a 4.7-inch screen, almost giving it the appearance of a small tablet. As with most smartphones these days, the face is sleek with clean lines and minimal fuss and with no physical buttons on the face, it has a confident, contemporary look.
In the hand it’s thin and surprisingly light to hold - 130g according to the specs. This makes it 10g lighter than the iPhone 4S and 3g lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S3. The curved, smooth plastic back is only interrupted by the protruding lens of the 8MP camera, which makes it a bit vulnerable when slipping it in my pocket but in reality didn’t cause me any problems during my time with it.
Despite being lighter than the iPhone and S3 and being super-thin, the HTC One X is a meaty phone to hold. Just shy of 70mm wide and 134mm in length make it 2cm shorter than the S3 and 2cm longer than the iPhone 4S. In fact it’s probably only iPhone users that will find its size most surprising, as most modern smartphones are becoming wider and longer to fit in higher resolution and more responsive screens.
In fact it’s the 4.7-inch screen with 720 x 1280px HD display and featuring the Super IPS LCD2 capacitive touchscreen that catapults the One X into the smartphone major leagues. Powering up the phone, the default wallpaper immediately demonstrates its crisp display and richness of colour, which I can see opening up and prolonging the Super IPS vs Super AMOLED debate once again.
The micro SIM slot sits at the top of the phone, opened up with a small pin, and is your only entry into the phone with the internal battery sealed into the case. The micro USB slot on the side of the phone doubles up as an HDMI connector meaning you can plug it in to your TV to view the media on your phone through a larger screen.
This opening section of any phone review generally conveys first opinions and the One X is like the striker that scores a goal on his debut; leaving you wanting more and knowing not to get carried away just yet.
Phone Set Up
HTC has packed the One X with specs that pushes it to the top of the Android tree. We’re talking a quad-core 1.5GHz processor running off Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is also quad-core but its 1.4GHz processor means that it’s ever so slightly inferior.
Although Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) promises a more intuitive navigation and faster access, I found the update most noticeable in the interface which runs off HTC Sense 4. A new font design gives the update a striking first impression and that, alongside the larger notifications, immediately illustrated the presence of ICS.
The previous version of Sense wasn’t the most intuitive of user interfaces and so I was intrigued by what Sense 4 had to offer. HTC worked with its customers to solicit the kind of feedback that would improve the user experience and the result is a much cleaner, stripped back look and feel.
The dock is a row of four icons – phone, mail, messages and your camera, which remain visible in lock screen and can be customised. The large clock and weather widget on the home screen are instantly recognisable as HTC and there you can select animations that are reminiscent of Sense 3, however many of these are turned off by default. Overall, the upgrade to Sense 4 looks like a triumph.
The phone comes with 32GB of internal memory and 1GB of RAM and although there’s no slot for an SD card, really, that’s all the space you need on a phone. The link up with Dropbox (more of that to come) gives you ample backup and removes the need to save everything on your phone all the time.
I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s ‘quietly brilliant’ strapline because it neatly captures the essence of the company. Some of the innovative features HTC has introduced to its smartphones over the years have gone on to be adopted as standards in the industry. So it’s always with great anticipation when I unbox a new HTC.
One feature that I was looking forward to testing out was the car mode. When you jump into the car, you can turn the mode on, which sets the screen to landscape view, which stays permanently on, and gives you quick access to the phone, Google Maps Navigation, your music and the internet radio via large icons, which saves you fiddling around finding the right buttons when you should be concentrating on the road.
When making calls, the phone automatically uses the loudspeaker, which is loud enough to conduct calls safely from your seat – as long as you’re not holding on to the phone at the same time, of course.
HTC’s hook up with Beats Audio adds extra gravitas to its music offering. It is a little disappointing that it doesn’t ship with Beats Audio earphones as standard, although the sound quality remains excellent with standard buds.
Loading up the music player gives you a number of different options, outside of the MP3s you’ve added to the phone. You’ve got a range of preloaded apps including SoundHound, which is a Shazam equivalent, TuneIn Radio and 7digital, the MP3 store.
One of the out-of-the-box features of the HTC One X is the link-up with Dropbox. If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, it’s a cloud storage service that allows you to save your files to an account, which you can access from any computer, anywhere in the world.
The Dropbox app is preloaded and provides up to 23GB of free storage over your two year contract. This means you can upload photos from your phone to your Dropbox folders, making sure that you’ll never lose your important snaps. Alternatively, you can download photos or music files that are in your Dropbox account, to your phone.
Camera & Video
If you’ve seen the TV ads for the One X, you’ll know that the quality of its camera is one of its key selling points, so I’ve been looking forward to getting to grips with this.
Let’s look at the specs to start with - the primary camera is 8MP, which has become the standard for smartphones in this range these days, and outputs with a 3264x2448 pixel resolution.
It has a continuous shooting facility, which allows you to take rapid shots without a huge delay, digital zoom, touchscreen focus, image stabilisation, and once you’ve taken the shots, an on-board editing facility that enables you to pimp your photos Instagram style.
You can save also these settings to update saved photographs, which then save as a new image, rather than overwriting the original, which is always appreciated.
So let’s take a look at the evidence.
On the day I took the camera out for a spin, I was lucky enough to be greeted with Britain’s one day of sun this summer. This clearly helped the photography, but doesn’t detract from the quality of the camera.
Deciding against taking photographs while skydiving, I took the camera into Birmingham City Centre and took some shots using the default settings. As you can see from the photos on the left, these produced some clean, sharp images.
I really like the on-board editing facilities, which are easy to use and behave similar to Instagram. These add different effects including image enhancement, overexposure and vintage colouring to your photographs.
These can be combined with filters that enable you to wash the image of colour, or add vignettes and when done, you can then save these as a custom setting, which allows you to add the same effects for other photos you take.
On the left is an example of the effects in action.
In order to understand the quality of the camera, I’ve done some comparison shots with the iPhone 4 and its 5MP camera.
Here, I’ve taken two shots pointed into the sunlight, to see how both cameras would cope.
The first image here is from the HTC One X and as you can see, it performed well, with the glare of the sun, a rogue white spot aside.
The iPhone image underneath didn’t cope quite as well, with the lens flare much more prominent.
The digital zoom on the HTC is simple to use and the image stabiliser produces shake-free snaps when you’re fully zoomed in. The quality of the photograph from the One X doesn’t degrade as much as it does on the iPhone, as you can see in the images on the left.
Video recording is done via 1080p at 30 frames per second and has stereo sound recording and video stabilisation. One of the smart features introduced on the One X is the ability to take photographs while recording video. It’s not a feature I thought I’d have much of a need for, but after using it, I’ve been won over. Here’s a demo of the feature in action:
Video recording itself is a breeze and the image stabilisation feature with 1080p output gives it a really clean image. Again, I’m comparing the video against the iPhone 4 to illustrate the improved quality.
Video and Camera Summary
It’s easy to see why HTC’s advertising campaign for the One X leads with the quality of camera. It produces clear, steady photographs and the bonus of on-board editing is a nice touch. Ultimately, an 8MP camera is standard on a smartphone in this range and is only really bettered currently by a 12MP monster on the Sony Xperia S. All in all this is a solid camera and video.
It’s safe to say that most of us have become accustomed to recharging their smartphones overnight and that anything more than 24 hours of moderate use is a bonus. However during my time with the One X, I found inconsistencies with the battery life.
During my time with the phone, I had days with similar usage but different deterioration of battery time. Day one was 12 hours of light usage, but day two lasted more than 24 hours, day three had some heavy usage and I had to charge it after 12 hours on the road.
In my experience, you get used to how a phone’s battery works, killing off applications or changing the settings, in order to improve its life. I did this on day two, changing the e-mail settings and turning off Bluetooth, which improved its life considerably with the same level of usage as the previous day.