HTC had a rough ending to 2011, so to kick off their 2012, they released the One Series of Android phones, including the flagship One X which we are about to dive deep into. With a new outlook on design, a less-intrusive take on Android skinning, and a focus on impressive hardware, this phone is one to “ooh” and “aww” over on paper and in pictures. There are few competitors that have produced phones in the last 12 months that can match the overall package of the One X, however, one question remains – is this phone capable of bringing HTC back from a dark and dreary place and to the forefront of the Android race once again? Let’s find out.
- Display: Easily the most beautiful smartphone display you will find anywhere. At 312ppi and 4.7-inches of Super LCD2 glory, the colors and details are natural, defined, and simply put, stunning. We probably won’t find another display that will compete with the One X’s until Samsung puts out a phone with their HD Super AMOLED Plus. Even then, the vibrant and sometimes oversaturated colors on the AMOLED may not be preferred over these LCD2 displays that HTC is using. Experiencing this screen in person is something that each and every one of you should attempt to do.
- Design, Look and Feel: There isn’t a more beautifully designed phone than the HTC One X. It has subtle curves, a soft finish, accents in all the right places, and an overall look that we have found almost no faults with. The Galaxy Nexus and RAZR set somewhat of a bar on design a few months ago – the One X just jumped both and then put the contest out of reach. When you hold this phone in hand, it’s noticeably lighter (130 grams) and thinner (8.9mm) than the competition, yet doesn’t feel like a cheap piece of plastic. (It might be too big for some, but we’ll get into that below.) I’ve talked about this in videos, but the unibody casing gives off an elusion that the screen and the device itself is curved, when in actuality it’s not. It’s the little things like this that make this enjoyable to look at each and every day. We should also point out that within the last two weeks, I have had more strangers, friends and family ask, “Whoa! What phone is that?” than ever before.
- Hardware: What is there to dislike in the hardware and spec department? OK, the lack of a 4G LTE radio is a little disappointing but we’ll get to that later. Inside this beast, you have a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 8MP f/2.0 camera in the back, 1.3MP camera in the front, a 4.7″ HD Super LCD2 display, NFC chip, MHL port, and a 1800mAh battery. It doesn’t get any more top-of-the-line than this. Sure, we would have liked to have seen HTC figure out Motorola’s battery magic and toss in a 3300mAh behemoth in there, but then they may have had to sacrifice on other goodies. And since battery life hasn’t been a problem thus far, we can certainly forgive them.
- Battery: In two weeks time, I have not run into a battery life issue with the One X. This phone has powered me through each and every day, begging for some juice around the 14 or 15 hour mark. Even with a decent amount of gaming, you can see that the battery still had 20% left after 13 hours during one day’s work. At 1800mAh, this battery won’t get you through a couple of days by any means, but most of us are happy if one can sneak us through a work day. This phone should have no problem doing that. Also, it reportedly has some sort of bug that when fixed, should provide an extra 10-20% boost in battery life. So I’m seeing favorable results without that.
- Performance: With it’s quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, there are few phones on the planet that can match the speed of the One X. I have yet to bog this phone down and trust me, I try. You can open multiple apps in a row, switch to the camera, snap photos, toggle off and on settings, flip home screens, open your app drawer, and more without ever noticing a stutter. Well, you may see them from time to time in HTC’s Sense UI, but without that, this phone is unbelievably fast. We performed a set of standard benchmarks that can be viewed here.
- HTC Sense 4.0 (parts of it): Oh HTC Sense 4.0, you and I have one heck of a relationship. In the 20-minute video overview that I posted below (which you should definitely watch), you will probably come away thinking that I despise Sense with a great passion. That’s not 100% true. There are some things about it that drive me nuts, but overall, this latest version is the best yet. It’s slightly less intrusive, yet still adds some UI flair that many will enjoy. I also love the way that Sense manages contacts, makes the camera super efficient, adds options to the lock screen, and continues to polish up widgets. I will always prefer stock Android over an OEM skin, but Sense 4.0 has come a long way in the right direction.
- Camera: Let’s just say this – the rear camera weighs in at 8MP with a f/2.0 aperture and is better than your average smartphone shooter. After coming from the Galaxy Nexus, the One X was a breath of fresh air even if it didn’t blow my mind. There were times when it took some incredible photos and others when it seemed to struggle. I’m sure that you could manually adjust many of the settings and take some beyond-impressive photos, but for me, “Auto” is how I roll. And with that, I came away impressed enough to easily include the camera in the “Good” section.
- HTC ImageSense: The best part of Sense 4.0 is the inclusion of HTC’s new image software called ImageSense. This right here, is awesome. With the camera open, ImageSense allows you to snap photos in split seconds with no shutter lag, shoot video and snap full pictures at the same time without a hiccup, filter your best shots, toggle to HDR or panorama with ease, and take dozens of rapid fire shots by simply holding down the camera button. We cover this in the Sense overview video below, but want to express to you again how impressed we are with HTC’s camera work. Bravo.
- Ice Cream Sandwich: It’s the best version of Android yet, so we were glad to see HTC include it in the One X. With companies like LG and Motorola releasing phones that still have Gingerbread, props should be given to HTC for doing the right thing. They may have tossed their new Sense 4.0 over top of it, but the features that were introduced with Android 4.0 are all there for you to enjoy. Plus, it’s always nice to buy an Android phone that has the newest version that was released just months ago, because you never know when you may see a software update.
- Call Quality: I almost always forget to include this in a review, but after all, these are phones we’re talking about, right? I will just say that multiple times throughout a call on my Galaxy Nexus, I have to ask people to repeat themselves. With this phone, I have yet to do that even once. Clarity is top notch.
- No LTE: Since the unlocked (and internationl) version of the HTC One X has a quad-core Tegra 3 chip inside, it doesn’t currently work with 4G LTE radios. That will change probably at the end of 2012, but for now, anything with this chipset in it, will only be HSPA+. In a time when U.S. carriers will only allow 4G LTE phones on their network, this is unfortunate. We like what NVIDIA does in the mobile world, but we hope they figure this out sooner than later. We get the feeling that throughout the next 6-8 months, we are going to see nothing but Snapdragon S4 dual-core phones because they do play nice with LTE. While that processor is as equally (and in some cases more) impressive as the Tegra 3, this is Android, and we like variety.
- Hardware Navigation Keys: Seriously, HTC? The Galaxy Nexus came out back in November with on-screen navigation keys, yet you still forced hardware keys on us in April. They aren’t reason enough for anyone to deny this phone’s pure awesomeness, but removing these would have made this a slightly smaller and more manageable phone with less of a chin. Again, having hardware navigation keys is not reason enough to dislike this phone, but it would have made the overall 2012-feel seem complete.
- HTC Sense 4.0 (parts of it): Bear with me while I go all Android anal fanboy on you for a moment. HTC Sense 4.0 is the best version of Sense yet, I’ve said that already. However, it still gets to me and I will forever wish that stock Android would be an option when these phones come out. There are jittery spots in the UI because HTC has to get all fancy with their 3D animations, the “Personalize” menu is far too difficult to navigate for such simple tasks as changing a wallpaper, and the color scheme that HTC has clung to is just not for me. Sure, Sense 4.0 has been toned down and is improved, but again, as an Android enthusiast, I want stock or at least the option to turn off Sense.
- Size: This phone is huge. I consider myself to have average sized hands and there are numerous times throughout the day where I have to adjust the grip on this phone to get things done. It’s definitely a two-handed device, just like the Galaxy Note. With a 4.7″ display along with separate hardware navigation keys, stretching for the notification bar can be difficult at times. Actually, all of the time. To me, the One X is the biggest I would ever go with a smartphone. If there was a tipping point for a phone to hit the “Way too damn big” category, this would be close to it.
- No Camera Lens Protection: While we drooled all over the design of this phone, there is one pretty major flaw that needs to be addressed. The camera lens has been placed on an island with no protection. It sits directly in the middle of the device like most phone cameras, except it isn’t recessed into the body. If you were to set this down on a rough surface or take it in and out of your raw denim skinny jeans over and over again, there is a chance that you will scratch it.
- Non-removable Battery: The internal battery is 1800mAh and should get most of the world through most of a day on a single charge. But then there are those of us that are constantly on our phones, travel a ton, attend conferences with zero outlets to charge from, and like having the option to toss in a freshly charged battery when the first one of the day runs out. Since HTC decided to go with this sexy unibody design, you cannot remove this battery and that is unfortunate.
- Top Lock Switch and Headphone Jack: This is simply me nit-picking, but I’m hoping that one day all phone manufacturers will listen to me cry about it and follow Google’s lead. The top lock switch, sucks. As does the top headphone jack. The thumb lock switch on the side of the device, makes so much sense, that there should be a law created to make top switches illegal. Same thing with the headphone jack. If I’m listening to music on my phone through headphones, a plug at the bottom simply works better. The cord doesn’t have to hang out the back of the device or dangle to the side if I’m looking at it, and when I place it in my pocket top down (like everyone does), the cord pokes right out, without me having to think about it.
HTC Sense 4.0 Overview:
To say that I have been impressed with the HTC One X over the last couple of weeks would be a gross understatement. This phone has given us hope for a 2012 that has so far, produced nothing important on the Android front. With the most stunning smartphone display on the planet, a build quality and design matched by few, and a set of specs that will power you far beyond the life of a contract, the One X is a clear winner.
Unfortunately for U.S. consumers, this phone with its Tegra 3 processor won’t be here any time soon unless you import it. AT&T has an LTE version on the way with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor which is no slouch and should be considered, but folks on Verizon and T-Mobile have been left out in favor of HTC One S variants (a slightly less impressive phone). It’s a shame really, as this is easily the best Android phone available, right now. Will it be in a month or so when the Galaxy SIII is released? Talk about the question of the year that we all wish we had an answer to.