This quad-core powerhouse packs some serious punch, and is every bit the flagship handset HTC wants it to be.
Whenever you watch a film clip about Tokyo (or Seoul, for that matter) everyone seems to be using whizzy sci-fi tech from the future. People tap away on mind-blowingly amazing phones like it’s no big deal, sleek big-screen beasts with 1.21 gigawatt processors and a slot for connecting your brain to the Matrix. You shake your head in disbelief, while casting a disgusted look at the boring old handset on your coffee table, and think: one day. One day I’ll own one of them.
When we unboxed the HTC One X for the first time, we felt that day had finally arrived. The One X is the culmination of HTC’s design principles, looking just as you’d expect a new flagship phone from manufacture to look – as cool and classy and thin as anything Samsung and Apple have to offer. The curved white polycarbonate shell merges seamlessly with a huge 4.7-inch HD screen, and the phone feels perfectly weighted and secure in the hand. It’s a stunning design.
Physical buttons are kept to a minimum – a volume rocker on the right-hand edge, power button on the top. To access the micro SIM slot on the back of the phone you need to insert a bent paper clip or specially supplied HTC tool into another small hole, which ejects the SIM tray from the body of the phone; as with the iPhone and Nokia Lumia 800, you can’t access the innards of the One X.
It’s certainly a big ol’ handset; there’s no doubt about that. But it doesn’t feel as monstrous as the Galaxy Note or Nexus, thanks to its subtly nipped in waist and the thin and light Corning Gorilla Glass used for the screen. However, people with small hands might find the One X a bit unwieldy still, and it practically blocks out the sun when held up to your ear for calls. But in our mind that’s a small price to pay for such a wonderful display.
You’ll be hard pushed to make out any individual pixels on text or images, so it’s more than worthy of the HD moniker. And it just feels lovely to play around with too, your fingers gliding smoothly over the surface as you whip between apps or cruise the streets in GTA III.
Thanks to the One X’s quad-core processor you’ll be browsing the web at warp speed, with pages loading in the blink of an eye. Tick the ‘display desktop sites’ box and you can leave the mobile web behind for good with no performance problems. Flash is fully supported too, and there’s even the option to ‘go incognito’ and open up a tab that won’t record your browsing history.
Flicking between apps is as easy as tapping the dedicated touch sensitive button on the bottom right corner of the phone, which brings up a swish, lag-free carousel of all your open programmes. You’ve got up to seven home screens to play around with, all of them highly customisable with apps and tons of big-screen widgets.
We particularly liked Scenes, which allows you to flick between several different setups for your phone, each of them populated with different combinations of apps, wallpapers and widgets. ‘Work’, for example, puts your appointments front and centre on the home screen; but you’re free to rename each scene and customise it as you wish.
The whole HTC Sense 4.0 skinned Android 4.0 experience is lag-free, and less gimmicky than previous incarnations – swirly 3D animations are no more. There’s a notifications bar at the top of the screen, as is now pretty much standard on high-end smartphones, and the ring unlock system works well, allowing you to jump straight into a message or quickly take a picture.
It can still look a little cluttered at times – especially when compared to the Windows Phone 7.5 Tiles system or iOS 5 – with HTC Sense 4.0 occasionally offering up such an array of options and buttons that we worry it might confuse a novice smartphone user. A decent hints and tips system, overlaid on the main screen, goes someway to alleviating this though, and power users will love how much you can customise the One X. There’s also some nice integration with cloud storage services, including 25GB of Dropbox space for HTC One X users.
Beats Audio is on-board – a feature which HTC are obviously pushing as a major selling point across all their handsets. As with the Sensation phones we tested last year, it’s a nice feature to have, bigging up the bass on your music. Internet radio stations, stores and your own files are now all bundled together under the Music Player app, which acts as a handy hub for all your audio content. Movie-wise, you’re offered Google Play for your downloads, which has a pretty good selection. And that big, bright screen means they look superb on the One X.
HTC have been talking up the cameras on their new One Series phones, and quite rightly so: the One X is a cracking little snapper. It has enough features, options and effects to keep cameraphone aficionados happy, but it’s dead simple to use as well. Fire up the Camera app (which takes a mere 0.7 seconds to load) and you can easily switch to shooting video just by touching the on-screen video icon; there’s no separate app to load, or laggy toggle button to press.
In fact, you can even continue taking photos while you’re filming (in slo-mo if you like). Holding down the capture button when taking photos also produces up to 99 shots in a continuous burst, so you’ll always capture the action when it happens. We weren’t quite as blown away by the images and films produced by the One X as we were with the 12MP Sony Xperia S camera, and the iPhone 4S arguably manages a more lifelike and consistent colour reproduction. But the all round package is very impressive indeed.
Call quality and reception are both fine – no dropped calls or crackly conversations to report here. We were a little disappointed with the battery after all the talk of Tegra 3 processors with four-plus-one battery saving cores: you’ll be lucky to get through a full day of moderate use without a charge. A system update supplied by HTC during the course of our review did seem to improve things, however; it’s really no better or worse than any other smartphone.
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As for price – well, this is a premium phone so you’ll need to expect premium prices. Expect to pick it up for free on 24 month tariffs of around £40 a month or more, but have to pay up a little up front for tariffs lower than that. Amazon currently has the phone listed for £489.99 SIM free – on par with the likes of the iPhone 4S and the One X’s other competitors.
So, the big question then: should you go for the HTC One X? Or wait for the Samsung Galaxy S3 (or even the iPhone 5)? Well, we’ve no qualms whatsoever about recommending the One X to anyone who’s upgrading soon. It’s a truly stunning phone, and we’re discovering more to like about it each day. In fact, it’s going to be a serious struggle going back to our regular handset after a week with this quad-core beauty. We’ve got used to living in the future.
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