The first handset for HTC in 2012 is a awesome smartphone, bringing together a high definition screen, fast quad-core processor, and Google’s latest version of Android in a handset of winning proportions.
Encased in a white plastic chassis, the HTC One X is the first of a new line of handsets falling under the “One” branding, with HTC said to be releasing less handsets this year, instead of the 20-odd the company is known to make annually.
As the first, this is technically HTC’s flagship handset, bringing together some of the best technology to grace a mobile device in 2012. Much of this technology borrows from the template Google and
Samsung set up in the Galaxy Nexus, although HTC has tried to make it more consumer friendly than that developer-styled handset.
First up is the operating system, and we’re pleased to see HTC is using the latest version of Google’s Android operating system – Ice Cream Sandwich. Complimenting it is the fourth generation of HTC’s “Sense” overlay, a customised version of Android designed to make it easier to use the Google OS, integrate social networking services, check weather, and personalise the handset.
Under the hood, HTC has equipped the One X with one of the fastest chips to grace a mobile handset. Like many of the Android tablets being released this year, the One X features the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, a 1.5GHz quad-core chip that should power almost anything you’re able to throw at it over the next two years.
Storage is provided in the form of 32GB built in, although unlike most of the Android handsets that have passed by our reviews desk, this phone lacks a micro SD slot, meaning there’s no way expand the memory.
All of this sits under a 4.7 inch screen running a 720×1280 resolution, with a value of 312ppi that, while not as high as the iPhone 4’s Retina grade 330ppi, should provide clear text and images. Like many of the HTC handsets we’ve seen in the past year, this screen is covered in Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass.
Multimedia wise, HTC has equipped the One X with a rear 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, front 1.3 megapixel camera, and dedicated camera chip which apparently improves speed and quality.
As far as connectivity options go, HTC has included WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Near-Field Communication technology, and a maximum mobile downlink speed of 21Mbps.
For the first time in an HTC handset, the regular SIM has been switched out for the smaller micro SIM standard, accessible by a tray that ejects by poking a metal rod through a tiny hole.
Few buttons exist on the handset, with three soft buttons at the very bottom of the screen – back, home, and application manager – with a physical power button on the very top of the handset and a physical volume rocker on the right side. A microUSB port sits on the left side and a 3.5mm headset jack on the top.
When you first play with the HTC One X, it’s hard not to admire it. While it doesn’t have the same solid aluminium chassis that we loved about the HTC Legend, the One X is still one sexy device.
The polycarbonate body has been put together beautifully, and the form hugs the palm of your hand, providing a feeling that really is comfortable. It’s almost like the HTC One X was made for your hands, it feels that good.
At 8.9mm, it’s certainly thinner than a lot of the handsets we see, and manages to be thinner than Apple’s iPhone 4S.
In a first for HTC, there is no removable back, as the One X is, like many laptops these days, an all in one unit. With this design, you can rest assured that if you drop your One X, the rear cover won’t break and the battery won’t fall out.
The one-piece handset is easy to carry and feels excellent, and we love it.
The screens adds to this, providing one of the nicest large screens we’ve seen yet. HTC first dabbled with this size in last year’s Sensation XL, but since then, the resolution has improved dramatically. With its 720p screen, the One X is very clear and offers strong colour representation from every angle.
HTC has done more than just made a beautiful phone, as the company has also tweaked Android so that it’s easy to use.
In its fourth official iteration, HTC’s Sense overlay is better than ever. Last year’s lock-screen with draggable shortcuts is still present, but now everything feels smoother. Animations connect everything you do, the menu tabs can be changed, and the shortcut to the Google Market (now renamed Play Store) are present in the program menu.
Up to seven widgetised home-screens are available for you to swipe between and HTC allows you to change the four dock icons to your most used shortcuts, while also offering better widget selection and the easy snap-grid system for placing icons.
Using the phone is a little different to past HTC devices, as the four buttons we’re used to seeing on handsets has been reduced to three. The application switch button probably won’t be used as often, and we’d have preferred the old menu button as this is now software based and tends to appear in different locations depending on the program you’re running.
For the most part, the Tegra 3 processor is a beast, chugging along very well and only rarely hiccuping. When it does, it was something we noticed, as games would stall for a couple of seconds. We suspect most people will have no problems with the speed on offer from the handset, however, and expect there to be the occasional issue given this is the first time the Tegra has appeared in a mobile handset.
There’s also plenty of storage on offer, provided you’re happy with a maximum of 25GB. Sure, the phone itself has 32GB of on-board storage, but you’re only left with “25.24GB”, a size that should be enough for many, but may cause problems for those installing heaps of apps, loading lots of tunes, and taking a plethora of pics and vids. To aid in this, Dropbox and HTC have partnered to offer 25GB of free cloud storage to upload things to, a huge jump on the 2GB you can normally receive for free from the online storage provider.
Over on the camera side of things, HTC has done a superb job, with the speed and quality something that will be easily noticed.
HTC’s new handsets take advantage of a dedicated camera chip offering fast capture and processing for the smartphone camera. Effectively, you can fire 4 shots per second on the One X, with up to 99 fired in continuous burst mode. Once you’ve fired a full burst (stopping when you want to), you can choose the best photo and either save or ditch the rest.
We found the camera worked better in macro mode on the One X than it did on any other Android handset, and features we had seen on other handsets – such as panorama mode and HDR – were present too. Video can be captured in Full HD 1080p from the rear camera, but slow-motion video is also offered in a lower resolution format.
Even playing back the videos supports image capture, as you’re able to grab stills of videos by clicking a camera button while you’re watching video you’ve just recorded. As a feature, we’re not sure we’d use this often, but have to admire the concept that HTC has allowed for: you could record video of someone and then grab stills of that video, perfect for recording the little ones playing in the backyard and giving you the best of both worlds.
One thing you may find when using the camera is that the lens can get a little warm. It’s certainly not scalding hot, but it’s worth pointing out.
Adding to the camera is the audio support. Following last year’s partnership with Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio, the feature is now part and parcel with the smartphone, working with more than just the HTC audio player and functioning across the platform, even with Bluetooth headphones.
You’ll also find a GPS here, Bluetooth 4.0 support, support for HDMI over the microUSB port, WiFi, DLNA, WiFi hotspot mode, FM radio, and a front camera that offers 720p video conferencing but doesn’t handle low light all that well.
As much as we love the One X – and it’s a really easy handset to fall in love with – there are a few bones we have to pick with it.
One of these is the battery. After reviewing as many smartphones as we have in the past year, we’re well aware that the average mobile handset lasts about a day or two of battery life, but the Tegra-powered One X only lasts a max of one day.
Our usage consisted of calling up a few people and having five to ten minute chats, sending messages, social networking, taking pictures with the camera, and playing the odd game, and by the end of a work day, we’d require a charge without doubt.
We’re also surprised by the lack of a 4G LTE connection on this handset. One of the next HTC handsets promises to feature the high-speed fourth generation wireless connection technology – the One XL – but this model will also use a dual-core processor and feature less memory (16GB) on-board.
As the flagship handset, there’s some expectation that HTC would support top tier technologies, and while we have Near-Field Communication for wireless and the excellent camera, the omission of LTE is a tad surprising.
Also surprising is the lack of Beats headphones, one of the pieces thrown in the box of both the HTC Sensation XE and XL released last year. Beats Audio is here on the phone, but you have to buy your own decent headphones to make the most of it.
Looking at the back of the handset, we can’t help but wonder if Australians are missing out on a dock, like with last year’s HTC Rhyme. Five contact dots line the back of the handset and a dock mode sits in the settings menu, suggesting HTC has some form of charge dock planned, despite no Australian release date being announced.
While it’s not perfect, the HTC One X is the closest Android phone to get near perfection, and is easily one of the best smartphones we’ve played with to date.
The combination of a simple one-piece design, excellent high resolution screen, up-to-date operating system, and strong camera capabilities make this phone simply awesome, and is one of the best smartphones you’ll find on the market.