REVIEW: HTC One X – a beautiful device with a super-fast processor

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After a series of losses, the company announced that they will be producing fewer phones. And this is one of the phones – the HTC One X. Featuring a large 4.7-inch display and a 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, the phone is probably the last hope for HTC to compete against rivals Samsung and Motorola. Even better, since it runs Ice Cream Sandwich, does it outpace the Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus?

Terence Huynh reviews the HTC One X.

  • Score:

    9.0 / 10

  • The Good:

    Super-thin body; display brilliant; camera; and runs Ice Cream Sandwich fast.

  • The Bad:

    4.7-inch display sucks a lot of the battery; lack of expandable battery

  • Bottom Line:

    Probably the best Ice Cream Sandwich phone on the market today.

Design and Features

The HTC One X joins the league of being one of the (now growing) 4.5-inch-or-more Android smartphones. It has a 4.7-inch display (protected with Gorilla Glass), but while it is nearly 70mm wide and 135mm tall, the phone still remains thin at just 8.9mm. And while we all question why the need to go above 4-inches for a screen, colours are reproduced well making it suitable to view photos and watch movies stored on the phone.

The phone is really light and looks good in white. It follows the Galaxy Nexus with a slight curve in its shape (possibly a move to avoid being sued by Apple – you know, the guys who issues a set of instructions to Samsung on how to design something without violating their design). The microSIM card is at the top – and you will need a pin to pry it open (one is included, thankfully), with the 3.5mm headphone jack. It also includes a microUSB port on the side, and has front-facing soft keys below the screen – again, something the Galaxy Nexus featured.One of the main reasons could be because the phone runs on Ice Cream Sandwich – also known as Android 4.0 officially.

The HTC One X is pretty much this year’s major phone release for Android – especially after the company posted losses and decided on scaling back on producing cheap phones like the HTC Wildfire. And with a 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, auto-focus; plus another 1.3-megapxiel front camera, a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core processor, plus the 4.7-inch display, HTC has pushed a lot of quality hardware on this phone. The phone does not have a microSD card slot – but why would you need it since it contains 32GB of storage on board. Yes, 32GB of storage.

It also has Beats Audio support – but don’t let that fool you. If you want to activate the Beats Audio sound enhancements, you will need to pay for a pair of Beats Headphones – which are heavily overpriced. Your normal stock-standard headphones will simply have to put up with standard audio quality.

As well, it should be worth pointing that this phone is NOT LTE. That version is only available in the US and select markets, and has a 1.5GHz dual core processor.

Camera

Image: Terence Huynh/TECHGEEK.com.au

The quality from this camera is pretty good, colours are reproduced accurately but some photos can look grainy or a bit pale (the one taken above was a really rainy day – but it’s Melbourne, it’s heavily depressing). It is definitely much better than its Android competitors, and photos taken under low-light conditions. Shutter speed is not that long, but definitely not as fast as what the Galaxy Nexus purports – but who cares, the camera on the HTC One X is definitely much better.

Unlike many others, there isn’t a dedicated camera button to take you to the app and, once in the app, take the shot. You have to use the onscreen button, which isn’t much of a hassle. However, once you get into burst photography, it does show a problem – it is really picky on how long does it take to shoot in burst mode.

Example Image taken with an effect (Image: Terence Huynh/TECHGEEK.com.au)

Being a touchscreen, you can control all aspects on the screen – add effects, which make it like Instagram except not cropped to a square, and control the light and the focus. However, that being said, while a good day-to-day camera, if its a memorable event like a birthday party or a wedding, use an actual camera.

In terms of video, the HTC One X can record in 1080p from the rear, and 720p from the front. There are number of features included, such as slow motion and capturing photos while recording, but the video quality isn’t as eye-popping. It’s not awful, but I’ve seen much better video quality recordings from other phones than this one.

Performance & ICS changes

The phone simply runs Ice Cream Sandwich as close to perfection as possible. In fact, it does a much better job in handling Ice Cream Sandwich than the flagship phone made by rival Samsung. It’s snappy, it’s fast and there is little-to-zero lag. And that is despite being a skinned interface – it does not run the pure version, it uses its own Sense UI (version 4).

However, for some reason, the web browser seems excluded from the snappy processor. The web browser isn’t as fast at rendering pages as what I would have hoped for – on both Wi-Fi and on our 3G connection – especially because of the quad-core processor. However, web pages look really good – especially with images.

Sense UI is pretty easy to use, and you finally get some way to close active apps, rather than simply hiding them. Simply press the right-hand button of the bottom, and it will take you to a carousel of apps opened, and simply flick them up to remove them. It does take a second or so to load up all your apps – but that is really minor since its blitzes through Ice Cream Sandwich. That feature, however, is pretty much the only non-cosmetic change they have added to it.

Though, that being said, it changed the navigation system. Unlike Ice Cream Sandwich, where widgets were integrated into the menu; HTC has put them back in the home screen. This means you have to hold a place in the home screen to be given the option to add widgets, or add panels of the home screen. Again, a minor problem if you had a Galaxy Nexus, but not so much if you jumped from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Battery life is alright – again, it is up to how much you use the phone. With Twitter (constantly checking for notifications), Foursquare and my emails being pushed to my phone via Gmail, I managed to use around two-thirds of the battery life within a day. And with the help of the trusty Battery Use app, the screen basically takes up most of the battery – having the 4.7-inch display does have its downsides. So, if you are a heavy user, you might want to consider choosing another phone, bring a recharger with you to work, or sparingly use your phone.

Worth it?

The phone’s hardware is pretty impressive – a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and a 4.7-inch display. However, it does have some disappointments, like the browser not being improved by the chip, or the fact that your screen basically reduces your phone’s battery life within a day.

However, it is probably the best Android phone currently running Ice Cream Sandwich – topping the Galaxy Nexus because it seriously has better hardware, a better camera and a much better interface. While the interface isn’t the native Ice Cream Sandwich, it does come close (far close than what others have produced on top of ICS).

Though, will it be enough to compete with the king, the iPhone 4S? Well, it certainly has the hardware to do so.