Up until a year ago, the top-class smartphone signed by HTC was Sensation, with a dual-core CPU at 1.2 GHz and 768 MB RAM. In this moment, however, that would be HTC One X with a quad-core CPU at 1.5 GHz and 1 GB RAM. If we had to draw comparisons between Tegra 3 and desktop platforms, in terms of raw power, the new Tegra 3 is approximately up to par with slower Core2Duo CPUs from Intel’s kitchen. If this progression continues at present rate, we should expect octa-core CPUs working at 1.7 GHz and coupled with 1.5 GB RAM around this time next year. Of course, this statement is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but in all honesty, we hardly expected dual-core CPUs in smartphones three years ago, let alone quad-core ones, especially in such widely available quantities.
The first contact with the new HTC One X smartphone left few people indifferent, and this goes for the folks in our office just as well. The model we received for testing is the typically female-oriented white version, unlike the grey version which is targeting the male population. Since the body itself is made of polycarbonate, in the unibody fashion, it would be nice of HTC to offer additional colours, following the example of Nokia’s Lumia, for instance (or rather not, on second thought). Of course, the entire device is dominated by the 4.7” 1280x720 Super IPS LCD2 display, protected by Gorilla glass and with tilted side edges. The new generation of Super LCD is better than the previous one, that’s for sure. Readability under strong sunlight is very good, even better than with Super AMOLED Plus, although the uniformity of black remains on the side of the latter. Three capacitive keys are the only controls situated on the front, while the remaining ones are present on the right (see-saw volume control) and top sides (on/off button).
The front of the phone also contains a net covering the speaker, as well as LEDs and the front camera opening. The top houses the 3.5” headphone connector and the sensor/microphone opening for eliminating background noise while talking and recording video in stereo. The left side contains the microUSB connector, used for charging or connecting the device to a PC or HDMI-out converter (bought separately). The bottom only has the microphone opening. On the back, there’s a microSIM card slot, camera opening, LED flash, five contact points for connecting the device to a docking station, and a net covering the main speaker. The casing itself, white on our model, has a matte finish, bar the vertical (side, top and bottom) surfaces which are glossy. If you’ve been reading carefully so far, you’ve probably noticed that we haven’t mentioned the battery cover or memory card slot. The reason is simple enough – neither of these is present. Therefore, HTC One X has neither an easily replaceable battery nor the ability to expand its built-in memory capacity. This is likely to irritate a few people, maybe even make them look elsewhere for a new phone, but since the device arrives with 26 GB of free storage space, it’s questionable whether you really need a memory card at all, unless you have a case-specific need. The impossibility of simple battery switching is also not a real flaw, as the current technologies churn out batteries with a lifetime of at least four years with no performance degradation. Of course, the battery is replaceable as such, but this isn’t really something you’d want to dig into on your own – leave that sort of thing to the authorised dealer. Owing to these constructional features, HTC One X looks remarkably solid and firm, even during deliberate attempts to cause bending in the casing.
One X is shipped with Android ICS 4.0.3 preinstalled, as well as the Sense 4.0 user interface. Yours truly has had a very intimate relationship with HTC Sense UI ever since its inception on the Windows Mobile platform, and the general impression is that Sense 4.0 run on Tegra 3 platform finally works properly. There are neither strange “ponderings” nor major bugs, although the phone has been known to get a bit “stupid” at times, but let’s be fair and admit that this is only the first phone with Sense 4.0 and the first one based on Tegra 3, so expecting nothing but perfection would be unrealistic in the least. Sense 4.0 as such doesn’t bring that many improvements over 3.5/3.6 versions, at least as far as functionality goes. The major novelties are the new lock screen, with eight predefined styles. Skins change the appearance of the UI in a second, while the application list is finally movable horizontally, and the same goes for home screens (up to seven of them).
Naturally, Sense still contains a bunch of integrated applications and widgets, so that you don’t have to turn to Google Play market too often. Social network integration now reaches even deeper, and the gift of 25 GB of storage space on the DropBox service is a nice touch (this offer is valid for a period of two years; DropBox is likely to be offering this storage capacity by default by then). HTC has readily provided not only Google Play Store HTC, but also the HTC Hub service, another channel for finding applications, with information stored in your HTC profile, which can differ from the Google Play one if you so desire. For those who find an Office suite quintessential on a mobile phone, HTC One X provides Polaris Office, able to access both local and remote (DropBox, SkyDrive etc.) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. As this device is based on the Tegra platform, access to Tegra-optimised games is a given, but none of them come preinstalled on the device, forcing you to purchase them (unlike the case with Samsung phones). Sense 4.0 also contains a handy extension in the form of the Location app. It enables the user to download entire maps of a country, so that you don’t have to establish a data connection when abroad. Of course, maps you download are signed by Route 66, and the coverage ranges from (mostly) excellent to (occasionally) very poor, depending on the country.
The fact that HTC One X has a dedicated chip for processing image coming from the 8 MP sensor implies that the photos originating from this phone will be phenomenal. Yet reality is more complex. But let’s present things in order. Firstly, this smartphone enables you to record video in Full HD (1080p) resolution and stills at up to 8 MP. Full 8 MP photos can only be taken in the standard (or retro, if you wish) 4:3 mode. If you’re shooting in 16:9, you can only count on up to 6 MP (which is far from insufficient, of course). Effects which you can apply in real-time are aplenty (vignette, DOF, mono, vintage – otherwise known as Instagram-effect, Sepia, Posterize and a few others). Results are visible even before you take the photo, which makes the entire process much more convenient and usable. Additional “scenes” are available too (HDR, Panorama with a virtual horizon, portrait, group portrait where you can choose from a series of pictures in order to ensure that everyone’s smiling and no-one smirking, macro, low-light conditions etc.). Display-touch focusing is a given. Facial recognition does its job decently too. Alongside all this, you can rapidly shoot a series of photos and then choose which one(s) to keep. As if this weren’t enough, you can even take photos in the midst of video recording. The latter is a story for itself. For one, suffice to activate the camera icon, and recording can begin. There’s even an option to record in slow-motion, but only with a resolution of 768x432 and a bitrate of 793 kbps, which is a far cry from the otherwise Full HD quality. Interestingly enough, the default video-recording resolution is that of the display, 1280x720, and not Full HD. It’s clear that the phone makes excellent use of the separate image-processing chip in order to ensure smooth operation of all the above functions. Which brings us to the problematic bit – photo and video quality. Photos have pronounced noise, which is expected to a certain extent, but not as much as here. The same goes for video as well. This problem is very likely due to ill-optimised software, so we’re expecting it to disappear with a subsequent software update. As far as battery life goes, typical use will drain the capacity of 1800 mAh in about a day, which is a good result overall.
Other options that separate HTC One X from the bunch, besides the instantly noticeable exterior, are DLNA and NFC support. The former will enable you to access all other DLNA devices in the local network, eliminating the need for an HDMI adapter. The latter is a payment method rapidly growing in popularity, even outside the first world.
The speed and ease at which HTC One X handles tasks (even video edition) is simply impressive for a smartphone. Yes, we’ve managed to make Tegra 3 platform cough, but only after repeated deliberate tries to make it so; chances are very slim that you’ll ever encounter this, whatever the primary use of your phone. Firmness and production quality are very high, sufficiently so to make up for the lack of a removable battery cover or a memory card slot. Despite being on the larger end of the spectrum, even the usually critical female co-workers applauded the phone’s design and usability. The latest-gen HD ready display makes all tasks, multimedia and gaming an enjoyable experience. As absurd as that may sound, gaming is becoming an increasingly relevant factor in the smartphone market, even if few would be as irrational to purchase a 700€ phone just to play games on it and occasionally use it for other purposes. There are much better and cheaper portable gaming solutions out there, although they reveal the nature of their owner at first glance, which can’t be said for a smartphone. Using One X as a strictly business-oriented tool is just as questionable. Business correspondence, chats and a few Office documents can be handled just as efficiently by much cheaper models. Therefore, in our opinion, only users who extensively enjoy multimedia on-the-go can be said to belong to this model’s target market. Of course, that includes those that just want the best and the most expensive.
|CPU||Nvidia Tegra 3, Quad-core @ 1.5 GHz|
|Display||4.7'', Super IPS LCD2, 1280x720, Gorilla glass|
|Cameras||Front: 8 MP, 3264x2448, 1080p@30fps, autofocus, LED flash; Back: 1,3 MP 720p|
|Memory||1 GB RAM, 32 GB internal|
|Connectivity||microUSB, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 3,5 mm audio|
|Other||Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Beats Audio softver, HTC Image Chip|
|Battery||Li-Po, 1800 mAh|
|OS||Android 4.0.3 and Sense 4.0 UI|
|Size/Weight||134,4 x 69,9 x 8,9 mm, 130 g|
So what is it in this phone that earns it our most prestigious award? Well, disregarding the price, this is objectively the best smartphone currently in existence. Samsung Note could perhaps pass for a competitor, but it’s difficult to use it as a phone, unlike the case with HTC One X. A very good display paired with an attractive and practical exterior is a winning combination. All this is supported by powerful hardware, which makes sure that everything you’re doing is made as smooth and swift as possible. The likeability of the white version is so great that many seem to have been swayed in its favour, contrary to the grey version of One X. Since we know that HTC has the habit of making the source code of their phones freely available, we’re expecting a torrent of custom ROMs, which can only be a contributing factor to the popularity of this model, although the original software is perfectly fine by itself. Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper conclusion without a major caveat – Samsung is presenting their Galaxy III these days, and the same goes for LG and their 4X, so it might be clever to wait a bit and have a thorough look at all these quad-core smartphones before making a final choice. HTC has done their best to set the bar very high for these other two with One X, and should there be any delays announced by its competitors, that only goes to show how good a product and how big a threat HTC One X is.