HTC One X Review: A Thing of Beauty!

Right before un-boxing the HTC One X, I was still unsure of what to expect as the hype had been so overplayed, with everyone talking about the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3, suggesting reasons for how these phones have taken the Android platform to another level. Irrespective of any prejudice, positive or negative, one thing is for certain that at first sight, the One X sure is beautiful.

Design and construction

It seems as if HTC has taken the very best design attributes from all their previous mobile phones and put them into the One X. The minimalist design has nothing over bearing, unnecessary or counter-productive about it. The power button and volume controls are exactly where you’d expect them in most phones, apart from Samsung which has the power button on the right side of their phones as opposed to having it on the top.

It’s evident that HTC went to great lengths to cover each design detail. Given that design-wise “less is more” these days, the One X delivers in areas its predecessors could not. The earpiece and microphone grills, for instance, are so well integrated that it is hard to feel them even if you run your finger over them. When you hold the phone horizontally and look at the profile, you can tell that it’s very slightly curved, which gives it a firm and balanced grip. Even though the One X comes with a 1.5GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, a whopping 4.7-inch 780p display, an 8MP camera with very aggressive specs, and 32GB of storage, it is still remarkably thin and light, and fits very easily in your pocket. We have learned over the years that great specs do equal to a great product, so the purpose of this review is to find out if the One X measures up to all that it’s supposed to.

The HTC comes in two colors; black and white. We got the black one for this review and I must say I love the combination of glass, the glossy black rim around the side and the matt- finished back. If the final judgment had to be passed on physical attributes and design alone, I would say the HTC triumphs over any other phone commercially available in the market today. Not only is the design elegant, it delivers smart functionality as well. The camera lens is housed within a matte silver ring that is embossed on top of the back, giving it a slight elevation. This ensures that the speaker gives off a ‘megaphone effect’ when placed on a table; it also prevents the camera lens from any scratches.

If you move your attention to the sides you will notice that they have an MHL port to the left which bridges all USB and HD video connections. On the top there is an audio jack, a power button and to the right there is volume control, all of which are perfect in size, shape and texture.

Display and user interface

The display on the HTC One X is, without any doubt, the best display I have ever seen on any phone. It’s viewable from anywhere within 180 degrees around it. The bright, yet “warm” display reproduces color and color temperature with great accuracy. At 780p it falls well into the ‘retina’ category which is what the guys at Apple have been talking about incorporating in the new Macbook Pro. For those of you who are new to what retina technology is; retina displays are those in which individual pixels become invisible to the naked eye. Unlike the One S, the One X does not have AMOLED and therefore lacks the problems attached to them like the PenTile sub-pixel arrangement employed by most hi-res AMOLEDs.

Most mobile phone manufacturers choose to have AMOLEDs over LCDs because the former is thinner and self-illuminating, so there is no need for any other lighting arrangements.

Considering that the One X fits its SLCD into an 8.9mm shell as opposed to the 720p Rezound, which is at 13.7mm, that concern is no more.

When I put the phone on I instantly realized that HTC really worked hard trying to incorporate a less-is-more attitude with Sense 4 as well. For instance, the user interface, unlike its predecessors, is not over-designed and in your face. The notification tray has lost the recent apps list to make room for more notifications, and with Android 4.0’s task switcher, there is less need for an icon-based recent apps list.

Audio performance

The One X is endorsed by ‘Beats Audio’ by Dr Dre, whose claims to fame were his abilities to rap and produce hip-hop music for artists such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Game. The One X, however, comes with an audio engine and loudspeaker powered by ‘Beats Audio’, which is fantastic, but you have to pay extra for the matched headset. The standard headset that came with the phone says HTC Innovation.

This particular innovation is very uncomfortable when you put it to test. The earpieces are too big, they’re not noise cancelling, nor do they have a linear frequency response; which basically means that when you turn the volume up, the mid and high frequencies go up without the depth of bass frequencies — causing ear fatigue. So it is safe to assume that if you are an avid headset user and do not want your sound to be colored by the headphones, it’s best to buy the matched Beats Audio headset when you get your One X.

My favorite thing about the One X is if I’m listening to music and decide to make or attend a phone call, the volume automatically drops by roughly 20 decibels, allowing one to have a coherent conversation, while listening to the music at a low but audible volume. Also, the One X comes with a 3.5mm audio jack which enables you to use your preferred headphones with the phone, making the audio experience superb.

Since most headphones do not come with a microphone, the One X automatically uses its secondary microphone while the headphones are plugged in to make calls. While you can hear everything perfectly, the person on the other end hears you but your voice sounds relatively muffled.

Camera

HTC has invested a lot in promoting the One X’s audio performance and camera chops — even their catchphrase for the phone is “Amazing Camera, Authentic Sound”. We’ve covered the sound front, but does the camera deliver? — Yes and No.

As far as the camera software is considered, it is by far the best in the market. You simply click the shutter icon for still images or the video icon to start video recording. The shutter lag time is next to none, which is great considering that it was a major issue with the Galaxy Nexus. The on-board filters and effects are lots of fun, very easy to use and since they have a lens icon right above the shutter icon, the effects are easily accessible and quick to browse through. The auto-focus option, burst-mode and still-capture during video recording work really well and are pretty useful.

As far as the image quality is considered, I cannot go out on a limb and say the images captured by this phone are the best I have ever seen. Initially I had thought that if I compared the results of a decent point-and-shoot digital camera with those from the One X, the results would barely be distinguishable. But I was wrong; you can easily tell which ones are taken from the phone. A few key reasons for this are its performance in moderately-lit situations where flash is needed to overcome noise and motion blur. However, if you use the flash the images are not warm enough. The video quality is good but still does not work as a viable replacement for a camera.

Performance

There are no major deficiencies in One X, or specifically Sense 4.0 which I can point out. However, there are a few minor ones; there is really no need to include an application to manage tasks, since no average phone user will need to manage how much RAM is being allocated to what application, especially when the phone has 1GB RAM capacity. If an inactive application is using too many resources, most would simply opt to shut it down.

I’ve had the One X for about a week now, and I can safely say that it is yet to crash, lag or show even the slightest failure in any category. Initially the battery was depleting really fast, but by the end of the first day the One X had automatically downloaded a software upgrade that ended the problem instantly. The only complaint I still have is the heating problem. Let me relate an incident; I was at one of those boring events you are obligated to attend and stay till the end, and found myself playing a few games which I had downloaded from the HTC Hub. About fifteen or twenty minutes into my One X gaming experience, I was interrupted by a phone call. When I answered and put the phone to my ear, it was so hot that I actually had to put the speaker phone on just to prevent my ear from frying!

Wrap-up

The one thing I like most about the One X is that it has one of the best displays I have ever seen on any phone. Additionally, HTC also used superb design and materials in the production process. Tegra 3, together with the 1.5GHz quad core processor makes any audio/visual experience mind-blowing and the upgraded user interface for the camera makes it the best in its class.

The few things I disliked about the phone are the fact that it gets way too hot and the fixed (touch sensitive) hard buttons take up considerable space. The photo and video quality are above average, but not what they are played out to be. Lastly, I think they should have included a removable SD card slot in the hardware design.

Overall, HTC has stepped up and brought the One series to a new standard in hardware, design and interactivity. There is still some room for improvement with Sense 4.0, which we can hope to see in coming upgrades. Irrespective of everything, the One X is definitely among the top five phones that are commercially available today.

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