Last year, HTC had some amazing quarters, in terms of sales, with each one besting the one before it. That is until Apple dropped the iPhone 4S in October and set a new record in the fourth quarter. Samsung, HTC’s main Android OEM rival, has also been having a stellar year, with the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Nexus (the official Google device), not to mention their surprise hit, the Galaxy Note, which has sold well over seven million units since it went on sale. This year was to be HTC’s return to the top with the help of their “back to the drawing board” One serie, which they announced in England back in February.
The flagship device of the One line is the One X, it has the large display, fast processor and a slick uni-body polycarbonite chassis, but is all that enough to dethrone Samsung as the top Android manufacturer? I’ve spent the last two weeks using the One X, testing out the device’s download speeds, performance, sound and the whole time, I got to stare at the large SLCD2 720p display. How did go? Read on to find out…
Let’s start out with the design of the One X, HTC put some serious thought into this phone and clearly shows from the moment you hold in your hand. Unlike their previous devices, which have either used multiple pieces of plastic or metal, HTC decided to make the One X out of a single piece of machined polycarbonite. The end result, is a stunning design that is not only pleasing to the eye, but a pleasure to hold. On several occasions I found myself just taking it out of my pocket, just to look at it. It’s extremely light weight coming in at 130g or just over a quarter of a pound and despite the fact that it houses a 4.7-inch display, it doesn’t feel awkward in your hand, like the Galaxy Note for instance (unless you have a hand the size of a grizzly bear). The phone’s design is very minimalistic, on the top, you have a noise cancelling mic, a 3.5mm head phone jack, the power/sleep button and just behind that, the slot for your SIM card. On the right side of the device is the volume rocker and on the left side is just the microUSB port for charging and syncing. The bottom of the device is clean, with the exception of a microphone hole, which is used for general calling and voice features.
On the back of the device you’ll find a protruding 8-megapixel camera housed by a big silver ring, which also encompasses the single LED flash. In the middle is the standard HTC branding and at the bottom, more branding, this time from Beats Audio which is appropriately placed above the speaker grill. That’s about it. I would like to point out, that when I received this device to review, who ever had it before me must have been a little rough. I say this because on the back of the device, the metal ring around the camera was scuffed up a bit. At first I was concerned that because the camera lens was protruding out, that it would be a nuisance and become all scratched, but honestly, after two weeks of use, I didn’t see any damage or wear to it at all.
Because of the device’s unique design (a uni-body frame) and material, there are some drawbacks. First and probably more importantly to some, there is no removable battery. Unlike other devices, where the battery door can be peeled away, the One X is solid, meaning you’re not getting in there. Because I spent two weeks with this device, I noticed something that other reviews, who only spent a day or two, have not. The polycarbonite material that HTC used for the One X’s exterior has had some type of coating applied to it. This makes it softer or “rubber-ish” feeling. The problem is that it attracts dirt and stains very easily. Devices that are made glossy materials, like the Galaxy S III or the iPhone 4S, are hard materials that don’t allow stains to stick. The One X, however, will pick up dirt and oil from your hands and if you slide it in and out of your pocket (assuming you wear denim jeans) on a daily basis, you may even see it pick up a blue tinge. If this is a device you plan to have for the full 2-years, I highly suggest you either clean it often, get a case or use Zagg’s Invisible Shield. The only reason I suggest Zagg’s (for which I’m not being paid) is because once you buy it, you’re good for the life of the device. So once that cover gets all discolored or nasty, simply slap it on a piece of paper and send it back to them and you’ll receive a brand new one for free, just repeat the process during your contract.
When it comes to performance, the HTC One X is no slouch. It’s packing a 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor from Qualcomm. While the European model was equipped with NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor, the US version has actually been tested on par with the quad-core and in some cases, actually beating it. HTC made the decision to use the Snapdragon S4 because it supports LTE, something the current Tegra 3 chips do not. Off the top, I ran a quadrant benchmark test on the One X and received scores ranging from 4300 to 4500, which was impressive, not the best, but very impressive. Not to throw HTC under the bus here, but the higher scores were actually achieved when I used the Apex Home Launcher instead of their own Sense 4, it seems that Sense is still a bit of a system resource hog. Overall, I didn’t really encounter any lag or skipping while using the device. Web browsing, be it on Wi-Fi, HSPA+ or LTE, was extremely fast and fluid. If you’re a web surfer, you’ll definitely enjoy the One X.
The One comes with 1GB of RAM, with the exception of the Galaxy S III, is pretty standard on most Android devices and helps the One X run apps and games smoothly, especially games with 3D rendering.
HTC really outdid themselves when it comes to the One X’s display. Opting to use a 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 HD display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels (720p) and 312PPI (pixels per inch) the One X has probably the second best display on the market, behind the iPhone 4S’s Retina display (the size of the display aside). It’s one of those screens where you just want to keep staring at it, so you’ll keep using your device for pointless tasks. Even after two weeks, I still loved looking at it. It has fantastic viewing angles and very bright whites, but the blacks could be a bit darker, its definitely not a true black like you’d find on a Super AMOLED or Super AMOLED Plus display.
There is one area where I was let down, when it comes to the display, and this has more to do with HTC than the actually display. When using certain apps, like Facebook and Twitter for example, two apps that I use a lot, about a quarter inch (.25″) of the display at the bottom goes completely black and become an area with three vertical dots, aka, a menu button. Despite the fact that HTC included hardware buttons (capacitive) on the phone’s face, I’m not sure why this was done. Samsung’s Galaxy S III, which also features hardware buttons, does not have this issue, so this is clearly HTC’s doing when they skinned Android 4.0. So while you have a 4.7-inch display, you lose about an 1/8 of inch off the top for the status bar and another .25-inches off the bottom, which leaves you with about a 4.3-inch display, depending on the app. Is this a deal breaker, probably not for most of you, but it’s definitely an annoyance.
This is one area were I was seriously let down, I was hoping for some life changing music on a mobile phone. Ever since HTC announced its deal with Beats Audio, I’ve been waiting for one of their devices to really show it. Maybe I need to drop $299 on a pair of Beats Headphones, because my $199 Seinhausser’s didn’t notice a different when the Beats Audio was enabled. I started up Spotify and decided to play a hip-hop song, not my cup of tea, but I figured they have the most bass and would certainly show off the Beats Audio. I was sadly mistaken. I literally went into the settings and had the toggle on/off switch for Beats Audio at my finger tips, I tapped it on and then off, repeatedly and heard absolutely no difference whatsoever. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, or maybe I do, so the point will get across, but this has to be the biggest joke/gimmick I’ve ever seen. I’ve used a pair of Beats Audio headphones and yes, they are clear and loud, mostly bass, but that is because of the headset, not a chip inside of a phone. Telling consumers they’ll have a Beats Audio experience with their phone, simply because of a chip or software in the phone is a lie, plain and simple. Even with my $200 headphones I couldn’t hear a difference, the sound was sub par at best and honestly, I’ll take the clarity of the music on my iPhone over the One X, it doesn’t promote a stellar music experience, yet it delivers one.
Let’s get back on a more positive note, the camera in the One X. Finally a camera on a smartphone that not only rivals the iPhone’s camera, but in some area’s it actually offers more. I can’t say that the One X delivers clearer images than the iPhone 4S, but it does take pictures faster and does offer more software options that give it an edge. With zero shutter lag, when you tap on the camera button to take picture, it’s taken instantly. HTC also offers the ability to take burst shots, up to 8 images, with a single click. The software will even suggest to you which image it thinks is the best. Thanks to Android 4.0, users can also take beautiful panoramic shots, something the iPhone 4S lacks. Speaking of the iPhone and lacks, how about the One X’s ability to record video and giving the user the ability to take a snapshot while still recording, an awesome feature to say the least. The camera software of the One X is top notch and on level with the new Galaxy S III, there are some great features that make for a dynamic experience.
The front-facing camera is only a 1.3 megapixel camera and while it falls short of the 1.9 megapixel found in the Galaxy S III, it will allow users to video chat with no problem.
Download Speeds 4G (HSPA+/LTE):
As I briefly mentioned earlier, the One X utilizes 4G LTE, thanks to the use of the Snapdragon S4 SoC (System on a Chip). The download speeds one can expect to experience with the One X will vary depending on your location and signal strength. I was in New York the other day and tested out the LTE and was really impressed, I managed to pull down about 32Mbps just outside of Time Square. This was with only 4 bars, so potentially, it could have been more. I did see the download speed drop to about 25Mbps near SoHo that same afternoon. Upload speeds were also very impressive, getting around 14Mbps up on average.
The nice thing about the One X being on AT&T, is that if you don’t live in or are around an LTE enabled area, you fall back on AT&T’s HSPA+ network, where you can still receive downloads up to 14.4Mbps, I had about 9Mbps when I was traveling on the train and about 7Mbps around an area where I live. Either way, the download speeds were very impressive with or without LTE.
The battery life on the One X was surprising long, with moderate use, I could almost a day and half with no charge. Under heavy use, while in New York and on LTE for a majority of the day, the device managed to survive the day with about 11% before I got home and had to plug it in for a charge. Keep in mind that was with a lot of download tests, pictures, videos and web surfing. Even with the battery being locked into the device, I don’t think the average consumer, or even a data hog would be upset with the amount of time you’ll get out of the One X. If need be, pack a travel charger or keep a car charger in your car if you’re concerned, but honestly, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
I really enjoyed my time with the One X, it’s a great phone, with great software and great camera, the sound experience however, especially how HTC is promoting, could be better. It has one of the best displays on a smartphone and at 4.7-inches, it makes browsing the web, checking email and watching video an enjoying experience. The design is unique and definitely eye catching, but there is the pesky problem of the surface staining, which customers should be concerned about, especially if they plan to keep the phone for the full 2-year contract.
Overall, it’s a fast, capable device that will make most everyone a happy customer, is it right for you, say… over the Galaxy S III? That’s for you to decide. We’ll have our review of the Galaxy S III up soon so you can compare, but for now, go to a store, get the feel of the device and see if it’s what you’re looking for in your next smartphone. We think you’ll be happy.