HTC was at the forefront back in 2010, a time when HTC Desire and Nexus One was highly sought after models for Android smart phones. Last year, they faced a huge challenge from Samsung starting with its flagship Galaxy S II. Since then, Samsung has been releasing a model for almost every market segments imaginable. The last flagship device from HTC, the Sensation and Sensation XE didn’t manage to cut through the clutter and HTC has been struggling to keep up with the competition.
This year, HTC is set to make a comeback with its HTC One Series. Its current flagship model the HTC One X is powered by a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM with 32GB of onboard storage and runs on the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Acknowledging the trend of going bigger with display, the One X features a 4.7” Super LCD2 display that pushes 1280×720 pixels resolution.
Powering the device is a 1,800mAh battery which HTC claims to offer 60% improved performance over its predecessor models. Like most new smart phone models today, the One X comes with a unibody polycarbonate design which unfortunately means no user-replaceable battery and expandable microSD memory.
Over at the front there’s a 1.3MP front facing camera and there’s also a hidden notification LED underneath the micro holes of the earpiece. Although this makes the design cleaner, it is actually hard to notice in outdoor sunny conditions. It would probably be better if they have a dedicated LED under the glass for better visibility.
The overall polycarbonate body is rather solid and we like the design of its curved back. In the hands, it feels rather large, a little too big for our liking and it isn’t really practical for single handed operation. The 8MP camera stands out like a sore thumb with its protruding camera lens at the back. This makes it very vulnerable to damage or scratches when placed on the table, so we would recommend a case to offer some protection at the back.
While the back surface is predominately matte, the side uses a glossy white finish that looks rather cheap. The power button and volume rocker keys appear to be made by same materials as your plastic spoons and it lacks the desired tactile feel. This could be due to the colour and the sides would probably be better looking with the black version. You can check out our hands-on video of the HTC One X for a clear look at the design.
The display on the One X is probably the best we’ve seen so far. The first time we lay eyes on it, we can’t help to notice how the images tend to appear as if it’s on top, rather than being under the glass. At medium to full brightness, it just looks absolutely stunning with no signs of colour degradation when tilted sideways.
When showed among our peers, we’ve gotten a couple of comments on how the display looked like a dummy phone with sticker “display” instead of a typical live screen. It also features 3D gorilla glass that curves at edges which exaggerate the illusion further that the display is floating. It is hard to describe this in words but you’ve got to see it yourself to understand what we mean. In terms of colours, the HTC One X looks warm with strong saturation and brightness. As comparison, the typical Super AMOLED displays tend to have a blue-ish hue.
HTC Sense 4.0 UI
Running on Android 4.0.3, the HTC One X it is lightly skin with HTC Sense 4.0. It still retain our favourite unlock screen with shortcuts to camera and core apps. We also liked how you can customise your unlock screen to display additional info such as your friend social feeds, weather, stocks or notifications. Under the Android notifications bar, they have done away with the recent apps list which gives you more display space for actual notifications.
On top of the Ice Cream Sandwich interface, there is some additional customisation from HTC. With the default Honeycomb/Ice Cream Sandwich task manager, normally you’ll see a vertical thumbnail carousel of recent apps. However on the One X, HTC has customised the look with a large horizontal thumbnail gallery of recent apps. To kill a task, you’ll need to swipe the app thumbnail upwards.
Although this looks impressive, we rather have the plain vanila ICS version. HTC’s task manager displays only one app at a time which makes it cumbersome to jump between apps quickly. We can foresee avid multi-taskers finding this frustrating. Unfortunately there’s no way to switch this off and it is interesting to note that the HTC One V uses the much preferred original ICS recent apps interface.
In terms of performance, the HTC One X is buttery smooth thanks to its quad core processor. There’s no major lag to report but somehow we felt that the home page interface could have been smoother if it doesn’t use a 3D flow transition between panels. The apps listing is now scrolled from left to right, instead of top to bottom fashion on earlier HTCs.
Moving on is the Browser. The Browser is rather smooth and renders very quickly but we have some annoyance in terms of UI. Switching between tabs isn’t as seamless as it requires 2 taps (into Menu > Tabs). On previous HTC models, you can view all tabs by pinching out to zoom but that doesn’t seem to work on the HTC One X. In fact, there’s supposed to be a bottom menu bar for quicker access to Bookmarks and Tabs but strangely it appears only if you’re scrolling upwards and when the page is fully loaded.
Another bummer is that the browser runs in full screen mode which means you can’t see or access the notifications bar at all, except when a page is still loading. The alternative workaround is to enable quick controls under Labs which makes the browsing experience less annoying. The default browser lets you open up to a maximum of 6 tabs at one time.
For on-screen input, the HTC One X comes with a default oversized keyboard that comes with a row of on-screen navigational buttons. If you’re into swiping, there’s an option to enable Trace Keyboard but its accuracy is nowhere near the real Swype.
During our usage with Swype, there’s a incompatibility issue with Ice Cream Sandwich. Often at times, the Swype keyboard tends to display in weird miniscule sizes which is annoying to use. Of course, this is an app issue and hopefully Swype would rectify this soon for ICS users.
A great thing that we love on the One X is the built in Car mode. With Car mode enabled, you’ll get nice home screen interface with large buttons that’s easy to press while being docked to your car holder. It works best if you can hook the HTC One X headphone jack into your car line-in AUX port or via Bluetooth with HTC’s car accessory. There’s a phone dialer, navigation, Music player and also Tune-in online radio app. If you’re sick with your usual playlist and local FM radio stations, tune in provides a huge selection of international radio stations streamed into your car. Of course, we won’t recommend streaming radio unless you’ve got a generous monthly data plan.
Whenever a call comes in, the HTC One X is smart enough to fade off your audio in Car Mode and lets you answer your calls in speakerphone mode immediately. During our usage, voice calls are incredibly clear even with your car audio system being used as speakerphone. In our test, the other party couldn’t tell we are in a car environment. For normal calls, the HTC One X delivers audio very clearly thanks to its noise cancelling mic.
The navigation on the One X works well and it comes with lane guidance feature and voice navigation. The only issue if we were to pick is the audio management. If a song is playing thru the One X, it doesn’t fade or mute your music whenever the navigation voice narrates your next course of action. This of course, makes it hard to hear especially if you’re happily blasting your music from your phone. Unfortunately there’s no way to control the volume of your Media & voice navigation voice separately.
The camera of the HTC One X is one of its key highlights with ImageSense. In terms of interface, this is one of the easiest we’ve seen to date and the ability to take a picture or video immediately on the same screen is nice touch. The HTC One X capable of shooting burst mode at 4 frames per second up to 99 continuous shots. Obviously in darker conditions where flash is required, the 4FPS burst mode won’t work.
The shutter button is incredibly responsive with no hesitation at all and the shutter sound really gives you the assured feeling that this is a snappy shooter. No doubt it puts the famed Galaxy Nexus Zero Shutter Lag to shame when it comes to sheer speed.
However in our sleep to snap test, the Sony Xperia S is still the fastest with its Fast Capture feature and dedicated hardware button. Since HTC is banging on its camera, they should have included a dedicated button for camera on the One X. In terms of quality, the One X photos are pretty good and most photos taken outdoors appear incredibly sharp, to some extent sharper than Xperia S. In low light conditions, the One X tends to be noisier than the Xperia S.
While it performs lightning quick with photos, we can’t say the same for its video. After tapping the video record button, it took about 2-4 seconds before it actually starts recording. Just like the Galaxy Nexus, the HTC One X also allows you to take still shots while shooting a video and it is made obvious with the photo shutter button being present in the on-screen interface. Even if you forgot to take a picture, the built in video player lets you take screen capture by tapping on the shutter button during playback.
Being an Android 4.0 ICS device, the HTC One X also comes with Face Unlock. We tested the obligatory Face Unlock with photo trick and it manages to fool the system as expected. To train the system to recognise your face better, it allows you to take multiple shots of your face in various lighting condition for better accuracy. In the low light or glaring light situations, the face unlock doesn’t seem to work at all. Again, this is just a party trick and it is better if you stick to the usual pattern unlock.
In terms of battery life, we got about 13 hours of average daily use without any battery saver app. According to HTC, the One X’s Tegra 3’s 4-Plus-1 processor offers improved battery life with low power being used during idling. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to be any different from the latest crop of smart phones that we’ve tried recently. With additional power saving apps like Juice Defender, we could get up to 17 hours of battery life. Running the device extensively, we noticed that the One X tends to get warm at the back especially below the camera. However after the recent update, the heating issue seems to have improved slightly.
So what do we think of the HTC One X? In terms of camera, it is one of the snappiest of the lot but quality wise; it is great but could have been better in low light conditions. In terms of power, it delivers well with anything that we’ve thrown at it and the HTC Sense integration is done pretty well with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. However the biggest complaint would be the browser which baffles us as HTC has been very good with their native browsers on their previous models.
For those that hit the road a lot would appreciate the Car Mode. Playing music and streaming online radio on the HTC One X in the car is absolutely blissful with well thought UI design and integrated features. The only complaint is the audio volume management when navigation is used.
Last but not least, the HTC One X display is one of the best we’ve seen. The colours are warm and vibrant with excellent viewing angles on a Super LCD2 display. It tends to be more natural with a yellow-ish hue compared to the blue tint that’s apparent on AMOLED displays.
So should you get one? With a generous serving of 32GB storage, magnificent 4.7” 720p HD display and a powerful quad core processor, the RM2099 HTC One X is a pretty good buy for a flagship device. Not forgetting that HTC is rather proactive in rolling out updates which is always a good thing. With 2 years warranty and 1 year one to one swap program in Malaysia, the HTC One X offers better peace of mind. Next week, Malaysians will be having another quad-core choice in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S III. Keep it locked on to SoyaCincau.com to find out how would the HTC One X fare against it.