As a flagship handset intended to put HTC right back up there at the top of the Android smartphone Most Wanted list, on paper the One X certainly has the potential to put a smile on your face: large, high resolution screen, fast quad-core processor and Android 4.0, to name but a few highlights. But, as with so many things, simply using good components doesn’t guarantee a good device unless the hardware and software is implemented correctly so that everything works together seamlessly. Has HTC managed to achieve this perfect balance or is the One X yet another Android handset that doesn’t quite live up the the hype?
Find the best deals on the o2 HTC One X
The HTC One X is available on free on a 2 year contract from £31 per month, or from £26 per month with an upfront payment for the handset. Deals can be compared using uSwitch
The unlocked / SIM-free handset will cost around £450 at the time of writing.
Phones in Category
The HTC One X joins a shortlist of Android handsets including:
Samsung Galaxy Note (N7000)
Samsung Galaxy SIII (I9300)
HTC Sensation XL
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The Good Stuff:
Fast, powerful processor
Good design, looks great
The Not-So-Good Stuff:
Battery – can’t be removed and drains rather quickly
Micro-SIM will be a pain for some users
No SD card slot
Settings not exactly intuitive for inexperienced users
Rather easy to mark the battery cover
In The Box
HTC One X handset
Quick Start Guide
Front Face: On the front face is the screen surrounded by the grey polycarbonate chassis, with the capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps along the bottom and the the front speaker and front-facing camera at the top.
Top: Along the top of the One X is the main power button and 3.5mm headphone socket. There’s also the slide-out tray where the micro-SIM is inserted, with the small hole beside it for the SIM tray insertion tool.
Left Side: The MicroUSB port in on the left side of the One X, about one third the way down from the top.
Right Side: The volume rocker button is on the right side edge near the top.
Bottom: Small opening for the microphone.
Rear Face: The main camera lens and single LED flash are found top-centre on the rear panel. The main audio speaker is behind a grille along the bottom edge.
Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Calculator, Car, Flashlight, HTC Friend Stream, News & Weather, Navigation, Messages, Email, Task Manager, Voice Recorder
Put simply, the screen on the One X is simply gorgeous to look at. An impressive 312PPI (pixels per inch) density on a 4.7-inch, 720×1280 Super IPS LCD2 screen means that curved edges on even the smallest text fonts look smooth and extremely clear to read. Open the browser and do a Google search for something and take a close look at the text on the results page. Read it when it’s small, then zoom in and fill the screen – the quality of finish that the One X can achieve with text presentation is a joy to behold.
And the same can be said for graphics and icons too. The homescreen clock and app icons look stunning with vibrant colours and truly white whites, and not a hint of pixilation at the edges, unless of course you’re viewing graphics that have been drawn with a low resolution form the outset.
Android 4.0 & HTC Sense 4.0
Most people reading this will know that the software that comes loaded on smartphones is generally divided into two parts. There’s the underlying operating system (OS) and the user interface (UI) which is what people see and interact with when doing anything via the touchscreen. On the One X, the OS is ‘Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) Android 4.0, or 4.0.3 to be exact, which is almost universally considered to be a significant improvement over previous Android releases. In it’s raw, unaltered form, ICS is a lovely operating system, as owners of the Nexus phones will testify. The One X comes with HTC’s latest Sense 4.0 UI which sits between the Android OS and the user.
Sense 4.0 isn’t really anything radically new when compared to previous HTC Android phones, but it does feel slimmer, faster, and less intrusive that previous incarnations, and includes a number of nice tweeks, such as the menus and settings skins for example, that mirror the conventions established in the Android 4.0 framework underneath.
There are seven homescreens that can be populated with folders, shortcuts and widgets, and the 4.7-inch screen shows off these on-screen icons in glorious detail. HTC have done a good job including a large selection of widgets within Sense, all of which appear as a preview in the widget list before you add them to a homescreen. Tap and hold anywhere on a homescreen and you are presented with a list of available apps to browse through, with tabs at the bottom that shows you lists of available apps and shortcuts that can also be added to the homescreen. At the top of these lists are a real-time display of all your homescreens, and adding new content is a simple matter of drag and drop.
Scrolling between the homescreens is fast and nicely animated, mainly thanks to the processing power available for pushing pixels.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the overall feel of the One X compared to previous HTC phones is the lack of a capacitive Menu button at the bottom of the handset. Normally the Menu button works differently in context with what is on the screen at the time, and to most users the loss of this familiar convention may take a little time to get used to. The Menu features are still there, but are handled differently. On the homescreen, the menu and settings are found by pulling down the notification bar, and within apps you’ll now see a new icon (3 dots) somewhere on the screen that performs the Menu button action. This won’t present a problem to users already familiar with the Android OS, but it’s not the most intuitive or simple method of control and navigation for the less experienced or less technically minded people. A handy addition is the button at the bottom right of the screen which opens a slideshow of recent apps. In previous Android versions this list was displayed at the top of the notifications screen.
The app list is accessed using the familiar button in the middle of the dock icons, and there are a few interesting changes on the One X. The app list now gives you three options for managing the applications on the device: All, Frequent and Downloads, accessed via the three tabs at the bottom of the apps list screen. At the top of the apps list is the Search button, a direct shortcut to the Play Store, and the new contextual Menu button for managing, sorting and sharing your applications. However, for some strange reason HTC have decided to make the apps list scroll left to right instead of the familiar and intuitive up and down scrolling that’s used in the phone’s Settings menus and in just about every application on the Android platform. It’s a small change, but it can be a little annoying until you become familiar with it.
Overall, the Sense UI and ICS software underneath work well as an overall package. New users will find the basic operations fairly easy to use, while more experienced users will have no trouble finding their way around the bits that have been changed slightly. The best news is that the more you explore the menu items and settings and widgets, the more you realise just how much personalisation the One X can offer.
The primary camera on the One X comes with an 8MP sensor and LED flash, and on the front face above the screen is a functional 1.3MP camera for video calling and those essential self-portraits. HTC have made a real effort to make the camera as fast and powerful as they can, and I think they’ve done a very nice job. Line up a shot and the auto focus leaps into action ready for the tap of the on-screen shutter button. Not only are there a large selection of settings and options that can easily be adjusted and set before the shot is taken, the software comes with a great selection of options and tools for editing you shots after they’ve been taken. I found the software easy to use and the ability to add filters, crop and resize the original raw image is great to see – no time wasted setting up a filter before the shutter snaps on that unexpected photo opportunity, it can all be added later before sharing via the usual collection of online services.
The main camera app screen is shown above and gives immediate access to the still/video toggle, filter list, flash mode and zoom. Tapping the still camera shutter button takes a picture and likewise for the video button, and still photos can be captured while a video is being recorded.
Here’s a sample gallery showing the range of filters included within the HTC ImageSense camera software as standard. The first photo has no filter, and then the pics had the filter applied to the shot before the photo was taken. As I said previously, the filters can be applied retrospectively too.
Photographs taken in bright / slightly overcast conditions with the primary camera in the default settings with no effects or filters applied:
There are a few features worthy of a mention here too – shooting modes – such as the HDR shooting mode (see photo below), which captures a single photo with a range of brightness data, then crunches it all together to produce an image supposedly with the best average lighting for the shooting conditions. Other modes include Portrait, Group Portrait, Low Light and of course the all-important Close-up (macro) mode for detail shots.
Finally, there’s the Panorama feature that takes 5 separate photos as you slowly pan the camera around then stitches them all together to create a single ultra-widescreen image. Generally this worked well, although in some cases it was all too obvious that 5 photos were being used to compile the final image – the blending between photos was usually very well done but could often be rather misaligned.
Video recording quality was fairly good, especially when you remember you’re capturing high definition movies on your phone! The images were detailed and full of colour when lighting conditions allow, although moving the camera around tended to stretch the image stabilisation features to the limit, sometimes producing a detailed but ‘jerky’ panning shot.
Video camera settings
The following video was shot in 720p using the default camera settings, in the same bright / overcast conditions as the still photos above:
Listening to music and forming an opinion about the sound quality is a highly subjective matter that depends almost entirely on the likes and dislikes of whoever is doing the listening, and indeed what they are listening to. There is, however, a general threshold at which most people will agree that something sounds poor, irrespective of the content, and I’m happy to report that the performance of the audio capabilities on this handset is rather good, both in terms of sound quality and the selection of apps that come pre-installed.
Opening the Music app presents a list of audio-related apps available to use, above a list of your most recently played tracks. Sources available on a new HTC One X include My Phone (add tracks to the ‘Music’ folder via USB), the online music store 7digital, and podcasts and radio services via the Tunein Radio app. SoundHound also comes pre-installed on the One X and can be used to grab additional information, such as tour dates and lyrics, about any track you’re currently playing.
Navigating through your audio library is really easy and intuitive, especially after you’re downloaded the album artwork from the interwebs. Artists are listed in alphabetical order on the scrollable library screen and your selection is further refined by selecting an artist to reveal their albums and finally selecting a track from that album.
In terms of sound quality, the hardware and software on the One X does a great job, in no small part thanks to the Beats Audio preparation. However, the Beats logo only appears in the notification bar when a headset is plugged in to the 3.5mm audio output, so don’t expect a solid, thumping bassline from the phone’s internal speakers. Having said that, the speaker at the bottom of the rear panel is actually rather good compared to the vast majority of smartphones and won’t disappoint when listening to background music at work or watching YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the head set that was included with the HTC One X review unit. It’s the usual HTC ear-bud type headset – rather large buds with those thin foam covers that are hard to keep positioned in your ears and are uncomfortable to wear when you finally manage to stop them slipping out. I spent time listening to a small selection of my favourite tracks, swapping between the in-the-box headset, a set of cheap (£15-ish) Creative ear buds, and the shiny red and black Beats Audio ear buds that came with my HTC Sensation XE. For whatever reason, maybe my personal preference for deep, open basslines, the Beats headset did a better job and was more enjoyable to use, followed in second place by the budget Creative buds.
Gamers should be happy with the One X, very happy indeed. Actually, I feel like that opening comment is somewhat of an understatement! Combining the power of the Tegra3 processor, 1GB of RAM and a high definition 4.7-inch screen produces a joyous gaming experience that involves the user in a way that most other phones simply can’t provide. Holding the One X and playing a game like Temple Run actually seems to draw you in – you feel like you’re properly involved in the action rather than simply moving graphics around. Animation and movement is some of the best I’ve ever seen on a hand held gaming device, with the obvious exception of dedicated mobile gaming platforms such as the Xperia Play.
And while the One X shows off it’s capabilities on large, fast moving games, you won’t be disappointed with the more casual games such as Angry Birds or TileStorm HD either. The graphics looks simply stunning and the larger screen means there’s more room to operate the touch controls. I found myself downloading my back catalogue of games from the Play Store just to see how they played on the One X, and I was rather impressed each time.
Battery life is used up faster than normal (as you would expect, see below) when playing games on the One X, but you’ll also notice that a fair amount of heat is generated when the processor and GPU are under load. You’ll feel it mainly around the upper section of the rear panel, although it can be felt through the screen too. Whether this heat generation is a long term problem is yet to be seen….
So it will come as no real surprise to hear that the battery drains faster the more you use the phone. Smartphone 101 really.
The One X comes with a good (but not great) 1800mAh power cell in the slim 8.9mm thick chassis, but the chassis is sealed so you can forget about swapping it out for a replacement cell when you’re away from a charger. That also means that extended life batteries won’t be possible on the One X – something that proved popular on the Galaxy Nexus.
With mobile data and Wi-Fi turned off, and the phone in standby with screen off, the battery will last a few days no problem. Use the phone for normal calls without data and you’ll easily get at least a day between charges.
Watching movies, playing games, and doing just about every other feature that requires the screen to be on, CPU chugging away and mobile data connection active will drain the battery quite significantly. During fairly heavy use with multimedia playing the battery will hit the 15% power saving mode in around 4 to 7 hours, although this can plummet down towards the 2 to 3 hour range with a graphics-intensive gaming session.
However, most smartphone users will already have a routine for charging their devices at different times and places during the day and the battery life on the One X is only slightly more power hungry than the majority of smartphones out there at the moment, mainly due to the large screen size. The main issue would be for people who’s normal routine prevents access to a wall charger or USB power source for extended periods, and for users who would usually make use of spare batteries while on the go.
It’s a shame that a larger battery hasn’t been included in the One X, even if doing so sacrificed a millimetre or two from the thickness. Handsets that have a large colour screen and internal hardware that can do things fast will ALWAYS need more power. Battery technology is increasing at an incredibly slow pace right now, so the only real solution for devices that require increasing amounts of power by each new generation is to use existing battery technology but make it bigger. Slim isn’t always the best.
There’s a good case for not doing benchmark tests these days. If the phone does everything you want it do do, and it does it well, who cares? I doubt many users will purchase Handset A over Handset B simply because handset A has a better benchmark score, but here at Land of Droid we aim to please all our readers so, in the interests of completeness, here’s the AnTuTu scores for the HTC One X:
I carried out 5 tests in total, with the final 3 scores within +/- 30 points of the score in the above screen grabs.
Hints & Tips
Try not to let the negative points worry you too much, like the menu button system or the sideways scrolling apps list. Every handset and software variant always has features that can be either loved or hated at first, and it’s all dependant on the subjective opinion of the end user (and indeed, device reviewers). Instead, focus on the fact that Android gives users an enormous amount of scope to personalise and customise how it looks and functions, and once you’re familiar with how everything operates you have a powerful communications and entertainment device in your hand that’s intuitive and unable.
Also, it’s a very good idea to get yourself a thin, figure-hugging gel case to protect the rear panel, as the polycarbonate (aka plastic) can be marked quite easily by accidental rubbing against keys or coins in your pocket.
When playing with the HTC One X for this review, I was fortunate to have the One S to play with at the same time. Both these handsets needed to be something that ignited the spark of interest and be a compelling contender to not just the other phones around today, but also rival handsets due for release in the very near future, such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII.
To the average consumer, the HTC One X is a fantastic phone. It’s big, powerful, looks and feels good and does everything a high end smartphone would be expected to do, and it does it well. There’s the obvious criticism about the less than perfect battery life but the vast majority of users will be used to regular charging so that might not be a major issue. The surprising thing I discovered was that the large HD screen, while being one of the One X’s best and most noteworthy features, was actually a potential drawback during everyday use. Several times I found myself holding the One X and thinking it just didn’t feel right in my hand due to the overall dimensions, and in contrast how much better and more confortable I was holding the One S. However, such feelings tended to fade in proportion to the time I spent enjoying the quality of media presentation that the larger screen is capable of, and I soon became accustomed to the larger size.
Overall, the HTC One X is a fantastic phone. The gorgeous looks, large HD display, powerful processor and the latest version of Android and HTC’s Sense UI come together in an extremely well rounded package that is only let down by the battery which simply isn’t up to the job of powering such a power-hungry device for extended periods.
Battery issues aside, HTC have done a fine job with the One X, and the bar is set for the competition.
Our HTC One X was kindly provided by O2 UK
HTC One X Specifications
2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
Handset Dimensions: 134.4mm Long x 69.9mm Wide x 8.9mm Thick
Display Type: Super IPS LCD2 capacitive, multi-touch touchscreen, 16M colours
Display Size: 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.7 inches (312 PPI pixel density), Corning Gorilla Glass
Alert types: Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker: Yes – bottom of rear face
3.5mm Headphone Socket: Yes – Top edge
SD Card Slot: No
Internal Storage: 32GB (26 GB user-available) storage
Internal RAM: 1GB
Mobile Data: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA (21 Mbps), HSUPA (5.76 Mbps)
Wireless Data: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Connectivity: v4.0 with A2DP
NFC (Near Field Communications): Yes
USB: MicroUSB (MHL) v2.0
Primary Camera: 8MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, face and smile detection, ImageSense creative filters
Video (via Primary Camera): 1080p @ 30fps, stereo sound recording, video stabilization
Secondary Camera:1.3MP, 720p on front panel above the screen
Android OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Chipset: Nvidia Tegra 3
CPU: Quad-core 1.5 GHz
GPU (Graphics): ULP GeForce
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging: SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email
Internet Browser: Supports HTML, Adobe Flash
Radio: Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS support
Java: Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors: Grey, White
SIM Card: MicroSIM card support only
Standard Battery: Li-Po 1800 mAh
- Beats Audio
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- TV-out (via USB/MHL A/V link)
- MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
- Document viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial/commands
- Predictive text input