HTC One X Written Review by Taylor

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: May 16, 2012

After a week and a half of using the HTC One X as my primary device, I am confident in saying it is the most refined Android phone we here at PhoneDog have come across to date. HTC promised to bring quality over quantity in 2012 and they have delivered on nearly every aspect with One. Being the flagship of the line, the One X comes with some of the best specifications of any Android phone on the market and features one of the most significant designs and top quality builds.

The HTC One X is available unlocked as a quad-core, international HSPA+ device or through AT&T In the States as a dual-core device with additional LTE connectivity. For $199.99 with a two-year agreement, is AT&T's HTC One X the phone to buy? Read on to find out.

 

Design & Features

The appearance of the One X is one of its greatest qualities. Its unibody, polycarbonate shell comes in either white or gray and keeps the device lightweight without sacrificing durability. In the hand, it feels very sturdy with next to no popping, creaking or squeaking. 

Measuring only 8.9mm thick, the One X is noticeably slender. And with a thin bezel and small margins above and below the display, the device is not unnecessarily large, despite the larger-than-average 4.7-inch display that dominates the front of the device. There are only three capacitive navigation buttons at the bottom of the face, and a milled speaker grill with a hidden LED notification and front-facing camera are at the top. Alone on the right edge of the device is the volume rocker, and the only component on the bottom edge is the microphone. Along the left edge is the microUSB port and the top edge holds the 3.5mm headphone jack, micro SIM slot and power button. On the back of the device is another milled speaker grill with Beats Audio branding, five-pin connector (for use with a yet to be released media dock), chrome HTC branding and a large camera hump with LED flash.

Complaints with the hardware are minimal. I would prefer a removable battery, or at least a larger integrated cell. And I've never been fond of camera humps, as they make it the first component on the back of the device to touch whatever surface you lay your phone on. (Hello, scratches!) But my two largest concerns are the placement of the power button and the dust that collects along the sides of the display. I prefer the power button to be on the upper right edge instead of the top, but that is not the issue. The power button is small and on the front part of the top edge, which is beveled towards the front of the device (away from the back), which makes it difficult to always press on the first try. I have been carrying the One X in the Otterbox Commuter case and even the large rubber button doesn't make the power button any easier to press. The dust that collects around the display is minor, but may grow worse with time. It isn't noticeable unless you're in direct sunlight, but once you see it, it's hard to miss.

Overall, the design is fantastic and my ”gripes” are mostly petty.

 

Usability & Performance

The One X ships with the latest version of Android, version 4.0 (better known as Ice Cream Sandwich). However, it also comes with HTC's customized version, Sense. Former versions of Sense UI made devices feel over-encumbered. It was chock-full of all sorts of bloat, over-the-top animations and HTC had altered nearly every visual aspect of vanilla Android. It made HTC's devices sluggish and buggy. Sense 4, however, is an entirely different story. HTC admitted their interface became cluttered over the years and vowed to lighten its footprint and make it less ... overbearing. There are certainly still some aspects of Sense 4 that I do not like as much as the native features – the Recent Apps page, for one – but this time around, Sense has been a pleasure to use.

That said, there has been a single bug that has been incessantly plaguing me since I picked the phone up on the 6th. Most of the time, when I receive a text message, the phone will vibrate (I rarely take the phone off the Vibrate profile) and the notification LED will blink every few seconds. I also have the Productivity lock screen set, which displays the upcoming events in your agenda and new notifications (missed calls, new messages, etc.). From time to time, new text messages will come in undetected. No vibrating, no LED, no preview on the lock screen, no indicator of a new SMS on the Messages icon on the home screen. Sometimes, the only way to know if I have a new message or not is to physically open Messages and see if there are any that arrived unannounced.

When merging the tablet-specific version Android, Honeycomb, with phone-based software, the requirement for physical buttons was lost in Ice Cream Sandwich. Google and Samsung displayed this with the Galaxy Nexus by making its navigation buttons on-screen. The One X (and its One brethren) comes with three capacitive buttons instead. Capacitive buttons aren't necessarily a bad thing. But I have found that they are not quite as responsive as their soft button counterparts. I catch myself missing them quite often.

On the inside, the AT&T version of the One X (the one I've been using) is equipped with a 1.5GHz dual-core Krait processor with Adreno 225 graphics (Qualcomm S4 chipset). This, paired with the speediness of ICS, makes the One X very fast. HTC has removed a great deal of the animations in Sense 4 and everything is snappy. Applications launch immediately after tapping the icon, scrolling is smooth and consistent and pinch zooming in the browser very quick. I have yet to experience any lag whatsoever. And HTC has optimized the camera application  consistently the slowest application to load  to load as quickly as any other app.

Having access to both of AT&T's 4G networks, wireless speeds are also great. In fact, over the course of a week of running multiple speed tests throughout various parts of North Carolina (between Winston-Salem and the Charlotte Metro area), I managed to score some of the fastest HSPA+ and LTE speeds I have ever seen. At home, I only have HSPA+, where I averaged around around 8Mbps down and 1Mbps up. The highest HSPA+ speeds I scored was 9.59Mbps down and 1.89Mbps up. Upon entering an LTE area, I was seriously impressed with the speeds. The first test yielded 49.10Mbps down and 13.71Mbps up. On a later test that same day, I clocked a much more reasonable 19Mbps down and 8Mbps up. Either way, wireless speeds are fast – much faster than what I previously scored on the Galaxy Note in the same areas on the same networks.

I will be honest, I didn't make a ton of voice calls. I never do. But the quality during the ones I did make (or take) was great. The earpiece speaker is quite loud and the sound quality was crisp and clear. People on the other end had no problem hearing me, even when sitting in Starbucks with a good deal of background noise (music, coffee grinders, chatter, etc.). However, the rear speaker that is used for speakerphone was a tad weak, even with the volume turned all the way up. (Despite the cool Beats Audio branding above the speaker, which draws quite a bit of attention to the milled holes and might make one think the speaker will be great, it's just another too quiet, tinny phone speaker.)

One area where HTC focused a lot of their attention with the One series is their image sensors. The camera fastened to the back of the One X is an 8-megapixel BSI (backside illuminated) sensor with a f/2.0 lens with ImageChip. Beside the camera on the back is the LED Smart Flash, which intelligently adjusts the intensity of the flash based on the surrounding light (or lack thereof). The camera can also record 1080p video at 30fps. What does all of that mean in layman's? It's supposed to take great pictures, even in low light. Outdoors, the One X camera performs quite well. I wrote a piece on how impressed I was. I hadn't had a lot of time with the phone (just about 8 hours at that time) and I've since taken a ton of photos. I'm definitely still impressed, but I have learned that indoors and low-light shots are ... okay. They tend to turn milky and washed-out (often overexposed). By turning the exposure settings down and bumping the contrast up some, the shots turn out better, but a few notches short of breathtaking. The front-facing camera is 1.3-megapixels and can record video at 720p resolution. It suffices for self-shots and video calling.

The most impressive part of the camera, though, is the software that HTC has included. There are tons of settings and various features. There are 15 different effects or filters (sepia, grayscale, vignette, posterize, etc.) and nine different scenes to choose from: Auto, HDR, Panorama, Portrait, Group portrait, Landscape, Whiteboard, Close up and Low light. In the settings menu, you can alter the image resolution, video quality, exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness, ISO and white balance. You can also enable continuous shooting, which is a burst mode. And the coolest feature of all is the ability to simultaneously capture video and still images. Even when reviewing a video clip, you can capture stills. It is quite literally packed full of features, and in most cases the camera performs well. I have actually been using the One X camera over the iPhone 4S (which, honestly, is still my favorite) for the past week and a half. It isn't the best phone camera ever, but it is definitely better than I thought it would be.

Easily one of the most outstanding aspects of the One X is the S-LCD2 display. It is quite large at 4.7-inches, but I have had trouble adjusting to after using the Galaxy Note for a few months. Its quality, however, is second to none. Color reproduction is fantastic and blacks – while not nearly as dark as an AMOLED panel – are very, very dark. It is also extremely bright at its brightest setting, and I found it to be almost too bright in a dark room, even when turned all the down. Its resolution is 720 pixels wide by 1,280 pixels tall, giving it roughly 312 pixels per inch. There is no noticeable grain or pixelation and viewing angles are impressive. This very well may be the best smartphone display on the market (depending on your stance on HD Super AMOLED and PenTile technology).

Finally, battery life. I will say that considering all of its specs, the battery life is better than I thought it would be. But it's certainly nothing to get excited over either. Inside, the One X features a 1,800mAh non-removable battery. The power-saving S4 chipset definitely helps the device last, especially while in standby, but the bright and power-hungry display can chew through the battery life in a heartbeat if left too high or on for too long. I have had no trouble making it through a day with very light usage. But in normal usage, I have needed a supplementary charge around 3:00 PM to get me through the rest of the day. On HSPA+, the One X lasted nearly 20 hours (with just under two hours of screen-on time) before dipping below 30 percent battery. In an LTE coverage area, I managed just over 13 hours before getting the "Please plug in your device" prompt at 15 percent. If the battery were removable or much larger (like that of the DROID RAZR MAXX), I would have no qualms with it. Seeing as it cannot be replaced by a spare at midday, you might want to carry a charger with your or a battery charging pack with you if you plan on being gone more than 8 hours. 

 

Conclusion

Top to bottom, from inside to out, the HTC One X is a seriously solid device. It has some of the best specifications available on the market today: the 720p 4.7-inch S-LCD2 is absolutely beautiful, the device itself is gorgeous with its unibody polycarbonate design and between its LTE/HSPA+ connectivity and the S4 chipset, it's super fast. Battery life could be better, but it's an all-around great phone.

As a testament to its quality, it is currently #1 in the People's Choice Chart and #2 in the Mobile Tech Expert's Chart in our Official Smartphone Rankings. In the U.S., it is offered through AT&T and is appropriately priced at $199.99 with a two-year agreement. Beginning Friday, May 18 (possibly next week pending review of an ITC exclusion order), the very similar HTC EVO 4G LTE will be available on Sprint for the same price.

 

Wrap-Up

What's Good: Big, vibrant, super crisp display; consistent, fast and smooth experience; ultra high-quality build and design; access to two very fast 4G networks (HSPA+ and LTE); great camera.

What's Bad: Fixed 16GB of storage without the ability to expand; integrated battery with okay battery life; capacitive instead of soft navigation buttons.

The Verdict: The HTC One X is one of the most well-rounded products HTC has ever produced. Everything from the display to the unibody, polycarbonate chassis is top notch, yet it's comparatively cheap at just $199.99 with a two-year agreement. Right now, this is the Android phone to beat; however, if you want a removable battery, you might want to wait on the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Products mentioned