The One X has a large 4.7-inch display, a new-generation 1.5 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3, 1 GB of RAM, a backlit 8-Mpx camera sensor with a 28-mm wide-angle lens capable of filming in 1080p, and 32 GB of internal storage (non-expandable). Does the One X live up to the hype? Is it responsive in any situation? Is the Sense 4.0 interface really an asset? Does it truly optimise the HTC ecosystem? How does this multimedia smartphone hold up during use? Answers below...
Design / Hardware / Display
Taking its example from Apple, Nokia, Motorola and Sony, the One X has non-expandable memory (there's no microSD port) and offers only 28 GB of storage space. However, HTC offers all One X owners 25 GB of additional storage on Dropbox for making simple transfers via PC (the first two years are free, after that you have to pay).
The One X also requires a MicroSIM card and doesn't allow you to get to the battery since the back is non-detachable.
With meticulous finishing and well-chosen materials (it's very nice to the touch), the One X really has a solid feel. The use of polycarbonates has a lot to do with that. This is a far cry from the cheap plastic found on many even high-end handsets.
The One X is sober-looking, with fine contours lining its slightly rounded edges. Offered in charcoal grey and white, an original design is not this phone's strong point. Read: this is HTC we're talking about. Fans of the brand will surely appreciate the familiar, "timeless" look, but others will certainly be less enthused.
Design is above all a matter of taste, but we must say we were disappointed to see that the camera sensor juts out so far on the back of the phone. Couldn't HTC have found a more discreet way to integrate it?
This subtly curved handset weighs 130 grammes and is relatively thin, barely 9 mm. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. However, because it's so wide it can be difficult, if not impossible in some cases (i.e. people with small hands), to hold the device and type all with one hand. If you aren't used to owning such a large phone it may seem bulky at first! But it's easy to get used to. And, naturally, unless you have gigantic pockets you rarely forget when you have it on you...
Contrary to the Sony Xperia S we recently reviewed, the three touch sensitive controls (Back, Home and Multitasking) actually respond well and don't turn on accidentally every time you look at them. The LED conveniently flashes when you receive an e-mail, text, etc.
Now for the 4.7-inch HD SLCD display (1280 x 720p). With 760:1 contrast, black tones aren't as dark as on an AMOLED screen. That said, the One X does have more accurate, neutral colours. It has a delta E of 5 (a screen with perfect colour accuracy would have a delta E of less than 3). So the HTC One X is close, making the display a very nice one to look at. The brightness is just right, at 460 cd/m². The screen is easily readable outside in the sun, as long as you set the brightness on max. Of course, that will affect the battery life, however. We especially like the fact that the viewing angle is so wide, much more so than on the Sony Xperia S.
Needless to say, with such a high pixel density, the precision in this display is a real plus. You can see the difference it makes when you're surfing the net, which is superbly displayed (see below), and you never need to zoom in to read a page clearly.
Note that the One X is quite naturally multitouch, but with the default settings it only works with two points. For "true" multitouch, which can be handy when playing certain video games, for example, you have to go through the menu and change the settings.
Interface & Responsiveness
With a wealth of widgets, HTC's own ecosystem is by default superimposed on top of the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. HTC insists that for the One series its Sense 4.0 interface has been cut back and optimised for ICS. If that's the case then there shouldn't, for example, be any more widgets that perform two functions. But will a "cut back" interface be enough to convince Sense's detractors who prefer the "raw" Android ecosystem? Perhaps. Remember, Sense is everywhere on this phone. But that, too, is a matter of taste.
Sense 4.0 is indeed more user-friendly. It's less "messy", more sober and just as well integrated. For those who like it, Sense is an enjoyable interface that offers a lot of possibilities for customising one's phone.
Another feature you may already know is FriendStream, a social network aggregator that in all truth is slightly redundant with Contacts, in that both apps collect what's going on in your community networks and puts it all on one page.
With Android 4 you can now create app folders and better organise HTC's seven desktops. You can also customise the dock with your four favourite apps. Face recognition is featured on Android ICS, but for added security you still have to enter your four-digit SIM code as well.
There are three pages for apps, which you scroll through horizontally. They can be sorted alphabetically or by date, but still not in order of preference.
In "car mode", motorists no longer have to search through sub-menus to look for an app. This is a closed software in which HTC offers its own apps. So, no more need for Google in order to navigate. It's just too bad you can't select your own apps. Update: you can use Google Navigation instead of HTC Locations by modifying the widget settings.
Here's a tip: to take a screenshot, simply press the Volume button on the bottom of the phone and the ON/OFF button on the top of the phone simultaneously.
Moving through the interface isn't entirely fluid at the moment, but there are good chances that one of the coming updates will set things right. Soon, we hope. But this is the only aspect with which the One X has any trouble. The heavy-duty specs on this phone allow it to run smoothly, across-the-board. For everybody who's wondering if the responsiveness achieved with the Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU (quad-core + 1 for small tasks) leaves the competing Android phones in its wake, based on what we observed during testing we honestly can't be that clear-cut, at least not for now. Response times (downloading apps, opening programmes, etc.) are fast and effective, if not flawless. But in a few months when more power-hungry apps set their sights on the Google Play app platform, smartphones with powerful CPUs (such as Nvidia Tegra 3, Qualcomm S4 or Samsung's Exynos dual-core) will definitely cope better than other mobiles that have less powerful processors.
As things stand today, all that power doesn't make much of a difference; it's more of a marketing asset than a functional one. According to the benchmarks we ran, the graphics performance is right behind the 4S and just ahead of the Galaxy S2.
But as for computing power, the One X crushes the competition—even those that until now have given the best results: Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S.
Thanks to a backlit 8-Megapixel camera sensor with an F/2 aperture, the One X should work better in low lighting than even some digital cameras. In theory, that should make it one of the best smartphone cameras out right now (along with the iPhone 4S, Galaxy S2, Xperia Ray and Lumia 800). So, is this the case?
You betcha. The HTC One X proves itself to be an excellent digital camera smartphone. Optics-wise, it's top notch: images come out nice and clean. The sharpness is staggering for a smartphone and, as a result, details are admirably well-rendered—more so than on an iPhone 4S, to compare it to one of the references. On the other hand, the One X produces often noisy images, especially in dark areas. The colours are a bit cold and our infamous Barbie test revealed over-exposed images. The flash is pretty homogeneous. Verdict: on the whole, the HTC One X is an excellent nomadic camera, better than the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Sony Xperia S, and has no trouble rivalling the iPhone 4S.
The video camera can handle 1080p, but it's at its best with 720p. In 1080p the image tends to get choppy. As usual with smartphone video cameras, sadly, the sound quality is pitiful.
The One X's original video mode offers two interesting functions: slow motion and a feature that allows you to take photos while recording or playing a video.
Once you start browsing the Internet, playing games and watching movies, you realise why the One X's excellent screen is so big. The video player is compatible with a number of file formats (such as MKV, DivX and Xvid) and it's quick and easy to decompress a film in 1080p.
The micro-USB port is MHL-compatible (adapter not included). There's no micro-HDMI port for transferring content to a larger screen, but thanks to DLNA you can instead use the USB/MHL solution or Wi-Fi. This method allows you to do things like grab content from a multimedia hard drive. Quite practical.
The sound is clean for a smartphone, with good, well-balanced rendering. We picked up no distortion at all—the audio on this phone is spic and span! Like Shazam, the SoundHound app identifies songs for you quickly and easily, although it is missing a good deal of tunes (mostly jazz and old or rare music...). Lovers of bass will certainly be disappointed that this high-end handset doesn't come with a Beats Audio headphone.
Web browsing on a screen like this is a real pleasure. You never need to zoom in to see a page clearly in landscape mode, and even in portrait mode the content is easily legible. Scrolling up and down executes smoothly and flawlessly. Another of this phone's strengths is how fast pages load, even ones heavily-laden with ads, videos and whatnot. The basic browser supports Flash and you can turn this feature off if desired. This is definitely a plus, although we're still waiting on a read-only mode that would get rid of ads and other unwanted images. However, we also found it convenient to use the mobile version of Google Chrome, which is available for download on Google Play. The Favourites function is well designed and allows you to sync your tabs with the Chrome browser on your computer. There is one drawback, though: the mobile version of Chrome doesn't handle Flash.
With a full battery in the a.m., the One X will hold out until the early p.m. with ordinary usage (videos, photos, social networking, web browsing, phone, texts and a dash of GPS—which, by the way, fixes quickly). Naturally, besides heating the device up, video games rapidly drain the phone of its battery life. However, we noticed that the One X doesn't eat up much energy in sleep mode, which can come in handy for the more "reasonable" users out there...
Please note: As we are publishing this test, a software update has become available. This update is intended to correct the few existing display bugs and improve the performance of video games designed for Nvidia. Improvements in battery life can also be expected.