Android hardware market has become a battlefield. There are half a dozen Android phones being released every week, each one of them vowing for customers' attention. So, what can the manufacturers do to be the winner? The answer is to make fewer fillers and more highlight-worthy devices! HTC knows this - this year, they are only releasing a trio of refined Android smartphones under the One brand - X, S, and V. The One X is the top dog in HTC's One line-up, and I spent a few weeks of quality time with it. Let me take you in-depth into the HTC One X.
First time you hold the HTC One X, you can feel that you have something special in your hands. The One X has a chassis made out of precision-machined polycarbonate - a lightweight and tough type of plastic - similar to the Nokia Lumia 800/900. Like the Lumia phones, the One X body retains its original color when scratched because the polycarbonate shell has been mold injected with the original color. There are no seams nor screws holding the body together as the body is made out of one-piece. The benefit of this design is that there are no moving parts that can fly out if you drop the phone, making the phone more sturdy and damage-proof. It feels quite light in the hands, weighing just 130g. HTC is known for pushing the boundaries of mobile hardware design, and they certainly do not disappoint with the One X. HTC has managed to designed the most beautiful Android phone ever.
The 4.7 inch Super LCD2 screen takes up most of the screen, held up by three capacitive buttons on the bottom. Changed from previous Android phones from HTC, the three buttons are now back, home, and multitask. The physical menu button has been replaced with an onscreen one that only comes up in apps that require it. There is a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera and a headpiece grill above the screen. On each side of the device, you can find the volume rocker and the microUSB charging port. Microphone hole is on the bottom, and headset jack and power button are on top of the device. The 8 megapixel camera and LED flash can be found on the back of the device, along with the speaker grill and five metal contacts for docks.
HTC has managed to design the most beautiful Android phone ever
Inside the body, HTC One X has the latest parts that makes it competitive with the latest Android hardware releases. It features a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor (international unlocked version has the quad-core Tegra 3 processor) with 1GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The One X comes with the usual connectivity support, such as Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, GPS, and NFC.
The One X runs on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, but you wouldn't know it at a first glance due to the ever pervasive HTC Sense skin. HTC Sense 4.0, featured on all of HTC One line-up of phones, is the most extensive manufacturer skin to date. HTC changed every system app and settings to fit the HTC Sense look-and-feel, and they added many of their own apps and widgets, such as Friend Stream, Movie Editor, Task Manager, and others. If you want the stock Android experience, this isn't the phone for you.
For the rest of us, HTC Sense is good enough. HTC has dressed Android with fluffy icons and widgets that makes it appear more approachable to the general public. HTC Sense still has the best software keyboard I've used on Android - I type with most accuracy on HTC's Sense keyboard with big keys. HTC's signature clock/weather widget looks prettier than ever on the large display. Widgets like Friend Stream provide a look at your social feeds with a single glance. On the other hand, HTC has added some unnecessary modifications to Ice Cream Sandwich. The multitasking view, for example, is a downgrade from the one found on stock Android. Stock Android's multitasking view is a vertical list of all the apps running in the background, but HTC changed it to a horizontal carousel that resembles Palm Pre's cards interface. I find that vertical scrolling is much more comfortable in one-handed usage. If stock Android provides a good experience already, why go an extra step just to make it look different?
You have to wonder, is HTC Sense necessary when Ice Cream Sandwich looks just as good? Android had a humble beginning, looking less refined than the competition (from a certain prominent fruit company) for years, but it has come so far. The UI team, lead by Matias Duarte formerly of Palm, has revamped stock Android to the point where its UI is just as attract as, if not more so than, manufacturer skins like HTC Sense. This is something all manufacturers should think about.
HTC now has a large share of Beats Audio, and they have committed to bringing Beats Audio to all of their phones going forward. After using this phone though, I wish that HTC would omit Beats in their future phones. Beats Audio is detrimental to the sound quality of the One X.
Beats Audio exists in this phone as a plug-in that can be toggled on and off while the headphones are plugged in. The plug-in can be accessed from the notification bar, and it is toggle-able in any app that outputs sound, such as the default music app, YouTube, video player, Netflix, and others. Beats Audio does a couple of things to the sound.
With our producer's help, we analyzed what the Beats Audio plug-in actually does and narrowed it down to three things. First, it turns up the bass and high frequencies and scoops the mid ranges. Second, it boosts the overall volume. And finally, it widens the sound. However, none of these things are necessary. Producers intend the music to sound a certain way, and Beats Audio is just messing with that vision. The music that everyone listens to are mastered already, so these effects do not make music sound better. If anything, it makes the music sound worse due to the phasing issues created by this widening effect and clipping from loud volume.
Adding insult to injury, HTC One X features a badly shielded headset jack that makes noise whenever it is hooked up to sensitive speakers. We compared it to high-end and low-end phones, and none of them made the annoying static noise that the One X makes. This isn't a serious problem for people who only listen to music through headphones, but you may want to stay away from the One X if you are thinking about playing music through it with big speakers.
Beats Audio is detrimental to the sound quality of the One X.
The One X's display, unlike its audio features, is absolutely wonderful. The One X has Sony's Super IPS LCD2 display with 720p HD resolution, measuring at 4.7 inches diagonally. This is the best display on a mobile device that I have laid my eyes on. Color reproduction and contrast levels are excellent, and texts look amazingly crisp at 312 pixels per inch density.
The One X's display is as close to perfection as you can get in 2012
Another key point of the One X's display is that it features optical lamination. Optical lamination is a process in which screen is laminated to the glass - which is Corning Gorilla Glass, by the way - resulting in superior viewing and interaction experience. Although this detail might sound minuscule, it makes a huge difference in practice. First, lamination results in a superior viewing experience thanks to wider viewing angles and less glare. It appears brighter with higher contrast levels, as well, because there is no barrier between the display and the glass. Second, it feels like you are in direct touch with the content you are interacting with on the screen. Using the One X and then going back to an older smartphone - my old Motorola Droid had about half a millimeter gap between the display and the glass - makes you feel like you are rubbing on glass rather than directly manipulating things on the screen. The One X's display is as close to perfection as you can get in 2012.
The One X has a 8 megapixel camera with a 28mm f/2.0 wide angle lens. This camera produces some of the best shots I have seen coming from a mobile device. Thanks to the f/2.0 aperture, it takes decent photos in low light situations. Wide angle lens helps to capture all of the moment in your visual range.
Video mode is also fantastic on the One X. It can capture full HD 1080p resolution videos at the bit rate of 10Mbp/s, which is on par with most point-and-shoot cameras. There are fun Instagram-esque effects you can apply to both videos and photos you take on the One X. You can also take photos during video mode without stopping, which is pretty impressive. Most DSLR cameras can't do that!
The One X has pretty good radio in it. Call quality was crisp and clear through the One X, and it held a reliable data connection for on-the-go browsing. We've read some reports of death grip symptoms for the WiFi, a la the iPhone 4, but we haven't experience that issue with our review unit.
The HTC One X scores 4000 on an average in Quadrant Standard Benchmark, which is one of the highest scores we've seen. This is faster than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and on par with the Asus Transformer Prime TF201. Almost every app and game we tried on the One X ran fluidly, unless they were Tegra Zone games. The One X performs exceptionally.
I like a lot of things about the HTC One X. It has a unique and modern design, great specs, amazing display, and a decent camera. However, I found the audio side of things very disappointing. Beats Audio is completely useless, and the headphone jack is badly shielded. For a phone that boasts superior audio quality, HTC One X's audio performance is downright embarrassing.
That said, this phone is still the best Android phone you can get on Rogers. It is reasonably priced at $169.99 on a 3 year term, and you can get it at your local Rogers store right now. The One X gets 3 enjoyment balloons out of 4.
Steve Adams contributed to the Beats Audio section