HTC Windows Phone 8X

HTC's big rival in the Windows Phone 8 space is Nokia with its Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. It's interesting then that HTC's flagship smartphone is priced at around £400, the same as the Nokia’s lower-spec 820. See also: Group test: what's the best Windows phone?

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Design

HTC has done a good job of the HTC Windows Phone 8X design with its flat front, rounded edges and smooth curving back. The handset would feel more comfortable in the hand if it wasn’t for its slightly pointed edges. The rubbery finish is pleasant to the touch and aids grip.

A plus point for us, especially when compared to Nokia's Lumia 820 and 920, is the size and weight of the 8X. This smartphone is more up to date and manageable with its thickness and scale figures of 10mm and 128g.

See: some more Windows Phone phone reviews.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is available in black or some Win-8-esque bold colours too. There's 'Flame Red', a sickly 'Limelight Yellow' and 'California Blue'. Our review model came in the latter blue colour. In certain lighting it looked quite purple.

We liked the design of the HTC Windows Phone 8X but weren’t so keen on the buttons. Located on the side and top, they sit almost entirely flush with the shell, making them difficult to locate without looking. They also have a very little travel and it's hard to know when you've even pressed one correctly.

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Build quality

Like the Lumia 920, the HTC Windows Phone 8X uses a one-piece polycarbonate shell which meets the Gorilla Glass front perfectly. For this reason the handset feels strong and well put together. 

A couple of small niggles stop it from getting top marks, though. Firstly the Micro-USB located on the bottom of the 8X moves around a fair bit when you plug a lead in. And the SIM card tray release mechanism rattles in its slot, audible if you should shake the phone.

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Hardware

HTC has opted for the same core components as Nokia's new Lumia duo for the Windows Phone 8X, namely a 1.5GHz  Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor and 1GB of memory.

We weren't surprised, then, to find performance to be at the same level as those rivals. Since Microsoft issues minimum specification requirements for Windows Phone 8 devices, you can be assured that the OS will run as well as Microsoft allows.

The 8X performed slightly better than the Nokias in the SunSpider JavaScript test, with a result of 910ms. There was a negligible difference of a few milliseconds.

One key difference that we noticed was that apps didn't have the lag when opening that we sometimes experienced on the Lumia handsets.

There are good and bad points when it comes to storage. At 16GB, it sits between the Lumia 820 and 920, a reasonable amount, but there’s no storage card expansion slot. That could prove to be a problem for some users, even if SkyDrive provides 7GB of cloud storage.

The main feature of the HTC Windows Phone 8X is the excellent 720 x 1280-pixel screen. At 4.3in across, it means a resolution of 342ppi, which is higher than the iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920. But unlike the Lumia phones you won’t be able to use non-smartphone gloves, and colours are much duller.

Connectivity is standard fare of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1 and NFC (near-field communications). Physical ports are the usual microUSB and headphone jack. In the UK, the 8X doesn't support EE’s 4G mobile network.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

 

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Cameras

For photography the Windows Phone 8X is off to a good start, with a dedicated two-stage camera/shutter button like Nokias’. It’s specified as 8Mp, although 6Mp is the default setting. With an LED flash, it matches the Lumia 820 and high-end smartphones.

Being able to half-press to focus is a boon and, on the whole, we found still images to be of good quality. Colours were natural but the camera tended to overexpose shots more than we'd like. It's certainly better than the Lumia 820 but not quite up to the standard set by the 920.

As we expect from a high-end smartphone, video footage can be recorded in up to full-HD size. The auto-focus sometimes took a while to kick in, but we found video footage excellent. However, the Lumia 920 pips it thanks to its floating lens technology.

The 8X has one of the best front cameras we've seen, able to shoot 2.1Mp stills and full-HD video.

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Software

Windows Phone 8 looks largely the same as Windows Phone 7 but offers a few new features. The Start Screen, made up of live tiles, is more customisable than before with more sizes available. The larger you make a tile, the more information it can display. Other new features include Rooms which enables you to privately share content from within the People Hub and Kids Corner which puts the handset into a customised mode for children.

The main issue with Windows Phone 8 is a lacklustre app store.  Big names are simply missing from the Windows Store making the platform look far less attractive than iOS or Android. Microsoft promises the situation will improve but it's got a fair bit of catching up to do.

HTC provides a handful of its own apps including Converter, Flashlight and Photo Enhancer. Another one, simply called HTC, provides weather information, stocks and news. Like HTC's Android smartphones there is Beat Audio ‘enhancement’. This annoyingly just cranks up the volume and adds more bass.

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Battery life

We found battery life from the 6.7Wh fixed battery to be typically short. At the end of a long day (testing the handset and filming our video review) we had 15 percent power remaining. Days of lighter use left us with around 30 percent. Either way we felt that the 8X needed charging at the end of each day.

The battery inside the Windows Phone 8X isn't removable and unlike the rival Lumia handsets there's no wireless option.

NEXT PAGE: Our original Windows Phone 8X preview, from earlier this year >>

Nokia's Lumia 920 is expected to give the Windows Phone platform a significant boost when it hits the market in the coming months, but HTC is still committed to Microsoft's mobile OS, too. Its latest effort is the Windows Phone 8X, a unibody polycarbonate slab finished in bright, vibrant colours. See Nokia Lumia 920 review.

First of all, that name. HTC has partnered with Microsoft to promote the 8X as a "signature Windows Phone", so the Windows Phone branding is positioned before the model number. It doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, but this partnership suggests that the Windows Phone 8X will be a huge focal point for Microsoft. That may be concerning to Nokia, but the more exposure for Windows Phone the better, in our opinion. See HTC One X review.

HTC has clearly put a huge amount of focus on the design of Windows Phone 8X. The company claims its designers based the case of the 8X on the Windows Phone 8 live tiles, hence the vibrant colour options. The device will come in California Blue, Graphite Black, Flame Red and Limelight Yellow colour variants and each model will have a matching Windows Phone 8 interface theme to suit. Visit Group test: what's the best smartphone?

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is constructed from a single piece of polycarbonate, otherwise known as a unibody design. HTC says the edges of the phone have been sculpted to fit comfortably in a users hand and said it worked hard to produce a phone without bumps or protrusions. All the physical buttons on the 8X are completely flush with the body. At 10.1mm thick and weighing 130g, the 8X isn't the thinnest or lightest smartphone on the market, but its design is definitively distinctive.

Despite a big emphasis on design, HTC hasn't neglected specifications. The Windows Phone 8X comes with a large 4.3in super LCD2 display with a 720p resolution of 1280x720. This gives the screen a pixel density of 342ppi — that's higher than Apple's iPhone 5, the Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy S III, so expect the Windows Phone 8X to display super crisp text.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

The HTC Windows Phone 8X comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera, but it's the front camera that is the real interesting feature here. There's an ultra-wide angle 88 degree lens that HTC will capture almost triple the area of most other front-facing smartphone cameras. The 2.1-megapixel front camera will support full HD 1080p video capture, whereas most other smartphones offer a maximum of 720p.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X will support the 1800MHz 4G networks used in Australia by Telstra and Optus. Perhaps the biggest downside is storage — there's only 16GB of internal memory but HTC hasn't included a microSD card slot to expand the on-board memory.

Other features of the Windows Phone 8X include the Beats Audio sound profile that will work in all applications and built-in NFC connectivity, while the handset is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has 1GB of RAM.

Microsoft has already released some details of the new Windows Phone 8 operating system that will power the 8X, but we'll learn more closer to its release date. What we already know is that there's a completely new interface with support for small, medium and large tiles, more colour customisation options, built-in Skype integration, a data use monitor, and a revamped backup system that now includes the ability to backup SMS messages.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X will be available from November, but no specific date or pricing has been announced.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is a unibody polycarbonate slab finished in bright, vibrant colours. As a "signature Windows Phone", the 8X appears as though it will be a huge focal point for Microsoft as it launches the latest Windows Phone 8 operating system in the coming months.

A video detailing the design of the HTC Windows Phone 8X can be seen below:

HTC Windows Phone 8X: Specs

  • DISPLAY: 4.3 inch touch screen with Gorilla® Glass 2
  • RESOLUTION: HD 720p
  • Processor: Qualcomm® S4 1.5 GHz, Dual-core
  • OS: Windows Phone 8
  • Memory: Total storage: 16 GB, available capacity varies RAM: 1GB
  • Size: 132.35 x 66.2 x 10.12 mm
  • GPS: Internal GPS antenna with GLONASS
  • Connectivity: 3.5 mm stereo audio jack,NFC capable,Bluetooth 2.1+EDR,Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n: Main camera: 8 megapixel camera with auto focus, LED flash, and BSI sensor (for better low-light captures)
  • Front camera: Capture more with the ultra-wide-angle front camera, 2.1 megapixel front camera
  • Batter: Embedded & rechargeable Li-ion Polymer battery, Capacity: 1800 mAh
  • DISPLAY: 4.3 inch touch screen with Gorilla® Glass 2
  • RESOLUTION: HD 720p
  • Processor: Qualcomm® S4 1.5 GHz, Dual-core
  • OS: Windows Phone 8
  • Memory: Total storage: 16 GB, available capacity varies RAM: 1GB
  • Size: 132.35 x 66.2 x 10.12 mm
  • GPS: Internal GPS antenna with GLONASS
  • Connectivity: 3.5 mm stereo audio jack,NFC capable,Bluetooth 2.1+EDR,Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n: Main camera: 8 megapixel camera with auto focus, LED flash, and BSI sensor (for better low-light captures)
  • Front camera: Capture more with the ultra-wide-angle front camera, 2.1 megapixel front camera
  • Batter: Embedded & rechargeable Li-ion Polymer battery, Capacity: 1800 mAh

OUR VERDICT

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is the best all-rounder of the Windows Phone 8 smartphones we've tried. It has a different and less comprehensive selection of pre-loaded apps to Nokia models, but the hardware is better than the identically priced Lumia 820.

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