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.
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: 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 >>