HTC’s new One range - which also includes the HTC One S and HTC One V - aims for the Android heights with slick design, fast NVIDIA processors, greatly enhanced cameras and Beats Audio from the Wonka-esque lab of Dr Dre. The HTC One X is the flagship, sporting a truly spectacular 4.7-inch screen, yet remaining thin, easily pocketable and usable by everyone short of Tiny Hands McGee.
HTC One X: Design
This is not just a slight reworking of the HTC line. Long-standing problems such as samey, mediocre looks and poor battery life have been addressed and the result is an HTC handset unlike any other, even if it talks the same design language.
It’s a highly tactile phone that you want to stroke and roll round your hand like a worry stone, it’s perhaps the most touchable handset since the iPhone 3GS.
That’s partly because there are no visible seams apart from the power and volume buttons, the micro USB charging slot and a tiny cover for the micro SIM.
It’s under 9mm thick and this makes it manageable in all but the smallest hands. There’s a sealed battery, so no removable back to spoil the look, and more space to squeeze in more battery with less cladding; vital with such a big screen in such a thin body.
Like the Nokia Lumia 800, this handset proves that you can achieve a high-end feel without relying on aluminium or glass. The One X is made from polycarbonate – posh plastic, basically – making it light in spite of its size. The unibody frame means it all holds together effortlessly, with no creaking, no matter how much you try and flex it.
Look closely and you’ll see the white back is matt but the edge and front are gloss. Matching these different finishes so smoothly is further proof of HTC’s forensic attention to detail.
HTC One X: Screen
About that screen: turn the phone on and you can’t miss the remarkable display. At 4.7 inches, it’s massive, sure, but actually it’s the resolution that stands out. This measures 312 pixels per inch, almost as high-definition as the iPhone 4S, and the larger size means it looks arguably more impressive.
It’s sharp, colourful and deeply attractive, looking as detailed as a printed photograph. It’s especially good with video or showing off photographs.
HTC One X: Camera
You’ll likely be doing plenty of that because the eight-meg/1080p camera with backside illuminated sensor and LED flash is another standout feature. It take great pics and vids, with minimal shutter lag, but HTC has really aced it with the extra features.
You can shoot stills while recording video or even extract stills from video in “post-production”, picking the frames you want from recorded footage. Stills shutter and video recording buttons are onscreen at all times, along with a lens which, in Instagram style, lets you add sepia, vignette, distortion and other effects which you can view as you snap. Then, when you’re playing back video, touching the shutter icon will capture still images from the moving ones.
HTC One X: Speed
The One X is one of the first phones to employ a NVIDIA Tegra quadcore processor, and it is BRISK. Video playback is stutter-free, games are quick and glitchless. The touchscreen’s responses are Teflon-smooth and immediate. In every department, the phone’s speed knocks you out.
HTC One X: Ice Cream Sandwich
It’s also one of the first to market with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android. As ever with HTC, its overlaid with the company’s Sense skin. Sense is far better than similar overlays from LG, Sony and Motorola. HTC Sense is all-encompassing, with really well thought out apps and features.
Take the lock screen. There, you drag a ring up the screen to wake the phone, but you can also drag one of four, user-selected icons – defaults are phone, mail, messages and camera – into the ring, to launch that app or function.
Lists and menus on Android phones used to have an elastic spring to them as you scrolled. Now when you reach the top of a menu, contacts or missed call list, say, a blue light seeps out to tell you you’re at the end. On the One X, the list’s entries separate like carefully arranged slips of paper sliding apart. It’s really rather satisfying.
HTC One X: Battery Life
Battery life hasn’t always been HTC’s strongest suit, the One X rights that. It gives a good 12 hours of power usage, making it to its nightly recharges with few alarms. The good stuff really is laid on thick, here.
HTC One X: Browsing
The web browser works well, including a well-executed, Apple-style Read button that strips out images to leave just text. Zoom in on this and the words reformat to fit the screen. The menu button offers neat extras like a tab option that makes incognito browsing easy and one-press access to Flash player or desktop versions of sites.
HTC One X: Beats
The sound is all processed via Dr Dre Beats Audio software and hardware, giving improved sonics on everything from the The Byrds to Angry Birds. It’s actually difficult to find things to criticise here. Some might balk at the lack of a microSD slot, but 32GB of built-in storage is plenty, and you also get access to bonus Dropbox storage for two years.
Similarly, some don’t like non-removable batteries but if the result, as here, is greater longevity, it’s pretty hard to complain.
HTC One X: Apps
Furthermore, older caveats about range and quality of apps and functionality compared to iPhones barely apply anymore. Okay, the App Store and iTunes Store are better than Google Play and Amazon MP3, but really not by much. Similarly, while the experience of iOS could be described as a little slicker, what was a gulf in quality is now more like a narrow alleyway.
HTC One X: Verdict
The HTC One X is a handsome, speedy handset with power and versatility. You can see that a lot of thought has been applied to key features – the OS, the camera, the Beats Audio – but also to details such as the carefully milled holes that form the earpiece and rear speakers. If you can live with the size, this is currently the best Android smartphone around.