review Bigger, faster and brimming with features, HTC’s One X strikes a major blow in the Android arms race.
HTC’s One X sports a very generous 4.7-inch display, yet manages to retain an elegant look and feel. It’s only 8.9mm thick and weighs in at an impressive 130gm thanks to the polycarbonate unibody design with the slightest of curves which should still fit most pockets.
Under the bonnet beats one of the first 1.5GHz quad-core smartphone processors — the NVIDIA Tegra 3 — accompanied by 1GB of RAM. Menus are silky smooth and apps load very fast, but not all apps can take full advantage of all those cores. Even graphics intensive games don’t see a major boost, but that will come. For now the grunt shines through when multi-tasking and it offers a certain level of future-proofing.
The One X’s other claim to fame is that it’s one of the first Australian phones to run Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” out of the box, following in the footsteps of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This is not the place for a detailed ICS review, but it’s worth noting that HTC Sense 4.0 adds some handy tweaks and is less intrusive on ICS (plus it’s faster thanks to the quad-core processor). Yet HTC doesn’t bundle as many extra apps and services as Samsung does.
Fire up the One X and you’re presented with a bright, crisp 1280×720 Super LCD display. It offers an impressive 312 dots per inch, falling only a tad short of the iPhone 4S’ retina display. Some people prefer vivid AMOLED screens, but LCD offers more accurate colours and whiter whites which improve the contrast to help combat outdoor glare.
The ultrasharp display and beefy powerplant are put to good use with the One X’s impressive multimedia features. It sports a 1.3MP front camera and 8MP rear camera, that latter of which is not only sharp but boasts impressive low-light performance thanks to an f/2.0 lens (assisted by a dedicated chip for image processing). Put to the test this translates into not only sharper low-light images but less speckle in the shadows (known as “noise”) and more accurate colours. You’ll also enjoy 1080p video recording and 720p video chat.
Music lovers might appreciate the One X’s Beats Audio logo, although HTC has stopped shipping Beats Audio-certified headphones. Using the supplied headphones I still noticed that music sounded richer with Beats Audio enabled. But even when disabled the sound wasn’t too bad, about on par with the sound from an iPhone 4 using the same HTC headphones. To be honest audiophiles who would appreciate the difference have probably already invested in high-end earbuds or headphones.
The phone also supports Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX for improved audio quality. Add to this 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with 2.4 and 5GHz support. You’ll also find micro-USB but not a micro-SD slot — a sacrifice that’s becoming more common with the move to ultra-slim designs (along with a non-replaceable battery). Thankfully there’s a generous 32GB of onboard storage. You can buy a USB to HDMI adaptor, plus the contact points on the back of the phone support an HDMI-enabled charge cradle (which you might need to import).
To top things off the phone features NFC for close-range wireless transactions. HTC was showing off the NFC features at the phone’s launch, but we’re still waiting for the technology to reach critical mass in Australia (which sadly may not be until the iPhone comes to the party).
About the only area where this handset isn’t pushing the envelope is mobile broadband. The One X doesn’t support LTE or DC-HSDPA, but you’ll find LTE in the One XL which Telstra is launching soon. The trade-off for the One XL’s LTE goodness is a dual-core processor rather than quad-core. It’s interesting to note the One X is a quad-band HSDPA device supporting both 850 and 900MHz (relying on a micro-SIM card). This is good news for Vodafone customers, as they can tap into the 850MHz metro rollout. The phone supports HSDPA “up to 21 Mbps”, which means real-world speeds of up to 10-ish Mbps (obviously your mileage may vary depending on your network).
The One X had trouble running the Rightware Browsermark but eventually returned results between 84,505 and 91,753 — putting most Android devices to shame. It’s worth noting that Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus outguns in at 96,015, even though the Nexus only packs a dual-core 1.2GHz Texas Instruments powerplant. It’s a reminder that performance is more than a numbers game. What’s interesting is the One X also includes a fifth core, letting the phone drop back into single-core power-saving mode when you don’t need all that extra grunt. Even with this, the battery life is mediocre and power users could be running on fumes by the end of the day.
That’s a lot of ground covered and we’ve really just scratched the surface. It’s still early days for Ice Cream Sandwich and quad-core processors and we can expect more great handsets this year, but for now we’d say HTC’s One X is the new gold standard in Android superphones. For now the One X is available in Australia on Vodafone, Optus and Virgin starting at around $59 per month. They’re not offering outright pricing, but if you look around online you’ll find an $899 RRP but it sells for less.
Adam Turner walked away from an old-school newsroom to embrace his inner geek and become a freelance technology journalist. With a passion for mobile gadgets and the digital lounge room, Adam’s on a quest to attain oneness with technology.
Image credit: HTC