HTC 8X Review: Windows Phones Are Finally Getting Good

Nokia has been alone on the vanguard of worthwhile Windows Phone hardware for a while now. But that's no longer the case. Here's HTC's 8X. And it's got enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with anything on Android or iOS.

What Is It?

An HTC phone built for Windows Phone 8.

Who Is It For?

Anyone who wants a Windows Phone, but doesn't feel up to the larger Nokia Lumia 920.

Design

The 8X is a little thicker than the Samsung Galaxy S III, but its curved-in edges make it feel thinner than it is. It's so solid, it feels like you coated an iPad 2 in soft-touch paint, then shrank it down to 4.3 inches.

Using It

The 8X experience is a function of its software, obviously, and you can find our full review of Windows Phone 8 here. But on its own, it's a really nice piece of hardware. The Qualcomm S4 dual core processor is snappy, and makes WP8's already snappy animations seem even faster.

Apps open ridiculously quickly, especially considering how slow things used to be on Windows Phone. We loaded up 10 back-to-back-to-back, and didn't experience slowdown.

And the screen! Oh, goodness, the screen is lovely. It's a 1280x720 (341ppi) display, and it positively sings with colour and sharpness on videos and in WP8. The screen takes a hit on viewing angle, though — don't set it down to read. And some apps that haven't been updated for WP8 resolutions letterbox in preposterous ways.

Maps were accurate — they're powered by Nokia Maps instead of Bing now — and did not send me anywhere I didn't want to go. But you're going to have to wait a while for Nokia's transit and turn-by-turn features to make it to all Windows Phones. They're exclusive to Nokia for a while longer, which is a downer for everyone else.

The Best Part

It's the build quality. Holding this phone feels like a rubberised katana blade. It's solid like an iPhone, but does not exude fragility like one.

Tragic Flaw

Battery life was not great. With medium-heavy but certainly not constant use it would be just about dead before the end of a workday. Since this is the European model, it didn't even have LTE sucking down power.

This Is Weird

We couldn't get the NFC to interact with a Beats Pill bluetooth speaker. That's not a surprise since the Pill also hassled our Galaxy S III, but it's worth noting that it didn't register at all.

Test Notes

  • The camera did not perform very well in low light. It's a relatively fast lens — f/2.0 — but all of its low-light adjustment seems to be done in post processing in HTC's Photo Enhance app.
  • Squeezing the phone in the middle of the display proves the build quality is solid — much more so than the plastic-backed Galaxy S III. However, repeated squeezing — not hard enough to break it, just the sort of grip you'd use day to day — resulted in some crackling sounds. This could be glue settling, but it did not fill us with confidence, even though the phone feels so solidly built.
  • Sound on the 8X itself is not great. Its speaker is pretty quiet compared to the Galaxy S III, which isn't a problem for regular use, but it's not a very loud if you use your phone as an alarm clock.
  • Touch events lag very slightly if you're trying to out-pace the display's reaction time. That's not ideal, but it's not a huge deal, and is masked a bit by WP8's active animation style.

Should You Buy This?

If you want a Windows Phone, this is one of the best options available to you. But if you're on the fence about making the switch, you probably want to hang back and see what the Lumia 920 looks like, and then maybe a bit longer to see if the ecosystem actually does manage to populate itself. But for the Windows Phone faithful, this is a hell of a makeup present from HTC.

HTC 8X

Display: 4.3-inch 1280x720 (341ppi), Gorilla Glass 2 Processor: Qualcomm S4 1.5GHz dual-core Dimensions: 132.35mm x 66.2mm x 10.12mm Weight: 130g Storage: 16GB, microSIM RAM: 1GB Battery: 1800mAh Camera: 8MP, f/2.0, BSI sensor Network: GSM, EDGE, HSPA, HSPA+


Comments

    How was the audio quality through headphones? They've been advertising that they have built a headphone amp into the unit, so I'm very keen to find out if it's made a tangible difference.

    Correction: The specs should read "HTC 8X" and not "HTC One X".

    Anyone else notice that it says "HTC One X" as the subtitle for the specs at the bottom?

    As an owner of a HTC One XL the poor battery life doesn't surprise me. My phone is terrible at lasting a day on a single charge. Love HTC build quality but not liking the battery life.

      Yeap +1 to this.
      My OneX battery life is terrible too.
      It was also bad with my Incredible S.
      HTC really hasn't mastered battery life yet.

        I put mine just on 3g to make sure i gey a day out of it, if i am desperate i'll turn off the auto sync

      Surprising given I'm pretty sure this phone was meant to have the biggest battery of all WP8 devices.

        Nope...you're thinking of the Lumia 920.

          Nope we're both wrong, Samsung Ativ will be the biggest at 2300 :)

    Sadly, I can't see any compelling reason to choose one of these over a Lumia820. The processor is a bit faster, the screen res is higher and it looks sensational but without a microSD card (ignore what the specs say, there isn't one in the 8X) the storage is below par for a flagship device. Until we get local pricing for the new Lumias, it's hard to know but MobiCity has these for $649, which is not cheap.

      It's a shame they didn't give this device. I know the 8gb and 16gb models sell more, but it's the tech heads who buy the 32gb and 64gb models who go around turning their friends to a platform and brand.

      The local pricing was announced here yesterday "The 920 will cost $829, while the 820 is $649" so around the cost of iPhones, hopefully the new Nexus 4 pricing will shake things up a bit.

        If the Lumia 820 is $649, then MobiCity should be doing it for around $500, if their other phone prices are a guide. At that price they'll be lucky to sell any 8X's at all, except for the fact that carriers will not offer the full range to their customers so many might not have a choice.

          The only worries I would have with the 820 (which we will know more about once its properly reviewed) is the battery and the resolution, it has a smaller battery than the 8x which according to this will be lucky to make it through a days moderate use. 480x800 on a 4.3, that res looked pixelated on my old 3.7 inch HTC.

          Last edited 31/10/12 11:31 am

            Well, the pentile WVGA screen on my Lumia800 looks spectacular - better than a Retina Display iPhone - so it is fine by me, even if it is 12% larger here. But it will all come down to how WP8 handles different display resolutions. If it is just scaling up or down and you don't get any real advantage from the extra pixels, then I won't be too fussed but if it means you can pack more tiles onto the home screen, it might be worthwhile. The problem with that, though, is that it is already hard to read some things on my Lumia800, e.g. phone numbers in my contact list, so the best result would be to scale some things but not others. It really is going to be too hard to know until I can see them for myself, although from all the press shots it appears that everything gets scaled on higher res screens.

            With far fewer pixels to push around, the Lumia820 will almost certainly be much kinder to the battery. Even if it's not, I get 3 days from my Lumia800, on average, so it would need to be spectacularly bad not to get through a full day. Also, in another review I read, they said the 8X's battery life was excellent, so you can take it all with a grain of salt. Again, we're all going to have to suck it and see once they hit the shelves.

              Sorry man, but that's simply not true. I love my Lumia 800 as well, but to say it has a better screen than the iPhone retina is false. Sure, the depth black has is incredible, but otherwise it is not up to scratch. Colors are waaaaay to saturated and unrealistic and the pentile configuration means text is actually quite fuzzy when reading websites.

    "Storage: 16GB, microSIM"
    Would the MicroSim really be classed as a storage device :?

    Release date? How do the screen and camera measure up to the 820/920?

    I had a HTC Incredible S not that long ago. Worst phone ever. Battery life was atrocious and the speed of the phone went downhill after 6 months so I had to upgrade. Never again

    i think these are just overhyped... Gone wait till the 'next generation'

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