Move over, Nokia with your fancy Lumia 920, HTC wants some of your limelight. The gadget giant's first Windows 8 flagship is definitely worthy of its time in the sun, but does it outperform Nokia's Windows 8 monster?
What Is It?
HTC has always been in the Windows Phone game. When Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7, HTC was there with the kickstand-toting HD7 — a decent showing of what the adolescent platform could do at the time. Now that the OS has grown up and bloomed into Windows Phone 8, HTC is back for more launch goodness with the HTC 8X.
The 8X packs a 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and an 8-megapixel camera. All that is buried underneath a gorgeous 4.3-inch (1280x720) screen with 342 pixels per inch. If that all sounds a little familiar to you, don't be afraid: the 8X is almost spec-for-spec with the Lumia 920.
Nokia's flagship offering beats out the 8X in a few different areas, though. The 8-megapixel camera on the 8X forgoes the fancy image stabilisation tech on the Lumia's 8.7-megapixel camera, the screen on the 8X is 0.2-inches smaller on the diagonal, the internal storage doesn't quite measure up and the screen resolution is slightly lower on the HTC side of things. All in all, the Lumia has the 8X by a nose, but it's not a nose you'll notice when you actually start using the two devices.
As far as price is concerned, the HTC 8X is exactly the same as the Lumia 920: an extra $5 per month on the $60 Freedom Connect plan from Telstra for 24 months.
Let's just get this out there: the 8X is possibly one of the best looking pieces of hardware 2012 has to offer. Say what you like about how these people run a company, but they sure know how to make an incredible looking smartphone. Why can't everything be this pretty?
The curved back is exquisite to look at and it simply melts into your palm. While the front of the handset is toughened Corning Gorilla Glass, the rear of the 8X is rubberised which helps with grip. The bright, Windows 8-colour scheme is back, too, with the 8X packing brighter tones than a 1980's dance party.
When you put the device side-by-side with a Lumia 920, the 8X looks that much more incredible. The screen may only be 0.2-inches smaller on the diagonal, but the curved back makes the 8X look like a much thinner handset. It's not as imposing or as heavy as the Lumia 920, which is great, and you'll feel the benefit of that curved, rubbery design when it slides into your pocket and essentially disappears.
Windows 8 is incredibly snappy on the 8X and there's virtually no input lag on the device. It's wonderfully responsive and Windows 8 is a dream as always.
You'll get about a day of battery life under heavy use with the HTC 8X, making it on par with other Windows Phone flagships like the Lumia 920.
The also 8X comes with a built-in 4G antenna so you're not about to be left behind on the connectivity front, and for what it's worth, the 8X has the best front-facing camera on the market at 2.1-megapixels shooting 1080p.
Finally, the 4.3-inch screen performs admirably in direct sunlight.
There are no two ways about it, the Lumia 920's camera makes the 8X's 8-megapixel offering look laughable. Low-light shots produce discoloured and noisy photos and shots taken in well-lit areas come out blurry and poor. It's a camera that takes a bit of the shine off an otherwise great device. Even the iPhone 5 outperforms it. Check out this low-light test between an iPhone 5 and the 8X for example.
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With every Windows Phone 8 handset, there's a selection of apps straight from the manufacturer to spruce up the experience. Nokia has a bevy of great lens apps for the camera, which includes geolocation app, City Lens. The bundled app offering from HTC, though, is pretty poor. Where Nokia has a bunch of fun, social apps, HTC have a flashlight app, a unit converter and a halfway-decent photo app. Disappointing.
Finally, the inclusion of Beats Audio enhancements barely makes a difference to the audio quality here. It's not bad audio, it's just no better from the inclusion of overhyped Beats tech.
Should You Buy It?
If you want an amazing Windows Phone 8 handset that Nokia doesn't make, the 8X is the handset for you. It's sexy, slim, feature-packed and specced to the nines with a price that's nice to match.
It's a solid first showing from HTC in the Windows Phone 8 market, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of the same. Hopefully HTC goes and 8X-ifies all future handsets. The One line is starting to look a little stale, after all.