HTC 8X Australian Review: Dangerous Curves Ahead

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.

What's Good?

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.

What's Bad?

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.

Click to enlarge...

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.


    Just last week I was talking with my fiance about what phone we should get. We were definitely making the switch from iOS to WP8, we just didn't know which handset to go for as the HTC 8X seemed relatively available and the Lumia 920's were NOWHERE to be found. We we're pretty much set on the HTC because we knew we could order one online, until we got to Carindale. I walked into the Telstra shop there to see if they had a floor model of the HTC 8X, which they didn't, so I asked when they'd be receiving shipments of the 920, seeing as I've been chasing up availbility for weeks with no word from their customer care or forums. The guy helping us stared at me blankly for a few seconds and said "right now".

    I couldn't believe it. A few weeks of chasing them down, trying to snag all the information I could about the next shipment and here they were, sitting in a store that I just wanted to walk in and out of to have a glance at the HTC 8X. Now we're both extremely proud owners of the Lumia 920. The phone is a beautiful piece of tech, from build design to operation fluidity, so if this HTC 8X is on par, do NOT hesitate to get one. With L920's being so scarce, this would be the obvious next choice, so unless you can happen across some 920's like I did, get this phone.

    The ecosystem will grow with time and with what's already available, I can't say I miss much from the App store, save a few games, but that's really it.

    Get a WP8 handset. For serious, people. They're effing incredible.

      I agree with you here, I got my 920 on Saturday (1 of 2 left at Airport West Telstra shop in Melb, my Dad got the other one lol) and it is a fantastic phone.

      If the 8X is even close to the 920 then it's a worthy purchase.

    I had a look at a Lumia 820 and HTC 8S side-by-side at Optus and an 820 alongside an 8X across the road at Vodaphone last Saturday. There is no Telstra shop around here so I've not seen the 920 yet but the 820 was quite underwhelming. The plastic case is shiny and the plastic buttons look really cheap and nasty. It is also quite large. OTOH, the 8S is gorgeous and the only thing stopping me from signing on the dotted line is the lack of 4G.

    Across the road, the 8X simply blew me away. It is stunning and weighs almost nothing compared to the 820. The only things stopping me from signing on the dotted line over there were the colour (I don't like blue) and the Vodaphone network.

      Isn't the 8X 16gb fixed NAND only? I thought I remembered you posting that expandable memory was one of the most important features to you.

        I don't know about NAND, or why I would care if it is, but yes, no expandable storage is yet another reason I have no intention of getting an 8X. It is also too big. I had another look at them all today and noticed another thing against the 8X - despite it's incredible, "retina"-class pixel density, its display was noticeably worse than the low-res screen on the Lumia820. The Nokia screen displayed more vibrant colour and had much higher contrast.

        Right now, the Lumia820 is the one to beat for me. It is only fractionally wider than my current phone, which it makes up for by being a little thinner. In the end, though, the problem is that it is just too expensive. If they can't fix my Lumia800 for a reasonable amount, I think I will end up with an HTC 8S on a new $29 plan with Virgin because that's the deal that makes the most sense for my needs (as opposed to wants). 4G would be nice but I'm not about to pay double to get it and the 8S ticks all the other boxes for me.

        Last edited 11/12/12 12:01 pm

          You care about NAND because it's is a hell of a lot faster than the sneaky "put an SD card internally that can't be removed" trick some of the OEM's were doing with WP7.

          End of the day even the 620 has removable SD storage, is your preferred 3.8" size, and is still dual core 1ghz. Not sure what quality the screen will be like though when we finally get to see them. From memory they're meant to be $350 outright RRP? Shouldn't be too hard to get under $300 once they're in the wild.

            Why would I care how fast the storage in my phone is? I'm not using it to edit uncompressed HD video, I have a laptop for that, just to listen to music or watch streaming video. An SD card will be more than up to the task.

            Aesthetics are very important to me and the Lumia 620 is ugly, although maybe in basic black it wouldn't be so bad. And you're right, it is likely to have a very poor screen if the 610 and 710 are anything to go by, which is another blot in its copybook for me. OTOH, the 8S is gorgeous, arguably moreso than the 8X, and its screen as at least OK (roughly on par with the 8X). I think the reason I like the look of the 8S is that it is quite like a big version of ZuneHD, which suits my aesthetic down to the ground.

              Have you used a Samsung Omnia 7 and compared it to a HTC HD7? The HD7 is horrendously slow, and it's all down to the onboard storage. It doesn't matter where you store your music and such as much, but the access speed of your operating system and applications can have a huge difference in your day to day enjoyment of a device.

              I haven't seen the 8S yet, do they have them in Optus stores or similar?

                I used to have a Samsung Focus, which was expandable via microSD. The difference is that WP7 integrated all the storage into one big drive, whereas WP8 sees them as separate storage devices and allows you to choose what you store where. e.g. I will only store my music on mine, which will allow me to mirror the contents of my ZuneHD and keep the paltry internal storage for more phone-like things.

                But if the HD7 was slow, I'd suggest it was down to the amount and type of RAM, not the storage, unless WP7 uses a page file. The 8S has the same 512Mb of RAM as my Lumia800 and the one in the shop seemed every bit as fast as the Lumia 820, which in turn was as fast as the HTC 8X, so I can't see it being an issue. That's the thing, there is no way I would buy anything like this unless/until I'd had a chance to check it out for myself.

                  Have you read this about the 8S? 4GB of internal memory is pretty useless once the OS is installed. SD expanded memory is for music/video/photo's only, not apps.


                  4Gb is plenty. Most apps are just a few Mb, you'd need to have hundreds installed before it became an issue. It might be different with games but I'm not a child, so that's not an issue. I got my Lumia800 back yesterday, completely reinitialised, and it had 13.72Gb of its 16Gb free. That's almost 2Gb for apps on the 8S, which is plenty for my needs.

    "Even the iPhone 5 outperforms it"? Why is a camera that is a benchmark for phone camera overall performance put across as a low quality baseline here? Surely you should be comparing it to, say, the Galaxy SIII if you want to talk about whether it is reaching a rating of "acceptable"

    So.... The bad is that the Lumia 920 camera trumps the 8x's camera.. Then you proceed to show an iphone 5 shot next to an 8x shot and call it a day... what sort of journalism is this?

      Obviously they were using whatever phones they have available and didn't have a 920 to compare it to.

    Got my 920 the other day, pretty damn nice, been on ios for ages, so a nice change.

      Would you definitely recommend it? I have an S3 and an iPhone 4S, but I need a big change, and I want to go Windows Phone. What's the app store like? The stability and speed of the phone too? I've never been able to say that any phone has been faster then the iPhone. It sounds like I'm a fanboy but it's true, iOS is just so smooth and fluid and I want something that can match that.

        It's definitely smooth and fluid all over. And nokia is addressing some issues like adding an EQ (thank God) with their handsets. But a couple of things still annoy me compared to iOS such as no custom SMS tones, no separate volume for ring volume compared to system volume and no separate volume levels for headphones plugged in/not plugged in.
        And the multitasking definitely isn't as good yet. Also having everything locked to Bing really gets to you after a while.
        And the search button really seems to be wasted/useless as long as it also is locked to bing.

        I used iOS for about 4 years before this and I tried windows phone for about 3 months now and unfortunately as it stands iOS is still the better experience. For now. Maybe a year from now if microsoft keeps working at it it might be getting close to even.

          I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't as mature as iOS, and the small niggles are just that... small.

          On the whole, the phone is amazing, the screen crystal clear, and the animations/transitions super-smooth. Can't fault the build quality, and the weight/size is just perfect for me.

          That's probably a very good summary. I had an iPhone 3G, I remember when I first got it, I was blown away, I was dead wrong in all my scepticisms of Apple.

          But two years ago I got a Mozart, primarily because it was something fresh. I now am a proud owner of the Lumia 920. I love it. I relaly love Metro design language, it's sad to see it hasn't taken off as fast as I thought it would, but I think Windows Phone is slowly winning fans.

        Go into a shop and compare them side-by-side. That's what I did - iPhone 4 vs HTC 7 Mozart. There was not a single thing about the iPhone that I thought was better, except for the handset design. WP7 seemed to do everything at least as well and some things better. Since then it has improved greatly. If you are familiar with iOS, there might be some things you really like about it that WP7 does differently, but going in with no experience of either, it only took me 10 minutes to decide to go with WinPhone (but not with the Mozart).

    @lukehopewell any truth to the reports of the colour rubbing off the edges of the phones back?

      I would expect not, given that it is solid colour all the way through, not just a painted surface.

    Am I the only one who thinks It looks hideous? The only one I liked the look of is the white one but there's still that really odd colored speaker grill at the top :/ I want to try and love it but I can't seem to get past it

      Yes, you are. Have you seen one in a shop yet? Don't pass judgement until you have.

      Last edited 10/12/12 1:44 pm

        Agreed :-)

        hazards of living in WA I guess. I'll get to see one eventually

    Now I am torn. I am coming from an HTC Mozart and was going to avoid another HTC and go for the Lumia 920. But I love blue and prefer the styling of the 8X (slightly). Camera is high on the list for my use, and for the other HTC's in our house battery has been an issue. So which way do I go?

      Between the 2, you're getting almost the same phone - There are a few key differences, mainly being that Nokia has provided some very good apps for the Lumia where-as the HTC doesn't have the same kickers. Battery life seems to be in favor of the HTC, but not by a noticeable amount (according to tests I've seen regarding both devices). The HTC runs a bit hotter than the 920, as well, but again, not a big deal for most.

      In all honesty, if you can do without the L920's apps (They are good, mind you - Especially Nokia Drive. My god *drool*) go with the phone that suits your cosmetic preferences. You won't be disappointed either way.

      I cant speak for the 8X, I have read reviews were they say the camera hold up incredibly well even against the 920. And well like you, I wanted other colour options in the 920.. Namely the purple of the 820.

      That being said I bought a 920 and its an incredible phone! The battery issue aside, its just an incredible phone. Going from the Mozart to either you wont believe the differences! I jumped from the Dell Venue Pro (also have a Mozart and Titan in the house) and every day I find something new/faster/better about the phone.

    @lukehopewell How do the photo's compare to the iPhone 4? Some of us are upgrading from the 4 after the long 2+ year stint on the original 4 hardware...

    If the size of the Lumia bothered me (which it doesn't), I'd be going the 8X for sure. Looks hot.

    want a 920, do you think i can find one. none to be had from a telstra shop in north queensland

    The HTC 8X looks pretty damn fantastic aesthetically, but after the hideously poor overall quality of Mozart and HD7's I've dealt with, I'm pretty severely turned off HTC.

    Not to mention the lack of value add apps compared to Nokia, and the tiny 16gb non expandable memory.

      ^ this. I love Windows Phone enough to go it again, but maybe not with another HTC.
      So although I prefer the 8X styling and love the blue, it may be a White Lumia 920 that I get instead. Happy to wait until after Christmas when stock levels should no longer factor either.
      The rest of my household now uses iOS. Even the Android users have switched across to iOS this time around. I can't seem to convince any of them to go WP - even the hardcore XBox gamer.

    I can grab an htc 8x right now but i'm still waiting for my pre-ordered lumia 920 and it's been more than a month now (ordered it nov 3). hardly normal still can't tell me when they're coming, this is really annoying it's making me crazy!!! what's up with that nokia????

    Is the 8X meant to be in stores now? Haven't seen it on demo at either of our Telstra shops yet.

    Looks like it would be nice - rubber grip, blue, slimline - but I don't think I could live with that camera or storage compared to the Nokia. Plus I see people with hardware issues with HTC, where the Nokia is... well, a Nokia.

    Saw the two side by side today at cannington. AWESOME!!!!!! I can't wait for my plan to be finished as i will be upgrading. I currently run HTC Mozart and have no objections to either. though i will Nokia get a nokia lumia as there will be more accessories for it. :-):-):-)

    Telstra still haven't got stock online for the Nokia Lumia 920 and I need a Windows Phone 8 NOW! So I took a punt and ordered the HTC 8X. I'm not a big photo snapper so I'm not that concerned about the camera. I'll let you all know what I think once it arrives next week! P.S. Shame on you both Nokia and Samsung (Ativ-S) for not having stock readily available in Australia pre-Xmas! :-(

    Had my HTC 8X delivered on Jan. 4th. On Jan 18th the phone was in my pocket on the way to the airport. I took it out to go through security and it was dead. I thought initially it had gone flat, but after 2 days of trying to charge it, I now realise the 8X was completely dead. It doesn't take a charge, won't turn on and doesn't respond to the hard reset (Power & Volume Down buttons). I have RMI'd it with Telstra for replacement. I'm just glad it died within the first 30 days so requires replacement rather than fixing.

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