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HTC One X: Review

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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HTC’s new flagship smartphone is a powerhouse and a thing of beauty, but will users appreciate it?

Announced at Mobile World Congress in February, the HTC One X is the Taiwanese-manufacturer’s latest attempt at smartphone dominance. As the first phone powered by a Tegra3 processor, it’s a powerful beast and one capable of doing just about anything you can throw at it, without breaking a sweat.

It’s one of the best Android handsets on the market and undoubtedly one impressive piece of kit, but only the most intensive of users will maximise its potential.

Large dimensions

At first glance, the One X is a particularly large device that lives dangerously close to the line that differentiates a smartphone from a tablet-hybrid like the Samsung Galaxy Note. But the upside of this is that it is able to accommodate a whopping 4.7-inch touchscreen and its size is offset by the fact that it’s also very thin, meaning it isn’t so awkward to carry around in your pocket.

With dimensions such as these, it can take a while getting used to holding the handset, especially with regards to finding the most efficient way of using the buttons. Three are located at the bottom of the device – home, back and applications, while buttons at the side control volume and a switch at the top turns it on and off.

The polycarbonate body is available in both grey and white and although it looks pretty, it isn’t perfect. The sheer size of the screen means you will have to readjust your hold fairly frequently, while the volume buttons often get in the way, causing you to inadvertently change the level of sound. There’s no dedicated camera button and the device is so thin that the rear camera actually sticks out, looking a bit unsightly.

Say cheese

For all the inconvenience it’s causing, the screen had better be worth it – and it is. The vibrant 720p S-LCD Gorilla Glass display offers sharp images and displays media content perfectly, and with less eye strain than other devices.

Its size means that it’s much easier to type with than some of its competitors, especially when it is in landscape orientation, ensuring that writing and editing documents in the likes of PolarisOffice is much more productive, even if it’s still no substitute for a physical keyboard.

The screen is also the perfect vehicle to show just what is capable with the One X’s rather impressive camera. Weighing in at a meaty eight megapixels and capable of shooting high-definition video, the camera is a powerful instrument, made even more useful by the fact that you can take pictures while you are still recording video. Combined with the various lens effects and 99 continuous shot burst mode, it is a useful photography tool in its own right.

Work hard, play hard

The camera can be launched directly from the lock screen by dragging a ring onto the icon, as can messaging and phone apps. The phone runs version 4.0 of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich and features all of the improvements that entails. It also means that it can run Google Chrome, which is an improvement on the standard browser and naturally, all of the applications on the Google Play store are at your disposal.

The interface is clear and HTC Sense widgets are present and accounted for on the home screen. You can add as much or as little as you want, with social networking updates and weather reports among the most useful.

Video and music applications cater for those wanting to put media on the phone and owners of Beats audio headphones can benefit from improved sound quality. Files are stored on either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, which sadly can’t be expanded due to the surprising absence of a MicroSD slot.

An FM tuner is also on board if Internet radio apps such as TuneIn Radio aren’t enough, despite the relatively slim nature of the phone. Near Field Communication support is also part of the package.

Under the HTC One X’s bonnet

But the headline feature is the quad-core processor, and there’s no denying that the One X is a very quick phone. Browsing the web and loading applications take no time at all and simple functions can be performed in an instant.

However it’s difficult to see how most users will benefit and which, if any, applications can currently take advantage of such power, with the possible exception of gaming, but this won’t be a priority for most users. The Tegra-3 processor provides access to the Tegrazone store, but there seems to be nothing practical that justifies the need for such advanced hardware.

Much like the Bugatti Veyron, the fastest street-legal car in the world, it appears as though HTC have created a good looking product with plenty of power, just because it can and perhaps to differentiate itself from high-end rivals Apple and Samsung.

An inconvenient truth

The one advantage is that the One X appears to be future-proof for any future applications that are willing to harness its processing power, but in the immediate future, it’s arguable that the negative aspects of the processor’s inclusion might just outweigh the positives.

Most modern smartphones must be charged fairly regularly as they become ever more powerful, but the battery life of the One X may be a concern. We found that if used sparingly, the battery would last for the whole day, but embark on some extended web browsing or any of the other things you would naturally want to do, and the battery disappears at an alarming rate, and you will be reaching for a charger.

The problem is exacerbated by the size and quality of the screen, which ensures that the One X haemorrhages power – although a power-save mode is some help.

HTC claims that improvements in its technology mean this phone actually has a longer battery life than earlier, less powerful devices such as the HTC Sensation. Long term owners might concerned that the battery is sealed into the unit, so you won’t be able to replace it yourself if it degrades.

All of the above may appear to vindicate Intel’s belief that multi-core processors aren’t always the best thing for Android devices.

If the expense can be justified, then the HTC One X is a very fast and impressive piece of equipment. HTC has thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at it, with the screen, camera and array of applications making it as much a media phone as a tool for business.

But simply put, it isn’t suitable for everyone. It’s just too powerful for most users who will never make use of the full benefits and are more likely to be frustrated at how often it needs charging than in awe of what it is capable of. However if this is not an insurmountable problem, then our HTC One X review concludes it is a wonderful smartphone.

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