Display, 720p of Goodness
The One X has a 1280 x 720 display that competes head on with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC Rezound and LG Nitro HD. The Super LCD has natural and rich colors with neutral whites, which are pluses vs. Super AMOLED displays that have bluish whites and unnaturally vibrant colors (though many like those better than life colors). Though blacks aren't quite as rich and deep as Super AMOLED displays, we have no complaints about the HTC One X's blacks when watching videos, and the display remains reasonably viewable outdoors. The RBG pixel arrangement means never having to complain about the Pentile Matrix used in Super AMOLED displays, which is important to those of you who have good enough eyes to see pixels on Super AMOLED Pentile Matrix displays. Speaking of good eyes, the One X has more than 300 dpi pixel density to ensure your naked eye spy viewable pixels. Do we like the One X's display? Yes we do. It has pleasing colors and good contrast behind the Gorilla Glass protection. The wrap-around glass makes you feel like the display is painted on the front: stunning.
Calling and Data: 4G LTE and HSPA+
Though the Snapdragon S4 competes very well with the Tegra 3, we'd live with it even if it were a little slower because it gains LTE 4G. That's true 4G and our One X manages some of the best download and upload speeds we've seen yet on an AT&T smartphone. In general, AT&T's LTE network is very fast, though it still lacks the coverage of Verizon's, but AT&T is rolling out new coverage aggressively. The HTC One X averaged 29Mbps down and 20Mbps up according to Ookla's Speedtest.net app. That's even better than our very fast Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and Samsung Galaxy Note on AT&T.
LTE reception is good, and beats the Skyrocket by a few -dbs, and HSPA+ 4G reception is likewise very good. Data speeds in the mid-90's on LTE remained high, and calls sounded clear with 2 out of 5 bars on HSPA+ (calls happen on the 3G/4G HSPA+ network and LTE handles data only).
Voice quality for both incoming and outgoing voice is very good. Call recipients couldn't tell we were on a cell phone and the One X did a good job of rejecting ambient noise via the built-in mics. Incoming voice was clear and easy to understand with slightly better than average volume. As a calling device, the HTC gets a thumbs up.
The dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait CPU is the chip maker's latest and greatest offering that's meant to take on the quad core Tegra 3 CPU. The Qualcomm MSM8960 is a 28nm process CPU, which means it's more power efficient than the 40nm architecture used in the Tegra 3, Tegra 2 and previous generation Snapdragon CPUs. That translates into more processing power with less heat and power consumption. Yes, the Krait CPU in the One X scores just as well as the Tegra 3 in some benchmarks, and is significantly faster than prior dual core CPUs from Qualcomm and other manufacturers. The S4 has Adreno 225 graphics, which represent a significant improvement over the older Adreno 205 graphics, but so far don't beat the GeForce GPU in the Tegra 3. I personally wouldn't import the overseas Tegra 3 version and give up LTE just for the CPU change (if you prefer unlocked phones or hate carrier bloatware, that's another issue).
Does the HTC One X feel fast? Yes! If you're using low demand apps, you won't likely notice the difference between this and recent TI OMAP dual core phones like the Droid RAZR and Galaxy Nexus, but when playing Adobe Flash video at higher resolutions, playing 3D or emulator games and playing HD video you'll feel the difference. Is it buckets faster than the Snapdragon dual core S3 third generation CPU used in the Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket and HTC Vivid? Yes, but you won't notice a gaping difference since both CPUs are more than powerful enough to run any Android phone app. But a year from now when apps are more demanding? Then you'll probably appreciate the S4 CPU or a Tegra 3.
Multimedia with Beats Audio and HDMI
Some of you love Beats Audio and some call it too bass-heavy. The HTC One X has Beats Audio (HTC now owns 51% of Beats), and the audio enhancement works with any brand of headphones. Beats has quite a few settings to choose from, ranging from the classic bass-heavy Beats EQ to classical, vocal and warm. That should help for those who like their music less managed by EQ, but who do appreciate some audio enhancement. The rear firing speaker isn't all that loud and is easily muffled when laid face up on a desk, but music and video sound good through headphones. We weren't floored with the One X's audio output compared to Android tablets (they generally have robust headphone audio), but it's a tad bolder than some smartphones.
The phone can handle HDMI out using an optional MHL adapter that plugs into the micro USB port. We tested this with a few TVs and our Sony AV receiver and it worked fine. We didn't get 5.1 audio out on movies with 5.1 sound, however. Perhaps the MHL go-between is to blame?
HTC includes their own music app that integrates TuneIn Radio, MOG Music and SoundHound for track info, artist info and lyrics. You can add other music apps to the player if you like. The Music app automatically got album art for our tracks and we like the rich interface and background playback feature. You can control playback from the lock screen, top taskbar and widget.
For those who prefer Google's apps, Google Play Music is here as is the Google movie store and standard Gallery application for photo viewing and video playback. HTC Watch is here for movie rentals and purchase. We tested 720p and 1080p MPEG4 video playback stored on the device and through MHL to HDMI and videos played smoothly with good audio sync. The S4 CPU is clearly up to the task of playing HD movies.
HTC Sense 4 is on board, and it's toned down from previous versions. In fact, it lets more of Android OS 4's new UI show through than the HTC Vivid running ICS or the Samsung Galaxy III running TouchWiz. If you're a fan of HTC Sense, you'll appreciate it here and the continuity it brings from older devices. The the lovely clock-weather widget lives on, as does the lock screen with quick launch apps (yes, you can use face unlock too). Likewise, you get the customized app drawer that has tabs for all apps, downloaded apps and frequently accessed apps. You can edit tabs and access the Google Play Store using the menu at the top right of the app drawer. HTC leaves that ICS top menu alone (a good thing since it adds consistency to Android) and app menus or soft keys that appear at the bottom of app windows live in full glory.
HTC uses their own USB drivers (also a good thing), and you can select from charge only, mount as a disk drive, HTC Sync Manager, USB tethering, Media Sync (MTP) and Internet pass-through (use the PC's Internet connection to provide an Internet connection for the phone). Mac users, that means you don't need to install Google's Android File Transfer app to connect to the phone, nor do you need manufacturer software to access it.
The HTC One X has an 1800 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside the unibody casing. Fast CPUs, big displays and LTE 4G are a battery's worst enemy, but the One X managed to easily hold up through an entire day of moderate use. We streamed HD YouTube videos for 30 minutes, listened to music for an hour with the display off, talked on the phone for 30 minutes, made liberal use of the web browser, social networking and push email and had 35% charge remaining at bed time. Really, it's hard to kill this phone. What does eat battery quickly? Gaming. Beware casual games that run in the background like your favorite city or fantasy kingdom builders: they cut battery life by 30%. You can play those games, but I'd use the HTC task manager to kill them when you're not playing.
Like the HTC One S, the One X has an 8 megapixel rear main camera with LED flash that can do neat tricks like shooting continuous autofocus 1080p video with stereo audio and simultaneously take still photos (just press the shutter button while recording video). How does it do that? With the help of a dedicated imaging chip. The fast f 2.0 lens and backside illuminated sensor are particularly well suited to low light photography.
I had high hopes for the One X's video after reviewing the 16 MP HTC Titan II, but the One X couldn't live up to the Titan II's still photo capabilities (to be fair, that's a hard act to beat). It does win for shooting very good quality 1080p video at 30 fps, and the myriad camera options are wonderful.
Again, like the One S, we noted over-saturation of reds such as red roses, red buses and large expanses of red anything. Red tends to bloom on digital cameras, obliterating detail, and the One X has that problem. Otherwise, we noted good exposure and color balance, with an impressive amount of detail in small things like leaves and grass. Is it on par with the iPhone 4S camera? Yes. Does it absolutely blow the iPhone 4S camera away? Not in terms of image and video quality. We do however appreciate the many effects and settings that will appeal to shutterbugs and novices alike. With slow-motion video, HDR photos, panorama and burst, there's plenty of utility in Image Sense.
The phone has a front 1.3MP camera that actually takes decent photos, though its main purpose in life is video chat via Google Talk, Skype and other video chat apps.
It's hard to go wrong with the HTC One X. It has the best of everything, and better yet: it all works well. From the gorgeous design to the striking 720p Super LCD it makes a great first impression. Use it for several days and you'll appreciate the excellent call quality, very fast data speeds and overall stability. The camera takes lovely shots and good 1080p video, the phone games admirably and it's consistently fast. Does the Samsung Galaxy S III present serious challenge? Yes it does, but the HTC One X holds up well under competition.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $549 without contract
Websites: www.htc.com/us/, wireless.att.com