HTC didn't have the smoothest run last year. Multiple launches of the Sensation series, an entry level smartphone that didn't take off and mid-range phones with premium prices left this erstwhile strongboy of smartphones out of the limelight. At MWC this year, HTC shifted the focus to its One series of smartphones. And among them was the HTC One X. Joining the ranks of the Huawei Ascend D quad and LG Optimus 4X HD (both yet to be commercially launched), this is the company's first ever quad-core smartphone. It's been a week on our test bench, and all I can say is dual-core was SO last year.
Probably the first thing that strikes you when you unpack the HTC One X is how massive it is. A 4.7-inch screen makes it quite a handful, although it's not unusable for call purposes, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note. Ultrathin at 8. 99 mm, the rounded edges of the screen give it a much softer look than the likes of the Sony Xperia S. The unit is housed in a white polycarbonate shell which doesn't scratch or attract dust and grime easily, a big relief for users in India. The bezel protrudes slightly on top of the screen and houses the dotted earpiece and a front 1.3-meg 720p camera. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button on the top strip. On the sides are a single volume rocker switch and a micro USB port.
Because this phone features a unibody design (think Nokia Lumia 800) you can't remove the back panel or the battery. The HTC One X requires a micro SIM card which can be inserted via the tray on the top of the back panel, although you'll need a pin to open it. The only protrusion from the back comes in the form of the hefty 1080p 8-meg clicker and LED flash. The camera is housed in an individual casing but the fact that it protrudes could make it prone to scratches and damage.
The HTC One X's display is an IPS Super LCD 2 panel which sports a 720p resolution. This translates into a 312 ppi (pixel density). There's also a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass for scratch protection.
The HTC One X runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v 4.0), making it one of the rarer smartphones that come pre-installed with this version instead of requiring a manual upgrade. The smooth user interface of the OS is complemented by HTC Sense, the company's own skin. Unlike previous versions of Sense which were a tad complicated, Sense 4 is quite an improvement.
The phone has three LED backlit capacitive buttons on the fascia and an additional panel on the screen itself, which contain four app shortcuts (two on either side) and the Apps button in the centre. The Apps menu has shortcuts on the top left corner which let you directly access the Play Store, change settings in Options or search for a specific app.
The Recent Apps button at the bottom brings up your apps in a slightly different format: you get screenshots of the apps which you can flick through. Clicking on any of the screenshots will open up the app and if you want to remove a particular app from the list you can simply swipe up to get rid of it. The touchscreen was amazingly fluid and responsive and allows you to pinch to zoom virtually anywhere.
Camera and playback
The HTC One X hasn't really been marketed as a camera phone unlike the Nokia N8 or PureView 808. That said, the 8-megapixel camera at the rear deserves credit for its outstanding performance. HTC's camera is equipped with a special ImageChip which adds to image processing. The camera has an f/2.0 lens and a single LED flash. What makes this camera so special is the bunch of filters that HTC provides which can be accessed while shooting (think Instagram). Also on the menu are scene modes which include Panorama and HDR (which works beautifully). ISO, White Balance and Shooting Mode can also be adjusted.
What I really loved about the camera interface is how simple the layout was: all the options are on the screen itself but there's no clutter. And unlike other phones, you can toggle between photo and video mode while shooting. The camera also allows you to capture photos while you're recording a video, in case there's a special moment you don't want to miss out on.
You can tap to focus your photo but you'll have to make do with a virtual shutter release button. It's positioned in such a way that it doesn't interfere with shooting but a physical shutter button is always appreciated, especially on a phone like this which is large enough to accommodate it.
Moving on to the other media capabilities, the HTC One X is equipped with Beats Audio, which was present on some of its Sensation phones. The difference here is that the Beats Audio is integrated across apps so you get uniform sound quality.
The video player has also had a facelift, with options to increase brightness and take a screenshot of the video while it's playing. I loaded a few HD videos and they played flawlessly on the One X's video player. Sharpness and clarity were excellent but I did find that colours did tend to get a bit oversaturated, especially with regard to skin tones.
This phone also comes with NFC capabilities so you can use sharing apps like Android Beam to transfer data.
Software and performance
HTC's 1.5GHz quad-core insides are powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip. This is the first quad-core smartphone to arrive on Smartbuy's test bench and suffice to say, it impressed me continually. Opening apps, multitasking or running intensive programs didn't seem to slow down the One X one bit. I never faced any issues with lags or freezes which I haven't been able to say for any smartphone until now.
On the standard Android benchmark tests I ran for the One X, my Linpack score average was 51.49 MFLOPS, which was close to 55.19 MFLOPS on the Samsung Galaxy Note. However the Quadrant score was where the One X really shone, besting even the Asus Transformer Prime's 4,086 at a whopping 4,897 points.
Battery life however was quite compromised in the process. Screen brightness seemed to really drain the phone's battery, but even at low brightness, using email, Facebook and Twitter, making calls and sending texts required me to charge the phone every 12-14 hours. A recently rolled out software update though has improved battery life, and at the time of going to print I eked out about 16-odd hours of usage on a single charge.
An ultrathin frame, generous screen and unbeatable performance make the HTC One X one of the best smartphones in the market right now. The pre-loaded Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS makes it a really competitive product, especially since HTC Sense 4 is so beautifully integrated into the user interface. As the first quad-core smartphone to hit the market, it looks like HTC is back in the game. No doubt, the price tag is iPhone-ish, but if there is a phone that can oust Apple from the top spot, this could be the one.
Love: Fast, smooth interface, excellent camera
Hate: Average battery life, pricey