HTC Windows Phone 8X Review

Oct 29, 2012
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Today is the big day for the folks at Microsoft and their brand new Windows Phone 8. What we have today is the brand new Windows Phone X8 by HTC, better known as the HTC 8X. With the combination of Windows Phone 8 supporting much better hardware, and HTC bringing their A-game the HTC 8X is a much better, faster, and more personal and improved Windows Phone experience. Read on for our full thoughts.

Now there's a lot to get here with the 8X from HTC, but we'll be digging into the impressive new hardware they've brought to the table with this flagship WP8 device, as well as everything that makes it fly. The 8X from HTC is the best from them, and from Microsoft so lets take a peek.

Hardware

The Windows Phone X8 by HTC has a clumsy name, but very classy hardware. Combining this awesome new hardware with the latest from Windows, this just might save HTC. Nokia might not like it, but this has been confirmed as the “signature handset” for Windows Phone 8 -- and the hardware is a huge part of that. HTC's really stepped up their game.

The 8X is crafted in a polycarbonate shell that neatly wraps around and meets the 4.3-inch HD display for a squared-off and simple design -- just like Windows Phone 8. The bland design and finish of old is replaced by an edgy, sleek, smooth, yet matte design this is elegant and stylish. A big part of Windows Phone 8 is the support for higher resolution bigger displays, and faster multi-core processors. Today we have both with the 8X.

The HTC 8X comes with a 4.3-inch 1280x720p HD SLCD2 display that looks great. It's bright, vivid, crisp, colorful, and has exceptional viewing angles and colors. The HD resolution fits right in with WP8 and those personalized live tiles. The optical lamination and rounded Corning Gorilla glass is strong, durable, and smooth and curves right into the polycarbonate shell for a seamless design. The hardware really is the star of the show here.

Without preaching too much about the hardware (as we're big fans) HTC's added a Qualcomm 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a mid-sized 1,800 mAh battery. Sadly they've opted not to offer removable storage via micro-SD support, something that's been improved in Windows Phone 8. You'll get HSPA+ support, 4G LTE where available, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, Beats Audio, and micro-USB all in a device that measures 132x66x10mm in size. It might be 10.12 mm thick but you'd never ever tell by holding this device in hand with the curved and elegant edges. It's extremely lightweight with the polycarbonate casing being just 130 grams.

The 8X has a lot to live up to with the HTC One X running Android, the iPhone 5, and competitors in Windows Phone such as Samsung and Nokia -- and the 8X does just that. As you can see above we have the simple black model, but HTC will offer blue, yellow, red, and more for a personalized love affair. To wrap things up on the hardware the design and button placement is all exception, and very comfortable with daily use. However the power button up top is flush with the device and hard to locate at times -- not to mention is a bit squishy and occasionally takes more than one try. Then the squared off edges cause the bottom micro-USB port to have a few sharp edges, and can be bothersome based on how you hold your smartphone.

This is the “signature handset” of Windows Phone, and it certainly fits the bill. HTC's envisioned and designed an elegant home for Windows Phone 8 to stay -- and showcase to the world.

Software

The HTC 8X is one of the first smartphones to grace the world running on the new and improved Windows Phone 8. While it might be hard to notice at first glance, this is an entirely new Windows Phone and a step up from Mango. Everything is faster, better, HD, and more personal. This is the most personal and most customizable Windows Phone yet. There's tons to talk about with Windows Phone 8 as far as software, so here's a few bullet points regarding what's new. Windows Phone 8 now has a re-imagined and more personal start screen. Their live tiles are as friendly as ever, and highly customizable. WP8 supports higher resolution displays, multi-core processors, a better camera app, native screenshots, lockscreen notifications and shortcuts, Kid's Corner, enhanced sync and backup, and much more.

To get a better feel about Windows Phone 8 and what's new, you'll want to check out our in-depth Windows Phone 8 Review. For now, we'll just rundown a few things here specifically for the HTC 8X and what we enjoyed with Windows Phone 8. Based on more than just Windows 8's kernel this is Windows 8 in a way, for mobile. Everything is extremely smooth, fluid, and efficient. Boot times are quick, memory management is awesome, and this device flies thanks to the 1.5 GHz dual-core processor support.

Below is an in-depth video showing you many of the new things mentioned above with Windows Phone 8. You'll see the impressive new personalized experience with live tiles and sizes, lockscreen shortcuts and notifications, kid's corner to save you from your children, and more. Everything is faster, smoother, easier, and funner with Windows Phone 8. You'll be flowing through tiles in no time.

The People app now has an improved "What's new" stream where you can get updates and status details from all your friends and contacts. Now with support for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. What makes this even more unique and personal is groups. With groups you can set certain friends or family members you wish to see what's new and status updates from. This will cut out the clutter as I'm sure you don't need to know what everyone in your entire contact list posts to Facebook -- but the option is there.

Without getting too in-depth here the video above should give you an excellent idea of what to expect from not only Windows Phone, but Windows Phone 8. I'm sure many are looking at this option for the first time, as are there some die-hard Windows fans that can't wait to upgrade. As far as competing with iOS and Android, this is only just the beginning of Windows Phone, but we're starting to see their direction with 8. The start screen is the focal point of their streamlined, yet personalized experience. Managing to do both at once is a real task. With iOS your iPhone will look just like those around you, and with Android all the widgets are awesome, but they have custom skins, tons of different OS versions floating around (fragmentation) and more. While I'm not here to say which is better, Windows Phone 8 feels very similar, smooth, and streamlined -- yet offers more personalization than anything available today.

With the App Store approaching 700k apps for iOS, over 650,000 for Android, and about 125,000 for Windows Phone the options are still limited, but certainly headed in the right direction. Now that Windows Phone 8 supports HD resolution displays, dual-core processors and more, we expect app and game developers to really step up their game. Whether or not they will remains to be seen however. This is only the beginning folks. The beginning of a driven Microsoft team, so stay tuned!

Performance

With WP8 performance has been seriously improved. As you saw from my various videos above the user interface is extremely crisp and fluid in its actions. From resizing tiles, opening apps and games, changing theme colors device-wide and more everything is snappy. This is in part to the new, improved, and efficient Windows Phone 8 -- but you can't forget that dual-core processor is under the hood either. While benchmarks aren't as popular as say, our Android friends with quad-cores, here's a few just for good measure. AnTuTu has made its way to WP and we scored nearly 12,000 here. Once more start using AnTuTu we can really measure performance. Then for fun we ran a quick test of WP Bench, and you can see those results below for an idea of just how fast Windows Phone 8 and this dual-core really is.

There really should be no debate here. This is one of the best, fastest, smoothest, and quickest Windows Phone experiences yet. Combining new hardware with the latest software, you'll surely love what it has to offer.

Camera

Now with HTC's camera we have the first WP device with their dedicated ImageChip for enhanced photos. Using an 8 megapixel backside illuminated sensor (BSI) for better low light, while offering an f/2.0 lens for superior performance the camera does an excellent job with today's smartphone camera standards. We have 1080p video recording that is exceptional, although there's still the occasional motion-blur here. Windows Phone 8 now allows for simple pinch-to-zoom in camera and video, and you can simply tap the screen to snap a photo (and focus) as well as quickly tap to start recording 1080p video.

The dedicated two-stage camera button is a nice touch, but is almost pointless when you can just tap the screen to take a quick photo. However, it does allow you to press and hold to skip unlocking the phone and head right into the camera app to snap a quick shot and never miss the perfect moment. Here's a gallery of images testing the 8 megapixel camera and ImageChip, as well as a 1080p video clip.

Offering a 2.1 megapixel front facing camera with the 8X, HTC has one of the best cameras for video chat using Skype and more. Offering the widest angle lens on any smartphone, in landscape mode the HTC 8X can fit 4 people in-frame using the front facing camera. Get ready to share and enjoy some family moments together on Skype with ease.

Phone & Battery

As a phone the HTC 8X is comfortable to hold, easy to use, sounds great with Beats Audio, and is just the right size for a new smartphone user. We don't have a tiny small display, or a massive 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II screen size. It's the perfect size for most, and will be a joy for first time smartphone buyers. The speakerphone is one of the loudest, and crispest sounding speakers we've used to date. A lot of that is thanks to Beats Audio, but music still inevitably has that tin-can sound to it.

Battery life has always been a strong suite for Windows Phone, and the same holds true with WP8. The changes under the hood to the Windows 8 kernel, software stack, and efficiency allows for all-day battery life. You'd think those increases would be balanced out by HD screens and dual-core processors, but they are not. Qualcomm's 1.5 GHz S4 is their latest offering that is highly efficient. Without being able to properly test 4G LTE radios on our international 8X we can't comment there, but I've achieved far better battery life than expected with an 1,800 mAh battery. Expect a solid 14-15 hours with average usage from push notifications for emails, browsing the web, the occasional game, and more. I've managed a good 4-5 hours of actual "screen-on" time during the day, and still had enough to make it through an entire work day without reaching for a charger.

Competition

As far as competition goes HTC also has their lower end Windows Phone 8S that still will be plenty for most, but will come at a lower price point due to a slower CPU, less RAM, and a smaller 4-inch screen. It still has the aesthetics we love, and of course Windows Phone 8. Then Nokia -- who we can't forget -- will be on the other side of the battle with their impressive Lumia 920 and its slightly larger 4.5-inch HD display. Without mentioning Android or iPhone the Windows Phone 8 platform has a lot to look forward to in terms of competition. Then the Samsung ATIV S with its massive 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display will surely shake things up.

For those looking for an all around package in this new Windows Phone 8 ecosystem the 8X by HTC is an optimal choice. We'll reserve full judgement for once we've had our hands on the rest of the pack.

Wrap-Up

With the 8X from HTC the Windows Phone platform has a new leader, being called the “signature handset” of Windows Phone 8 -- and it delivers just the qualities that Microsoft was looking for. This embodies their OS' style and design. It's elegant, sleek, and powerful! Without a doubt the all new Windows Phone 8X by HTC is one of, if not the absolute best WP device we've tested to date. Offering the newest OS with it's sleek new personalized features, an impressive HD display, powerful dual-core performance and more this phone is everything we've been waiting for in the world of Windows Phone.

Like mentioned above, HTC faces some stiff competition from the other manufacturers in the game, but with this new device they've certainly set the tone for their product line. Windows offers phone users a truly easy to use smartphone experience. Now that they've polished up their interface and added more features, Windows Phone finally has the hardware and software requirements to compete with the big players in mobile. We can't wait to see what else HTC brings to the table, and this is certainly a great start for the new realm of Windows Phone 8. Get the new Windows Phone 8X by HTC from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon coming in November.


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