HTC One: X marks the spot

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htcONEx SUPPLIED

I'm a long-time HTC fan. Ever since I laid my hands on the HTC Hero, I've had a soft spot for the company and for its Android-based phones. The Hero was the first serious Android-based cellphone to hit the local market and although it now looks dated it was a significant step forward for HTC as it stepped into the big league. Free of Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, HTC showed it could produce high-class phones capable of taking on all-comers.

Now the Taiwanese company has pushed the mobile boat out even further with its new One series.

The One series -- the X, the V and S -- is an all-Android line-up topped by the One X. And it's that phone that I spent the past couple of weeks with.

 

Serious power

 

Under the sleek polycarbon case the One X is built on a Nvida Tegra 3 chipset which is home to not just one processor but four. Rated at 1.5GHz that makes, in theory at least, the One X comparable with many desktop machines, although whether it's possible to really harness the full power of those processors is debatable.

Not content with the quad-core chipset the One X also sports a fifth processor which is there for when high performance is not needed. The fifth processor takes over in standby and when playing music so that battery power can be conserved.

Putting a quad-core chipset into a phone which measures just 8.9mm thick is a ludicrous proposition. It almost defies imagination and yet there it is. The obvious benefit of doing this is that the One X is fast with less lag than Formula One's Sebastien Vettel on a good day.

Multitasking is snappy, apps load seriously fast and even the camera takes noticeably less time to snap a picture. Pinching and zooming when reading documents and the web is fast and clean making it easy on the eyes.

 

Big picture

 

Couple the under-the-hood power with a big, beautiful 1280 X 720 pixel screen and you've got something that is so much more than a phone. The One X is smaller than the larger Samsung galaxy note, by a fair margin, but it is noticeably bigger than most other phones on the market. The 4.7-inch screen on the One X is slightly smaller than the Samsung Galaxy SIII at 4.8-inches and makes video watching a pleasure. I prefer a bigger Kindle for reading a book or magazine but in a pinch the One X is a more than adequate replacement.

Although this is a big phone by most standards, it's not a cumbersome phone and unless you've got particularly small hands it should feel comfortable in the hand. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is not really designed to be used one-handed the One X is just about at the limit for one-handed use.

The quad-core processor is also teamed up with 1GB of memory and built-in storage of 32GB which is adequate although not excessive. What is interesting, however, is that the One X doesn't have a slot for a flash card of any description. What HTC has done is strike a deal with Dropbox which gives new HTC owners an additional 23GB of storage on their Dropbox account for two years. Not everyone will be pleased with this but if you're a heavy Dropbox user it's perfect. Documents saved to Dropbox are easy to retrieve and navigate and just about as good as having your desktop documents actually stored on your phone.

Not only does the One X not have a storage card slot but it's also adopted a unibody design which means that apart from a single 3.5mm audio jack, a micro-USB slot and an almost completely concealed micro-SIM card slot, there is no other way into the case. That includes the battery which is built into the case and there is no discernible way to open the case without the assistance of a HTC agent. That might be a little off-putting for some but HTC says it is confident the battery is up to the task.

 

Ice Cream Sandwich

 

The One X runs Google's Android 4.0, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich. HTC teams that up with its own HTC Sense overlay which has matured nicely over the past few years.

Multimedia-wise the One X ships with an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash that runs up to 3264 x 2448 pixels, more than enough quality for most of us. The One X also does full HD video recording (1080p @ 24fps) and one of its coolest features is the ability to take stills at the same time as recording video. The front-facing camera is an adequate 1.3 megapixel one.

There are very few things I don't like about the HTC One X but the biggest one for me is the lack of a hardware menu button. Previous iterations of HTC Android phones had a dedicated menu button on the lower side of the screen. That button was always there and close to hand. The One X and Android 4.0 has a software button. What this means is that the menu button is prone to a bit of randomness. Most of the time the button is in the top corner of the screen but sometimes it's not. At the will of the application developer it might appear in the bottom left or off to the right. It's a little frustrating having to look for the menu button. It's a small thing but I'd have preferred the One X to ship with a hardware menu button alongside the home and back keys across the bottom of the screen.

 

Conclusion

 

I'm not sure this is an entirely good thing but in the few weeks since I started using the HTC One X I have become more addicted to my mobile phone than ever. As a computing device there is little that the One X can't do and what it can't do is well beyond the scope of just about every phone.

Battery life is obviously a challenge for a phone with this much power but HTC hasn't done a bad job of making the most of what's available. In rigorous use (listening to audio, checking mail and browsing the web) the battery puts in a solid day's work and although it needs a daily charge I haven't been caught short yet.

The HTC One X is one of the best, if not the best, Android-based phone on the market right now. - IOL


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