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Get the Windows experience on an HTC phone

- January 3rd, 2013
8x_8s

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (L) and HTC CEO Peter Chou display the Windows Phone 8X (centre in blue and green) and the Windows Phone 8S (L in yellow and R in orange) during their launch event in New York Sep. 19, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Sometimes it’s hard to remember there are more choices in smartphone operating systems than just iOS (which is installed on Apple’s iPhone) and Android. But if you’re looking for a more PC-like interface, you might want to check out a Windows phone. Up until recently, your best bet was Nokia’s Lumia line. But with the release of Windows Phone 8, that has changed. So if you’re not too keen on banking on a company, which financially speaking, is the Finnish equivalent of RIM, you might want to check out what HTC has to offer.

Unveiled back in September, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and 8S are now available in Canada. The 8X is a high-end smartphone, whereas the 8S is more mid-level performance device, but they are both good quality products. Both phones run Windows Phone 8 with features the tile-based Metro UI, similar to the one found in Windows 8 PCs. So if you have already made the switch to Windows 8, you will be immediately comfortable with the interface. And Facebook is integrated into one of the Live Tiles to make your friends list more accessible. Though, I personally had more success with the regular app, but that might have just been a matter of preference.

The 8X is 135 mm x 66.2 mm x 10.2 mm and weighs 130 g, while the 8S is 120.5 mm x 63 mm x 10.28 mm and weighs 113 g. And when the two phones are side-by-side, this difference is size is noticeable.  Because it’s smaller, the 8S is easily to hold but they both feel reasonably light in the hand. But I would suggest getting a case for whichever phone you choose, as both have smooth polycarbonate plastic casings that make them quite slippery.

The 8X’s 4.3-inch screen also provides a much richer image with its resolution of 1,280 pixels x 720 pixels than the 8S’s 4-inch screen with its resolution of 800 pixels x 480 pixels.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

HTC Windows Phone 8X. (Supplied)

Media tended to look a little darker on the 8S than the 8X and the colours were a little more washed out. This was the case with videos and photos taken with the phones as well. The 8X comes with an 8 MP main camera capable of recording video in 1080p and a 2.1 MP front-facing camera for video chatting. The 8S only comes with a single 5 MP camera that can shoot video in 720p.

But video playback was generally smooth on both phones even when streaming content. I had some issues playing videos from certain sites, such has Vimeo, but I had no problem using video apps. This was a little surprising to me as the 8X I tested ran on Bell’s LTE network while the 8S ran on Virgin Mobile’s slower HSPA network. With the 8X, I was getting download speeds ranging from 33.15-38.33 Mbps and upload speeds of 14.49-14.62 Mbps. On the 8S, I was only getting downloads of 1.06-1.27 Mbps and uploads of 1.21-2.53 Mbps, but I could still watch videos without buffering issues.

The speed discrepancy was more apparent when I was downloading large apps, though. The 8S also has less storage capacity so you have to be more choosy about what you download. It comes with 4 GB  of internal flash memory and the 8X has 8 GB and 16 GB models available.  However,  unlike the 8X, the 8S comes with a microSD card, so you can expand the memory by up to 32 GB.

The audio quality is good on both phones. Like many of HTC’s Android phones, the 8X and 8S come with Beats by Dr. Dre audio equalizer software, which has provided great sound on almost every phone I’ve tried that had it. And the in-call volume was good on both as well.

HTC Windows Phone 8S

HTC Windows Phone 8S. (Supplied)

The 8X runs on a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU and 1 GB of RAM and the 8S runs on a 1 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU with 512 MB of RAM. But they both seem to have quick interfaces when it comes to navigating through menus and running apps. Obviously, the 8x is faster, but the 8S still loads content in a reasonable time.

The 8X uses an 1,800 mAh battery and the 8S uses a 1,700 mAh one. Both are non-removable. The 8X offers up to 6.8 hours of talk time (which is not great) and 19.2 days on standby. Meanwhile the 8S offers a more respectable 9 hours of talk time but only 13.75 days on standby.

One of the key advantages about the 8X and 8S is that they come with Microsoft Office preinstalled. This means you can import your own Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without having to convert them. You can even create new ones if you want.  Though, I’m not sure why you want to, say, create a spreadsheet on a tiny screen. It would certainly be difficult to click on the right cells to enter the formulas.

The Windows Phone app store is growing too. It currently has over 150,000 apps available. This is significantly lower than the 700,000+ apps available at both the Google Play store and the Apple app store. But there’s still a lot to choose from.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you like the feel of the phones or not.  The HTC Windows Phone 8X is available at both Bell and Rogers and the HTC Windows Phone 8S is available exclusively at Virgin Mobile. Bell offers the 16 GB 8X for free under a three-year plan but Rogers has the better price if you want to buy it outright at $549.99. Rogers also offers the 8 GB model for a penny under a three-year plan and $499.99 for no contract. If you want the 8S, you may as well just buy it outright for $279.99, as under Virgin’s three-year plan, it will still cost you $79.99.

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1 comment

  1. Ativ S purchaser | January 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    I opted for the Samsung Ativ S with Telus. So far I like the Samsung-just wished accessories were more readily available for this new phone. I waited for it because of the removable battery and Micro SD card slot. I chose a Windows Phone 8 for tighter integration with Windows Office although it appears Office is being designed for Android/Iphone. I am not pleased with the PDF readers in Win Ph 8 – I am new to smart phones and Win 8 RT so I may be missing something here but the out of the box experience is not there as far as opening PDFs in Hotmail. Maybe Acrobat will design a free reader…

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