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One X-ceptional phone

- May 19th, 2012

htconex

HTC used to dominate the Android phone market when it came to quality. Every one of its products were drool-worthy compared to the options its competitors offered. But in the last year, it has faced fierce competition from other companies, especially Samsung. With its line of Galaxy phones, starting with the S II to the Nexus to the Note to the recently announced S III, Samsung has taken the mantle of top Android phone developer. But from the looks of HTC One series, it may not be for long.

I managed to get my hands on the One X, which is the flagship of the series. I’m not the type of person to describe a piece or hardware as sexy, but I went a little weak in the knees when I first picked up the sleek, shiny 130 g phone.

And then I got heart palpitations when I turned it on. The OS booted after only a few seconds with a quick, smooth animation. It is easliy the fastest cellphone I have tested to date. The phone has a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and a 1GB of DDR2 RAM and it runs on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.3). Most programs load surprisingly quickly. And it very rarely seems to get bogged down or choke on an app during normal use. As it utilizes Rogers’ LTE network, the connection to the Internet is a strong and fast as well. (Rogers promises downloads of up to 75Mbps. During various bandwidth tests, I got anywhere from 7 Mbps to 17 Mbps for both uploads and downloads, which are still decent speeds.)

The image quality is simply magnificent. The 4.7-inch LCD screen actually provides a 1280×720 pixel (full 720p) display so HD videos are vivid and vibrant. And the sound is clean as well. Audio for the One X player is provided by Beats By Dr. Dre Audio which results in impressive playback for all media types, provided you have  a decent pair of headphones.

But the cameras are where this phone truly shines. There is a 1.3 MP front-facing camera can shoot video chats in 720p. But more impressive is the 8 MP camera. Granted, 8 MP is rather standard in a camera phone these days. It comes with 28 mm wide angle and f/2.0 f-stop and can shoot full 1080p videos – which is nice but not exactly novel either.

This camera also includes a fast shutter for still images. By holding down on the “shutter-release” button, the phone can take multiple pictures – four frames a second. Then when you’re done, you scroll through the photos, find the best shot and delete the rest with the click of a button. It’s great for quick action shots, such as taking photos at your kid’s baseball game or trying to get that perfect, blackmail-worthy shot of your drunk buddy relieving himself on a porcupine at a May 2-4 party.

But perhaps even more useful, is that you can take photos and shoot video at the same time so you don’t have to make the decision about how you want to record the moment for posterity. Unfortunately, the multiple shutter feature doesn’t work when you’re shooting video. Similarly, there are a number of effects you can apply to a photo before and after you take the shot, such as distortion or sepia tone. But if you use one of these effects, you can only shoot one photo at a time.

And as for making phone calls, it’s great. At first glance, with a height of 134.36 mm and width of 69.9 mm, it might look a little too big to hold up against your ear to make a call. But with the depth of only 8.9 mm, it was very easy to hold. Granted, I have large hands, but it didn’t feel the slightest bit awkward as do the larger tablet phones, such as the popular Samsung Galaxy Note or the long-forgotten Dell Streak.

It’s quite difficult to find much fault with this phone at all other than maybe complaining that it’s just a hair off from being phenomenal. Clearly, HTC is gunning for the iPhone crowd by providing a sleek device with an easy-to-use graphical user interface. Its HTC Sense 4 is a very straightforward GUI and has many things going for it. It’s intuitive and easy to navigate. They’ve even provided a way to quits apps with the swipe of a finger, which as anyone who has used an Android phone before knows is a very useful feature.

But much like an iPhone, it limits you, by treating you a bit like an idiot. The camera app is an example of it. You can adjust the contrast up-and-down by two stops, the film speed from 100 to 800, and you can choose presets for white balance. But it doesn’t let you manually set the white balance. Similarly, the Beats music player has many equalizer presets but no manual control. Obviously, if this is a real concern for someone, they can just download other apps from the Android Market.

The hardware side is slightly more distressing. There are no ports other than micro USB and like the iPhone, there is no memory card. It comes with 16 GB of internal storage and you get a DropBox account with 25 GB of online storage with a purchase of the phone. (The standard free account is only 2 GB.)

And the 1800 mAh lithium ion battery is embedded and so is not replaceable – at least not by you. And as I’ve had to replace batteries in cellphones before, this bothers me a bit. It promises up to 9 hours of talk time and 16 days on standby, and I could leave it out over night without it draining on me, but all batteries degrade over time. There are backup battery banks you can buy and carry around with you to charge your phone if it dies. But if you don’t have a bag, that’s going to make a large bulge in your pants pocket.

That being said, the HTC One X is still possibly the best phone currently on the market. It is available from Rogers for $169.95 with a three-year plan and $624.99 for the phone with no contract. For more pricing plans check Rogers’ website.

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3 comments

  1. Marilyn | May 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Adam:

    When you review phones is it possible to pay a little more attention to the actual phone part?
    Mostly I’m concerned about the quality of voice transmission. More and more phones make people sound as if they’re under water, and very hard to understand. So far, with what little research and just noticing that I’ve done, Samsung seems to have the best voice quality, but there may be other choices I’m not aware of. (Which I will make my friends and relatives also aware of)
    ~m

  2. Adam Swimmer | May 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Marilyn,

    Sorry, I didn’t go into more detail about that. But the sound quality on phone calls on the One X is quite good as well. It’s on par with Samsung phones in that regard.

    Generally speaking, it sounds clear on both ends. I can’t say that it will always be perfect as many factors play into it, such as how good the cell reception is in the location you or the person you’re talking to is in (if they’re also on a cell – and, of course, if they’re on a cellphone – the quality of their phone affects it too)

    But it doesn’t have the under water sound that many older phones have. And I didn’t have any problems with any of the calls I made.

  3. Armitage | May 26, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Yeah, it’s a phone first. It’s ability to transmit and receive are vitally important too. There’s nothing more annoying then missing calls while standing beside someone chatting on their phone.

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