When we compared the four HTC One-series phones, I listed the One X as the best of the bunch for a number of reasons. Yet when it went up against the iPhone 4S, it lost by a single point, the closest any phone has ever reached. If Google is fortunate, the Samsung Galaxy S III will be the first phone to beat the iPhone. Until then, the HTC One X is indeed the best Android phone available, by a mile. Or two.

Hardware

The design of the One X is exceptional. It has a giant 4.7″ display that isn’t overwhelming thanks to a tiny bezel, the thinnest you can find on such a large phone today. While phones like the Epic 4G Touch have smaller displays, they are wider and less comfortable to hold. HTC has defeated this problem using a simple angular design on the sides of the case. This makes the phone comfortable to grip in the hand without limiting the style of the handset.

The HTC One S and One X

And style is one thing the One X flaunts, and flaunts well. The completely white case is brilliant and looks futuristic, except for the 8MP camera sticking out from the back. Had it been more similar to Nokia’s upcoming 41MP smartphone camera, the lens sticking out so far would be acceptable. In this case however, it isn’t (read more in Camera below). The only problem is the case itself can get dirty pretty easily, and some users have even reported that the blue from their jeans, specifically jean pockets, has discolored the phone. I haven’t run into such a severe problem in my month’s use of the phone, but it does get dirty at times. The white case makes dirt easy to spot, but it’s also easy to clean.

The display is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The One X uses a Super LCD2 panel which produces very sharp colors and excellent light contrast, and it’s also very efficient. Although the One X typically shows most of the power used is for the display, the battery lasts quite a while. The phone is also slightly curved, not nearly as much as the Galaxy Nexus, but if you’re in bright conditions the strange blurring reflections are noticeable. It’s sister phones, the One S and Evo 4G LTE don’t have that problem. What’s especially spectacular about the One X’s display is how close images appear. That is to say, it looks like the picture is right up against the glass. Many of today’s smartphones use multiple layers of glass, and I’m unsure whether the One X does as well, but just by looking at it you wouldn’t think so. I’d say that it’s the best phone display behind the Nokia Lumia 900.

A few additional notes on the hardware front. Because the One X is an AT&T exclusive phone (it’s the European One XL; the “L” for LTE), it’s stuck on that network, but it’s also a worldphone. Any carrier should be able to use it, though likely only GSM carriers will allow it. The One X also uses a MicroSIM, which can be removed just like the iPhone’s, using a special pin to pop out the slot and card.

Actual phone use with the One X is good, but not great. It suffers from occasional dropped calls and lower reception than other smartphones and most dumbphones. I’ve also found that the Wi-Fi antenna can sometimes be blocked just by holding the phone normally, which is a serious problem if you share a network and have a wireless router several rooms away and use a low signal strength. Thanks to Android 4.0 connecting to networks is easy, and access to AT&T’s LTE network is excellent, but the placement of the antenna is problematic.

Overall the physical build and design of the One X is superb. It’s great to hold in the hand, in the pocket, or in a bag. The giant screen is excellent for watching video or viewing pictures, and it’s not overwhelming despite the large size.

Software

As mentioned in my review of the One S, the One X uses Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC’s Sense 4.0 software. The software additions to ICS are slight, and while some are cumbersome and get in the way of the overall experience, most don’t and are helpful. I like the simplicity of the app-switching compared to stock ICS, and the menu navigation is simpler.

The OS runs very smoothly on the One X, just as it did on the One S, if not faster. This is in part thanks to the faster processor, but the increased processing speed isn’t all that noticeable because it has to handle the higher-resolution display.

Since I already wrote about it with the One S, I’ll talk briefly about the camera app’s software additions here. The all-new camera app has several major additions which make it the best camera application available on any phone, regardless of OS. The first is shooting full-size 8MP stills while shooting 1080p video. The second is including two separate shutter release buttons, one for video and one for stills. The third is a burst mode that allows for shooting up to 99 images. That last one is a doozy, and I’m not sure how HTC was able to accomplish such a feat, but the problem is users can only save one of those images taken. That means if you captured even three or four amazing shots, sorry, they’ll have to be deleted in favor of the best one. It doesn’t really make sense for this system to be in place if only one shot can be saved unless the burst mode were limited to 5-6 shots.

Beats audio integration is also somewhat problematic for certain music apps like Pandora, where songs will at times skip because Beats either loads incorrectly or just forces the song to skip. The One S has an identical problem.

Battery

The One X is the only One device that ships with LTE functionality. The Evo 4G LTE does, but Sprint’s network doesn’t actually support LTE anywhere yet. This should, in theory, help kill the battery life of the One X, but the 1800mAh battery is one of the best in any phone. This is likely thanks to ICS’s better power management and HTC’s Sense UI’s more conservative power use. Take a look at the standard benchmark below.

The One X trounces the competition, but more importantly it can maintain a strong charge even after a full day of heavy use. In everyday use it won’t last as long as, say, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, which uses a 3300mAh battery, but it is comparable. It’s a battery hero, and if you need a phone that can last all day while jumping between calls and LTE use, the One X is it.

Benchmarks

As mentioned, the One X uses a faster version of the Qualcomm Krait processor used for the One S, and it scores very similarly to it in our benchmarks. Take a look below.

In both browser-based tests, the One X is top dog. It kills the Browsermark test, and lags behind only tablets in the more CPU-intensive Javascript Sunspider test. The reason it doesn’t outperform the Xyboard and iPad 2? Because those larger CPUs are made with more space in mind, and aren’t so crammed that the bus speeds are low. Even then, the closest phone in that test is the Galaxy Nexus, which completes the test 12% slower.

Finally, in general processing the One X is top dog, slightly faster than the One S and significantly faster than any competition. However, like the One S, for straight-up graphics processing even with the latest GPUs the One X lags behind the iPhone 4S, but not by much, and also not by an amount that should unsettle today’s phone gamers. The 720p test conducted in the GLBenchmark test is very high end, so as long as the score is over 30fps, it’s positive. The One X manages 93 and 56, both very respectable scores, over triple and almost double the requirement, respectively.

Camera

The camera in the One X is, unfortunately, identical to the one in the One S. It has the same fast f/2 lens, but pictures likewise come out blurry, noisy, and lacking in color contrast and color reproduction. It’s great for night shots, and it’s a strong overall camera, but it doesn’t compare to the iPhone 4S or Lumia 900.

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Video quality is, however, quite good, on par with both of those better still cameraphones, so don’t fret if you forget the point-and-shoot or camcorder for your kids recital. The One X will do just fine, thanks to good video quality and excellent audio recording.

Conclusion

The HTC One X is superb. It succeeds in nearly every way, and I highly recommend it because it’s not only a comfortable, powerful, long lasting monster of a smartphone, it’s also damn pretty. Whether that means the pearl-white shell, the futuristic design, or the brilliant display, that’s up to you to decide. The only catch is the camera isn’t as great as it could, and really should be, especially considering some of HTC’s past cameraphones. The specs alone sing praise from the heavens. The One X is the complete phone package, everything you could ever want and need from a phone and more.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★½

Excellent

Bottom Line: The best Android phone you can buy, period.

Pros:

  • Looks and feels great
  • Excellent display, speed, and
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Camera quality is so-so, with soft photos and all-too-easy blur
  • Some software bugs, especially around Beats audio
  • Odd Wi-Fi antenna placement may cause dropped signals when held normally










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.