HTC 8XT Windows Phone 8 Review

On the GR chopping block is a brand new candy-colored Windows Phone. The HTC 8XT is a unit with similar specs as the Nokia Lumia 928, same processor similar memory, familiar screen size and resolution…etc. It does toss in some newness for a Windows Phone as carry overs from the successful and elegant HTC One. That said, these are very very different phones for different folks. The HTC 8XT is the cuter, daintier Windows Phone brightly colored and–dare I say–quite fitting for more casual users, young people and the like.

Hardware

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That’s not to say the HTC 8XT is poorly kitted–far from it. We have another device packed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.4ghz dual-core processor. It’s sporting 1080p video capture, a 800 x 480 Gorilla Glass display, 1gb of RAM, 8gb storage, microSD memory card slot plus radios for WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. The HTC 8XT is NFC capable. Plus it’s got the super cool Boom Sound front-facing speakers bequeathed from the exalted HTC One. They sound great and make an incredible addition. We’ll dive more into the camera in a bit. However, the lens tech is 1.6mp front-facing camera lens.

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As I mentioned in my impressions, the HTC 8XT feels great in-hand. It measures 2.6 x 5.2 x .39 inches and only weighs 120 grams. This is a very thin wafer-like phone. It’s thinner than the Galaxy S4 yet it feels much more solid and firm when held. To contrast, the GS4 has a airy plastic feel that rubs many the wrong way. The HTC 8XT is exactly opposite of this. Think if the One and the Lumia 928 had a baby.

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There are a total of 4-physical buttons. Two make up the volume rocker. Power button is at the top right and the bottom right button on the right side, is a dedicated camera access/clicker, similar to Nokia offerings. The speakers are front facing Boom Sound with Beats Audio and the bottom-front of the device is brandished with the traditional touch-sensitive buttons found on a Windows Phone. You have the Home button, back and Search (via Bing).

Software

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This a Windows Phone so you expect a very clean UI. Navigation through many of the Windows Phone apps is smart, clean and intuitive. Flicking through features or pages on most apps is a simple flick of the thump–not unlike skipping photos in your camera/photo library. Your homescreen features the Live Tiles UI that is arguably–and almost-ironically–the mascot face of the OS. You can pin icons to your favorite apps and other functions to your homescreen to create a new Live Tile. It works virtually the same as icon pinning in Windows 8. The functionality is similar to HTC BlinkFeed but night quite as dynamic. Images are not always pulled directly from the source material they tie into. Facebook, the photo library icon and few others do this. But mostly you get the clean Spartan look for which Live Tiles is known. It looks great and takes any guess work out of navigating. If things get cluttered or confusing, flick of your thumb/finger will take you list of all the apps installed on a Windows Phone.

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The Nokia Lumia 928 was loaded down with quite a bit of Nokia-crafted custom software. HTC’s hand was heaviest in area of design and hardware. This will be a good thing for some. But I do miss some of the cooler features exclusive to the Nokia devices. There is Spint TV, SPrint Music and Scout–thing being a Sprint device and all… Speaking about the ecosystem at large, Windows Phone has an uphill battle when it comes to its app library. Android and iOS have that locked down. So any help is intensely welcomed. That said, this is a Windows Phone, the OS runs absolutely great. But it’s glaringly limited due a shallow app pool.

Camera

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The camera on the other hand, is super solid. It uses an 8mp rear camera. I appreciate the dedicated camera button for quickly pulling up the camera app. This same button can activate the auto-focus and work as a clicker for snapping shots. The camera can shoot video and still photos simultaneously, features multishot burst mode for farming a ton of similar shots to herd and choose from and generally takes appealing amateur shots in low and bright-light settings. I have not taken any pics with the front facing camera at the time of this writing.

Battery Life

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The chargeable power source is a 1800 mAh Li-ion Polymer battery. On standby and snoring asleep, the HTC 8XT shows impressive stamina. But continuous general use where you’re surfing the net, watching a few short YouTube videos, playing with the camera, downloading apps, running GPS directions and such will kill your phone dead in less than 5.5 hours. That’s “o.k.” But it could be better for such a consumer oriented phone hoping to make it as a mainstream mainstay.

Conclusion

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Feels great. Call quality is even better than the Nokia Lumia–with fewer dropped calls in the same areas and better overall reception. But Nokia Lumia is the better Window Phone. The 8XT doesn’t offer any equivalent to the cooler company-made apps on the Nokia Lumia 928. Also that device’s screen resolution is immaculate with the ClearBlack tech in the display. It produces elegant, deeper blacks and higher color vibrancy. You don’t get that at all with the HTC 8XT. Blacks lack richness and depth. So anything that takes advantage of deep blacks will suffer a bit–not critically but–noticeably so.

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The form factor for the 8XT is perversely fondle-friendly–I’ll give it that for sure. I can’t say enough about the feel in-hand, which is accentuated by the soft-touch backing. The camera is a very strong in both low light and and naturally well lit settings. But the dainty size, candy-like color options and dearth of high end innards pushes this one more toward a casual but style-conscious mobile user.

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