I decided to give it a week’s usage before coming to conclusions about the HTC One X. Spending a week with the phone gives the reviewer a better understanding on its performance in everyday usage situations. Anyone can rave about specs and fact sheet capabilities at a glance but you learn a lot more when using it on a daily basis.
It’s A Tough Beauty
I won’t go into specs because specs mean zilch in this day and age. Sure, the One X may be quad core phone running off a Tegra 3 chip but what does this ultimately translate to? Here is a performance orientated review.
I admit I was drawn to the One X due to its form factor. I had earlier eyed the Lumia 900 (white) and it is easy to see why I picked the One X in the end. The form factor and build quality is similarly superb. The white polycarbonate body encases a jet black sLCD. HTC claims that the polycarbonate body is tough and it has held up well. No hairline scratches, etc in the first few days without needing a case.
While AMOLED would have been more of a power saver, the sLCD is magnificent. In line with The Verge’s review, I found this to be the best looking screen I’ve ever handled on a mobile device. Apple’s retina line up doesn’t even come close. It might be useful to add at this point that I have 6/6 eyesight and I couldn’t spot a pixel at reading range. Colour reproduction is excellent and you can run out of superlatives describing the screen, if ‘world’s best’ isn’t good enough for you.
The screen is covered with gorilla glass which is the main reason why I haven’t bothered getting a screen protector yet. While this is the toughest glass you can get in the market right now, do note that it is not 100% scratch resistant. But still, the best the market can offer at the moment. Unlike my iPhone 4, I did not have to constantly worry about a fragile device and did not have to rush to get the entire phone protected from the get go.
The response of the touch screen is good. I didn’t have any problems with it coming from iOS which had a really good touch experience in itself. Typing and navigation were both easy and fast.
The One X peformed better than the infamous iPhone 4. Ridden with antenna issues, the iPhone 4 often dropped my calls. And I’m glad I’m no longer seeing this screen anymore.
I have never dropped calls once and both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity have been snappy. 3G speeds are good as well.
The camera sensor is good. Not excellent or jaw dropping but good enough to exceed my iPhone 4 easily. That said, the camera falls behind other premium Android phones. I found my mom’s Galaxy SII to have a slightly better sensor than the One X. Also, HTC’s camera software has both its ups and downs. It offers fast performance and solid multishot capability. It also allows you to shoot photos and videos without needing to toggle. But the color balance and white levels are often slightly off. While this can be easily corrected in any photo editing suite, this software issue can definitely be improved on in a patch.
Nevertheless, the One X’s camera quality is good enough for normal point and shoot photos. I have taken some sample shots during a morning walk and you can have a look at picture quality here. Note that the weather at that point fluctuated between cloudy and sunny so you may see some variations in weather. I tested HDR, Auto and Panorama modes.
Software – Sense UI 4.0
Most people do not understand how the Android OS is handled. They see Android the same way as PC users see Windows. Windows is the same on any PC or laptop you use. This is different from Android. Android is more like Linux. Each phone manufacturer takes the open source stock operating system and modifies it. The Android OS that I have is thus different from say its Samsung or LG counterparts. This is an important differentiation because Google has been blamed over and over for poorly optimized OSes which is not Google’s fault but down to the manufacturer’s poor customization. The only phone that offers the original Google experience is the Nexus line. Anything else is HTC’s/Samsung’s/LG’s/Motorola’s take on the Android OS. The OS that the One X uses is HTC’s Sense UI 4.0 (based off Android ICS).
HTC and Samsung have over the years moved from producing terrible UIs to ones that are quite well optimized. Earlier versions of Sense and Touchwiz were poor and often rendered the phone to be slow and laggy.
Sense 4.0 is pretty well done but not perfect. There is no real noticeable UI lag and navigation is a relatively smooth and swift process. What HTC has over Samsung is a better design philosophy. The interface is clean and uncluttered. The Galaxy SII put me off with its extremely cluttered look and a unrefined design.
As customization is one of the hallmarks of Android and its spin off OSes. I’ve modified my lock and home screen to be clean and simple.
I am not sure if this is a ICS feature or a Sense 4.0 feature but you can build folders similar to iOS’s style which makes my move from iOS to Android a lot smoother. This form of organizing shortcuts is neat and tidy.
Battery life is good but not great. This is mainly down to Sense 4.0. As mentioned above, it is not fully optimized. There are some glaring errors made in designing the software which should be corrected in a coming patch. I get about a day’s usage between charges which makes it similar to my former phone.
It hardly consumes battery in standby mode but the drain occurs when active. The gigantic 4.7″ screen eats up a lot of battery but this can be better handled by the OS. Again coming patches should fix this.
Improving the One X
The One X has near perfect hardware, but slighly above average software. The easy way out of this is to root the phone and install a custom ROM (read: custom OS). An example of this would be the ‘Android Revolution HD’ ROM made to replicate the same functionality as the Sense UI 4.0 but keeping the codebase and operation highly efficient. This translate to even snappier performance and better battery life.
However, this requires some knowledge of rooting and tweaking and is not meant for non tech inclined users. I would probably root my phone in the near future after HTC’s 1.28 firmware update.
Android based phones have come a long way. The HTC One X is one of the best phones in the market right now. I recommend it for people who are not tech adverse.
I got mine at S$768 from a retailer without extending my contract. My iPhone 4 16GB was valued at S$430 (which is way higher than M1’s trade in value of S$250). The $338 top up for this phone was very worth it. Adding on to the fact I can extend my contract in September and sell off whatever phone that comes with it, I am likely to make a S$100-S$200 profit while having one of the best phones available.
Again, if you are tech adverse, stick to iOS. If you aren’t – the One X is a massive upgrade from any iOS device at the moment. Apple has to step it up this summer. Both Android and Windows Phones have improved and have outstripped it / caught up to it respectively.
[Update: 1.28 Firmware Released + Improvements]
The 1.28 firmware was released for Singaporean users about 3 hours after my post went live. In a nutshell, battery has improved and Sense UI seems to be a lot snappier. I believe custom ROMs still have better performance. Here is the battery breakdown for my phone after patch 1.28.
Normal usage. 2+ hrs phone calls on a bluetooth headset. 1+ hrs music on bluetooth as well. Some games. Dropbox and Picasa syncs. Some light browsing.
[Update: Camera Shot Comparison. Pre / Post Edit]
I’ve been asked to provide clear comparisons between actual unedited shots using the One X’s camera. I hope the following comparison will explain why I find the One X stock software only average in the review above. Unedited shot looks a little washed out. Sensor remains pretty good in well lit conditions.
(Note: The file is 11MB in size)