HTC Windows Phone 8X vs. Nokia Lumia 920: Specs and more

Two Windows Phone hopefuls lock horns. CNET's Jessica Dolcourt helps you tell the two apart.

HTC Windows Phone 8X, Nokia Lumia 920
At first glance, the HTC Windows Phone 8X, left, closely resembles the Nokia Lumia 920, right. Josh Miller/CNET

Editors' note: This article originally posted September 19, 2012 and was updated November 2, 2012, after I reviewed the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X , and again on November 6 after AT&T released Lumia 920 pricing .

There's no mistaking it: the Windows Phone 8 battle is heating up between the HTC Windows Phone 8X for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and the Nokia Lumia 920.

The resemblance between the two phones is readily apparent in photos, and more than skin deep. Like the Lumia 920, the HTC Windows Phone 8X drops the phone screen into a richly colored slablike unibody design. The two also share the same dual-core Qualcomm processor, LTE and NFC capability, and high-definition screens.

Yet the differences between the smartphones are pronounced when you see them in the flesh. I'll break them down for you here.

  HTC Windows Phone 8X

Nokia Lumia 920

Colors
Red, yellow, black, blue Red, yellow, black, white, gray
Display 4.3-inch Super LCD 2; 1,280x720 pixels, 342 ppi 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ display; 1,280x768 pixels, 332 ppi
LTE, NFC
Yes Yes
Processor 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon AT&T
Availability
November November
Price
$199.99 $99.99
Weight and thickness
4.6 ounces, 0.39 inch 6.5 ounces, 0.42 inch
Cameras
8-mp rear; 2.1-mp front 8.7-mp rear; 1-mp front
Memory 16GB; 1GB RAM 32GB; 1GB RAM
Battery
1,800mAh, embedded 2,000mAh, embedded
Bluetooth
Bluetooth 2.1 Bluetooth 3.1
SIM
Micro-SIM Micro-SIM
Extras
Beats Audio Wireless charging, Dolby Audio, Nokia Drive, Nokia Music

Design
In photos, the Lumia 920 and 8X look eerily similar, but place them both in front of you and there's no confusing which is which. The 8X is significantly smaller, lighter, and thinner than the Lumia 920, which may give it a leg up for those who prefer more pocketable devices.

Although about the same thickness at its widest point as the Lumia 920, the 8X has tapered sides that make it seem like half the phone as the thick, heavy, and bulky Lumia. Three of the Lumia's colors also come in a glossy finish that slips out of hands, where all of the 8X's four color options receive a grippy, soft-touch finish.

The 8X has the sexier design by far, but its biggest issue is how close-cropped the buttons are to the body; it makes them harder to press and to distinguish by feel.

Nokia's Lumia 920, top, is thicker all-around than the HTC Windows Phone 8X, bottom, and much heavier. Josh Miller/CNET

Display
The Lumia 920 has the slightly larger display, 4.5 inches as opposed to the Windows Phone 8X's 4.3 inches.

Resolution on both HD screens is similar, with HTC gaining the theoretical advantage with higher pixel density, 342 pixels per inch versus the Lumia's 332 ppi. However, both phone screens look terrific, and the Lumia 920 has the sunshine advantage. Indeed, its screen reduced the worst glare in direct light.

Another neat Nokia benefit is turning the screen to high sensitivity and operating the phone with your fingernail or a gloved hand. It's a small advantage, but one you'll appreciate if you're ever wearing gloves in the cold.

Camera
The camera is one of the fight's major tossups. The 8X includes HTC's image chip and 8-megapixel camera, which we've seen in action on the HTC One X and One S phones. Shutter lag is virtually nonexistent, and photo quality is typically high.

Nokia Lumia 920 camera
Nokia Lumia 920 camera Josh Miller/CNET

Unfortunately the 8X was the least consistent phone in my three-phone shootout that also included the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5 . Some photos were terrific and others were much poorer than expected.

On the other hand, Nokia's much-trumped 8.7-megapixel shooter with PureView algorithms wasn't the blowaway I had hoped. Despite sharing the same photo-rendering algorithms as the Nokia 808 PureView , its quality, with a green-blue cast and few controls, was closer to the disappointing Lumia 900 than to the 808, a photographer's smartphone camera.

Still, the 920 has the camera most likely to take better shots, and its low-light pictures were terrific.

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Processor and performance
With the same 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, the same Windows Phone 8 OS, and the same 4G LTE speeds, the 8X and the Lumia 920 are neck and neck for performance.

On the Bluetooth front, HTC made the strange decision to give the 8X Bluetooth 2.1, whereas the Lumia 920 follows Bluetooth 3.1 standards. The best-case scenario would see both phones with Bluetooth 4.0 for easy tapping and pairing. At least with NFC on both handsets, there's room to pair with third-party accessories using the near field communication standard.

Battery and storage
Nokia's 2,000mAh embedded battery edges the 8X's 1,800mAh equally nonremovable ticker. Yet that doesn't mean its run time will triumph.

First, the Lumia 920's larger screen will also require more power than the slightly smaller 8X display. Second, depending on your usage and brightness settings, runtime per charge could be shorter, longer, or identical. The PueMotion+ HD technology might even draw more battery, since it requires a voltage surge to transition from one video frame to the next. Nokia explains it in this white paper. Using the ultra-bright reading mode will also suck out more battery.

The phones are currently in a multi-day battery test process. I'll update with our labs-tested results when they're in.

(Here's the low-down on advancements to smartphones batteries .)

Storage is more straightforward, and the round goes to the Lumia 920's 32GB of onboard memory, plus 7GB of free Microsoft SkyDrive storage. HTC's 8X comes in a 16GB model, with the same online storage. Both phones have 1GB RAM, and neither comes with a microSD card slot.

Extras
The extra software and hardware tricks are how HTC and Nokia both hope to differentiate their phones. Nokia does this with wireless charging campaign , with its Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps apps (Drive includes voice navigation,) with its Nokia Music app that can cache music for offline listening

Nokia Lumia 920 on Fatboy charging accessory
The Nokia Lumia 920 will feature wireless charging using Qi standards. Josh Miller/CNET

Yet HTC offers Beats Audio, its signature audio-boosting software, and its own HTC ImageChip for photo-processing. Nokia counters with an equalizer and Dolby sound boosting. In reality, the phones will behave very similarly for core tasks.

Carriers and pricing
Right now, HTC has the benefit of enlisting three carriers to help rally customers to the 8X: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The handset costs $199 and will debut this month.

Getting Verizon onboard is no small feat. The nation's largest carrier has been Windows Phone-shy for more than a year; the 8X will be its second Windows Phone ever.

Nokia will come exclusive to AT&T this November, but pricing is still a mystery. If it can score a $150 price tag, it'll help move Lumia 920s on AT&T, where it competes directly with the 8X. As it is, faces an automatic disadvantage to HTC's widespread availability.

What about Samsung's Ativ phones?
Samsung's globally announced Ativ S won't pose much threat to either HTC or Nokia here in the U.S, but its Ativ Odyssey, announced for Verizon, will be.

We don't know much about the Odyssey, but if it's based off of the Ativ S, it'll look like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and could feature a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen (306 ppi), a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and an 8-megapixel camera.

One major difference gives the Ativ S 16GB or 32GB options, but also expandable memory, which is new to Windows Phone and which isn't part of either the Lumia 920 nor the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The Odyssey could also come with a 2,300mAh battery like the Ativ S.

Which to get?
$99 starting price aside, the Nokia Lumia 920 gets my vote for all-around most powerful Windows Phone, and that's the one I'd personally choose based on feature set alone. However, the HTC Windows Phone 8X is eminently more palpable and portable, and I really connect with its design (especially, the blue shade.) The Lumia 920, on the other hand, is heavy and bulky.

Those who aren't' drawn to its extra features will do just fine with the 8X, which is still a great phone in its own right. It doesn't have as many extra bells and whistles, and its camera has a few bad moments, but overall, it's a very nice device that I wouldn't shove off my table.

If you're with AT&T, the Lumia 920 is the clear choice. It's cheaper and more powerful, and those two benefits more than make up for the extra heft and bulk. If you're on another carrier, the HTC Windows Phone 8X is a nice choice. Verizon customers can also wait and see what the Samsung Ativ Odyssey will bring in terms of premium Windows Phone.

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