HTC's Desire X promises 'best-in-class camera'

The new Desire X from HTC sits squarely in the middle of the company's One series, but delivers more features than you might think.

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If you own an HTC Desire or Wildfire that are much loved but getting toward the end of their useful life, HTC has lined up an affordable midrange replacement for your beloved 'droid with a bit more oomph under the hood.

The Desire X has a dual-core 1GHz chip, a 4-inch screen and runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), skinned with the latest version of HTC's Sense UI.

Pricing hasn't yet been announced but HTC describes the Desire X as sitting lower down its pecking order as the One Series range of devices but above the budget Desire C -- so expect it to cost somewhere in the region of £180 ($284) unlocked.

I went hands-on at a press preview of the device -- read on for my first impressions.

The HTC Desire X runs Android 4.0 with HTC's Sense UI. Natasha Lomas/CNET UK

Design, screen, and build quality

If you've clapped eyes on the HTC One X, the Desire X will look distinctly familiar. It's basically a miniaturized version of HTC's quad-core flagship -- with a few other key differences. Firstly, unlike the One X, the Desire X's back is removable so you can get at the battery. You also get a microSD card slot to expand storage space.

Secondly, the two exposed sides of the screen have been toughened so even though the screen appears to stretch all the way to the edge, it is buttressed with a rigid bit of plastic. This is a decent change, in my view, as it means you shouldn't have to worry about causing phantom selections or screen flex no matter how hard you grip the phone -- problems that I encountered on the One X.

The overall look of the Desire X is attractive. It has some stylish aluminum trim around its face, switching to curved plastic round the back. There's a choice of either black or white models -- the latter has blue plastic and silver metal detailing around the camera lens, while the black version is all black (and slightly rubberized).

On the front of the Desire X there's a 4-inch Super LCD display with a WVGA resolution. During my hands-on, it looked bright, clear and colorful. I also found the touch screen -- and the three touch keys -- nice and responsive to taps and swipes.

On the top edge there's a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power key, the latter of which is set smack in the middle.

The 4-inch screen means this phone isn't a tiddler but it doesn't feel too big in the hand, either. It's also relatively slender and felt fairly lightweight.

Build quality looks like it could be a slight concern, though, as the backplate doesn't always fit snugly to the sides and around the camera lens -- with distinct cracks showing. Fitting it back on properly also requires a little care as it needs one edge to be hooked on first before the other.

The design of the volume rocker -- incorporated into the edge of the backplate -- also seems like a weak point as it could easily be ripped off in the process of removing the back. We'll be sure to test how durable these components are when we get the phone in for a full review.

Open the Desire X's rear cover to access the battery and SIM card slot. Natasha Lomas/CNET UK

Hardware
Powering the Desire X is a dual-core 1GHz S4 chip, which -- providing the price is right -- is a respectable amount of power for a midrange Android.

RAM is 768MB, and there's 4GB of memory -- 1GB of which is user-accessible. This storage space can of course be expanded via the microSD card slot lodged under the backplate.

During my hands-on time with the device, I didn't notice any lag when swiping around the menus, and Web browsing seemed responsive and fast -- even when panning around full-desktop versions of Web sites. So early signs look promising.

The phone certainly seems like it could easily handle the mobile basics of Web browsing and lightweight apps. More processor-intensive apps such as high-octane 3D games will probably tax it, though, so expect a bit of stutter if you plan on really leaning on the Desire X's engine.

The battery is 1,600mAh -- which is slightly more capacious than the battery that Samsung slapped in the midrange Galaxy Ace 2.

The phone also includes the Beats Audio music enhancing technology -- but won't include Beats Audio headphones in the box, HTC says.

Software
Like all devices in HTC's current portfolio, the Desire X runs Android 4.0 -- aka Ice Cream Sandwich. HTC said it is reviewing whether the device will get an update to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1), but I don't hold your breath.

The Desire X also comes fully loaded with the latest Sense UI skin -- the demo device I was testing was running Sense 4.1. HTC's Sense interface adds a really friendly feel to Google's OS, giving you the standard Android experience of multiple home screens to swipe around and fill with apps and widgets.

This version of Sense has had a few tweaks to tailor it this device -- so you don't get all the bells and whistles of Sense running on a flagship device like the One X. For instance, the Recent Apps Menu brings up the standard Android stack of thumbnails. There also doesn't seem to be a home screen overview mode -- although HTC said this is not the final software build, so that may change when the phone launches.

The phone comes preloaded with HTC's usual range of apps and widgets including its weather app and the Teeter game. You also get 25GB of Dropbox cloud storage included in the price.

And you can load scores more apps -- from Spotify to Angry Birds -- via Google's Play Store.

The camera lens sits on the Desire X's rear side. You'll be able to choose from white and black models. Natasha Lomas/CNET UK

Camera
HTC has stuck a 5-megapixel camera on the Desire X's rump; this is pretty much the standard amount of megapixels at this price range. However the company says it has imported some of the camera smarts it added to its higher-end One Series range into the Desire X -- for instance, you get a backside-illuminated sensor so it can capture more light, and an f2.0 aperture.

The camera interface also is the same as the software found on One Series devices, and includes features such as burst mode -- so you can shoot up to 30 photos in a sequence by holding your finger down on the shutter -- and also the ability to snap stills when shooting a video.

HTC's Graham Wheeler, director of commercialization product management for the company, said its aim is for the Desire X to offer a "best-in-class camera."

I had a chance to take a few snaps and my early impressions are good -- but stay tuned for a full review when we'll be putting the lens through its paces.

Outlook
With the right price-tag slapped on it, the Desire X has the potential to be a really tasty midrange 'droid. It won't compete with top-of-the-range Android powerhouses, but it should have enough oomph for most people's mobile needs. The only concern I have at this point is that build quality may be its Achilles' heel.

HTC said the Desire X will start shipping in early September -- so expect it to land in shops and be offered by operators by mid-September. Stay tuned for a full review.

 

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