HTC One X+ review: Its gargantuan storage space is hard to beat

As you'd expect on a modern Android device, the One X+ comes with the usual Google services onboard, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, along with the Play Store, from which you can download apps from a catalog of over 500,000 titles. Play also provides digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. If that's still not enough entertainment, HTC's Watch app also gives access to TV shows and movies for rental or purchase. For example, I could buy the 2012 remake of "Total Recall" for $14.99 but not rent it. On the other hand, I could both buy ($14.99) and rent ($3.99) "Expendables 2."

Other compelling third-party software that's preloaded on the One X+ includes the Nook reader and a demo version of Mass Effect Infiltrator from Electronic Arts, plus TuneIn Internet radio (a personal favorite) and SoundHound hidden within the HTC Music app. Nvidia's TegraZone offers ways buy and download official Tegra 3-supported games as well. AT&T infuses the device with its own selection of apps and services of dubious usefulness. It has a bar code scanner, FamilyMap for locating family members ($9.99 per month for two family members, $14.99 for up to five), AT&T Locker, which stores files in the cloud for an extra fee, AT&T Navigator, and Messages -- all to do things you can pretty much do for free through Google software.

As we've seen on other HTC devices, social-media integration is just as strong in Sense 4+ as in previous versions. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ apps are preloaded, plus a Friend Stream widget pulls all updates across multiple social-media platforms to view in one location. Similarly, the People app will analyze your contacts list automatically and suggest any possible links between, say, Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, within a friend's contact details I was able to view any albums my friend posted to Facebook and any recent updates like messages or missed calls.

HTC plays up the fact that the HTC One X+ boasts Beats audio processing. In theory, it automatically will activate a targeted equalizer profile to match specific Beats-branded headphones. As with my experience with Beats on the HTC One S and One X, however, I found that it often pumped up bass way too much, killing the mids and highs. Certainly some tracks will benefit from the heavy Beats audio treatment, especially ones where booming bass is the central draw. Thankfully HTC also provides a group of equalizer settings, and I found that the Sweetener profile offered the most balanced audio across all genres.

Camera
HTC's new One series smartphones have what the company calls ImageSense technology. Essentially this is a buzzword signifying that the phone's 8-megapixel camera relies on a dedicated image processor for quick performance. It also indicates that HTC added additional photo goodies such as a wide range of scene modes that go way beyond the typical camera phone options.

Besides staples like face detection, auto smile capture, and panorama, the One X+ has an HDR (high dynamic range) mode, which uses the handset's back-illuminated sensor to add shadow detail to what would otherwise be overexposed shots, though it does tend to paint subjects in a ghostly blue brush. A continuous shooting mode snaps images in bursts of up to 4 frames per second, great for shooting unruly or fast-moving subjects like kids and pets. Another one of the One X+'s handy capabilities is the ability to record video in up to full 1080p HD quality and grab 8-megapixel stills either while the camera is rolling or when playing back movies later. There's even a slow-motion video feature to capture footage at a high frame rate to review at a snail's pace. You also get a nifty panorama mode that sticks images together into one sweeping scene.

The camera app has plenty of settings and features. Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the One X before it, the One S, and Droid DNA, the HTC One X+'s camera image quality didn't disappoint. The phone took shots of an indoor still life with accurate color and sharp details, even under challenging fluorescent lighting. Outdoors in bright sunlight, the green of foliage and yellow of flowers were vivid and natural, but not oversaturated. And 1080p videos I shot also were clear and exhibited none of the blocky pixelation I've seen from phones with lower-res camcorders. That said, I did see some video noise as I panned across vistas with lots of minute details such as individual blades of grass in park lawns.

Indoor still-life shots were clear and sharp. Brian Bennett/CNET

The front camera has a timer for better self-portraits. Brian Bennett/CNET

Colors looked vivid and natural, even under weak sunlight. Brian Bennett/CNET

In strong backlight, the sensor was overwhelmed. Brian Bennett/CNET

The HDR mode helped tame strong sunlight. Brian Bennett/CNET

Performance
I know many HTC fans were disappointed that the U.S. version of the One X had a dual-core CPU instead of the much-hyped quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3. Judging the One X+'s and One X's performance side by side, I have to say it ultimately didn't seem to make much of a difference which chip was running the show. Equipped with a 1.7GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM, the phone is very nimble but not noticeably more so than its predecessor.

Sure, it zooms through Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and HTC's Sense skin with great velocity and agility -- just like my experience of the HTC One S (T-Mobile). Linpack tests (multithread) verified that the HTC One X+ is fast but not faster than its older dual-core rival. In fact it notched a fast 168.7 MFLOPS in just 1 second. On the same test, the One X actually scored a higher 205.7 MFLOPs (in 0.82 second).

Further muddying the waters, on the more graphically intense Quadrant benchmark, the One X+ notched a much higher 7,355 compared with the One X's 4,324. Of course the HTC Droid DNA's score of 8,165 trumps both devices.

The One X+ does brings to the table a swift 4G data connection. On AT&T's 4G LTE network in New York, I observed average download throughput exceeding an impressive 12Mbps. Upload results, however, hovered at just over a slow 2Mbps, which is not the speed I have typically seen from AT&T. Moving to a different location resulted in much faster throughput, well over 20Mbps downloads with uploads cracking the 10Mbps mark.

AT&T's 4G LTE is swift depending on where you surf. Brian Bennett/CNET

Call quality on the HTC One X+ via AT&T's GSM cellular network was on par with other AT&T handsets I've used. For calls made in New York, voices sounded clear with no discernible static, and people on the other end reported clean audio as well. The phone's slim speaker doesn't get too loud even with the volume pushed to the highest setting.

AT&T claims the HTC One X+ will provide a talk time of 12.75 hours and 15 days running in standby mode. That's a long time for a device with such a big screen and quad-core processing. Still the One X+ does boast a sizable 2,100mAh battery, though it's disappointing that it isn't removable. In anecdotal use both over LTE and Wi-Fi, the handset lasted a full workday of moderate use, such as running tests, opening apps, and playing music. The handset didn't fare so well on the CNET Labs video battery drain test. It lasted just 5 hours and 11 minutes before shutting down. To be fair, HTC provides a power-save mode that by default isn't enabled.

Conclusion
I know there are many who will complain about the lack of an SD card slot for extra expansion. The same goes for the embedded battery, which you can't swap out in a pinch. That said, I think the handsomely styled $199.99 HTC One X+ more than makes up for this with its ridiculously vast 64GB of internal storage. It's the most I've seen available on a mobile phone save the iPhone, and unheard of at this price. Throw in Android Jelly Bean, quad-core computing, an outstanding camera, and 4G LTE, and the One X+ is the best bargain to be had on AT&T's current roster. Sure you could opt for the $199.99 Samsung Galaxy S3, but I don't think its removable battery and SD card slot offset its slower dual-core CPU and less attractive design.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Service Provider AT&T
  • Weight 4.76 oz
  • Diagonal Size 4.7 in
  • Sensor Resolution 8 pixels
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