HTC One X+ review: HTC One X+

This facet of the Android experience is a real jaw dropper, allowing you to access a world of information using nothing but your voice. You can ask Google Now what the weather is, or Brad Pitt’s age. Or, if you’re feeling particularly jovial, you can request a selection of cat photos. Like Siri, Google Now will speak back to you at certain points, reinforcing the impression that there’s a tiny little digital assistant residing in your phone. To round it all off, the service can even alert you to traffic problems on your way home (it memorises your route based on your day-to-day movement patterns) and send you the final score of your favourite sports team.

HTC One X+
That mind-reading ghoul in your phone is Google Now. Say hello, it's perfectly friendly. We think.

True to form, HTC has smeared its Sense UI over the top of Google’s Jelly Bean, making the user experience better in some ways, but arguably less intuitive in others. The multi-tasking menu in Sense is different to the one seen on other Jelly Bean devices. Instead of displaying a vertical row of running applications, Sense opts for a horizontal stack of cards. It’s not a major alteration, but I definitely prefer Google’s approach.

Elsewhere, HTC has included some unique apps, such as HTC Watch and an EA Games portal. These rub shoulders with Google’s own Play Movies and Google Play stores, meaning that in the case of apps and games, it feels like there’s a replication of content. It’s not as bad as it is on Sony’s phones -- which feature several different download stores all competing with one another on the same device -- but it’s unnecessarily fractured. The issue is amplified further when you consider that Google now offers movies, music and books to all Android owners, and you may find yourself questioning why would you need to resort to using another service, especially when it means inputting your credit card details all over again.

Still, choice is a positive thing, which is why I'm pleased that HTC has included not one but two Web browsers. The default option is the manufacturer's own application, which is quite a robust offering and even supports Adobe Flash -- something which has been stripped out of the vast majority of Android 4.1 devices. Despite this bonus, however, the temptation to use Google’s excellent Chrome browser is too great to ignore. It’s fast, attractive and syncs with Chrome on other devices, such as your tablet and PC.

 

HTC One X+
Multi-tasking is always a pleasure and never a chore for the nippy One X+.

There’s still no microSD card slot on this updated phone, which means you’re stuck with the amount of internal memory supplied by HTC. Thankfully, that figure now stands at a truly humungous 64GB, which should prove ample space for all but the most frenzied of downloaders. By making use of cloud services such as Dropbox (which comes pre-installed on the device thanks to HTC’s deal with the company), Google Music and Picasa, you can store content online and access it all from your phone, freeing up even more of that 64GB for other uses.

Performance and battery life

When the One X first launched, it had little in the way of competition when it came to raw processing power. Although the One X+ has a bolstered processor, the playing field is now crowded with quad-core challengers, some of which -- like the Galaxy Note 2 -- offer similar speeds but with even more RAM. In the case of Samsung’s big-screen phone, it’s 2GB to the One X+’s 1GB.

Antutu Benchmark 3.0 -- which tests elements such as memory, CPU performance and graphics capability -- produced a score of 15,549. While this is a marked improvement over the 10,827 achieved by the standard One X, it falls a little short of the Nexus 4’s 18,096 and the Galaxy Note II’s 17,532.

Quadrant Standard, another multi-faceted benchmarking tool, tells a slightly different story. It gives a score of 7,483, which bests the Nexus 4’s 4,906 rating. When tested with Web benchmarking app Vellamo, the phone clocked a very respectable score of 1,799 - beating its predecessor's 1,630 and leaving the Galaxy S3 (1,513) and Xperia S (1,382) in its wake.

The One X+’s faster chip was always going to mean that a bigger battery would be required, and thankfully HTC hasn’t scrimped in this respect. The 2,100 mAh power cell adds a little to the overall weight of the phone, but it also grants additional power. As logic would dictate, the simultaneous rise in CPU speed and battery capacity cancel one another out, meaning that the One X+’s staying power remains as lacklustre as that of its predecessor.

HTC One X+
Unfortunately when HTC locked the battery inside the One X+, it threw away the key.

My first day with the device started with a full charge. I used the One X+ in the same fashion I would with my usual everyday phone -- a spot of Twitter, a dash of Web browsing and a generous helping of 3D video gaming. By the middle of the day the battery was already showing signs of fatigue, and by the time I arrived home at 6pm it was about to expire.

I certainly didn’t tax the phone any more than usual, which suggests that HTC hasn’t discovered a solution to quelling the juice-hungry appetite of its leading phones. And because the battery isn’t accessible or removable, there’s no chance you'll be able to carry a spare in your pocket for those long trips, so if the One X+ dies on you when you’re away from home, you're going to be uncontactable.

Camera

The 8-megapixel camera on the One X+ remains unchanged from the One X, but the front-facing snapper has received a boost, increasing it to 1.6 megapixels over the previous 1.3. Thanks to the additional power within the phone, the One X+ is incredibly fast when it comes to booting up the camera and taking a snap. From lock screen to photo capture you’re looking at less than two seconds, which should ensure you never miss an impromptu shot again.

HTC One X+ test photo
The camera is the twin of the one found on the One X (click to enlarge).
HTC One X+ test photo
The camera springs open from the lock screen at breakneck speed, meaning you need never miss a snap (click to enlarge).

Photo quality is good, with plenty of detail, good contrast and faithful replication of colour. Users can customise elements such as sharpness, contrast and exposure, and the usual raft of shooting modes -- including panoramic and the now-ubiquitous HDR -- further enhances the phone’s photographic credentials.

HTC One X+ test photo
Photos are packed full of detail and colours are true to life (click to enlarge).

Just like the One X, the One X+ can shoot HD video at 1080p, but this time around it can do so at 30fps as opposed to 24. It’s difficult to notice the increased frame rate unless you’re an expert in this kind of thing, but it’s nice to know there’s an improvement all the same.

 

Conclusion

Although the One X+’s improved internal gubbins allow it to go toe-to-toe with other powerful Android devices, it carries with it some of the same problems which blighted the copybook of its forerunner. The screen still suffers from an unsightly warping effect when pressure is applied to the sides, and the battery life remains uninspiring -- despite the power cell receiving a slight boost.

It’s such a shame that these issues exist, because in almost every other respect the One X+ is possibly the best phone to ever emerge from HTC’s labs. It’s attractive, powerful and offers the best of both worlds when it comes to Android user experience, as it boasts Jelly Bean with HTC’s popular Sense skin laid over the top. The camera is great too, and the inclusion of Tegra 3 technology means that 3D games look absolutely stunning on that HD 4.7-inch Super LCD2 display.

The biggest threat to the One X+ -- and most other quad-core Android handsets -- is unquestionably Google’s newly-launched Nexus 4. It offers a quad-core chipset with a massive screen and lush Gorilla Glass-covered case, and all for as little as £240. The only sticking point is that Google and LG currently seem unable to satisfy the incredible demand for the phone . Once they do however, devices like the One X+, which costs almost twice the price of an 8GB Nexus 4, become increasingly hard to recommend.

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    HTC One X+ (AT&T)

    Part Number: 6300321
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    • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
    • Service Provider AT&T
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