White, slim and gorgeously sleek, the One X is a seriously attention-grabbing smartphone. HTC's design may have been hit and miss last year, but this isn't reflected in the company's latest flagship. HTC doesn't break any new ground in this design; the One X is still a mono-block touchscreen smartphone, but it does manage to rediscover what can be so desirable in smartphone design, with its subtly curved display and gentle lips and dips across the body of this device.
The 4.7-inch HD resolution display is truly the icing on the cake. With superb viewing angles, great colour and 312 pixels per inch, this screen is the best we've seen from HTC to date. As with Apple's new iPad, you may find it hard to spot how great this screen looks when you view it in isolation, but it makes it very hard to go back to a lower-resolution screen thereafter.
The seamless design of the One X looks and feels great, but it does mean that you can't replace the battery.
HTC does take a risk in enclosing the phone's battery and memory within the handset, so that neither are user replaceable. But then, many of the top-tier phones that we've seen lately use a similar design, and we're guessing that only a select few will be put off by not being able to change batteries. Memory is a different matter — it's always the more the merrier — and if you don't feel that the included 32GB memory (just over 25GB user accessible) is sufficient, you will have to look elsewhere.
Just as important as the physical elements of this phone, HTC's updated Sense user experience is central to whether you love this phone, or whether you'll give it a miss. Sense is now noticeably leaner than before. The transitions and animations have been simplified, and so too have some of the system's widgets, most notably the iconic HTC clock.
Some of the changes to Sense are easy to spot.
There are more significant changes below the surface, some that only HTC fans will spot. The app drawer now scrolls horizontally rather than vertically — a change that we love. Apps are automatically separated into four tabs: All, Frequent, Downloads and Vodafone, on our review unit. These tabs can be moved around or removed, but strangely you can't add your own. You can add folders to any active home screen, which serves the same purpose, though.
The cumbersome Personalisation menu introduced in Sense 3.0 remains, but is now tucked away within the main system menu. This is a good decision that helps to de-clutter the home screens. The transition between home screens is still vaguely 3D, although it certainly feels like a smoother animation than that in releases last year.
The quad-core Nvidia processor in the One X is one of the top-line selling points for this phone, and while we've found it hard to fault its performance from day to day, it's also an extremely hard feature to test. Is this phone faster than previous Android smartphones? And, if it is, is this speed bump correlated to the Tegra 3 chipset, or do we attribute it to Android 4 or any number of other factors?
The speed is evident in everyday use, where using the One X is a pleasure. The touchscreen is responsive, and there are no perceptible pauses (or very few) when navigating around the system. Our review unit did infrequently reload the Sense Launcher when exiting apps, and while this is annoying, it's not a deal-breaking issue, in our books.
Battery life may end the love affair for some users, depending on how you use your phone each day. The One X fell short in our punishing battery-endurance tests, with results well under four hours for both web browsing on Wi-Fi and 720p HD video playback. This doesn't reflect standard use, though, where the One X managed to get through most days of moderate use, including push email. This is not a phone for heavy users, especially considering that you can't switch batteries throughout the day. Road warriors who fall in love with the One X will need to be sure that they have chargers on hand.
The 8-megapixel camera in the One X is where HTC is really hoping to set itself apart. Featuring a dedicated processor for imaging, the One X is touted as being one of the fastest smartphone cameras, a claim we'll happily agree with. The time from the home screen to your first photo would be about three seconds with deft fingers controlling the action, and the quality of the images is outstanding for a phone.