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HolidayBuyer's Guide

HTC One VX (AT&T) review:

A sleek, feature-packed smartphone deal

Besides basics like face detection, auto smile capture, and panorama, the One VX has an HDR (high dynamic range) mode. It makes use of the handset's back-illuminated (BSI) sensor to bring shadow detail to areas that would otherwise be overexposed. This HDR setting does tend to paint subjects in a ghostly blue brush and give colors a cartoonish cast.

A continuous-shooting mode snaps images in bursts of up to 4 frames per second, great for capturing fast-moving or uncooperative subjects like kids and pets. The One VX can also record video in 1080p HD quality, and can also grab stills both while the camera is filming and when viewing movies later. You can capture all the action using a slow-motion video mode, then play it back at a fraction of its original speed. You also have a panorama mode that combines images into one wide vista.

Details were clear and color natural in still-life shots. Brian Bennett/CNET

Even though the HTC One VX uses a relatively low-resolution 5-megapixel sensor, overall I was impressed with the quality of images the handset snapped. Under fluorescent lighting -- conditions that can cause lesser phone cameras to stumble -- the phone took shots of an indoor still life with accurate color and sharp details.

Outdoors, colors were vivid even in weak sunlight. Brian Bennett/CNET

Outdoors in bright, though weak winter sunlight, the greens and purples of nearby foliage were lifelike, not oversaturated. The 1080p videos I shot also were clear, but I did see some jerkiness as I panned across city scenes filled with moving traffic and sightseeing tourists.

HDR mode brought detail to otherwise overexposed images. Brian Bennett/CNET
Wide-angle scenes also looked good. Brian Bennett/CNET
Capturing images of moving kids wasn't too difficult. Brian Bennett/CNET

As it's equipped with a modest 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM, I didn't expect the HTC One VX to deliver outstanding application performance. Even so, the phone felt responsive enough and managed to churn through menu screens and open apps without any noticeable delays. That said, it didn't feel as blisteringly swift in my hands as HTC's current ubergadget, the Droid DNA. In fact, in its handling the One VX was close to the One X+ and older One X.

The synthetic benchmark test confirmed my impressions, with the One VX's Linpack score of 257.5 MFLOPs (multithread) being way behind the Droid DNA's score of 401.6 MFLOPs. The One VX's 5,291 score on the more graphically challenging Quadrant test was also much lower than the Droid DNA, at 8,165. Interestingly, the HTC One X+ managed a higher score on the same test (7,355) but a lower Linpack showing (168.7 MFLOPs multithread).

Over AT&T's 4G LTE network in New York, the HTC One VX clocked impressively fast data throughput. I logged an average download speed of 19.9Mbps with uploads averaging 12.7Mbps.

Data over AT&T's 4G network was fast. Brian Bennett/CNET

Voice quality is another one of this phone's bright spots. On calls within AT&T's GSM coverage area in New York, callers reported clean and crystal-clear audio with no static or other distortions. They even went so far as to say they couldn't tell I was speaking from a cellular line. Additionally, voices of callers on my end sound just as good through the earpiece and didn't get distorted at maximum volume.

Audio through the speakerphone was almost as pleasing, especially if I flipped the handset over onto a table face down. Also, doing so will cause the phone to kick into speakerphone mode automatically, just as putting it up to your ear reactivates the earpiece. This is very cool.

HTC One VX call quality sample Listen now:

Battery life was pleasingly long as well. The HTC One VX's 1,810mAh battery lasted a solid 7 hours and 37 minutes on the CNET Labs video battery drain test, which involves playing an HD video file continuously until the phone shuts down. That's a lot longer than the HTC One X+'s run time of 5 hours and 11 minutes on the same benchmark.

Performance: HTC One VX
Average LTE download speeds 19.9 Mbps
Average LTE upload speed 12.7 Mbps
App download 3.80MB in 6 seconds
CNET mobile site load 7 seconds
CNET desktop site load 8.2 seconds
Boot time 15 seconds
Camera boot time 1.3 seconds

I remember when $50 would only net you only an embarrassingly slow and boxy mobile device running outdated software. My, have times changed -- and the $49.99 HTC One VX is a perfect example of the shift in today's handset market.

This device does not provide a full four cores of computing power or a bleeding-edge operating system. What the One VX does offer, however, is what just six months ago was a premium Android experience, but at an entry-level price. Budget-phone seekers on AT&T should also look to the new $49.99 Pantech Discover, which, while larger than the One VX, also boasts a bigger, sharper HD screen, powerful stereo speakers, and a 12.6-megapixel camera. Though if a slim and pocketable phone is what you're after, the HTC One VX is incredibly hard to pass up.

What you'll pay

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