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HTC Desire X review: HTC Desire X

Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 4-inch screen and a dual-core 1GHz chip -- this mid-range 'droid is pretty tasty at this price. You can even get free Beats headphones.

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon
Andrew Lanxon headshot

Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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6 min read

If you own an HTC Desire or Wildfire -- much loved but realistically getting towards the end of its life -- HTC has lined up a fairly affordable mid-range replacement for your beloved 'droid. And it's got slightly more oomph to boot.


HTC Desire X

The Good

Good performance from the dual-core chip; Clear, colourful 4-inch screen; MicroSD card slot; reasonably priced.

The Bad

Plasticky build quality.

The Bottom Line

The HTC Desire X is a decent mid-range 'droid for people who want a capable phone that doesn't cost the Earth. With a bright 4-inch screen, Android Ice Cream Sandwich and a dual-core 1GHz chip, it's a wise choice for budget-conscious Android lovers.

The Desire X has a dual-core 1GHz chip, a 4-inch screen and it runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, skinned with HTC's Sense user interface.

It's available SIM-free for £240 or for free on contracts from around £15 per month. If you opt for the £20 per month option at Phones 4U, you get the phone for free as well as a pair of Beats by Dre Solo headphones, which sell for £125 on Amazon -- not a bad deal if you're music mad.

I should mention the newly announced Google Nexus 4 is a similar price and, on paper at least, much more powerful, so you might want to hold off until we've reviewed that.

Design and build quality

If you've clapped eyes on the HTC One X, the Desire X will look distinctly familiar. In the looks department, it's basically a miniaturised version of HTC's quad-core flagship, with a sloping metal edge at the top and three touch-sensitive buttons beneath the screen. It's a very typical HTC design, so if you're an existing user it'll probably be right up your alley.

HTC Desire X
HTC has unboxed a mid-range dual-core 'droid, slathered with Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

The overall look of the Desire X is attractive. It has some stylish aluminium 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.

Although the rubberised texture feels comfy, it picks up scuffs and scratches rather easily. After a few days of it knocking around on my desk I found it looked noticeably used, and I don't imagine it will get any better over weeks and month of use. You'll probably want to invest in a case as well.

HTC Desire X
If white doesn't take your fancy, HTC has made this all-black creation, which looks seriously noir.

On the top of the phone you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and the power button. On the sides are a micro-USB port and a volume rocker. The buttons are rather more spongy than I'd like, resulting in my normal presses sometimes not registering. It's perhaps not a major issue, but it could be quite annoying if you're trying to turn your volume down in a hurry.

At 118mm long and 62mm wide, it's hardly what you'd call massive. It sits easily in my reasonably large hand and with a thickness of 9.3mm, it will slide into your pocket without any trouble. It's not as slim or sleek as Apple's new iPhone 5, but it's definitely among the more slender of the mid-range Android bunch.


Powering the Desire X is a dual-core 1GHz S4 chip, which provides a respectable amount of power for a mid-range 'droid. It's not going to come off well in fisticuffs against Samsung's Galaxy S3 or indeed HTC's own One X, but it's far from the bottom of the power pile.

When I booted up the Geekbench benchmark test I was given a score of 629, putting it alongside phones like the Galaxy S Plus. In the CF Bench test, it provided a score of 5,506. The excellent Galaxy S2 managed 6,442 on the same test, which isn't a mile away.

HTC Desire X
The Desire X puts in a pretty strong performance in the Geekbench test.
HTC Desire X
The Desire X comes in only a short distance behind the formidable Samsung Galaxy S2.

During my own time with the phone, I found it be pleasingly nippy to use. Swiping through the homescreens was responsive and free of lag and opening menus was immediate. The phone certainly seems as though it could easily handle the mobile basics of web browsing and and at least the lightweight apps, or a spot of photo filtering with Instagram.

More processor-intensive apps such as high-octane 3D water racer Riptide GP played fairly well, with generally decent frame rates. Only on a couple of occasions did I notice the frame rate drop and the gameplay became a little laggy. Playing the most demanding games, such as Shadowgun or Real Racing 2, might not be quite as pleasant.


The 4-inch screen provides a resolution of 480x800 pixels (so 233 pixels per inch), which while not super-high, results in a fairly crisp screen. It's bright too, and offers pretty good colours. It's not so big that you'll want to watch full length movies on it -- you might want to look to the Galaxy Note 2 for that -- but it's fine for YouTube clips and colourful apps like Angry Birds.

The bezel has also been made pretty small, making the screen look as if it stretches almost from edge to edge. This lends it a certain premium look, which is a bonus -- less expensive phones tend to surround their screens with a great dollop of plastic. Its touch is pleasingly responsive too, which helps a great deal when typing in portrait mode.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

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 wouldn't hold your breath. HTC is yet to upgrade its flagship One X phone, so I wouldn't expect anything to arrive before the new year, if at all.

HTC Desire X
The Desire X runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich -- don't get your hopes up for a Jelly Bean upgrade.

The Desire X also comes loaded up with HTC's Sense 4.1 skin. It doesn't change the core architecture of Android, so if you're an existing droid user you won't be too bowled over by the changes. It adds a few tweaks to the mix though, which can be quite cool. On the lock screen for example, you're able to load straight into the phone, mail app, messaging or camera, potentially saving you a few crucial seconds if you desperately need to fire off a quick email.

HTC Desire X
HTC's Sense 4.1 is one of the more attractive Android skins.

You get five homescreens to fill up with apps and live widgets and along the bottom is a static bar where you can put four of your most important apps. There's a button too to take you into all the apps you don't want on your homescreen. Laying widgets down is a simple task of pressing and holding a homescreen, which will bring up a view of all five screens and all your widgets below so you can swipe through and choose the ones you want.

Multi-tasking is made easy by the right button on the touch-sensitive panel. It brings up your six most recently used apps, making it simple to copy information from one place and paste it into another. Unlike its bigger brothers, you aren't able to cycle through more than six apps, probably as it isn't powerful enough to juggle more than that at once.

HTC Desire X
Make the most of HTC's widgets, but don't forget there are tonnes more that can be downloaded from the Google Play store.

HTC also chucks in a bunch of widgets like its own calendar app as well as a photo viewer widget. There are hundreds of thousands of apps, games and associated widgets on offer in the Google Play store too, of course.


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

HTC Desire X
There's a 5-megapixel lens on its rump, encased in a large metal collar.

Even with the extra tech on board, I didn't find it to be any more impressive than the standard phone cameras on mid-range Android devices. Taking a shot of the delightful CNET breakout area in normal office lighting, I found the photo to be fairly evenly exposed, but it was rather grainy and there was quite a bit of noise.

HTC Desire X
Camera results were pretty decent and evenly exposed.

It's far from challenging the quality of dedicated compact snappers, but if you just want some quick shots of your mates messing around it'll do the job perfectly well.

The camera interface is also 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. It also has the ability to snap stills when shooting a video and take HDR photos. It's great to see these higher-end features on a mid-range mobile.

HTC Desire X
The camera software is similar to that which can be found on the more sophisticated HTC One range.


The Desire X can't compete with top-of-the-range Android powerhouses such as the One X or the Galaxy S3. But it does have an attractive design, a decent processor and, more importantly, an affordable price -- and free Beats headphones.

If you're looking to step into the world of Android and all the app-downloading, widget-installing fun therein -- or if you want to step up from that ultra-budget blower -- the Desire X is a good option to consider.

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