Arguably one of the more exciting new devices announced at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, HTC's flagship Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) handset looks good and comes with killer specifications.
Editors' note: Because the HTC One X was reviewed by our companion site CNET Asia, we are publishing this review as an in-depth hands-on article without an official starred rating. U.S. readers should check out our
Instead of the aluminum unibody designs that we've come to be familiar with in HTC handsets, the HTC One X cuts down on the weight with a polycarbonate finish that's similar to Nokia's Lumia 800. While the rear cover is matte, HTC has polished the sides, which gives the handset an unfinished look.
Despite its glossy edges, the One X did not slip from our hand. In fact the handset felt comfortable to hold and use. All about pleasant curves, the One X has no sharp edges to dig into your palm.
Measuring just 0.35 inch, the One X is among the latest breed of superslim Android handsets that are currently on the market. Thanks to its polycarbonate frame, the phone only weighs 4.7 ounces and is 0.74 ounce lighter than the smaller HTC Sensation XE.
The One X's large 4.7-inch 720p (1,280x720 pixels) display is what catches your eye, and text looks sharp on the high-resolution screen. Instead of onscreen software buttons, HTC has opted to use three touch-sensitive keys located just below the screen. This is supposed to give you more display real-estate, though I don't think it makes much of a difference. Just for comparison, the Galaxy Nexus uses software keys.
The battery is nonremovable, so there's no rear cover. There's also no microSD card slot. The One X comes with 32GB onboard storage, which should be sufficient for the average user. Multimedia junkies may have to manage their media files carefully to avoid running out of space.
At the top of the phone is where the power button, 3.5mm audio jack, and micro-SIM card slot reside. The right side plays host to the volume controls; the Micro-USB port is found on the left. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor and a lens with an f2.0 maximum aperture. On the front is a 1.3-megapixel camera located just above the screen. Next to it are some speaker holes, instead of the metal grilles found on older HTC models. HTC said these holes are part of the polycarbonate chassis and are small enough that water droplets won't be able to seep in.
HTC's One-series devices come loaded with Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and the company's own Sense UI. HTC Sense is now in its fourth version and takes a toned-down approach compared with the version found on the Sensation XE. We've covered most of the new changes in this feature.
Frankly, I like the slight tweaks to Ice Cream Sandwich that HTC made. The app-switching panel is bit more sensible (pardon the pun) compared with stock ICS. At the same time, HTC has also improved the camera app's interface. Google's original camera UI is very basic, but the One X has the ability to take burst shots and capture still images while recording video. It also adds a video-recording button next to shutter, so you can instantly capture videos instead of having to toggle a switch.
HTC has finessed Beats Audio, too, to work with almost all music and video apps -- the equalizer will turn on when the phone is playing tracks from Internet radio or even YouTube video clips. Compared with the Sensation XE's limited playback capabilities, this is a huge improvement. Unfortunately, the handset does not come bundled with any Beats-branded headphones. You'll have to fork out more cash if you want the full Beats Audio experience. Still, I found audio with the equalizer enabled to have slightly more bass and clarity even with a normal headset.
The phone's 4.7-inch 720p Super LCD 2 display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. We first saw the Gorilla Glass 2 back at CES 2012, though the glass manufacturer did not reveal then which handsets will be featuring the technology. HTC also explained that the One X features optical lamination, a process through which the screen ends up laminated to the glass, resulting in better viewing angles. I found this to be true, and having the screen so close to the glass makes it appear brighter and more easily visible in direct sunlight.
As for camera performance, check out this slideshow, where I put the One X up against the iPhone 4S. The One X has a dedicated imaging chip, and the handset's camera app boasts a wide variety of modes including smile detection and the ability to adjust flash level depending on ambient lighting (HTC calls this feature "Master of Light").
The result is a camera with crisp detail and pleasing quality that's as good as the iPhone 4S', while having a more aggressive HDR mode. While the colors are not as warm compared with the 4S', the One X delivers sharper images. If you're looking for an Android handset that can match the iPhone's camera, the One X is it.
Lastly, the One X comes with a whole slew of connectivity options, including Bluetooth 4.0, near-field communication (NFC), DLNA, MHL, as well as HSPA. The One X also comes with a Media Link mode, which you connect with a Media Link HD accessory (sold separately) to turn your television into a smart TV.
The One X packs Nvidia's cutting-edge Tegra 3 chipset, which has a quad-core processor as well as a low-power core that kicks in when the handset is in standby mode. Overall I experienced performance that was blazingly fast -- you won't feel any Android "lag" when using this phone. HTC also claims a fast camera startup of 0.7 second and 0.2 second autofocus. The One X seems to perform as advertised, with really snappy shots and nimble autofocus.
Using our usual test settings of having two Gmail accounts, Twitter as well as Facebook on push, the One X's 1,800mAh battery lasted for about a full day. You can probably get more if you're willing to turn off push notifications. With the phone's nonremovable battery, however, I recommend keeping a charger handy just in case.
I didn't find any issues with voice quality and reception when making calls with the HTC One X. While speaker volume was loud, you may want to switch the default ringtones for something with a higher pitch. You may end up missing important calls and text alerts otherwise.
HTC seems to have hit all the right notes with the One X. If you've been waiting patiently to upgrade your Android handset, look no further. With a superb camera, fast performance, an excellent display as well as a sexy design, the One X could be the one for you. If you can hold out, though, you may want to see what Samsung has up it sleeves for its upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III before making a decision.
As a global device, the HTC One X will retail in Singapore on April 2 for S$898 (U.S. $714) without an operator contract. HTC has also announced availability for other countries in Asia, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the Philippines on the same date. Do note that retail prices will differ from country to country.