HTC One X [Review]
About four or five years ago HTC and Google started a collaboration that at the time few seemed to believed in, but that some years later would prove to be a huge success. The phone they released towards the end of 2008 was the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1 and a couple of months later as the ADP1 — Android Dev Phone 1. The phone itself was never a smash hit in terms of sales, software or hardware, but it did not have to be. It was the spark that would slowly spread and eventually start a wildfire.
During 2009 and the first half of 2010 HTC capitalized on the head start their collaboration with Google had provided, and they more or less dominated the competitors who were only just taking their first shaky steps in the Android segment. The competitors, however, did not give up, and during the latter part of 2010 and onwards it was the opinion of many that HTC had lost its head start and was even lagging behind. HTC were still making lots of money on their Android devices, but had the tide turned?
When they finally launched their first dual core device, the HTC Sensation, they were already months behind the competitors, and even though the Sensation was a good phone we never felt that HTC caught up. Until now. Enter the HTC One X.
With the One X HTC shows the world that they both want to and can deliver phones with cutting edge hardware. We already knew they can build phones with great materials and high build quality, but with the One X they’re also pushing the boundaries in terms of what’s under the bonnet. HTC is the first manufacturer to bring a quad core Android smartphone to the end users.
HTC, however, does not settle for relying on the quad core platform alone to “sell” the device. They have also equipped the One X with a magnificent 720p resolution HD screen, a camera sensor that at least according to HTC is something out of the ordinary, and “Beats by Dr. Dre” audio which at least on paper promises excellent quality for the music lovers. And, as usual with HTC, the build quality — even though they’ve opted for polycarbonate/plastic instead of the usual metal casing — is top notch.
It seems then that the HTC One X cannot be anything but a great success, but everyone knows that appearances can sometimes be deceptive. In this review we will, as always, do our utmost to find the devices’ strengths and its weaknesses and to try to define the personality of the phone. In addition to the usual synthetic benchmarks and the slight orgy of stats, facts and data we will also use the device as one normally uses a smartphone in real life, only far more intensively, so that by the end of the review we will hopefully be able to answer the question on everyone’s lips; is HTC back as top dog?
|Specifications||HTC One X|
|Measurements (W x H x D)||134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 millimeters
(5.3 x 2.75 x 0.35 inches)
|Screen and resolution||4.7" (120mm), 720x1280 pixels @ 60Hz (vsync:on), 312 PPI, Corning Gorilla Glass|
|Panel type||Super IPS LCD2 with LED backlight, 16,7 million colors|
|Digitizer||Capacitive digitizer @ 65 Hz, with 10 simultaneous pressure points (max 2 with HTC Gestures enabled)|
|System-on-a-chip||Nvidia Tegra 3 AP30|
|CPU||40nm LPG ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.4GHz (quad mode) or 1.5GHz (single core mode)|
|GPU||ULP GeForce AP30|
|RAM||1024MB (976MB available for the OS)|
|Built in memory (NAND)||32GB total, about 26GB available storage space, 1.7GB app space|
|Battery||1 800 mAh, Li-Po|
|Rear camera||8 MP LED backlit, AF, LED flash, 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) videoo recording @ 30FPS|
|Front camera||1.3MP (SXGA), video recording 720p (1280x720 pixels) @ 30FPS|
|Ports/Connectors||micro-USB/MHL 2.0 (placed on left side of phone), 3.5mm stereo connector (top side)|
|Buttons||Front: "Back", "Home", "Recent apps" (capacitive/touch buttons)
Right side: Volume rocker (physical)
Top: Power button (physical)
|Network/communication||HSDPA, SIM, 21 Mbit/s ; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbit/s, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth A2DP 4.0+EDR, A-GPS, FM-radio|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, light sensor, gyro|
|OS / UI||Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with HTC Sense 4.0|
|Codec support||MPEG2, MPEG4, h264, MOV, WMV, 3GP/3GPP, MP3, WAV (PCM), AAC+, OGG, WMA|
|Misc||Available in black and white|
In the box
As usual HTC deliver their sample devices in all white boxes without a print, patterns, colors or text. These plain white boxes are sample units for reviewers only and does of course not represent what you, the end user, can expect if or when you buy the phone.
The content of our box was apart from the phone itself nothing but a wall charger, a USB cable and a key like metal pin for ejecting the Micro-SIM slot. The retail box will most likely contain the following, with slight variations depending on region and retailer/carrier:
* HTC One X
* Wall charger with a USB port (5V, 1A)
* Micro-USB cable (about 1 meter/3 ft)
* Earphones (“in ear”) with reply/hang up button
* Metal key for ejecting the Micro-SIM holder/slot
* Quick start guide and warranty information
Design, build quality and construction
What is pleasing to the eye is of course nothing but a matter of taste, so we won’t address this issue in great length, but we can say that most people we show the One X to thinks it’s a fairly good looking device, but no one appears to be stunned by the looks. On the back, around the camera lens near the top end of the back, there’s a round piece of what appears to be aluminium, and centered on the back we find a chromed HTC logo.
As usual the front is dominated by the large screen and its outer glass, which is the popular so called “Gorilla Glass” from Corning. The glass itself is tapered around the phone’s right and left edges where it softly meets the polycarbonate unibody chassis. Viewed from the side, because of the design of the unibody polycarbonate chassis and the tapered screen glass, the phone looks slightly curved, like the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus, but in reality the surface is completely flat.
As mentioned the phone is, with exception of the screen glass and the innards, completely made out of polycarbonate plastic. This might make some HTC fans frown, but the fact is that the quality of the material and the build quality is very high — even better than some phones with a metal casing. The polycarbonate unibody feels more like a very fine matte ceramic surface than regular plastic and the design with the softly rounded edges makes the One X feels better to hold than any other 4.3 inch or larger class phone, unless of course if you have small hands.
Because of the built-in and non removable battery HTC has been able to skip the usual battery hatch and instead build the chassis from one solid piece of polycarbonate plastic — a so called unibody design. This means no sharp edges where the back meets the front, where the battery hatch meets the chassis. Nothing to leave gaps, nothing to flex, crack or creak.
The One X is as stiff as a board, with the exception of a slight flex in the screen glass when pressure is applied near the center of the glass. The only removable part is the tiny Micro-SIM holder on the top of the phone, which fits snugly in the chassis itself. The material, the build quality and the general feel of quality of the phone is quite simply top notch, with a slight exception for the flexing screen and a spongy volume rocker which you will read more about a few chapters down.
|Device||Screen (inches)||Width (mm)||Height (mm)||Depth at thinnest (mm)||Depth at thickest (mm)||Weight (gram)||Battery capacity (mAh)|
|HTC One X||4.7||69.9||134.4||8.9||8.9||130||1800|
|Sony Xperia S||4.3||64.2||128.1||7.3||10.6||144||1750|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||4.65||67.94||135.5||8.94||9.91||135||1750|
|Samsung Galaxy Note||5.3||82.95||146.85||9.65||10.05||178||2500|
|Samsung Galaxy S Plus||4||64.2||122.4||9.9||12||119||1650|
|Samsung Galaxy S||4||64.2||122.4||9.9||12||118||1500|
|Samsung Galaxy S II||4.3||66.1||125.3||8.49||10.4||116||1650|
|SE xperia arc||4.2||63||125||8.7||10.7||117||1500|
|Google Nexus S||4||63||123.9||10.88||14.6||129||1500|
|HTC Sensation XL||4.7||70.7||132.5||9.9||11.16||162.5||1600|
Buttons, connectors, slots and sensors
On the front of the phone we find three capacitive buttons; “Back”, “Home” and “Recent apps”. We are a bit puzzled as to why HTC would launch an Android 4.0 class phone with capacitive buttons when Google with Android 3.0+ has moved these buttons to the user interface of the operating system itself. Moving the buttons to the operating system UI means that the buttons, unlike external buttons, can rotate with the screen and be redesigned, modified and added to via simple software updates. There is in our opinion simply no need for external buttons anymore, and it only serves to make the phone taller than it needs to be.
The left side of the phone is completely smooth apart from the MHL compatible Micro-USB port located in the middle of the top half of the device. On the right side, on the top half and perpendicular to the Micro-USB port, we find the volume rocker (+/-) which like the phone itself is made from white plastic. The volume rocker sits almost flush with the chassis which makes it a bit tricky to find by feel alone and it lacks the distinct “click” feedback that lets our fingertips know that “yup, you just pressed me”. This is by all means not a big problem, but it is still worth mentioning as it does irk us a bit in our day to day usage of the phone.
On the top end of the phone, to the far left, we find a small perforation in the chassis for the secondary microphone and next to that the 3.5 mm audio jack. On the right side of the top end we find the power button, just where we like it. The power button of course doubles as the screen lock button. Unlike the flush and spongy volume rocker the power button protrudes half a millimeter more and delivers a distinct feedback when pressed, which makes us think that maybe the spongy volume rocker is a flaw in the unit we were sent.
Below the power button, towards the tapered back of the phone, sits the Micro-SIM holder with an almost perfect fit. We can’t detect even a slight gap between the holder and the chassis, apart from the deliberately beveled edges. It’s small details like these, the manufacturers obvious attention to quality and detail, that separates some phones from others. A small metal key with a sharp pin, which of course is bundled with the One X, is used to eject the Micro-SIM holder.
The bottom end of the device lacks both buttons and connectors, but we do find a small perforation for the primary microphone which in combination with the secondary microphone on the top of the phone is used both as the microphone for phone calls and for recording audio and filtering out background noise. On the back, near the bottom right, we find five copper dots in a line, for docking the phone. Centered by the bottom end of the back we find a rectangle shaped pattern of fine perforations behind which the external loudspeaker sits.
Centered on the front of the phone, in the white polycarbonate frame/chassis above the screen, we of course find the speaker for phone calls. To the right of the speaker sits the front mounted camera lens. Just below the speaker, hidden from view behind the black screen glass, we find the proximity sensor which automatically shuts the screen and touchscreen off when you hold the phone against your ear or keep the phone in your pocked during phone calls, and the light sensor which automatically regulates the screen brightness, should we want it to.
Reception and data speeds
The reception via the mobile network (2G/3G/3.5G) is always difficult to review because of the ever changing conditions, which on the exact same location can shift drastically from one minute to the next because of weather/atmospheric conditions and radio interference and so on. After a few weeks with the phone we do however feel comfortable in concluding that the mobile network reception in the One X is good, bordering on very good. HTC’s decision to go with a polycarbonate/plastic chassis instead of the usual metal chassis has most likely helped a lot as far as reception goes, since metal tends to block radio signals far more than plastic.
When compared to our reference devices Galaxy Note and Galaxy Nexus we give the HTC One X a slight edge, but compared to Sony’s Xperia S and its unique antenna design it falls short, though it is not far behind. As far as maximum transfer rates via HSxPA goes the One X is on paper good for 21 Mbit/s down and 5.76 Mbit/s up, but because the maximum transfer rate of our 3.5G network is far lower than 21/5.76 we can only conclude that the One X as expected easily handles the max speeds of our 3.5G network, at about 6 Mbit/s down and 2.5 Mbit/s up.
Via WiFi we once again compared the One X reception against the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Nexus and found that after having slowly distanced ourselves from the wireless router by about 20 meters (~65 ft), which includes three fairly thick concrete walls/closed doors, all three devices lost the link to the router almost simultaneously, barely a meter (3 ft) apart. Just to be sure we repeated the test two times more with near identical results. We know from experience that both the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Nexus performs fairly well as far as WiFi reception goes, and the HTC One X is definitely on par with the two Samsung devices.
The maximum transfer rates via WiFi (802.11/n) through our local network and over the FTP protocol ended up being barely average at best; 30 Mbit/s download (from server to phone) and 20 Mbit/s upload (from phone to server). To reach a fair average transfer speed we transfer a file of at least 500 MB, time the transfer and calculate an average, and we do this in both directions — but never simultaneously.
30 Mbit/s (~3.7 MB/s) download (from server to phone) is roughly on par with most competitors, but the upload speed of a mere 18 – 20 Mbit/s (2.3 – 2.5 MB/s) is well below average and a bit of a disappointment, especially considering that the radio in yesteryear’s Tegra 2 (T20) tablets was good for 40 Mbit/s in both directions. We know that high transfer speeds via WiFi generates a lot of heat, and phones, because of their smaller size, cannot dissipate the heat as well as tablets, which could be why Nvidia seems to have restricted the maximum transfer rate in the AP30 (smartphone) version of the Tegra 3 — to avoid overheating.
Audio and sound quality
The front speaker for phone calls is very loud and other than in unusually noisy surroundings we never need to set it to 100% — something that cannot be said of all phones. During calls the sound is clear and crisp and we have no problems hearing the other party, and the other party has no problems hearing us. The secondary microphone seems to be doing its job as intended; to record and cancel out background noise.
HTC One X front phone speaker – microphone recording from a distance of 1 centimeter (Skype call)
Sony Xperia S front phone speaker – microphone recording from a distance of 1 centimeter (Skype call)
The external speaker on the back of the One X delivers a wider range than we’re used to from HTC phones, but unfortunately the volume is not quite as good as we had hoped it would be, being a Beats by Dr. Dre phone and all. In noisy surroundings with the phone in a pocket we sometimes have difficulty hearing the phone ring, especially if we instead of a traditional “beep-beep” ringtone use a song/piece of a set as our incoming call ringtone. Unlike the Xperia S (XLOUD enabled) the One X speaker never reaches a volume where the sound starts cracking and gets distorted, which might protect it from breaking.
HTC One X back speaker – microphone recording from a distance of 40 centimeters
Sony Xperia S (XLOUD enabled) – microphone recording from a distance of 40 centimeters
Just like the HTC Sensation XL the One X is designed and tuned to work extra well with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. In cooperation with Beats Audio HTC has developed and fine tuned special sound profiles for both Beats Solo and Beats iBeats/urBeats that are supposed to bring out the best sound possible from each earphone/headphone. When we connect a pair of Bests Solo we find that the sound quality indeed does improve with the Beats Solo profile active, but we can’t say it’s quite worth the current €179.99 the Beats Solo on-ear headphones are listed for at the Beats by Dr. Dre website.
Naturally the One X works well with earphones and headphones from other manufacturers too, and we’re given the following sound profiles to choose from: Beats Audio, Dance, Live, Treble Boost, Warmth, Sweetener, Classical and finally our personal favorite “No effects”. The default music player unfortunately lacks a traditional equalizer, but there is a plethora of competent music players available on the Google Play Store.
When we connect a pair of Sennheiser HD25-1 II we can immediately tell that we are not able to crank the volume up as far as with our reference audio device, the SanDisk Sansa Clip+, and we also miss the power and sound dynamic of the SanDisk. The end result is not bad, far from it, but the One X — like all other Android phones we have tested — simply cannot compete with a dedicated audio player like the Sansa Clip+. For a phone the One X is a decent music player, but if you know that you are a bit of an audio connoisseur (or an audiophile) you might want to bring your favorite headphones with you to your local retailer and have a listen before buying.
HTC has equipped the One X with the new Bluetooth profile Apt-X which promises better sound through the A2DP protocol, but for this to work it also requires earphones/headphones with Apt-X support. When we pair a pair of Sennheiser PX210BT headphones with the One X we are fairly sure we can tell the difference — though the power of placebo is often a factor when it comes to all things audio. The output simply sounds crisper and more distinct all the way from the low bass frequencies up to the high treble, and we also detect less background noise and hissing.
In this benchmark we connect the devices (one at a time) to a 3.5 mm Y splitter which in one end is connected to the Line In port of our Audigy XiFy sound card in our computer (which sits behind an UPS) and in the other end a pair of AKG K 420 headphones (32 ohm, 125 dB/mW). We then play a RightMark Audio Analyzer generated test clip on the device (with all sound profiles/enhancers disabled) and then let RightMark Audio Analyzer record and analyze the output from the 3.5 mm jack.
In the line graph above the frequency response of the output from each tested device is illustrated and we’re focusing on the 20Hz to 20kHz span since that is the typical frequency range that the human ear can hear.
Ideally the curve seen in the graph above would not be a curve at all, but rather a completely flat line at +/- 0 dB, but few if any portable devices are capable of a completely flat “curve”. Simplified: the flatter the curve, at +/- 0 dB, the better. The HTC One X produces a fairly nice and even curve, except for a +4 db hump at 50-100Hz and then a +3 dB hump at 16-18kHz. The One X outperforms both the Sensation XL and Sony Xperia S, but cannot, as we concluded a few paragraphs up, compete with our dedicated music player reference unit, the SanDisk Sansa Clip+.
|RMAA test||HTC One X||HTC Sensation XL||Sony Xperia S||Sandisk Sansa Clip+|
|Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:||+3.53, -0.58||+1.93, -2.30||+2.89, -3.22||+0.02, -0.14|
|Noise level, dB (A):||-84.6||-90.9||-86.8||-86.3|
|Dynamic range, dB (A):||84.5||90.9||86.7||86.3|
|IMD + Noise, %:||0.237||0.667||0.475||0.053|
|Stereo crosstalk, dB:||-71.8||-40.0||-57.0||-56.0|
GPS and positioning
Show HTC One X (Red) vs Sony Xperia S (Green) on a larger map.
In this test we take the test device and a reference unit with us on a stroll in the neighborhood, which is an urban setting with buildings and parks with trees obscuring the view to the sky and therefore the satellites.
We record the route with Google’s app My Tracks and before we start we make sure to disable positioning via the mobile network and WiFi. Doing this allows us to isolate the satellite positioning performance of the device, meaning the GPS (and sometimes GLONASS) only.
When we compare the recorded HTC One X route to the Sony Xperia S route we immediately see that the One X can’t hang with the Xperia S. [Note: Due to a software bug in the HTC One X a calibration of the G Sensor and/or magnetic compass sensor (usually done by downloading a compass app from the Play Store and moving the phone in a figure 8 for a few seconds) will often help if you are having issues with GPS accuracy]. In the One X route we see a few fairly large anomalies/inaccuracies, especially when the sky is obscured by buildings, and overall the Xperia S delivers a route that matches the actual route with more accuracy — largely thanks to the Xperia S’ GLONASS support, which on top of the regular GPS provides a notably higher accuracy in the northern hemisphere by roughly doubling the total amount of satellite locks.
The GPS of the One X is very quick to achieve satellite lock, often taking no more than 5 seconds, which makes it a good companion when you need a quick positioning fix like when you are in a hurry and you pull the phone out of your pocket and quickly need to find the nearest subway station or bus stop. Some phones can take upwards of one minute to achieve a reliable GPS lock, which makes it more or less useless when you’re in a rush and the mobile network positioning is not accurate enough.
Screen and digitizer
The 4.7 inch screen (120 mm) with a 720p resolution (720×1280 pixels) is an IPS LCD2 type panel and is possibly the best TFT/LCD screen we have ever seen on a portable device. The “LCD2″ branding, however, seems to be little more than a sales gimmick, a brand name, rather than a new revolutionary LCD technology as the marketing people would like to have us believe.
Even so, the screen is magnificent and even though the Xperia S has a higher pixel density thanks to the same amount of pixels on a smaller screen, the HTC One X screen is our favorite of the two, largely thanks to better color reproduction and contrasts without having to crank the backlight up to 70% or more. While having a slight edge as far as pixel density and sharpness goes the Xperia S colors are a little bit bit too matte and murky for our liking — at least compared next to the One X.
However truth be told we are talking about the two best LCD screens we have ever come across on portable devices, and even though we prefer the One X screen the fact is that both screens are absolutely brilliant, and in the end it’s not a factual matter but rather a matter of personal preference.
The One X viewing angles are very good and the colors/nuances shift very little when viewed even from sharp angles, almost as little as on Super AMOLED Plus screens, but we do note that the brightness of the screen drops far more rapidly when viewed from angles than the Super AMOLED Plus counterparts, but compared to the limited viewing angles of the Xperia S the One X is noticeably better.
Despite a color depth of over 16 million nuances we somewhat surprisingly find so called color banding in some places in the graphical user interface. A screen capable of 16 million nuances should not have banding problems, so we are fairly sure that this is not because of limitations in the screen itself, but rather because of lacking color depth in some of the gradients within either Android 4.0 or HTC Sense 4.0.
Despite the occasional color banding the color reproduction is probably what we like best about the screen, apart from the 720p resolution, and thanks to the RGB subpixel matrix the screen is far sharper than competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, also 720p, and its slightly fuzzy PenTile subpixel matrix.
As far as readability in full daylight goes the HTC One X performs on par with the Sony Xperia S, the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S II. Even though it might not be evident in the video above the Super AMOLED screens give off slightly less reflection than the One X’ LCD screen, which under some conditions make them slightly easier to view/read. Compared to the Sensation XL the difference in readability is huge, and the One X is far better.
The digitizer, the touch sensitive surface layer of the screen, is one of the best and most precise we’ve ever used. During our time with the review unit the screen rarely, if ever, missed a tap, swipe or pinch, other than when we deliberately were far too imprecise and “sloppy” with our taps and swipes just too see what we could get away with.
We know that some One X owners have had touchscreen issues, especially while holding the phone in a (too) firm grip, most likely either by making the screen flex and bend which might have an impact on the response of the screen or “shorting out” the touch screen by touching the sides of the tapered touchscreen when the fingertips wrap around the edges of the phone.
Using the app Input Benchmark we measure a digitizer/touchscreen refresh rate of 65Hz, which means the digitizer will read and trace our taps, swipes and pinches 65 times every second. Even though some screens offer a higher Hz we find that anything from 60Hz and up is than enough to make the screen as responsive as it needs to be and we can’t tell the difference between a 65Hz and an 80Hz digitizer. On some older phones with digitizers hovering between high 20′s and mid 40′s the touchscreen lag is noticeable which in the end leads to far more missed taps and swipes.
With the app Android System Info we then measured the multitouch capabilities and our jaws dropped in bewilderment when the screen maxed out at two (2) simultaneous touch points, also known as dual touch — a term rarely used or even heard since 2010. Even though few applications use more than two finger gestures there are some and there will be more in the future, so why on earth had HTC opted for dual touch only?
Turns out they had not. In HTC Sense 4.0, under the Android display settings, we soon found a feature called “HTC gestures”, which when checked (as it is out of the box) enables a three finger gesture feature to perform certain tasks. For this three finger gesture to work and not end up in conflict with other multitouch apps the screen is restricted to two touch points for third party apps. As soon as we disabled “HTC gestures” we got the full ten (10) point multitouch and the screen traced the movement of every fingertip with ease.
The capacitive menu buttons below the screen, which in all honesty are not needed anymore and should probably have been left out, are despite their questionable existence very responsive, just like the rest of the touchscreen.
Compared to the unresponsive, or at least frustrating to use, capacitive buttons of the Sony Xperia S the One X is the exact opposite. Where the capacitive button area of the Xperia S is only a few millimeters in height, and demand that you hit them exactly spot on for them to respond, the One X offers a far more fluent experience where you tap the capacitive menu buttons the exact same way you would tap a button or an icon on the screen — no need to be over-explicitly precise which only serves to make it a less fluid experience.
All in all, despite some color banding and not being of the Super AMOLED Plus type (which by some might be considered a plus) this is probably the best smartphone screen/touchscreen/capacitive button combination we have ever had the pleasure of using.
A slight reservation for possible quality control issues/issues when holding the phone too firmly. We want to hear what you, owners of the One X, have to say about this — so speak up in the comments.
Operating system and software
Our review unit of the HTC One X came preloaded with Android 4.0.3/Ice Cream Sandwich, and on top of that HTC’s brand new Sense 4.0 interface. The Sense UI quickly became one of, if not the most popular, manufacturer interface on the market. As time passed and new versions of HTC Sense came and went we noticed how the interface got heavier and more bloated with more features, more animations, more transition effects and as a result the phones felt sluggish despite having far more powerful hardware than before.
With version 4.0 of the Sense UI HTC has taken a few steps back in order to move forward – they have put HTC Sense through a diet and the weight loss in combination with the raw power the Tegra 3 has worked wonders. This is by far the fastest HTC Android phone we have ever used, and in all likelihood also the fastest Android phone, period. With version 4.0 of the Sense UI and the One X it seems that HTC has finally found a near perfect balance between eye candy, features and hardware. This is by far our favorite version of Sense UI — so far.
The very same day that our review unit arrived in our office HTC pushed out a 21MB FOTA (“Firmware Over The Air”) update. We don’t know what the update was for, if it addressed bugs or if it contained optimizations, but since HTC pushed the embargo of the publishing date ahead a few days we suspect they wanted to make sure that all reviewers had received the latest version — which tells us it might have been an important update.
To the left we see the home screen as it looks straight out of the box, with the exception of the Settings icon that we put there. Just like stock Android 4.0, HTC Sense offers an easy way of creating folders — simply drag and drop one icon on top of another and you’re done. Exactly like in Android 4.0, but with HTC’s own look and feel. Unlike stock Android 4.0 you can easily rearrange the icons on the home screen by simply dragging one icon in between two other icons — they will slide out of the way automatically.
To the right we see the notification pull down which is a good example of how HTC has shed some weight in Sense 4.0 — the “Recent apps” icon list that used to be on the top of the notifications pull down is now gone and so are the tabs near the bottom of the pull down where in Sense 3.0 you could access quick toggles for WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS among other things.
We are somewhat annoyed that the home screen does not rotate between portrait and landscape mode when we tilt the phone — no matter if you like this feature or not, it should be up to the end user to enable/disable in the settings.
Note: The battery indicator in the notification list is part of neither Android 4.0 nor Sense 4.0. It’s a third party app (Battery Monitor) that we had installed prior to taking the screenshot. On the One X you can easily take screenshots by pressing and holding the power button and then immediately tapping the Home button.
Left to right: The “People” widget, your favorite contacts, quite simply. The stock music player widget — good looking, easy to use and offers all the basic music widget features we look for. Finally HTC’s take on Android 4.0′s “Recent apps”. The function is basically the same, but it looks different and holds fewer recent apps in view (two at a time) which in fact makes it more tedious to use since you have to swipe more to find the app/process you’re looking for. Compared to the same function in the Galaxy Nexus, HTC’s is a lot more fluid and responsive. If this is down to hardware or software we don’t know.
Above we see how HTC in Sense 4.0 has put their own touch on the home screen management of widgets, shortcuts and apps. We definitely prefer this over the stock Android 4.0 version. Nice layout and design and you reach the home screen management mode by simply long pressing the screen.
If you want to change the look and feel of your phone HTC offers, as before, several different skins, scenes, wallpapers and lock screens via the Personalize app. We do miss some features from older versions of HTC Sense, like the ability to change the look of the status bar when you switch skin. A handful of skins, wallpapers and lock screens are bundled with the phone and more are supposed to be available online, via the HTC Hub app, but at the time of this review apart from a few notification ringtone packs HTC Hub held no content at all.
We can choose sorting order for our installed apps; “Alphabetical”, “Date (Most recent)” and “Date (oldest)” and the order of the three tabs can be changed. Finally we find the “Share app” feature which is good for sending app tips to your friends, posting them on Facebook or Tweeting them. The feature does not share the actual app, but rather a link to the app on Google Play Store.
Phone and calendar
The phone app and its contacts (“People”) and features is as far as functionality goes more or less the same as in stock Android 4.0, but as usual HTC has changed the look and the feel and made it a bit more pleasing to the eye.
The Calendar is just like the phone app fairly basic, but offers all the features most of us will ever need in terms of syncing with your Google Calendar, offering views for days, weeks and months, an interface that is easy to understand and use and a nice-looking home screen widget.
At first glance the HTC One X web browser does not appear to be very different from the stock Android 4.0 web browser, but when we look more closely we can see that HTC has changed and added a few things here and there, making some things more accessible. To the left the Swedroid.se website loaded, full version of the site. In the middle we see the extended HTC menu with more options than stock Android 4.0, like the Flash player toggle and the Print feature. To the right the smart inverted browser mode, which is a stock Android 4.0 feature and very useful for night browsing/reading and saving battery on devices with AMOLED screens which while showing white/bright pixels consumes several times more energy than while showing black/dark pixels.
When we compare the web browser performance of the quad core One X with Sony’s dual core Xperia S it’s evident that the web browser is unable to take full advantage of the available processing power. We don’t know if this is by design to stop the battery from draining in two shakes of a lamb’s tail or if the Android browser simply can’t handle quad core processors yet.
Performance wise it’s more or less a wash, though the One X usually renders the websites a few seconds faster, and it’s difficult to pick a winner. But because of fairly frequent browser crashes in the HTC One X (usually related to Adobe Flash player) we give a slight edge to the Xperia S right now. Things can change quickly though — one single update from either HTC or Adobe and the crash bug might be gone and we’re right back at square one.
Left: open tabs/windows. Once again basically the same feature as in stock Android 4.0, but with HTC’s own design and layout. In the middle the “Downloads” app which in reality is a separate app and not just a part of the web browser. It’s also identical to the stock Android version. To the right the simple “Find on page” feature for searching for keywords on a web page.
At first glance the available browser settings looks to be fairly few, but when we enter the sub menus we find a fair share of features, options and settings — mostly things we recognize from Android 4.0 but also new features added by HTC.
Among other things we find the Android 4.0 option of preloading search results in the background, immediately instead of waiting for you to click the link, which while consuming more bandwidth offers a much faster search and browse experience. Yet another Android 4.0 feature is that we can tell the browser to ignore web sites that tries to control the zoom level of mobile devices. An HTC specific feature is the option to dim the screen browser while web sites are loading — a useful feature for extending battery life, slight as it might be. Finally the Android 4.0 feature with a slider for increasing or decreasing the font size.
Under Accessibility we find the toggle for “Inverted rendering” which we mention and you can see in action a few paragraphs up in the web browser chapter. Apart from the option of disabling GIF animations (*fist pump*), the rest of the settings are identical to stock Android 4.0.
Gallery and media players
The Gallery app is fairly simple, as in it does not have many bells and whistles, and it’s easy to use. It’s also very quick both in terms of rendering images/thumbnails, even when there are hundreds of them, and when we are swiping through the images in full screen mode. If you want or need more features there are plenty of third party alternatives on the Google Play Store.
The One X music player is a bit tricky to find since it lacks an app/icon of its own. You reach the music app by either tapping the music widget or opening the “Music” app which is a hub containing four different music related apps/services; “SoundHound”, “TuneIn Radio”, “7digital” and “My Phone”, the latter of which starts the stock music player.
The player itself is decent, it plays the most common audio formats and offers all the basic features most people need, with the possible exception of an equalizer. Instead of an equalizer there are several different presets and sound effects, plus our favorite setting “No effects”. To gain access to these presets you have to have earphones or headphones plugged in.
The app of course supports “Album art”, where the cover art for the album/song you’re playing is displayed. If you don’t have the album art image files you can easily, with a few taps, have the music player automatically search for and download missing album art — provided that the song/album is correctly named and of course that the album art is available in the extensive online archive used. Thanks to SoundHound being integrated into the music player you can search for the name of unknown songs currently playing, or simply search your favorite artist to find information such as the official website, tour dates and merchandise.
As previously mentioned; “Music” – a hub for four different music related apps: “SoundHound”, “TuneIn Radio”, “7digital” and “My Phone”. As explained in the paragraph above SoundHound lets you search for artists and music, either by analyzing what’s playing on the phone, by listening what’s playing near you or by you making a manual search. TuneIn Radio is an online radio app that gathers online radio stations from around the world into one simple interface; search globally or locally, browse by category or get suggestions. 7digital is an online music store, much like iTunes, that lets you buy and download music straight to your phone. My Phone, as explained above, opens the default music player and plays music you have stored on the phone.
The video player is not a separate application but rather a part of the Gallery app. If you, like us, prefer to use a file manager to browse your files and open/start videos from there you know that when you tap the video you get a list menu with all your installed video players — except the stock player does not show up, since it is not an app of its own. This is kind of a shame because the player itself, basic as it is, is fairly competent and offers a far better interface than most third party video players and easy access to features like serving/streaming via WiFi/DLNA and access to one tap video screenshots.
The video support is good and the One X stock video player will play almost anything you can throw at it, but unfortunately the audio support in videos is severely lacking and neither AC3 nor DTS, the two most common audio formats used in HD movies that you find online, will play. Fortunately many third party video players will play both AC3 and DTS, making this a non issue.
|Clip||Resolution||Codec / Profile / Container||Bitrate||Audio||Results
Primary player: MX Video Player
Secondary player: Dice Player
|#1||640x352||XviD / Simple@L5 / AVI||1 Mbit/s||MP3 2.0||OK|
|#2||576x320||XviD / Simple@L5 / AVI||1,4 Mbit/s||MP3 2.0||OK (video: S/W only)|
|#3||720p||h.264 / High@L3.1 / MKV||3 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#4||720p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||9 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#5||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||14 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#6||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||19,2 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#7||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||22,8 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#8||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||25 Mbit/s||DTS 5.1||Fail (video OK, no sound in H/W nor S/W mode)
(OK using Dice Player)
|#9||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||30 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||OK|
|#10||1080p||h.264 / High@L4.1 / MKV||42 Mbit/s||AC3 5.1||OK, one or two dropped frames|
In the table above we can conclude that the One X will play anything we can throw at it, as long as we’re using the right video player. Our usual go-to video player MX Video Player unfortunately proved to not be fully compatible with the One X, which explains why audio is missing in all clips using AC3 or DTS. Usually the solution is to simply ask MX Video Player to software decode the audio stream, but for unknown reasons this was not possible on the One X.
Because of this incompatibility we decided to try the free (ad supported) video player Dice Player, and this proved to be a winning combination. The Tegra 3 equipped One X plays every single video file we throw at i and is, alongside the ASUS Transformer Prime Tegra 3 tablet, the most competent video player we have ever tested — as long as we pick the right video player.
Via the MHL compatible Micro-USB port and an adapter the One X offers up to Full HD (1080p) output to external screens like TV:s and computer monitors as well as DTS pass-through.
Via HTC Watch we can buy or rent both old and current movies with a few simple taps of the screen. The movies can either be downloaded to watch later or streamed if you want to start watching immediately. Unfortunately the file format of the downloaded files is proprietary and the clips will only play via HTC Watch, which means you cannot transfer downloaded movies to your media tank or computer and watch them from there — you have to use your HTC Watch equipped phone or tablet.
Below you are presented with a selection of screenshots of system settings that Android 4.0 and HTC Sense has to offer. Most of the screenshots are self-explanatory, so we will keep the commenting of them to a minimum.
Accounts & sync, Location settings and finally Privacy settings. More or less the same as in stock Android 4.0, but HTC has added a few extra bells and whistles here and there, particularly for the lock screen privacy settings.
Other than removing the option to increase or decrease the system font size everything looks like stock Android 4.0 under “Accessibility”. In the Display & gestures sub-menu we find a few new features added by HTC, like extended notification options for incoming messages, the three finger “HTC gestures” feature and calibration of the G Sensor.
Under the Sound sub-menu we find a few HTC specific additions, like different sound profiles; Normal, Vibrate and Silent, a pocket mode to increase the ringtone volume when the phone “feels” it’s in a pocket or a handbag, and a setting for enabling the external speaker on the back if you turn the phone over (screen down) and put it on a flat surface during a call.
Storage overview. Internal storage is the space available for app installations, Phone storage is available space for storing files such as images, music and videos. The battery use information and docking options are self-explanatory.
Even though looking fairly different than in Android 4.0 the Language & keyboard settings are in essence as far as features and options goes identical. We count a total of 26 different languages and several hundred Language/Location combinations, including a whopping 59 different English/*Location* combinations.
Google Voice Search is more or less the exact same app as in stock Android 4.0, which means that just like in previous versions of Google Voice Search you can have a lot of fun with the misinterpretations and search suggestions offered by Google. The available settings are few and solely handles censorship and language options. 21 different Voice Search languages are currently available, including English, “pig latin” and isiZulu.
The brilliant HTC dialogue when connecting the device to a computer, Time & date settings which basically have been the same since Android 1.0, and to the right the app manager which is identical with the one in stock Android 2.3 and 4.0.
Other applications worth mentioning
Once again we let the screenshots do most of the talking.
7digital is an online music store which lets you purchase and download music straight to your phone. The calculator is self-explanatory and finally HTC Friend Stream which is a hub that gathers a number of social network feeds, like Facebook and Twitter, in one simple app.
The Facebook app is identical with the one in Google Play Store which means it gets regular updates that does not have to be pushed out via HTC. The bundled flashlight app with three brightness levels and finally the stock SMS/text app.
The FM Radio app is simple but functional and offers the basic features such as automatic scanning and storing of radio stations and RDS support. As a bonus SoundHound has been integrated, which with one tap lets you search for the name of the artist and song that is currently playing, a very nifty feature for when you hear a song you like but does not recognize. The sound quality of course depends on the reception, and to even be able to start the app and get reception you need to have earphones/headphones plugged in. With good reception the sound quality is as good as it gets via the FM band — meaning not great, but good enough for most.
HTC Car is a special control panel designed to aid you when you are in your car. The app starts automatically when you connect it to a compatible car docking station and on top of the obvious navigation features it also offers easy access to music, online radio and your contacts (“People”). Thanks to the layout and large fonts and icons we have no trouble seeing/reading the screen when mounted on the dashboard of the car, which normally is about two or three times the normal distance when holding the phone in your hand.
HTC Hub is sort of a miniature version of Google Play Store and provides an easy way for the end user to download customizations (skins, wallpapers, ringtones and such) for their HTC device as well as installing certain apps as well. Currently the content is more than a little lacking, but we expect this to change as Sense 4.0 matures and gets a wider user base.
Notes, a simple notepad app, HTC Files which is a hub for Polaris Office, which handles Office documents, and cloud storage integration via Dropbox and Microsoft’s online document storage service SkyDrive. Stocks app to the right.
Pulse is a third party news feed reader (RSS). This is not an HTC specific app and as such, just like the Facebook app, it can continuously be updated to the latest version via the Google Play Store without having to rely on HTC to push out updates. Middle screenshot shows the HTC task manager which is simple yet effective for monitoring and managing running services and memory usage.
To the right we see HTC’s Tasks app which is sort of like a location based calendar where you can add reminders and such based on location and time, like getting a reminder of the shopping list when you are on your way home from work and is getting close to the local grocery store.
Voice Recorder, self-explanatory. Twitter app, same as the one on Google Play Store which means you can update it as a normal pp without having to rely on HTC. HTC’s exemplary WiFi Hotspot app, for sharing the phone’s mobile data connection with other WiFi capable devices via so called “tethering”. This app might be disabled in some regions and/or from some carriers.
The HTC Clock app: World clock with weather info. HTC has shoehorned in too much info on very limited screen estate which makes it difficult to read and use. Alarm, Stopwatch and Timer speaks for themselves.
HTC Sync, when installed on a PC, lets the user manage and sync music, images, calendar events and documents and so on via the computer, via the USB cable, in a few simple clicks. It is also possible to transfer and install APK files (Android apps) via HTC Sync.
The One X has been equipped with a primary back-illuminated 8 megapixel camera sensor (f2.0) capable of Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 FPS, and a secondary 1.3 megapixel camera on the front, for video calls, self portraits and video recordings with up to a 720p resolution.
The rear camera has also been equipped with a processing chip of its own which allows it to record slow motion videos, still photography at 4 images per second in series of up to 99 at a time and the possibility to take photos while recording video, albeit “only” at 6 megapixels instead of the maximum 8.
The camera software is easy to use and offers lots of options, settings and modes. The camera software usually starts in a second and thanks to the dedicated camera processing chip taking photos and starting recordings is near instant.
Via the A icon on the screen we can choose between a number of Camera scenes like Auto, HDR, Panorama, Portrait, Group portrait, Landscape, Whiteboard, Close-up and Low light. Here we also find the Slow motion video setting.
The cogwheel icon takes us to the camera settings for both video and still photography. Here we can manage settings like resolution, picture format (16:9 or 4:3), ISO (100-800), white balance, contrast and sharpness.
Above the on screen shutter button we find a blue button which opens a menu where we can apply different filters to the images and videos. Some of the available filters are Distortion, Vignette, Depth of field, Dots, Mono, Sepia and Black and white. As soon as we select a filter the output and effect of the filter is shown on the screen, updated in real-time.
In the camera overview gallery HTC lets us apply filters and effects to existing photos, and of course the usual basic features such as resize, rotate and crop. Even though there is a plethora of apps that lets you edit and apply filters and effects to images on the Google Play Store we like that HTC has made this part of the stock camera app since far from all Android users are likely to go look for apps like that on their own.
Summary – still photography
Macro (close-up) photography is probably to be considered something of a Sony Xperia S specialty and here the One X can’t compete. In regular photography in full daylight the One X surprises us and shows off a few very sharp and crisp shots with far more detail than the Xperia S, despite a clear disadvantage in terms of megapixels. An excellent example of how the amount of megapixels says very little about the image quality.
The color reproduction and saturation tends to be more of a question of taste than right or wrong, but because of warmer colors with a bit more saturation we feel that the Xperia S shots are a little bit closer to real life. In any case both cameras are about as good as it gets in the Android world, as far as colors, sharpness and detail during daylight photography.
The only real weak point of the One X camera somewhat surprisingly proves to be photography in dark/murky settings (as can be seen in the close-up comparison shot above). Because of the highly-touted back-illuminated (BSI) sensor, which on paper should offer great low light performance, our expectations were high… and then thoroughly dashed. Despite trying over and over again we could not get the One X camera to perform anywhere near the Xperia S in low light conditions.
Just like the Xperia S the One X’ auto focus is very rapid and rarely has trouble finding focus, at least not in good light conditions — as the light gets weaker Xperia S pulls out an ever increasing lead and both finds focus faster and more accurately.
As far as speed goes none of the cameras can match the “Zero Shutter Lag” from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but both manage at least one or two shots per second in good lighting conditions when tapping the shutter button, but if instead we use the One X photo sequence feature, where we press and hold the shutter button, the One X demolishes the Xperia S and takes a whopping four (4) photos per second for up to 25 seconds straight (max 99 images per sequence).
HTC One X – more camera samples
Like most high end camera phones nowadays the One X has a panorama feature in the stock camera app. When we start the panorama mode a horizontal line appears in the viewfinder which acts akin to a bubble level and warns you if you tilt the phone too much or drift off line when you pan while shooting the panorama. The software joins the images very well and if we make sure to hold the phone steady and pan in just the right speed we can hardly see any seams at all.
HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range” and is a set of algorithms that process images to increase their dynamic range. With HDR a regular digital camera can produce an image that has a greater range of light levels in order to adapt to what a human eye can see.
To achieve this greater dynamic range the camera, in the case of the HTC One X, takes a sequence of three images as fast as possible; one underexposed, one normal and one overexposed. These three images are then joined together in such a way that the darkest of darks from the underexposed image and the brightest of bright from the overexposed image are layered on top of the normal image to create a new image that offers the best of all three images — at least in theory.
The HDR mode works best in settings where the natural contrasts are fairly low, or the effect tends to be exaggerated with dark objects that appear to glow against a bright background, as can be seen in the top HDR image above. Where the sky and land meets, over the bridge and to the left, the sky appears to be glowing. In the bottom two samples the HDR effect is much better and more natural, bringing out far more detail without creating unrealistic contrasts.
Another disadvantage of the HDR mode is that both the camera and the scene needs to be as static as possible. Even the slightest movement will result in odd ghost-like shapes, as the image below clearly demonstrates.
HTC One X 1080p @ 23.717 fps (10.5 Mbps) AVC Baseline@L4.2, stereo AAC @ 96kbps
Xperia S 1080p @ 29.692 fps (13.9Mbps) AVC Baseline@L4.0, stereo AAC @ 96Kbps
Despite a lower bitrate we find that the One X video seems to be crisper and offer more detail than the Xperia S, and we also feel the color reproduction and saturation to be more neutral. Unfortunately the One X delivers a lower average FPS (~24) than the Xperia S (~30), which makes the video slightly less fluid.
HTC One X Slow Motion 768×432 @ 23.398fps 8057 kbps, baseline@L3.0
A sample of the slow motion video recording feature. The slow motion feature means that the camera records video at a very high FPS, several times the normal rate, but at a far lower resolution (768×432 pixels). Even though the video output does not end up 100% fluid — we notice quite a few freeze frames — it’s a fun feature to play around with as long as the light is good.
HTC One X front camera
For being a front mounted camera, which at least on Android phones are notoriously bad, the One X front camera manages to impress us. It is by no means a good camera, and you won’t use it for much more than video calls and self portraits/videos, but compared to the front cameras of most competitors it stands out as one of the better ones. For once we find that it is possible to use the front camera in low light conditions – this is a first for us.
Bugs and problems
As mentioned in the web browser chapter we have experienced a few web browser crashes while playing/rendering Flash content, and in addition to this we have had minor issues with a small number of incompatible or only partially compatible apps, like the MX Video Player which could not software decode audio streams in our video files and with the Electopia game/benchmark where the touchscreen and the menu buttons within the app ended up out of sync — we had to press a point below and to the right to make the buttons react.
The above could be considered mere trifles, especially considering that the app incompatibility might not even be the One X’ “fault”, but it is still worth mentioning and people should be aware that with a bit of bad luck their favorite apps might initially not work as intended, or at all.
Unlike the above the extreme heat generation has to be considered a real problem, and it’s a problem that can’t be solved via software updates — unless they decide to underclock the device and thereby restrict the performance.
When the phone is pushed to its limits for a while the chip gets so hot that it actually underclocks itself to avoid overheating, and we have measured up to a 25% decrease in performance when this happens. Luckily the Tegra 3 AP30 is so powerful that a 25% decrease is barely even noticeable under normal usage, but in some games we noticed a slight stutter every once in a while.
In our battery test the HTC One X behaves and performs similar to the Sony Xperia S that we recently tested, and like the Galaxy Nexus before it. The battery life while playing video is mediocre at best, which in combination with a non replaceable battery means that you have to make sure to always have a charger with you and that you have access to charging stations, if you like to watch movies or TV shows while commuting by train or plane for example.
Just like the Xperia S and the Galaxy Nexus the One X consumes very little power in stand by and as long as the screen is off. When we leave the phone on over night we typically see a drop of 5-7% in eight hours, with 3G (no 2G) and full sync against our Google account.
Under normal usage, meaning phone calls, some texting, listening to music and browsing the web the battery performs better than what our video test would suggest, but everyone has to be aware that the monster quad core power plus a powerful GPU does not come cheaply. Under full load this beast will go from 100% to 0% in less than three hours.
A few hours after our review unit was delivered to the office a 21MB firmware update arrived via FOTA (“Firmware Over The Air”). We assume that this update is the reason HTC moved the embargo (when we were first allowed to publish the review) up a few days — they simply wanted all reviewers to have the latest firmware which most likely contained important bug fixes and/or optimizations.
HTC One X comes with 1024MB of RAM, of which a whopping 976MB is left for the operating system and its apps to distribute as it sees fit. Plenty of available RAM provides lots of headroom and ought to be enough even for the most hardcore multitaskers out there.
The One X comes with a total of 32GB of storage space, out of which roughly 26GB is available for storage of things like music, videos and images and 1.7GB for app installations. The rest of the 32GB, about 4-5GB, is reserved for Android itself.
Unlike the Galaxy Nexus, where Android lets us decide how to use the available space, HTC has decided that 1.8GB is all we need for our apps. We much prefer the Galaxy Nexus approach with one single partition for both apps and storage. Please, HTC, let us decide in the future.
Gaming, performance and graphs
With the quad core AP30 version of Tegra 3 under the bonnet, which includes the latest GeForce ULP graphics chip, playing even the most demanding games is not a problem. There are a few games that are incompatible and stutters because of this, but other than that the One X just chews game after game up with ease. For the gamers out there the One X with its powerful innards and brilliant screen/touchscreen and HDMI output via Micro-USB/MHL is a wise choice, but make sure to keep a charger nearby.
Rightware’s BrowserMark is a platform independent benchmark performed in the web browser. In this test a number of short tests are undertaken and the result is shown as a total score where higher is better. Since this is a test independent of the platform we have also included a few benchmarks from a couple other mobile platforms than Android.
Monjori Shader Benchmark measures the fragment shader capacity of the graphics chip. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames Per Second”) and higher is better. Once again this is a benchmark where the resolution of the device is of huge importance, and devices with a high resolution will get a lower score than devices with a lower resolution screen – provided the hardware (processor, GPU) is the same. Because of this we have decided to only compare the One X to other devices with the same, or a similar, screen resolution.
Electopia is a 3D benchmark based on the OpenGL ES 1.1 framework and is designed to put the graphics chip to the test. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames Per Second”) and higher is better. Note that phones with a screen resolution of less than WVGA (800×480 pixels) gets and unfair advantage since they give the graphics chip far fewer pixels to shuffle, resulting in a higher FPS.
Nenamark 2 is just like Electopia above a 3D benchmark designed to put the graphics chip to the test, but unlike Electopia this one is based on the newer OpenGL ES 2.0 framework. The result is shown as FPS (“Frames per Second”) and higher is better.
|Name||Sequential read (MB/s)||Sequential write (MB/s)||Random read (MB/s)||Random write (MB/s)||IOPS/s read (4K)||IOPS/s write (4K)|
|HTC One X||28.05||12.14||8.02||0.59||2055||153|
|Sony Xperia S||35.74||6.63||7.03||0.18||1800||48|
|Samsung Galaxy Note||43.04||5.26||3.43||0.2||881||52.5|
|Samsung Galaxy S II (2.3.5)||45.6||5.17||4.54||0.24||1164||64|
|Samsung Galaxy S Plus (2.3.5)||30.57||5.69||4.87||0.17||1250||44|
|Samsung Galaxy Gio (2.3.5)||6.19||4.03||2.18||1.65||560||424|
|SE xperia arc (2.3.4)||7.9||5.48||4.36||5.71||1117||1462|
|LG Optimus 3D (2.2)||18.59||2.12||0.47||0.1||121||27|
|HTC Evo 3D (2.3.4)||24.41||1.56||2.66||0.18||681||48|
|Motorola RAZR (2.3.5)||34.03||6.56||4.34||0.37||1113||95|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||26.71||5.08||5.28||0.21||1351||54|
With Androbench 3.0 we measure the performance of the internal flash memory — not the external SD card. A higher score is always better, both for read, write and IOPS.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has in the One X finally met its match in the battle for the title “hottest Android phone on the market” — it its most literal sense. The One X gets scorching hot, just like the Galaxy S II, when stressed to its limits. Even though the Galaxy S II peaks slightly higher than the One X the difference is so small we can’t tell a difference when holding the two devices in our hands.
Just from charging the One X we notice the heat increasing rapidly, which is by no means unique to the One X, but few phones gets this hot while charging. If you then decide to use the phone for heavy tasks while charging, like playing games, watching HD video or transferring large files via WiFi, the phone soon gets so hot we prefer not to even hold it in our hands.
The first time we picked the phone up while charging and performing an automatic backup of about 40 apps via the Google Play Store we immediately dropped it again because the heat took us by surprise. Once we knew what to expect we had no problems picking the phone up and holding it in our hands, but at close to 60 degrees it just feels wrong and we can’t help but to think that heat like that can’t be good for a phone.
Note that the heat readings in the graph above were not performed while the phone was charging, but given how hot the phone got while charging and performing heavy tasks we performed the test once more, while charging. The temperature did increase slightly when we did that, but “only” to a peak of just over 57 degrees.
When the phone gets this hot the Tegra 3 chip seems to underclock itself to generate less heat and protect itself from overheating, and as a result we measured a performance drop of about 25%. An example is the BrowserMark benchmark in which we came close to a score of 110 000 while the phone was fairly cool and then topped out at about 82 000 points once it got scorching hot.
Because of a so called unibody design the HTC One X is as stiff as a board. The build quality and the general feel of quality of the phone is quite simply top notch, with a slight exception for a flexing screen and a spongy volume rocker. The unibody design also means no sharp edges where the back meets the front, where the battery hatch meets the chassis; there’s nothing to leave gaps, nothing to flex, crack or creak.
Under the bonnet we find a quad core processor from Nvidia, the Tegra 3 AP30, and HTC is the first manufacturer to bring the Tegra 3 AP30 SoC to its end users. In combination with plenty of RAM, 1024MB, a fast GeForce ULP graphics chip, Android 4.0 and the new HTC Sense 4.0 what we end up with is the fastest Android phone ever — so far. 32GB of storage space ought to be enough for most people, but we desperately do miss a Micro-SD slot.
The quad core power comes as a price though; heat. Lots of heat. Ever since we started measuring the how hot the devices get when we stress them to their limits the Samsung Galaxy S II has by far been the hottest device we have come across — until now. The HTC One X falls less than one degree (Celsius) short of eclipsing the Galaxy S II on the hottest spot of the back of the phone, during full load. When we make an internal battery temp reading the One X proves to be far hotter than the Galaxy S II battery.
With version 4.0 of their Sense UI HTC has taken a few steps back in terms of features, bling and bloat, and it has paid off big time. Unlike previous versions of Sense that only felt more and more sluggish and bloated as the version number ticked up, Sense 4.0 feels light on its feet, feels responsive, but without being stripped down to its bones. HTC has finally found a near perfect balance between looks, bling, features and hardware.
The IPS LCD2 720p (720×1280 pixel) 4.7 inch screen is nothing short of brilliant. Next to the Sony Xperia S screen this is the best one we have ever seen on a smartphone, and we’re even inclined to give the One X screen the nod over the Xperia S because even though the Xperia S has the higher pixel density and therefore is slightly sharper the One X offers better viewing angles and a far livelier color reproduction without having to crank the screen brightness up.
The touchscreen is almost as good as the screen itself, and it rarely, if ever, misses a tap, swipe or pinch. The touchscreen refresh rate is 65Hz, which means the digitizer reads our taps and swipes 65 times every second, which more or less guarantees that it won’t mist even the slightest of touches. Furthermore the screen can handle up to ten simultaneous touch points — true multitouch — should one ever need more than two or three, but to enable all ten touch points we must first disable “HTC gestures” in the display settings. The capacitive buttons below the screen are just as responsive as the rest of the screen, which oddly enough is rare.
The 8 megapixel back-illuminated sensor (BSI) camera is very good, and in full daylight the One X and its 8 megapixels actually outperforms the Xperia S’ 12 megapixels with noticeably more image detail and sharpness. The Xperia S in turn wins the macro (close-up) battle and demolishes the One X in low light conditions. On the other hand when it comes to shooting video we one again feel inclined to give the One X the nod because of more detail in the video. It’s as you can tell a close battle, but because of the far better low light performance we give the overall camera win to the Xperia S.
The battery performance is kind of a mixed bag. As far as continuous video playback goes it’s not great, quite the opposite, and considering the battery is not swappable you better make sure you bring your charger with you wherever you go if you are the type to look at videos (TV shows, movies, YouTube and so on) a lot. Standby performance is on the other hand very good, and if you generally use your phone without lighting the screen all that often (phone calls – screen off, music playback – screen off, standby – screen off) the battery performance is more than a little impressive.
The average user probably falls somewhere in the middle, between the YouTube nut and the Yoda of standby, and when we use the phone like we believe most people do our experience is that it is very much average, and just like with most Android phones you’re doing yourself a huge favor if you make sure to charge it every night. Be well aware though; if you push this beast to its limits you will empty a full charge in less than three hours.
The GPS performance is good, but because of an unfortunate lack of GLONASS support it can’t quite compete with the best Android phones out there as far as positioning goes. Achieving a satellite lock and a fairly accurate location fix rarely takes more than 5 seconds, which is quick enough for it to be very useful as a guide in a city you are not familiar with and need to find public transport, the nearest hospital or simply a good place to eat.
In conclusion we can without any hesitation at all declare that HTC is indeed back in the game, and leading the pack, with the One X. The hardware, the software, the materials and the unibody construction are all top notch, and despite a few weaknesses — no phone is ever perfect — the HTC One X is overall, by far, in our opinion the best Android phone on the market.
HTC One X is suitable for you if you:
* Want the currently fastest Android phone on the market
* Want a world class HD LCD screen
* Want one of the best cameras ever on an Android phone
* Want a solid build quality and nice materials
* Want a good music player – especially combined with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones
HTC One X might be suitable for you if you:
* Want a fair compromise between screen size, performance and battery life
* Is a fan of HTC Sense — Version 4.0 is in our opinion the best one yet
HTC One X is not suitable for you if you:
* Are unwilling to spend a small fortune on a phone
* Need a batter life out of the ordinary or want to be able to swap the battery on the go
* Watch a lot of video on the phone in places with limited or no charging opportunities
* Need a Micro-SD slot for storage expansion