HTC One X review: eXtra special

GSMArena team, 12 April 2012.
Pages: 12345678

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

There's not much going on inside the eco-friendly box

Starting with the One X, HTC are moving away from the plain paper packaging of its older smartphones in favor of a new kind of foam box with rounded edges, that's wrapped in a paper sleeve made of 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials. The labels were reportedly printed with environmentally friendly soy ink, so the company is obviously trying hard to show that it cares.

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The retail package is pretty modest

Sadly, the contents of the box are not even nearly as special as its shape and finish. There's a pair of cheapish-looking headphones inside, and the usual charger/data-cable combo. Given the One X has no microSD slot, we couldn't have expected a memory card inside, but there are no Beats headphones either.

The supplied headset is pretty basic and it turns out the Beats audio logo on the back of the One X here only stands for the software tweaks, which the smartphone got. The final item in the box is the pin required for extracting the microSIM tray. By the looks of it, the One X's retail package is a step backwards from the one of the Sensation XE.

HTC One X 360-degree spin

The brilliant use of space is one of the best things about the HTC One X. It's not that the smartphone is tiny, you'd hardly call it a compact set. But at 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm it's merely 3.8mm wider and less than a cm longer than the Galaxy S II, which only has a 4.3" screen.

Basically, you are gaining 0.4" (1.02cm) of extra screen diagonal for very little extra body fat, so HTC deserves credit for that. Keeping the waistline nicely slim is also quite a feat, as large-screen smartphones are quite sensitive to such things.

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The HTC One X sized up against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the HTC One S

Design and construction

If you look carefully, the HTC One X design isn't too different from that of its predecessors. The lines are basically the same and the elements are distributed in much the same way around the smartphone's body.

However, there's no chance of mistaking that the One X is a generation newer than the Sensation XE. The notably slimmer profile and the polycarbonate unibody really take the general feel up a notch. And that's not even the only benefit of the new material used - the shell of the One X is non-painted much like the one on the Nokia N9 and Lumia 800/900, so it should be able to mask potential scratches quite well.

The low overall weight is another huge advantage of the polycarbonate body. At 130g, the One X is impressively lightweight for its size and that's one of the first things you'll notice when handling it.

The main attraction on the HTC One X front is of course its 4.7" HD Super LCD2. The second generation of Super LCDs is actually a huge step forward from the previous versions and we are not just talking resolution here.

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The HD Super LCD2 is gorgeous to behold

The One X display offers arguably the best image quality of any LCD on the market. Not only is it remarkably sharp (at about 312 ppi, it's virtually impossible to distinguish individual pixels), but also has great contrast and nicely saturated colors.

As you can see in the table below, the screen is pretty bright as well and its viewing angles are splendid - the icons look almost as if they are painted on the screen. The blacks aren't as deep as those of the AMOLEDs out there, but still great in LCD terms. Sunlight legibility is close behind the market best, which is good enough to not cause any usability issues. Overall, the One X screen has no major weaknesses to speak of.

As things currently stand, there are very few smartphones out there who can match the One X for display quality, let alone beat it.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC One X 0.15 200 1375 0.39 550 1410
Samsung Galaxy Nexus 0 112 0 247
Motorola RAZR XT910 0 215 0 361
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 0 231 0 362
HTC One S 0 177 0 386
Samsung Galaxy Note 0 287 0 429
HTC Sensation XE 0.23 172 761 0.64 484 752
Sony Xperia S - - - 0.48 495 1038

Above the screen, we have the proximity and ambient light sensors to the left of the earpiece and the 720p video call camera on the right. There's a tiny status LED under the earpiece grille.

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The 720p camera at the front enables video-chatting

Underneath the screen, we find the three controls typical of Android 4.0 ICS which, in the HTC tradition, come in capacitive flavor. The haptic enabled Back, Home and Task switcher keys are well spaced and very responsive. We've been over this already - while ICS dictates on-screen controls, the latest Sense UI requires actual Back and Home buttons.

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There are three capacitive buttons underneath the screen

The left side of the HTC One X features the microUSB port, which is used for data transfers, charging and, thanks to its MHL support, TV-out. With an MHL adapter you'll be able to output 1080p content to your HDTV directly from your phone, so purchasing one is probably worth it.

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The MHL-enabled microUSB port is on the left

On the right side we find nothing but the super slim volume rocker. With all the fuss HTC made about the One X camera, you would be forgiven for expecting to find a shutter key here, but there is no such thing.

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The volume rocker is placed on the left side

At the top we find the 3.5mm audio jack, a microphone pinhole and the Power/Lock key, which is easy enough to hit when needed but still reasonably secure against accidental presses. The microSIM slot is located nearby at the sloping part of the phone's rear body. You need to insert the SIM eject tool located in the retail box or a pin inside the hole next to the slot to access the microSIM tray.

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The power button, the 3.5 mm audio jack and the microSIM slot are on top

As usual, at the bottom of the phone, you will see the mouthpiece.

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The second microphone pinhole is all you get at the bottom

The back of the HTC One X features the 8MP camera lens and the LED flash right next to it. The camera lens is placed on a bulge and the protective glass may get scratched by surfaces it comes in contact with.

The other elements at the back are the loudspeaker grille near the bottom and the Beats audio logo right above it. You should keep in mind though that the audio enhancements are only available when you have connected a pair of headphones and not when using the loudspeaker itself.

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The 8 megapixel camera is joined by the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille at the back

It was a relief to find out that the HTC One X has none of the death grip issues of its metal-clad predecessors. We suspect that was one of the main reasons why HTC went with polycarbonate this time around. As Nokia made a point about the N9 - a phone with so many antennas simply can't perform properly with a metal unibody.

The HTC One X is powered by a non-user-replaceable 1800 Li-Ion battery. HTC didn't provide official endurance ratings for it, but our experience showed that it's a pretty decent performer. Despite the large high-res screen we were always able to get a full day of heavy usage without recharging and sometimes even a day and a half.

We'll be doing a detailed battery test of the HTC One X over the following few days and we'll update the review with the results, so stay tuned.

In conclusion, we cannot overstate how impressed we are with the HTC One X's design and build. The smartphone feels really great in hand. The commendable ergonomics and smart use of space go a long way to convince us that a 4.7" smartphone can actually be a popular choice.

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The HTC One X held in hand

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