HTC Windows Phone 8X review: Signed and sealed

GSMArena team, 06 November 2012.

Photos

The Photos (previously known as Pictures) hub is also pretty much the same as we left it in Windows phone 7.5.

You can set a single photo as a background for the hub (it used to be the last photo viewed) or you can set it to shuffle different photos.

And of course, the point of hubs is that they are the go-to place to do things, instead of apps. New functionality allows apps to integrate into the Photos hub, so for example, a photo effects app can make its options available right in the hub. Devs need to enable that into apps however.

The main view of the Photos hub offers four options - camera roll, albums, date and people. A swipe to the left reveals what's new, which displays your Facebook friends and liked pages' new picture galleries. Another swipe shows your favorites section, where the photos you've faved are displayed.

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Pictures hub

Albums feature the camera roll, the preloaded system pictures and all of your Facebook albums. A flick to the left shows all your pictures sorted by date. You can't assign individual camera roll photos into albums, though.

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Camera roll • Album view

The people section is where you can select your friends or closed ones so that their galleries on Facebook get displayed right there in your Photos hub. It's a nice feature for social network users but will be only an empty section for those that aren't too fond of Facebook.

The camera roll unifies your entire collection of photos and videos, taken with the device, in a grid of 4x5. You cannot change the view of the camera roll. Viewing a photo can be done in either portrait or landscape mode. Zooming in on a photo is done by either double tap or pinch to zoom. We appreciate that the camera roll doesn't downsize pictures and you can enjoy them in full resolution.

Sharing options include messaging, email, Facebook or the cloud-based SkyDrive.

While uploading photos to Facebook or Windows Live, the OS will detect any untagged faces and allow you to tag them before proceeding with the upload.

The camera roll has a dedicated auto-fix setting, which tries to improve your photo automatically. It's a nice feature but one that produces less than stellar results at times.

Music + Videos tab

The media players reside together in the Music & Videos hub, which now bears the Xbox logo or the last played media thumbnail. When you start it, it shows the History, which gives you quick access to the last two things played, or you can go to the full menu and start the music or video player, listen/watch podcasts (both audio and video podcasts are supported) or go to the Marketplace.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X supports Beats Audio and you'll find the toggle deep in the settings menu, instead of the music player settings. Beats Audio boosts the volume without involving loss of quality.

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Beats Audio

The music section is made up of albums, songs, playlists, genres and artists. Videos features all, television, music videos, films and personal - think of them like more of categories you can assign your videos to when synching with Zune. The third section is podcasts where you can store all of your downloaded audio and video podcasts.

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Music + Videos hub

The music has a simple and straightforward interface. You won't have any difficulties using it. However there are some things missing, like an equalizer. Another missing feature is the ability to scrub through a song with your finger - you have to press and hold on the FF/rewind buttons to simply jump back and forth.

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Browsing the music library • Now playing screen

Mango brings along a slight change in design to the now playing screen. The favorite, repeat and shuffle buttons are now placed horizontally next to the album cover instead of hidden behind it.

Update: Since the GDR2 update, the 8X now has FM Radio support, as well.

As a music player, it's pretty standard - your tracks are sorted by artist, album, playlists or you can view all songs. The interface is very similar to that of the stock music player, but under the album art it lists the next three songs to be played - really helpful if you're using shuffle. There's no way to manually reorder the upcoming songs, but you can reshuffle them if there's one you don't like.

The video player is integrated into the Music + Videos hub. It has a very simple interface - you have fast forward and rewind controls, a time scroll and a video size button that toggles full-screen viewing.

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The Video tab • Video player in action

The video player in Windows Phone 8 has greatly improved codec support since our last encounter. Now it does recognize pretty much every Xvid, DivX and MP4 videos up to 1080p resolution. The few things it won't play are MKV files and videos using AC3 audio codec. While this is not perfect, it's much better than before.

There is no subtitle support just yet.

Since Windows Phone 8 is Zune independent, you can easily upload videos from your computer via the USB mass storage mode.

It's interesting (and useful) that you can pin individual items to the homescreen - like a song or video

Audio quality

Judging the HTC Windows Phone 8X audio quality is a tricky job. HTC intended for you to listen to the smartphone with Beats audio enhancements enabled in which case the smartphone is one of the loudest around. The problem is enabling Beats also triggers an equalizer (which is otherwise unavailable and this means you won't be getting the pure experience audiophiles demand.

Switching Beats audio off still gives you good performance, but only average volume levels. Most of the readings are excellent remain good but the intermodulation distortion is slightly high and the stereo crosstalk is not the best we have seen either.

Check out the numbers and see for yourselves.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
HTC Windows Phone 8X+0.06, -0.55-83.283.20.0096 0.286-74.8
HTC Windows Phone 8X (headphones attached)+0.05, -0.54-82.682.50.011 0.288-59.8
Samsung Ativ S+0.07, -0.07-90.388.40.0089 0.384-92.2
Samsung Ativ S (headphones attached)+0.18, -0.05-90.088.20.031 0.390-60.0
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III+0.03, -0.05-90.390.30.012 0.018-92.6
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (headphones attached)+0.11, -0.04-90.290.20.0092 0.090-53.1
LG Optimus G+0.13, -0.11-82.582.50.0092 0.022-81.6
LG Optimus G (headphones attached)+0.05, -0.30-80.880.90.012 0.061-59.4
Apple iPhone 5+0.06, -0.51-91.391.30.00150.0093-76.5
Apple iPhone 5 (headphones attached)+0.00, -0.26-90.690.60.00350.111-56.2

HTC Windows Phone 8X frequency response
HTC Windows Phone 8X frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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