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Windows Phone, whatever your opinion is on the operating system, certainly isn’t without its fair share of nice hardware. While the first line of devices failed to make a splash, the likes of Nokia and its Lumia line gave the world handsets to look at with refreshing designs that complimented the Windows Phone user interface quite well, and we’re beginning to see the same with other handset makers. The newest Windows Phone handset that’s been causing a stir is the HTC 8X. Without digging into the handset much, is easy to see that it’s the best Windows Phone that’s come from the Taiwanese manufacturer.
But how does it hold up against the competition? Is the 8X the phone that will make your iOS and Android friends green with envy? Or is it a handset that Microsoft just got lucky with? Read on to find out!
The HTC 8X is packed with some very nice features that will ensure that you'll have a fluid experience navigating the new Windows Phone software, browse the web, and just about anything else you'd want on the phone. The combination of a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM will make sure you there won't be much standing in your way. Other highlights of the 8X include the wide-angled 8 megapixel rear facing camera, Beats Audio support, and much more.
One of our favorite features that we loved on the HTC One X has made its way to the 8X, and that would be the Super LCD 2 display. This 4.3 inch panel rocks a 1280 x 720 (720p) resolution, resulting in a great PPI of about 341. The Super LCD 2 display and the very high pixel density of said display is something to admire, and likely something that you'll notice immediately. Seriously, the display is beautiful, making the Live Tiles on Windows Phone pop.
While it's a design choice that we'll get into later, the materials surrounding the display on the face of the device actually make the screen look smaller than it is - it almost looks like there's too much bezel, even though it's not the case.
This is very much a Windows Phone, as you'll fine only the bare essentials on a very clean slate. Below the LCD panel are the three Windows Phone capacitive keys for back, home, and search. Above the display is where you'll find the front-facing camera, standard proximity and ambient light sensors, ear piece, and HTC's logo.
The sides of the 8X are designed to look sharp, but since they are covered in a nice soft touch finish, it works really well. The "sharp" sides don't necessarily help or harm the device when it comes to in-hand feel, and looks like more of a design choice to help the handset stand out, which is does.
The left side of the device is clean, leaving most buttons on the other side. The bottom houses the micro USB port and microphone, and the top is where you'll find the power/lock button and 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side of the device gives you the slot to insert the micro SIM card, volume rocker, and dedicated camera button. The latter of which is so nice to see that it makes me wish that HTC would still do this with its Android handsets. The dedicated shutter button on the device allows a Windows Phone user to jump directly into the camera application while the phone is asleep by holding down on it.
This is a trickier area than you might think. Not only is the design of the HTC 8X beautiful, it's also very familiar to other Windows Phone devices from Nokia. While this isn't a terrible thing, we do wish we knew how much creative control Microsoft gave when it came to the 8X, as it looks like it missed a chance to truly differentiate itself from the rest. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing bad about the design of the 8X, but if you covered the HTC and Nokia logos up on the 8X and the Lumia 920, the handsets would look like they were designed by the same handset maker. We're sure Microsoft wants some sort of unity on the design front, but the fact that a handful of the best Windows Phone handsets have some rather significant similarities doesn't help the handset maker.
Like the Lumia line, the 8X starts with a slab and then looks as if the screen itself was placed on top of said slab. This effect looks best on the lighter colored handsets, as the contrast really makes it look nice. But again, we've seen this exact thing on Nokia handsets.
Should I just skip this section? Anyone in the market for a smartphone should know at least one thing about HTC, and that's that the company will always bring handsets to the table that are as solid as can be. There's just no other way to say it.
The in-hand feel of the 8X is nothing out of the ordinary from HTC. It's excellent. The sharper edges along sides wouldn't work as well if the display was larger than 4.3 inches, but the device fits snugly in the hand.
Microsoft introduced a handful of new features in Windows Phone 8, making it the best version of the OS to date. That said, the slick UI still doesn't compensate for the lack of top apps available. However, that will most certainly change in the future, and is slowly making its way in the right direction..
Windows Phone 8 brings resizable tiles, live apps, and many more features to the table, but the overall feel of the new OS feels more like a incremental update that deserves to be Windows Phone 7.9 more than anything. Remarkably compelling features are lacking in Windows Phone 8, and while it's better than ever, some consumers will overlook Windows Phone for iOS or Android, and they'll have missed out on considering such a solid handset like the HTC 8X.
For more details on the new Windows Phone 8 OS, check out our overview here.
When it comes to cameras, we've long been fan of HTC's offerings. Like Android devices like the HTC One X, the 8X's 8 megapixel shooter is pretty superb, but not necessarily perfect. Nonetheless it's an experience that will go toe to toe with many competing cameras today. When handling the 8X, you might feel that there are a significantly amount of features missing from the device compared to something like the One X, and that's because Windows Phone 8's camera features aren't yet that robust.
Windows Phone 8 doesn't currently support many of the features you'll find on HTC's Android devices, and the camera software is pretty bare bones. It does keep the experience simple, but that likely won't satisfy shutterbugs. HTC provides a "photo enhancer" application to apply filters to photos after you take them, but that's about it.
Nonetheless, we still like the camera on the 8X. It might lack a wealth of features but that will change in the future and the camera itself is still very solid.
Call quality wasn't an issue in the least bit, as the HTC 8X performed very well during calls. Both sides came out loud and clear, with little to no distortion throughout the duration of the calls.
Battery life on the 8X was actually pretty decent. Whether it was because it's better at managing the 1800 mAh or the fact that I didn't play games as much on the handset due to the lack of them on WP8 is beyond me. Either way, the 8X performs serviceably, and that's all we're really asking for.
If you're in the market for a new smartphone and Windows Phone is your first must-have, you're going to be left with a few options that should get the job done for you. In our opinion, HTC 8X should undoubtedly be your first choice but we'd be lying if we said that the Lumia 920 doesn't come in a very, very close 2nd.
While the design aesthetic of the 8X is pretty reminiscent of a few existing Windows Phone devices out there today, it's hard to take point off, as it's still a very nice looking handset. When it's in your hand, you definitely know you're holding something of quality. Other specifications take the 8X over the top, like the great display and snappy processor.
All that said, Windows Phone 8 is a different story. As we had said above, WP8 seems like it deserves 7.9 status due to a lack of features that you'll likely use every day. This is hardly to say that the latest version of the Windows Phone is bad, but it's still rather easy to see that Microsoft's road to and iOS and Android level of success is a long one. Luckily, with solid handsets like the HTC 8X, there will be a few shortcuts on it's roadmap.
Personally, if I was going to switch over to Windows Phone this year, the HTC 8X would be my go-to phone.