HTC 8X Review – HTC finds a winner in Windows Phone 8

8x featured

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 Good
  • Solid in-hand feel
  • Snappy Qualcomm CPU
  • Windows Phone 8 brings some simple but much needed features to the table
The Bad
  • Design is unique, but still similar to what's available already for Windows Phone
  • Windows Phone has a ways to go until it can compete with iOS/Android

Hardware

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.

Design

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.

Build Quality

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.

Software

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.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Camera

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 And Battery Life

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.

The Final Take

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.

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  • Mikeneufeld30

    Good Review! How comparable is the battery performance in the HTC ONE X vs the HTC 8X? I currently own the One X but looking at moving to WP8. Thoughts?

    • Anonymous

      So far, I’d say that the 8x has much better battery life than the One X, but I’ll update the review as time goes on.

  • keris

    Judging from the Samsung Ativ S I doubt MS puts any style requirement on handset makers

    • Anonymous

      If there was one handset maker that had more control over a Windows Phone, it would be Samsung. The success of the Galaxy S line proves just this. The first and second Galaxy S look different on most carriers, where the Galaxy S III is identical on all carriers now. This is not an accident. It shows that carriers won’t push Samsung around with their Android devices because customers will buy their products regardless. Windows Phone is Samsung’s playing ground, if they want it, which is why the ATIV “S” the most dramatic departure from any Windows Phone handset we’ve ever seen when it comes to design.

  • MattyP

    I really don’t get some people feeling the 8X resembles the Nokia devices at all.

    To me they have very nothing in common unless you’re looking straight on from the front and only see the display of main menus for WP8 (obviously looks similar on all devices). Otherwise, the 8X looks completely different and stands out…it also has that quality people get from holding the iPhone 5, where you have to hold it and really feel it to get what’s so great about the design.

    • Anonymous

      The 8X looks like an 810 with sharper edges.. There’s not much debating that. And no, you don’t have to hold a device before you see what’s great about a design. It’s aesthetics. Nokia’s Windows Phone devices fit in the hand as an 8X does. Has nothing to do with design.

      • MattyP

        Have you used one or even seen them in person?

        The 8X isn’t similar to the Nokia at all when you actually see and use both, and I personally don’t know how you can really feel they are similar from images, but I suppose it can be hard if you don’t see anything but the couple of front shots of each. The shapes of the edges, backs, way each meets the bezel around the screen, tops and bottoms, are all very different from each other.

        Also, in reply to, “And no, you don’t have to hold a device before you see what’s great about a design.” Yes, actually you do in different cases…otherwise you could look at a picture of many phones straight on and think they’re similar. Ex: Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note or iPhone 4S to the 5. Someone could easily think they are nearly identical from a couple photos, but they’re quite different when you see them in person or actually hold them (obviously).

        I didn’t make a general statement saying that about all devices as your comment seems to imply, but in the case of the 8X…yes you really do need to hold it to really get a sense of how it is different than the Nokia or other Windows devices.A lot can be said in the actual comfort and feel of a device, and in the case of the 8X that is entirely what makes the design so great…the way it curves up in the back and into the very thin edges around the screen all the way around (as opposed to the Nokia having more rounded edges that meet a flat top and bottom).

        Go check them out at an AT&T store when you get the chance, I feel you’ll agree…

        • Anonymous

          I’m not disputing the build-quality. You initially said you need to hold the device to get a feel for the design. The phone looks great, the build quality is great, and yes, it looks different than some of the Nokia phones. But, and this likely has more to do with Microsoft’s hand in design, but both HTC and Nokia phones share the same design aesthetic. It’s a colored slab with a piece of glass put on top. 

          • MattyP

            I’m not saying you are disputing the build-quality in any way. And you’ve offered no reason for why you don’t need to actually hold it to get a feel for the design.

            You essentially just ended that last response by saying they both resemble the basic elements of about every touch-only smartphone released on the market in the past two years (“color slab with a piece of glass put on top”) which offers no legit response to my statement in any way except saying the Nokia resembles the 8X (when it simply doesn’t except in the most basic form factor of a slab).

            I mean, that’s on the same level as a professional car reviewer saying the Camry and Accord share the same design aesthetics because they’re both midsize sedans. The whole point is to point out the distinguishing factors to the reader, not underplay the finer details by saying they’re essentially the same because of the basic elements that make up the generic product.

            In my previousl example of comparing it to the iPhone 5, many people who hadn’t seen it in person said it looked just like an iPhone 4 and 4S until they actually held it and used it to get a feel for the weight, slimness, and material differences. That’s all I was pointing out by saying you have to actually use it and see it in person to really notice those differences compared to other Windows Phones. You haven’t really said otherwise to disagree with that other than simply replying with, “And no you don’t have to hold a device to see what’s great about design.” When in fact you DO if the design is felt in materials, weight, and size or thinness versus the outer casings that might look similar in images (or to the untrained eye, similar to someone possibly thinking an Accord looks like a Camry).

            If you truly believe that saying they share the same design aesthetics to the point of not differentiating the manufacturer is in any way a legitimate reply to my original statement, then I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to comment or how you managed to be allowed to review phones as it seems you can’t tell some very obvious differences.

          • MattyP

          • http://www.facebook.com/james.w.cassidy James Cassidy

            MattyP

            You sure do talk your self up and try to argue a point that you have already realized holds no merit. The phones that the author mentioned DO look VERY similar, while some of the nokia WP8 phones have some stand out differences overall they still look very similar.

            If you don’t think so then that’s your point of view but don’t be a tool bag and get all aggressive because your the only one seeing it that way.

            As for the review, i found it quite useful! Cheers!

          • MattyP

            I’m not sure where you’re getting that I talk myself up, but I did nothing of the sort. I made a comment of what I felt about the comparisons of how the devices look and the reviewer got a little serious and out of context of what I actually said.

            The phones don’t look very similar unless you’re looking straight at them in an image only. I think you’re delusional if you see them in person up close (or multiple good angle shots of both) or actually hold/use them, they’re not similar at all…that I don’t even think is a “point of view,” more like a fact. Otherwise you prob think every smartphone in the past year look very similar, so no point in disagreeing with you.

            And if the reviewer hadn’t replied a bit off-point from what I originally said, I wouldn’t have even gotten “aggressive” since his was a bit itself in trying to be right. He even replied to my 2nd to last post, realized he was entirely wrong in what he was saying, and deleted that. End of it.

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