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We’ve already put our geeky paws all over the international version of the HTC One X, which has officially set the stage for a heated smartphone battle in 2012. Now we have the HTC One X for AT&T in our hands and while it’s still very much the same handset we loved before, some internals have been swapped around to support the carrier’s LTE network. In this review, we’ll see if the new internals let the One X retain the umph it had in the international version or if we want the Tegra 3 back in the handset.
With the exception of the Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4 in the One X variants, both handsets are virtually identical. Because of this, you'll find a lot of similarities from our previous review.
At this moment in time, the HTC One X is by far the best Android handset to exist, period. It's taken quite a while for us to officially dethrone the Samsung Galaxy S II, even as handfuls of handsets with better hardware have come and gone since it's arrival. But the One X is the cat's meow. It's beautiful and solid, which something we'd expect from HTC but it screams a kind of quality and attention to detail that up until now, the company has yet to achieve. This bodes very well for HTC in the coming years and we're definitely glad to see that.
One can tell that HTC sat on this handset for quite a while to make it as great as it can be, and it worked. Internal hardware aside, the One X is a downright beautiful phone and is unlike a lot of handsets on the market today.
The 4.7-inch display takes up the bulk of the face and it looks subtly curved to provide for good viewing angles. As you would expect from any high-end smartphone, the One X sports a 720p Super LCD 2 screen that's bright, beautiful and responsive to the touch.
There's a large speaker above the screen to go along with the front-facing camera. Underneath the display, you'll find three capacitive Android buttons (Back, Home and Multitasking) and I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. Android Ice Cream Sandwich doesn't require these buttons anymore and I wonder if the One X may have been better off letting all of these actions being handled on the screen.
The screen is quite beautiful and it matches the gorgeous rest of the device. The One X is made of precision-machined polycarbonate material and HTC put on a high-gloss "piano" finish that is aimed at mimicking piano keys. I don't care what you call it, I found it to be stunning when I first took it out of the box (especially the white version).
It's a relatively minimalist design, as the embedded battery means you can't take off the back cover but it leads to a cleaner unibody design. The right spine sports a single-piece volume rocker, the headphone jack's on top, the microUSB port is on the left and a microphone is on the bottom. That polycarbonate backing feels delightful in the hand. It's relatively bare too except for the HTC and Beats Audio branding, a speaker and the large 8-megapixel camera.
If you want to get to the microSIM, you have to use the provided tool to pop out the microSIM tray, though a tack does the trick as well.
The One X sports a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, which makes it one of the most powerful phones on the market. Games, web browsing, HD video and app switching are all handled smoothly. The CPU switcheroo from the NVIDIA Tegra 3 was solely done for the fact that the Qualcomm chipset supports LTE and we won't see any NVIDIA processors supporting the latest 4G networks until the end of the year and we can't wait for that marriage. Nonetheless, the processor inside the AT&T One X flies.
Besides the 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, the One X is also packed with 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, multiple sensors, NFC, WiFi, LTE and HSPA+ connectivity, Beats Audio and everything you'd want in a powerful smartphone.
As far as benchmarks are concerned, the AT&T One X isn't in short supply of power. Between the Tegra 3 and the S4, benchmark apps show better results towards NVIDIA's offerings but fortunately, you won't see much of a difference between the two unless you're playing some heavy games. That said, the international version of the handset has access to the Tegra Zone app portal, which is something you won't find support with on AT&T's offering, so that console quality liking gaming experience won't be found here, but it holds its own in most areas.
HTC has brought many of the familiar Sense elements to the latest version, as the look and feel are instantly recognizable if you've ever used Sense before. This includes the 3D carousel for home screens and lock screen with quick-action apps and widgets. That last aspect is really cool as you can set up a few icons on the lock screen, drag the app you want into a the ring and it will launch into the app immediately. If you just want to unlock it, they you pull the ring from the center of the screen up.
There's also built-in Dropbox integration which gives you 25 GB of free storage for two years. If you already have a free or paid account, you get that on top of the 25 GB - so, my free 2 GB account will give me 27 GB. The nice thing is that you can tie your camera to this to automatically upload to Dropbox. While you can also do this with the Google+ integration, some may like the Dropbox storage better because it's more accessible from various devices and operating systems. It's also really good for sharing your 1080p HD videos, as these are sometimes too large to attach to an e-mail.
Sense has been scaled back in a few ways, as HTC is attempting to take out some of the bloat that began to make some users turn away from previous versions of the custom UI. For the most part, Sense has been refined for the better, in that it should be more approachable for users coming from other Android devices. One tweak that makes this apparent is that HTC has replaced the original dock on the homescreen with a more traditional Android dock. It's subtle tweaks like this that make the experience a nice one if you're coming from, say, a Galaxy S II.
I felt like the software on the One X was pretty darn good but that doesn't mean it's without flaws. I think HTC did a good job of trying to make Android look more visually appealing but if you haven't liked Sense in the past, I'm not sure if this is going to push you over the edge. Although refined, this is still the Sense UI, and it's not that dramatic of a change from previous versions.
There are a few software inconsistencies that we wish HTC had left untouched from stock Android 4.0. These issues wouldn't necessarily make someone avoid the handset but small things like not having the option to automatically share a screenshot once taken (you have to leave the picture and go into your gallery if you want to share it) and the heavily customized keyboard. The latter is something that may get to you, as it feels miles behind the stock Android 4.0 keyboard, which is more than usable than ever in this version of the OS. What's even more irritating is that HTC has completely removed the stock keyboard and you'll have to download an alternative from the market if you don't want to use the provided keyboard.
Unlike the international version we handled previously, the AT&T One X is littered with bloatware. Luckily, a new feature in Android 4. 0 allows you to disable these apps. Disabling doesn't uninstall an application but it will no longer show in your app drawer. That said, not all apps are treated equally, and AT&T Ready2Go cannot be disabled for whatever reason.
The HTC One X has an excellent web browser that really makes surfing the Internet a great experience on the go. The thing can handle HTML5 with ease, it even has Adobe Flash support and what I really appreciate is that it intelligently zooms the text for your screen. The One X does and it does it well. This text wrap feature is found in the stock Android 4.0 web browser but other methods allow for a better multi-touch experience and sacrifice this feature in the process, like Google Chrome for Android and iOS' web browser.
One gripe we found within the browser is that unlike stock Android 4.0, tabs are not easily dismissible. Stock Android 4.0 allows you to swipe tabs away in a single gesture, where Sense's previous implementation of tapping on the X to close a tab remains. It's not that big of a deal but it's a less fluid experience. Still, we have our doubts that people will avoid the browser because of something so simple.
You have multiple options for getting content on your One X. The 4.7-inch screen looks great, so movies play well and the screen is large enough to comfortably watch on the go. You also have the HTC Watch store and it enables you to rent and buy movies and TV shows.
Of course, you can always get content from the Play Store, as it includes apps, movies, audiobooks, music and more. Speaking of music, this phone has the Beats Audio technology built in and this provides a much better bass experience than I'm used to on a phone. I still think the external speaker gets a tad bit distorted if you're blasting music at the top level but listening via headphones is a blast. Beats Audio support shouldn't necessarily be the reason you grab this handset, though. It's definitely nice, but unless you're an audiophile, it's likely not going to be the experience you want to justify the purchase. Luckily, it's just the icing on the cake to a solid handset.
The One X supports DLNA like most smartphones today and you can easily share content to and from your phone over a WiFi network. While it will be sold separately, HTC will soon be rolling out the Media Link HD, which will allow you to send virtually anything on the phone with a simple gesture. We wouldn't say that it's fully cooked but it's an interesting accessory for the One X nonetheless.
HTC has put a lot of work into the camera on the One X and it definitely pays off. The One X has the one of the best cameras I've ever seen on a phone, which can truly replace a digital camera and it has a very pleasant UI.
As for the details, HTC built a custom image chip for this thing and the lens packs a f2.0 lens and it has an 8-megapixel backside illuminated sensor. What this means is that shots come out bright, crisp and very detailed. You also have five levels of LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that can do 720p HD video.
The camera is also capable of shooting 1080p HD video and the neat thing is that you can also snap stills while shooting video. HTC lucked out on with this feature, as many seem to forget that stock Android 4.0 can do this natively, and it's a feature the company seems to love to boast about.
There's virtually zero shutter lag within the camera and it's simple to add things like filters. You also get things like facial detection, geo-fencing and quick sharing to various social networks. Another neat feature is that you can hold down the shutter button and you'll be able to take multiple shots in a row. You can then choose your best one and delete the rest, or you can just keep all of them.
My only real complaint is that there's no on-screen way to switch to the front-facing camera quickly (you have to dive into a menu) and I still found low-lighting photos to be a little lacking. As you would expect, the zoom isn't as good as a standard digital camera but it's almost there and the quality of the photos is so good that you can easily ditch your standalone camera.
From the shutter lag speed to the ability to take photos while shooting HD videos, the HTC One X sets the standard for excellence in smartphone photography and I'm betting many of you will very happy with this.
All photos were taken with auto settings. First two photos were taken on a cloudy day, the other two in direct sun.
Call quality fared quite well on AT&T's network here in San Francisco, which isn't always the case. Calls were more than acceptable on both ends, with little to no interference throughout the duration of the call.
As long as you're not surfing away on LTE constantly, you should be able to get through a day on a single charge with the One X for AT&T. If you're one to stream movies and Pandora for hours on end, like most phones out there, you'll see a significant drop in battery life in a short amount of time. LTE is a big battery killer and since there's no easy way to turn it off, you'll likely need to wait for a solution to pop up before you can rely solely on HSPA+. The gorgeous screen will also eat into your battery life as well, which is unfortunate since it's so nice.
Like the international version, the HTC One X is a force to be reckoned with. It's sleek, sexy, and fast in most of the places you'll want it to be. Personally, I would have still preferred the Tegra 3 over the Snapdragon S4, as the fact that HTC had gone with a non-Qualcomm based CPU for once was one of the more appealing attributes of the One X to begin with. This doesn't make the S4 bad in in any way but at this point in time, I couldn't care less about LTE since it's still quite immature and needs to allow a user to have their handset last a full day before it's ready for prime time. LTE is insanely fast on AT&T's network but I'm more than fine having an average of 8-10 Mbps on HSPA+ than 40Mbps down and sacrifice a majority of my battery life.
Processors and radios aside, the One X is one of the best phones available in the US today, hands down. Unfortunately, we're about to see HTC's darling go head to head with the most anticipated Android phone this year, the Samsung Galaxy S III. While we don't doubt that the One X will be able to hold its own against Samsung's upcoming flagship device, we would have been much happier to see HTC's One line get out of the gate a little earlier.
If you can't wait to get a piece of next-generation technology in your hands on AT&T, look no further than the One X.