Super-LCD2 1280×720 4.3″ Display (342 Pixels Per Inch)
16GB on-board storage
8 Megapixel f/2.0 Rear-facing camera with 1080P recording
2.1 Megapixel f/2.0 Front-facing camera with ultra wide angle lens
Beats Audio by Dr.Dre
Near Field Communication
Taking it out of my pocket in public and people will naturally be drawn to its mystique beauty. It looks like a smartphone beyond its time. Such beauty in design should be commended, placing it on a table and it will start seducing onlookers to pick it up.
“HTC has set out to create a distinctive product, it nailed it perfectly”
The design and feel of the 8X is rock solid
and feels like a premium device rivalling top-tier Android phones or the iPhone. It is is built around a single piece of moulded polycarbonate, giving it rigidity while maintaining the near feather weight. The glass surface is also curved at the edges of the phone, giving your fingers perfect buttery smoothness edge to edge swipes.
The best part about polycarbonate is its soft matte texture, feeling extremely nice to hold in your hands.
It has a tapered back where the phone curves from the center towards the top at the edges of the 8X. Though aesthetically pleasing, it makes it slightly awkward and uncomfortable to hold. The thin edges and sharp corners stabs into your fingers and palm a little too much. The power button placement at the top is also awkward to press, making users re-shuffle their grip after turning the phone on or off.
From the owners of the best smartphone display on the HTC One X, the same formula is used here on the 8X. It has the same number of pixels in a tinier package, colour reproduction and and viewing angles are fantastic. The live tiles appear to be floating right on the surface of the phone.
Apple has to take a backseat this time when the 8X has more pixels and a higher PPI than the iPhone 5. It is virtually impossible to discern individual pixels even from a close up
Other major manufacturers are catching up in the PPI race where hardware engineers keep pushing the size of high definition displays smaller and smaller.
Moreover, HTC just announced a 5″ 1080P phone in Japan and USA (HTC J Butterfly/HTC Droid DNA), it will be quite a while before other manufacturers play catch up on the display front while HTC takes the lead.
The additional feature putting S-LCD in the lead compared to S-AMOLED is that the display brightness can be at a full blown 500 nits while S-AMOLED caps out at 300 nits of luminosity. This is painfully obvious when I try to use both phones under the bright afternoon sun, my galaxy nexus looks washed out and viewing the screen is a constant eye squint. The 8X takes on the sun like it was nothing, a full webpage filled with text is natural to read without covering the screen in a shade.
The only slight draw back of a LCD display is that the black levels aren’t as rich as a S-AMOLED screen. Putting them side by side, the 8X’s black looks like a dull shade of grey. This is due to the constant back-light needed for a LCD display whereas S-AMOLED can physically turn off or on each pixel, giving exceptional contrast ratios.
A slight thing I noticed while using the 8X, if you press the edges hard enough, there will be minor ripple distortion on the screen. Much like the same effect you get when touching a LCD screen. It will not affect the user experience in anyway for most consumers as the force required to make the distortion happen is quite significant.
At first glance, the 8X’s camera may seem like a typical f/2.0 8 Megapixel shooter out in the smartphone market. However, this camera has the same ImageChip that first début in the HTC One Series. Giving it a slight edge over competitors with a separate chip dedicated solely for taking photos. Though it may not be as good as its Windows Phone Sibling from Nokia (Lumia 920), it keeps a slim profile and is just as fast, keeping up with other flagship smartphone cameras.
The physical camera button on the phone is pure bliss when using it. Pressing it when your phone is off, locked or on, it jumps straight into the camera app within 2 seconds. Furthermore, the button is 2 stage like many common compact cameras, half pressing it focuses onto the subject and fully pressing it will take the shot. Users can also opt to touch the screen to focus and take the shot although I found taking pictures with the camera button resulted in less blurry photos.
One of the key selling points of the 8X is the ultra wide angle front facing camera. It is amazing when you compare it side by side with another typical smartphone. HTC clearly thought about the needs of people using the front facing camera, taking portrait photos with friends have never been easier with the extra wide view. Although using it too close up may distort people’s faces due to the nature of the lens.
Close up Macro Shot
High ISO shot at night
The 8X is no exception when it comes to including the beats audio as seen on many other HTC devices. It is advertised to have 10 times less distortion and enhanced bass compared to other smartphones without it. The odd thing is that the phone speakers does not support the beats audio enhancement, it only activates when you plug in an audio device into the 3.5mm jack.
In my testing, the phone speakers can be incredibly loud and using them in your hands does not muffle the sound due to how the phone was designed to be held, leaving a natural concave gap between the hand and phone. Unfortunately, putting the phone on a flat surface will muffle the sound, forcing you to flip over the phone if you want to listen to content through your phone.
Listening to music using my earphones, I was surprised to find out that the Beats Audio also serves as an amplifier. It works great on headphones, but earphone users such as myself might need to turn it off as I decreased the volume until 1/30 (Lowest Setting) and it was still quite loud with the Beats Audio on.
The enhancement resulted in raised bass and mid tones overall. Since it also acted as an amplifier, I could hear static noise better as well for quieter parts of the music but most of the time it was inaudible. Thankfully, for people who don’t want to use this, shutting it off is just a few taps away from the settings menu.
Microsoft’s latest and greatest also début here on the 8X, sporting the Windows Phone 8 Operating system, the next step after windows phone 7.5. A suite of new features and refinements are abundant in the new iteration. The most obvious and prominent feature that existing windows phone users longed for is the brand new live tiles which updates with animations and flips. It functions much like android widgets, just that they are more compact with limited function. They are also resizeable, giving users an even more sense of customizability for the phone.
The previous features are still kept, like the multitasking window different colour themes. The theme feature adds a lot of customizability to the colour scheme of your phone. Allowing you to change the default colour as well as a dark or light theme.The default colour will be reflected in certain app icons, live tiles and individual bold text.
There are apps that are beautifully designed that gives using the same app on the WP8 platform an entirely different experience. The Facebook and Twitter app which are co-designed with Microsoft is stunningly eye catching with a minimalistic style. A mention for Microsoft’s own Office and Note app which are absolutely fantastic. Office for mobile will be arriving to other platforms which is win-win for consumers.
|“Windows Phone 8 Multitasking Window”|
There are also issues with scrolling, the performance of this device is extremely smooth with elaborate transitions. But it has held back scrolling, where they impose an annoying max speed and travel time per scroll. So no matter how hard you scroll, you can only go this fast and this much. It is reminiscent from Apple style of scrolling but this feels slower. The best still lies with Android with excellent scrolling acceleration, one strong flick can propel you up the entire contacts list.
Overall HTC has crafted an amazing device that carries the flagship tag with pride. The hardware design is a beauty to behold, just picking it up reinforces that feeling. The internals are no slouch either with no signs of slow down using the device. Any hiccups are mostly the WP8 OS fault. HTC’s bundle of apps with the phone are simple and adds additional functionality without sacrificing performance. Although Nokia might have a better suite of apps, HTC holds its own well.
What is keeping this device out of the top tier? The Windows Phone 8 platform. It is sad to see this phone delivering its full potential only after the app ecosystem for it matures. The current Windows Phone marketplace is an utter barren wasteland with extremely little quality apps and games.
“There is still a long time to wait until WP8 matures, by then there will be better phones available. The 8X serves as a beautiful and simple phone to use with great specifications. Being realistic, iOS and Android can do so much more as a smartphone platform. Thus I can only recommend the 8X to existing users of Windows Phone that are comfortable with the ecosystem Microsoft provides.
Users looking for something new will feel bitter-sweet, it is all gems and jewels at first but people will start missing the functionality that the previous platforms provides.”
– Written by Chng Zhi Xuan, Technology Reviewer