HTC 8X Windows Phone Review
We’ve reviewed a lot of smartphones and tablets here on Unbox. The device that got the most number of comments when we took it out (next to the iPhone 5 prior to local launch) wasn’t an Android phone. It was actually a Windows Phone — the HTC 8X. Why does it get so much attention? The high level of craftsmanship of the chasis combined with the novelty of Windows Phone 8 makes it a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by iOS and Android. And that is exactly what it has been for us. We’ve been using the HTC 8X as our primary phone since December and we actually haven’t looked back ever since. Find out why in our full review below.
HTC 8X Windows Phone Spec Sheet
- 1.5GHz Dual-core Snapdragon CPU
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB Internal Storage (non-expandable)
- 4.3-inch S-LCD2 Capacitive Touchscreen, 720×1280 pixels (~342ppi)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- 8.0-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, geo-tagging, touch focus
- 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera
- NFC enabled
- Microsoft Windows Phone 8 Software
Stunning and unique industrial design
One thing we liked the most about the HTC 8X is the over-all design of the phone. At first glance it might look like a Lumia device but there’s a world of difference once you have it in your hand. The chasis is unibody construction with the glass seamlessly flowing into the polycarbonate shell. It’s quite a feat of industrial engineering and it’s easy to appreciate especially if you love beautiful gadgets (lol).
The shape of the back of the HTC 8X curves downwards from the edges giving it a much thinner profile. You’ll find the 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the back together with the speaker grill and HTC branding. At the sides you’ll find the volume rocker, a dedicated camera button, and the micro-SIM tray. At the top is the headphone jack and the power lock button (which is so difficult to press and find) and at the bottom is the micro USB port.
Another thing we appreciate is that HTC really put a lot of effort into the small details. The volume rocker, power lock button, and even the frame of the camera sensor has an aluminum-like chrome finish with color matching that phone. The embossed silver HTC logo at the back also looks pretty cool. Definitely one of the best phone chasis HTC has ever created.
Display is absolutely gorgeous
The HTC 8X sports a 4.3-inch screen which makes it easy for one-handed use (especially if you have big hands lol). it’s made from Corning Gorilla Glass 2 so it’s scratch resistant but note that it is “resistant” and not “scratch proof”. While we haven’t sustained any major scratches yet we can already see small hairline scratches on the screen of our unit.
The resolution of the display is 720×1280, which comes out to around 340 pixels per inch. That’s more than enough for you not to notice pixilation of sorts for images, videos, and text. HTC made it a point to put a superior high-end screen and they definitely delivered.
Blazing Fast Windows Phone 8 Experience
One of the complaints with the previous Lumia line-up was that there were lags and delays. You’ll find none of those with the HTC 8X. The 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU combined with 1GB RAM and the optimizations of the Windows Phone 8 software delivers a smooth Windows Phone experience that we’ve never had before in previous Windows Phone devices. There’s virtually no delay with the transitions and animations and the only time we hit lag spikes was when we opened to People app (contacts) but then again we had around 4,000 contacts listed so that’s to be expected, lol.
Windows Phone 8: What’s So Nice About It?
To those not familiar with the Windows Phone 8 interface, it’s actually very intuitive, classy, and elegantly made. I’ll do quick run through just so we’re on the same page.
First we have the homescreen. With Windows Phone 8 we get the Live Tile (formerly known as Metro) style user interface. You basically have “windows” of apps on the screen and some of these tiles, depending on the app, can actually show you data and information. For example, the Rowi Twitter Client can show numbers of Direct Messages and Mentions. The Photo app can do a mini-slideshow of your camera roll. The Weather tile can display the latest weather update in your location. Your Calendar can show your next appointment. And so on and on.
You can change the sizes of the tiles to suit your taste and usage habit. There are three sizes: square, rectangular, and big square. You can re-arrange the positioning of the tiles as well.
Instead of the usual “Contacts”, Microsoft called it “People”. Initially your contacts are listed alphabetically but you can easily scroll down or search who you want to contact. When you have a contact selected you’ll see all of the details including some social data. The app can display their latest Tweet or Facebook post. This makes it a little more personal. :)
By the way, you can “pin” contacts on your home screen. Their picture will appear as a live tile. This is very handy when you SMS or call several people often (so you don’t have to open the People app anymore to get to them).
The messaging app follows the design principles of Windows Phone 8. Big and easy to read letters for the name of your contact. What’s cool about this though is that you can actually turn Facebook Chat on in the settings and you can just swipe sidewards while in messaging to show the list of people who are online on Facebook. Here’s what it looks like when you swipe it and you want to go to the Facebook chat list:
By the way, the virtual on-screen keyboard is pretty slick as well. It’s predictive feature gets very accurate over time (even if you type in non-english language).
The Calendar app on Windows Phone 8 is arguably our favorite default calendar among all mobile operating systems. Not only is it easy to read (large and beautiful fonts), the layout is also pleasing to the eyes. We actually like looking at the calendar on our HTC 8X, lol. Less late meetings FTW.
Over-all the core functions — telephony, calendar, and messaging, are all well-made and pleasant to use on the HTC 8X.
Most social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter follow the design direction of Windows Phone 8. Big fonts, swipe gestures, and everything. We have no complaints about this but for some weird reason it seems as if social networking is a tad slower on Windows Phone devices. For example, when we get a tweet and we have real time notifications on, it instantly appears on the iPhone 5 or our Asus Padfone 2. There’s usually several seconds delay before the tweet gets in the HTC 8X.
Design-wise everything is cool with social networking on the Windows Phone 8 system. They still have a lot of work to do though with quashing bugs, adding more features, and refining it for the best possible user experience.
By the way, the best Twitter app we found was Rowi. Check it out. For Facebook we just got the default one.
Entertainment: Gaming, Music, and Videos
When it comes to entertainment, the HTC 8X shines in video and music but is a bit lackluster with gaming. For videos almost all the stuff we threw at it played beautifully at 720p on the HTC 8X. For music the volume was also quite loud (we didn’t have to max it unlike Androids) to get good quality. In gaming though we just can’t put it through the paces because most of the titles available are casual games. Microsoft has to work harder on getting more game devs to port their work to the Windows Phone Store.
PS: Among the various games we downloaded and paid for the most notable one was ARMED!. It’s an RTS game featuring mechs and tanks. Fun game but a bit tedious to play.
The 8-megapixel shooter of the HTC 8X is quite a respectable and competitive snapper. The optics are fairly good even if you compare them to the best cameras on smartphones like the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and the Nokia Lumia 920. I’m not saying that the camera on the HTC 8X is better than any of the phones I just mentioned but it is nearly on the same level.
Here are some sample shots:
Not bad right? Only downer really is the yellowish tint in low light and the loss of detail. The good thing though is that there’s a built-in photo enhancer made by HTC. Makes it easy to edit and refine pics. :)
Surprisingly long battery life… if you turn off Location Services
We got through most full days without needing to charge the HTC 8X. That’s probably because we barely do any gaming on it (lol). However the battery gets sucked dry insanely fast when you have Location Services turned on. Make sure you only turn it on (settings) if you need it.
The HTC 8X is a solid, top-level, feature packed Windows Phone 8 device. Compared to the Lumia 920 and 820, the HTC 8X shines when it comes to form factor and build (Lumia 920 wins in camera and Nokia apps). However we understand if you’re apprehensive in investing in this considering it’s a totally new operating system. Should you take the jump though we can guarantee you that you’re in for a fun, elegant, classy, and novel experience. That and you’ll be different from others since almost everyone who uses a smartphone these days in the PH is either on iOS or Android, lol.
The HTC 8X retails for around Php26,000 in HTC Concept Stores. It’s available at zero cash out with Smart’s Unlimited Data Plan 2000.