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Thread: Our HTC 8X review: Is it 8 times better?

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    Our HTC 8X review: Is it 8 times better?

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    One thing I admire about HTC is that their phones always have a very original design esthetic. Just like Nokia and Apple, you can spot a HTC phone immediately. While I admire their originality, I haven’t connected with many of their recent phones. Last year’s Amaze reminded me of a bathtub while the One X had to profile of a banana... That is, till I laid eyes on the HTC 8X.

    To say that the 8X is beautiful would be giant understatement. Windows Phone is known for it’s distinctive design and the 8X is a wonderful interpretation of it. It’s like one of the Windows Phone live tiles grew up and became a phone.

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    Not only does the 8X look fantastic, it’s solid yet nice to squeeze in my hand. It has a polycarbonate body. Mine is blue, though it has a slight purple tinge to it. Unlike the Lumia 920 which is a bit slippery, the 8X is soft to the touch. I could be wrong but it appears the 8X body isn’t painted, it’s a really great finish. It’s the first plastic phone that makes me forget about metal.

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    It’s easily the sleekest phone on the market right now.

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    The Phone:

    The 8X has a 4.3” 1280x720 super LCD2 display. It looks amazing. It has big viewing angles, works well in direct sunlight plus colours pop on it. The only fly in the ointment is that it’s black levels aren’t as deep as what you’d get from an AMOLED display.



    I compared the 8X display to the 920’s display extensively in my 920 review and both displays are very close. Colours on the 8X pop more, the 920 is slightly better in the sun though the difference is so small we’ll just call it even. The 920 has less off-angle colour shift but the 8X’s viewing angles are better. How is that possible? When you move off, a moderate amount the 8X colour shift more but they remain viewable till you’re almost at 90 degrees, the 920 goes black at around 60 degrees.



    There was a intermittent problem with the display. From time to time there would be ‘static’ on the display. It would appears as horizontal or vertical lines that sort of look like static. It doesn’t happen all the time but it popped up every now and then. I’m not sure if my 8x has a loose connector or something.

    Normally, I don’t comment much about power buttons. Some people like them on the side, some on top. Personally, I preferred top mounted button back when phones had smaller screens but now that big screens are the norm a side-mounted one is more intuitive.

    The 8X has a top mounted power button, which is just awful. I tend to hold my phones with just my right hand and whenever I press the power button, I accidentally hit the volume buttons. It drives me crazy! I’m constantly changing the volume when I don’t want to. The buttons themselves are terrible too. They don’t stick out enough so they’re hard to feel out but they’re too easy to press in. I guess the sleekness has a price.

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    microSIM tray, volume buttons, camera button

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    power button, microphone, headphone jack.

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    microUSB

    Like the Lumia 920 and Samsung ATIV-S, the 8X has a 1.5Ghz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM and LTE support. All have 1280x720 displays though each is a different size; 4.8” for the ATIV-S, 4.5” for the Lumia 920 and 4.3” on the 8X.

    All have 8MP cameras though the Lumia 920’s is image stabilized. The ATIV-S has 16GB of built-in storage and can be expanded with MicroSD cards. The 920 has 32GB of non-expandable storage while the 8X is available in 16GB and 8GB versions. I have a 16GB version and it actually has close to 15GB of storage available for use. It’s much more than the 11GB of free storage you get from the HTC One X.

    If you plan on doing anything with the 8X, do yourself a favour and skip the 8GB version. While 16GB is also on the small size, the Windows Phone marketplace isn’t as mature, so there aren’t as many huge apps available for it. So 16GB will go farther than it will on Android or an iPhone.

    Like most recent HTC phones the 8X features Beats. On previous HTC phones I couldn’t tell what difference the Beats logo made. They didn’t make my headphones sound any better than other phones and in many cases they weren’t any louder.

    On the 8X there is definitely a difference. The 8X has an insanely loud headphone amp. I used to think my iPhone 5 was pretty loud. The iPhone 5 at maximum volume is only as loud as the 8X is at around 22/30. It’s so loud that they can easily overdrive my Sony XBA-3 in-ear headphones. Mind you, I’ve noticed that the XBA-3’s aren’t the greatest at handling lots of power. My Shure SR-840 over-the-ear style headphones were able to handle the 8X at maximum volume.

    Not only is the 8X louder than a 747 taking off, it sounds decent too. While they’re not anymore revealing than my iPhone they have a little more bass without sounding boomy.

    I’m not as young as I used to be but wow, the 8X’s headphone amp is kind of intoxicating. Then again, with this much power tread carefully; Listening to the 8X at maximum volume will have you turning up your hearing aid sooner rather than later.

    I just finished listening to them at maximum volume for 10 minutes and I feel like I just spent the evening at a club minus the drinking. HTC better be careful, in a few years they're going to be sued by a bunch of deaf teenagers.

    Camera:

    The 8X camera focuses slightly faster than the Lumia 920’s. I’m not sure what the 8X’s official 35mm equivalent focal length is but it’s about the same as the 920. The 920 has a 26mm lens so I’d say the 8X’s is about that wide. Personally, I think 26mm is too wide, While it does allow you to fit more in your picture without having to step back (useful indoors) it makes it harder to get close and intimate with your subject. Until they start putting cameras with optical zooms in cameras, I find that 28-35mm is a good compromise.

    Compared with the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III/Note II, the 8X feels really slow. Those phones focus faster, they take pictures faster and they have much faster shot-to-shot speeds. The speed makes them much more intuitive to use, especially if your subject isn’t static. I suspect this is a Windows Phone camera software problem. The 8X can take good pictures but most of the time I find it doesn’t (unless my subject is static)

    If you look closely at the 8X’s pictures, it captures more detail than the 920, mostly because the 920 has this overly-aggressive noise reduction which destroys a lot of fine detail. So, given ideal conditions it can take decent pictures.

    HTC has put a different set of options of the 8X; effects, resolution, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness, ISO and face detection. Video mode also has a couple of options: effects, resolution, white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness.

    It has a very practical set of options. I just wish HTC had added some lenses to the 8X. Windows Phone allows you to add functionality to the camera via a feature called lenses. The 920 comes with lenses that allow you to shoot panoramas, create animated gifs plus there’s one that let’s you remove people from your picture. All the 8X comes with is Bing Vision - a QR code reader and OCR tool that all Windows Phones will come with.

    Video quality is average, sound captured from the microphone is good, better than the 920.

    Software:

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    The HTC 8X runs the latest version of Windows Phone 8. Microsoft doesn’t allow manufacturers a lot of leeway when it comes to making changes to Windows Phone. Aside from a few custom settings and coloured tiles manufacturers instead make their own custom app that are exclusive to their own Windows Phone.

    Right now, the 8X only has 5 programs available for it: HTC, Connection Setup, flashlight, Photo Enhancer and Converter. HTC is a program with stock quotes, news, weather and HTC’s signature flip clock. Photo Enhancer allows you to add effects to pictures you’ve already taken; Sepai effect, cool, warm, that sort of thing.

    I’m disappointed that HTC doesn’t have more exclusive apps for the 8X. At a minimum, it should have turn based navigation out of the box. The included maps program from microsoft will give you directions but no navigation.

    One thing that annoys the hell out of me is the Windows Phone marketplace. If you’re a loyal Windows Phone user and are switching to a new phone, there’s no way to view which apps you purchased previously like there is on Google Play or the App Store. Luckily, there’s an app in the marketplace called ‘reinstaller’. It’s a must have when I get a new Windows Phone!

    As for Windows Phone 8, it contains some new features over Windows Phone 7.5. I already covered some of them in my Lumia 920 review but those include resizable live tiles. Before you could only fit up to 8 tiles, now you can fit 32 on your home screen. This makes the start screen much more useful.

    If you have kids there’s a useful feature called “kid’s corner”. You select which apps you want your kids to be able to use and then launch kids corner by swipe the lock screen. It’s actually really cool.

    There are some other new features including more hardware support, performance enhancement and some tweaks here and there.

    Performance:

    Microsoft is very strict when it comes to what hardware goes into Windows Phones. The 8X and 920 (and ATIV-S) all run the same processor and have the same amount of RAM so it’s no surprise that they each have very similar performance. If you’ve read my Lumia 920 review, you can skip this part as I don’t have anything new to add.

    SunSpider is a browser javascript benchmark. Internet Explorer had awful SunSpider scores in Windows Phone 7/7.5. It looks like Microsoft has worked on Internet Explorer’s javascript performance because the 8X’s SunSpider scores are very fast. Check it out, when running the default Android browser, the Galaxy S III which has the same processor as the 8X is nearly 2x slower.

    SunSpider (lower is better):
    HTC 8X: 904.7
    Apple iPhone 5: 911.7
    Nokia Lumia 920: 909.1
    Samsung Galaxy Note II: 1005.4
    LG Optimus G: 1314.1
    Samsung Galaxy S III: 1781.5
    HTC Titan II: 6360.5

    Peacekeeper is another browser-based benchmark which allows us to compare devices across different platforms.

    Peacekeeper (higher is better):
    Apple iPhone 5: 807
    Samsung Galaxy Note II: 749
    LG Optimus G: 505
    Samsung Galaxy S III: 476
    HTC 8X: 345
    Nokia Lumia 920: 331
    HTC Titan II: 153

    While Internet Explorer does really well in SunSpider, it’s Peacekeeper scores are a little more modest.

    Gaming:

    Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a 3D gaming benchmark that’s available for both Windows Phone and another platform. I’m not big on synthetic benchmarks but one thing I think about is that the Samsung Galaxy S III has the exact same processor as the Lumia 920. Since Windows Phone 8 is optimized to run on the Snapdragon S4 processor I’d expect similar or better 3D performance than the GS3. It should be adequate for any games you throw at it for the next while.

    Battery life:

    To test battery life, I switched the phone to airplane mode and played back a video at full brightness till it shut off.

    Battery test (mins):
    HTC 8X: 274
    Nokia Lumia 920: 340

    I’ve noticed while I can compare these results across platforms, it’s not generally a good idea. For example, iOS does really well in my test but it’s real world numbers are much lower. It’s really only useful for comparing devices running the same operating system.

    For me I find that the 8X's battery drains pretty quickly. It probably can't make it through the day so make sure to charge it when you get a chance.

    As a Phone:

    I was very surprised that the 8X is a stellar RF performer. I compared it to my unlocked RAZR HD LTE and the 8X is actually noticeably better at hanging onto and making use of a weak LTE signal. I’m still waiting to get my Lumia 920 unlocked. After that, I’ll be able to compare the 8X and 920 head-to-head. Right now, my 8X is on Bell while my 920 is Rogers.

    Maximum earpiece volume is decent though it’s not as loud as my iPhone 5. Sound quality is good. It’s clean-sounding with little hiss.

    The built-in speaker sounds fine but it’s not very loud.

    Conclusion:

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    If you were to search for ‘sexy phone’, you'll find a picture of the HTC 8X. It’s just such a treat to look at and to hold. Going deeper, it feels fast and my guess is that it should have the horsepower to run anything you throw at it for the next while.

    Skip the 8GB version and look for the 16GB. While not a large amount of storage, you should be able to do more with 16GB than you can on Android or iPhone. You also get to use more of the 16GB because initially 15GB is free unlike iPhones and Androids which typically have around 11-13GB out of 16GB free.

    RF performance was a pleasant surprise. Hopefully future HTC phones will have similar performance.

    I compared the 920 and 8X extensively in my 920 review but here’s another thought. The 16GB 8X on Bell is $49.99 while the 920 on Rogers is $99.99. For $50 more you get an image stabilized camera, 16GB more storage, more apps and a bigger screen.
    The stabilized camera comes with some caveats, while the 920’s camera can take some pictures that you can’t take with other phones, absolute image quality isn’t that great because of overly-aggressive noise reduction. The 16GB of storage is absolutely worth if you plan on using your phone a lot. While I don’t normally place much emphasis on exclusive apps, the ones on the Lumia are absolutely crucial because the Windows Phone app ecosystem isn’t as mature as it is on Android and iOS. As for the bigger screen, I wouldn’t pay extra for it. Windows Phone has a very clean interface so 4.3” is big enough that another 0.2” is going to make a big difference.

    There’s also the 8X’s aesthetic qualities. While I think the 920 is quite a looker, the 8X is just a much prettier phone.

    Pros:

    • looks great
    • feels great
    • strong RF
    • fast
    • amazing screen
    • loud headphone jack


    Cons:

    • only 16GB of non-expandable storage
    • poor button placement
    • buttons are too easy to press
    • lack of apps from HTC
    Last edited by howard; 11-22-2012 at 09:45 AM.

    New Infinity Blade character

    My iPhone 5 ringtone: Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.

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    Re: Our HTC 8X review: Is it 8 times better?

    Would you recommend this or the Lumia at this point? Would you recommend Windows to anyone yet?

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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    "Reinstaller" is currently broken. There's a similar app that works called "App Reinstaller" for .99. Additionally, you can log-in your account on windowsphone.com to see your app list and reinstall from there if desired.

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    I noticed that reinstaller's description said it was current broken but I downloaded it anyways and it worked.

    Quote Originally Posted by frail View Post
    "Reinstaller" is currently broken. There's a similar app that works called "App Reinstaller" for .99. Additionally, you can log-in your account on windowsphone.com to see your app list and reinstall from there if desired.

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    Hmm... maybe they fixed it then, or Microsoft changed something on the backend that enabled it to work again.

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    going forward you won't need reinstaller. The Windows Phone 8 backup system allows you to restore a list of your previously installed apps, and will download and install them on first use.

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    I think the battery in this phone is built-in or permanent, like iPhone 5 and the Lumia 920 I think. I would consider this a negative.

    However, HTC has already announced a new flagship mobile phone called the "Butterfly". I dont understand why the sudden announcement so soon after the HTC 8X. The new "Butterfly" will have a better resolution and DPI than the iPhone 5.

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    Re: Our HTC 8X review: Is it 8 times better?

    8X is windows 8 while butterfly is android

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