- Review Date: 05/04/2012
- Bottom line: With Ice Cream Sandwich, a stunning screen, and fast AT&T LTE, the HTC One X takes its place as the king of all Android smartphones—for now, at least.
- Pros: Runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) out of the box. Stunning high-definition screen. Powerful camera and camcorder. Blistering LTE data speeds. Excellent voice quality.
- Cons: May be too large for some hands. No voice dialing over Bluetooth.
The HTC One X ($199.99 with two-year contract) is a monster cell phone—and I mean that in a good way. It's AT&T's first Ice Cream Sandwich phone. We'll keep an eye on the imminent Samsung Galaxy III launch, but as of today—and despite a few minor issues we found during testing—the HTC One X takes its place atop the heap as the best Android smartphone in America. It's a worthy Editors' Choice on AT&T.
Before I get started, a few words on HTC's product line: If you want this phone on Sprint, it's called the HTC EVO 4G LTE. Meanwhile, T-Mobile offers a slightly smaller variant called the HTC One S ($199.99, 4.5 stars), which lacks the high-definition screen and LTE support, but hits T-Mobile's own HSPA+ 42 data network, which is quite fast on its own, and is also more battery efficient.
Design and Voice Quality
Available in dark gray or white, the HTC One X measures 5.30 by 2.75 by 0.36 inches (HWD) and weighs a light 4.60 ounces. It's very well built, with top-quality plastic around the back and sides with a nicely textured matte finish. I did miss the gradient anodized aluminum housing on the HTC One S, though. A prominent silver ring surrounds the camera lens on the back, and protrudes slightly, just enough that the phone tilts a bit when sitting flat on a table.
One of the biggest draws to the One X is its massive, 4.7-inch, 1280-by-720-pixel glass capacitive display. It's gorgeous in every sense of the word, with beautiful color, bright whites, and deep blacks. It's even unusually resistant to reflections. Typing on the on-screen keyboards is a breeze in both portrait and landscape mode.
The One X is a quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), tri-band HSPA+ 21 (850/1900/2100 MHz), and single-band LTE (700MHz) handset with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The phone posted blistering 4G LTE speeds, averaging 33-37Mbps down and 11-15Mbps up in our tests in New York City. Sometimes the back of the phone became quite warm with LTE running full blast, but otherwise it stayed cool. Voice quality was excellent overall, with a warm, clear tone in the earpiece, and crisp, dropout-free transmissions through the microphone. I did hear a slight computerized sound on voices through the mic at times, but reception was solid.
Calls sounded clear through an Aliph Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars), although voice dialing doesn't work over Bluetooth, which is a pesky and unnecessary limitation. The speakerphone got very loud, but sounded tinny; at least it didn't distort heavily. Battery life was solid, at 9 hours and 9 minutes of talk time while connected to LTE.
Hardware, OS, and HTC Sense 4
The next-gen, 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM power the One X to blazing speeds. At first glance, the quad-core chip included in the overseas version of the One X would have been even more welcome here, since it's pushing almost twice the number of pixels than the same CPU in the HTC One S over on T-Mobile. But the Qualcomm chip's dual core, A15-like Krait on 28 nanometer silicon stacks up nicely next to the Tegra 3's quad-core A9, 40-nanometer CPU.
Our benchmark tests didn't reveal any weaknesses either, aside from slight drop-offs on Nenamark2 and BrowserMark (by 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively) when compared with the One S. The results were still very fast across the board, proving that Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 chip scales up quite nicely to handle the extra pixels. It's also about 15 percent faster than the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket ($149.99, 4.5 stars) and 25 percent faster than the HTC Vivid ($99.99, 4 stars).
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) (4 stars) is on board, along with HTC Sense 4, a lighter version of the company's earlier UI overlay that doesn't mess with the built-in apps quite as much as before. There are seven home screens you can customize and swipe between. E-mail conversations are threaded, and HTC's rather nice clock and weather widgets also pop up a Google Earth-style globe for tracking time and weather around the world. You can switch between tasks using a nifty sliding tile view, as if they were albums in a jukebox. In testing, the One X felt extremely responsive, with none of the occasional stutters and hiccups I've experienced with other dual-core Android phones.
Other nice features: HTC adds a Car Mode, which displays a beautiful landscape home screen with large icons for easy access while behind the wheel. This includes the free Google Maps Navigation, as well as icons for making calls, streaming Internet radio, and calling up music tracks stored on the phone. The One X is also packed with several larger-screen media-viewing options, including integrated DLNA, HDMI wireless support, and HTC's own Media Link protocol, which lets you flick photos and videos (but not games) over to a big screen, provided you have HTC's Media Link receiver. We've been testing a preproduction version of the HTC Media Link, and so far, it only works sporadically; we'll withhold judgment until we see a final version and price.
Apps and Multimedia
Otherwise, all of Android's typical benefits are here, including a powerful WebKit browser, over-the-air Microsoft Exchange connectivity, and superior integration with Google's vast away of cloud-based services. Google Play (formerly Android Market) now includes over 400,000 third-party apps, as well as books, music, and movies. HTC Watch lets you rent and buy movies directly on the handset, and employs cached streaming to get you started watching quickly while the rest of the file loads in the background. AT&T loads a fair amount of bloatware you can't remove, but it's not terrible.
There's 9.93GB of free internal storage for media, and 2.21GB free for apps—plenty, although the unibody design precludes the inclusion of a microSD card slot. The One X integrates Beats by Dr. Dre audio. Engaging the effect works on certain tracks to add deep low-end and bring out the highs, but usually it just sounded less distinct and overly compressed; I preferred to keep it switched off. Music tracks sounded clear through Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars).
Standalone videos up to 1080p looked stunning on the high definition display, which is only 720p but at this size it doesn't matter at all. If you play videos on your phone, this is the one to get—unless you have big enough hands and pockets for the gargantuan 5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note ($299.99, 3 stars).
Camera, Camcorder, and Conclusions
The 8-megapixel autofocus camera is pretty special. It features an f/2.0 28mm lens, a dual-LED flash, and a dedicated processor, along with face detection and geotagging. Test photos were sharp, detailed, and vibrant, even on a cloudy day outside, as well as indoors in areas with less light. The One X exhibited none of the (admittedly infrequent) focusing issues I saw with the One S. Shutter speeds were virtually instantaneous, and the autofocus added less than a second to each shot. There's also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that's useful for video chats and self portraits.
Recorded videos looked sharp and colorful right up to 1080p (1920-by-1080-pixel) resolution, and rang in at 28 frames per second with image stabilization on, and 29 frames per second with stabilization off. However, frame rates fell considerably indoors our labs, to 18 to 20 frames per second at both 1280-by-720-pixels and 1920-by-1080-pixels. That's a bit disappointing, considering that the Apple iPhone 4S ($199.99, 4 stars) has no problem maintaining a steady 30 frames per second in all environments, and that the HTC One X has a brand new CPU and a dedicated imaging chip.
The HTC One X takes its place atop AT&T's lineup of Android phones, unseating the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket , which runs the aging Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) on a smaller screen with a much lower resolution. The One X is easily worth the extra $50 now. The HTC Vivid, while a very nice phone, doesn't stand up to the One X except for on battery life; it's a good lower-cost purchase if you want to save $100, though. The iPhone 4S takes better pictures, although its camera isn't quite as flexible. And Apple still has the best app store in the business, but the iPhone 4S lacks real 4G data speeds (despite what AT&T claims). Finally, the Samsung Galaxy S III is right around the corner, with its rumored 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display and Ice Cream Sandwich OS. But for now, the HTC One X is tops on AT&T.
Continuous talk time: 9 hours 9 minutes
This review is in partnership with Ziff Davis Media.