First impressions of the well-designed HTC Windows Phone 8X
Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 OS is launching on a couple of HTC devices and the first one I tested is the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The design is awesome, Beats Audio rocks, and it is a very pocketable and boldly attractive device.
My first Windows Phone 7 device was the HTC HD7 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X is one of the two devices, the other is the Nokia Lumia 920, that I am planning to purchase when released. HTC was kind enough to send along an evaluation unit of their upcoming HTC Windows Phone 8X that I have been using for a few days so I wanted to offer some first impressions. It's too early for a full review and not everything in Windows Phone 8 is up and running quite yet.
Since this is not a retail unit and is actually the international model, HTC sent it in a typical reviewer white box so I cannot comment on the retail experience that you will see when these are released. I had the chance to hold the 8X in New York back in September and still think it is one of the best designed devices I have ever held. It reminds me a lot of my Nokia N9, but with an even better soft touch back, more rounded back curvature, and amazing transition from curved glass to the bezel on the front. The device I was sent is the blue one with a deep purple look in some lighting conditions. If I was to buy a Windows Phone 8 device based purely on how it feels in my hand, this would be it. I handed it to my wife, a Windows Phone fan looking for a new phone, and she immediately said she wanted one now :)
Specifications and walk around the hardware
The HTC Windows Phone 8X is the top of the line model Windows Phone 8 device from HTC and unlike the latest Android phones it goes back to a smaller form factor and smaller display. The HTC 8X is not much larger than the small Apple iPhone 5, but is much smaller than the monster 5.5 inch display Galaxy Note II I am using on T-Mobile. Specifications of the HTC 8X include:
Windows Phone 8 OS
4.3 inch Super LCD 2 display with 720p resolution (720x1280 pixels) and Gorilla Glass 2
Quad-band GSM and quad-band HSPA/WCDMA with support for HSPA+ in the US
Qualcomm S4 1.5 GHz dual-core processor
Total integrated storage of 16GB (14.56GB available)
8 megapixel camera with LED flash and F2.0 aperture, HTC ImageChip and 1080p recording
2.1 megapixel front facing camera with F2.0 aperture,HTC ImageChip and 1080p recording
NFC, GPS, digital compass, proximity sensor, light sensor
802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
3.5mm headphone jack with Beats Audio and integrated amp
Non-removable 1,800 mAh Li-Ion polymer battery
Dimensions of 132.35 x 66.2 x 10.12 mm and weight of 130 grams
Keep in mind this evaluation unit is an international model. Devices in the US will likely launch on most carriers with LTE support so the radio frequencies will be different than what I have tested. I used an AT&T SIM and saw HSPA+ connectivity.
The front is dominated by the 4.3 inch Super LCD 2 display that I believe is the same as the one we see in the HTC One X, meaning it is fantastic and everything looks great. The headset speaker above the display is highlight in the same color as the back casing with the front facing camera to the left of the speaker. Below the display you will find the back, Start, and Bing search buttons. The front glass is curved along the edges and transitions right into the colored casing.
The 3.5mm audio jack and power button are on the top, the volume and camera buttons are on the right, nothing is on the left, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. The camera is centered on the upper back with the LED flash to the right of the camera lens. HTC branding is on the back with the Beats logo centered toward the bottom. Like the HTC One X there are small holes drilled in the back casing for the rear facing speaker.
Windows Phone 8 and HTC software
I covered all the details of Windows Phone 8 in my other article so I won't go into all of those details here. Needless to say, it is better than Windows Phone 7 and I appreciate the differences, but it remains to be seen what the consumer will think.
This is not an operator branded evaluation device so I cannot comment on what AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and others may add when it gets released on those carriers. In terms of HTC apps, we see the following currently available in the new Windows Phone Store:
HTC: This is essentially the old Sense app that gives weather, stock quotes and news in a custom format.
Connection Setup: This was preinstalled and popped up by itself to get me all setup with AT&T with no effort required on my part.
Flashlight: This is a handy utility and I use it to get to bed late at night after writing so I don't disturb others.
Photo Enhancer: This utility gives you the ability to enhance your photos through custom effects, similar to what you can do via Instagram.
Converter: The converter app can be used to convert currency, time zones, and various types of measurements.
I previously thought the HTC One X was the best piece of hardware HTC ever made and it still is a fantastic device. However, I do like the more pocketable form factor, cool bold colors, and display on the HTC 8X. I don't have another device that feels so good in your hand and think the design alone may help HTC stand out from other Windows Phone 8 products.
I used to think front facing cameras were just a nice to have for video calls, which never seem to get used much, but with my three teen daughters I have learned to appreciate the self-portrait with family and friends so having a 2.1 megapixel one on the HTC 8X is actually a great feature. The wide angle lens helps to capture people better than other front facing cameras and being able to see the viewfinder is a major bonus.
Beats Audio with the integrated amp really make the HTC 8X a serious audio device. Using the Logitech UE 900 I had to keep the volume level down below 15/30 because 20/30 or higher blew me away and would likely cause permanent hearing damage in short order. I have always found Windows Phone to have some of the best audio quality on a mobile device and with this Beats Audio support and amp HTC is really setting the bar for audiophiles.
I was already a fan of the Windows Phone platform and everything Microsoft did with Windows Phone 8 is an improvement over an already solid operating system. On great hardware like the HTC Windows Phone 8X, that experience will impress many people. If you have any questions about the 8X or want me to check out something specific as I continue to test it out please let me know in the Talkbacks or even via Twitter. I plan to test out the camera in more detail, experience the new Windows Phone elements like Rooms, Wallet, IE 10, and more.