If you are in the market for a new Android smartphone, here are a selection that offer a level of power and performance that would give the iPhone a run for its money. ...
HTC One X
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
The HTC One X is designed to show off what a leading-edge smartphone can offer in terms of specifications and functionality. Our review sample came from Vodafone, where it's available free on £41-a-month contracts. You can find it online, SIM-free, for £399 (ex. VAT; £478 inc. VAT).
We used to think that 4in. was more than big enough for any smartphone screen, but manufacturers continue to turn out ever bigger high-end handsets — and buyers show no sign of resisting them.
The One X's Super IPS Gorilla Glass screen measures 4.7in. across the diagonal and absolutely dominates the device. Its dimensions — 69.9mm wide by 134.36mm deep by 8.9mm — belie the relatively slight weight of 130g, while the extremely thin chassis gives the handset a high-quality feel.
Our review sample, which was provided by Vodafone, had a mostly white livery, which also adds to the stylish appearance. The One X also comes in a somewhat less fetching grey.
The 4.7in. HTC One X comes in grey as well as the more eye-catching white
The backplate's largely clean appearance is disturbed by a column of five tiny holes down one side. These are connectors for peripherals such as docking stations and vehicle mounts.
Rounded corners and a very slight upward curvature to the devices short edges are additional style points, while the backplate's rubberised finish helps with grip.
However, eye-catching the One X is, it's still very large and we found it near impossible to use one-handed. Even tapping out a simple text or selecting a shortcut on a home screen often required both hands, which frequently rules it out when standing on crowded, jostling public transport.
Whether you're prepared to live with this inconvenience will depend on how much you value a screen that's almost as big as that of the Samung Galaxy Note.
Although HTC has used a 4.7in. screen before in its Sensation XL and Windows Phone based Titan, what's new here the resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels. That makes for a stunningly crisp and sharp display — everything from home-screen shortcuts to streamed video looks fabulous.
Beneath the screen are three touch controls, the familiar Home and Back buttons being joined by a Recent Apps button. Menu features are integrated into apps and don't get their own menu button — a configuration we'll see more with Android 4.0 handsets such as the HTC One X.
As mentioned, the HTC One X runs Android 4.0, which makes it a leading-edge Android handset. It also has the HTC Sense skin, now in its fourth iteration.
Sense has arguably been a key factor in driving HTC's market position, adding lots of value to native Android. Sense 4 is less showy than its predecessors, but adds a couple of very neat features.
One thing that's gone is the ability to scroll continuously around the seven home screens: now, when you reach the left- or right-most screen you have to go back the way you came, rather than continuing in an endless loop.
The Lock screen still allows you to open to one of four apps, which are now mirrored in a shorctuts bar across the bottom of each home screen. We'd prefer it if HTC allowed you to configure the number of 'open to' shortcuts on the Lock screen. In our experience there are half-a-dozen apps we regularly want to access quickly from there.
We also noticed the absence of the Quick Settings option in the notifications bar. We find this invaluable for toggling Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth, and it's irritating to have to tap a Settings button to access this option now.
We're not convinced by the new Recent Apps touch button beneath the screen, either. This calls up a carousel of open applications that requires you to scroll, one by one, to the app you want. Thumbnails showing all the apps would be far quicker and easier to use.
On the other hand we really like the new system for managing widgets. Once you've long-pressed on a home screen you get thumbnails of all the home screens and of widgets, apps and shortcuts; you can drag these to whichever screen you want, which makes it quick and easy to populate home screens.
The HTC One X is powered by a quad-core 1.5GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor (although customers in the US and some other countries with LTE mobile networks get a dual-core alternative). This is slightly faster than the 1.3GHz version of this chip found in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and it's backed up by 1GB of RAM. We're not sure that smartphones really need this much computing power, but the handset certainly flies along.
The HTC One X has 32GB of internal storage, but HTC does not provide a microSD card slot for external expansion. Out of the box, our review sample had 25GB free. The lack of external storage is irritating — and HTC's offer of 25GB of Dropbox storage free for two years doesn't compensate, as we like to hot-swap cards to manage content locally.
The One X has a microSIM slot, and access to its pop-out tray on the back of the chassis, at the top, needs either the provided pin-headed dongle, a paper-clip end or some similarly small, pointed implement.
HDMI is supported via a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), but you don't get a Micro-USB to HDMI cable with the device. DLNA and NFC are also supported.
The HTC One X's camera has a continuous-shooting mode, and lets you take 8-megapixel still images while shooting 1080p video
The camera is a real highlight of the HTC One X, and not just because of its 8-megapixel resolution and 1080p video capture capability. HTC has achieved something rather clever by putting both video and stills capture buttons on-screen together. This means you can take a still shot while shooting a video. You can also shoot stills in burst mode for as long as the shoot button is held down, and then select the best of the shots to keep. There's no hardware camera button, incidentally.
Performance & battery life
Although we're not convinced of the need for ever-faster processors in smartphones, the HTC One X's 1.5GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 certainly makes it a responsive handset. But, given its powerful CPU and enormous 4.7in. screen, what about the battery life?
The One X doesn't have a removable backplate, so you can't access the battery. This means you can't swap in a charged second battery should you ever want to; nor can you power down by pulling out the battery.
We could live with that if battery life were acceptable, but the 1,800mAh cell must have to work very hard to maintain the processor and large screen: during testing, we found the battery always needed a mid-afternoon boost, and ran down alarmingly quickly when we were viewing video or using the GPS. You'd be most unlikely to get through a weekend away from mains power using the One X.
HTC's flagship One X is a large yet stylish handset with a stunning 4.7in. screen. Its cutting-edge specification, headed by a quad-core CPU, will appeal to power users, but the lack of storage expansion and poor battery life are disappointing.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel