HTC One X and One S Review
HTC were one of the manufacturers that really helped to bring android to the forefront of the smartphone world. They created the original android phone, the HTC Dream (also known as the G1) as well as the first of the Nexus line of phones, the Nexus One. They historically make great looking phones that run a custom-like version of android known as Sense, or ‘Android with Sense’ as they like the describe it.
I managed to get my hands on both the HTC One X and One S for an extended period (previously I had spent perhaps 4-5 hours with them before they were released). I thought it might be more useful for you guys to actually combine the review of these handsets together because if you’re a fan of HTC and Sense then you’ll probably be deciding between one of these two phones.
|HTC One X||HTC One S|
|OS||Android 4.0.3||Android 4.0.3|
|Processor||Nvidia Tegra 3 1.5 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5 GHz dual-core Krait|
|Memory||32GB internal storage RAM: 1GB||16GB internal storage RAM: 1GB|
|Dimensions||134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm||130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm|
|Display||4.7" Super IPS LCD 720 x 1280 (~312ppi)||4.3" Super AMOLED 540 x 960 (~256ppi)|
|Battery||1800 mAh||1650 mAh|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC, MHL||Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, MHL|
|Camera||8MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash||8MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash|
|Video||1080p@30fps, stereo sound, video stabilizer||1080p@30fps, stereo sound, video stabilizer|
If you saw both the One S and the One X laying on a table, at first glance you might find it difficult to distinguish the two. They look very similar from the front, the one big difference being the size of the screen. The One X has a larger 4.7” screen compared to the smaller 4.3” screen on the One S (its funny how 4.3” is now a small screen size!).
The One X is built using a single piece of polycarbonate material which helps to keep the weight of the phone down. The unibody design definitely looks good, however there are a few disadvantages to this which we’ll get to later on in this review. The polycarbonate definitely works though, I was surprised to find out that the One X actually weighs less than the Samsung Galaxy SIII! Although due to the thicker body it doesn’t actually feel this way in reality.
The One S is made from a pretty futuristic sounding micro arc oxidation process. What that means I have no idea, but it’s essentially built from a single piece of aluminium. It’s one of the most high quality feeling phones I’ve ever had the luck of handling. It’s also extremely thin at 7.8mm.
So let’s get into the details of each of these phones.
The front of the One X and One S are pretty much the same, below both screens there is a set of three capacitive keys, a back, home and recent apps key. At the top of the screen both also have HTC branded text and slightly above that is the front facing camera.
The left hand side of both phones holds the microUSB port, in pretty much the exact same position. The right hand side holds the volume rocker. The volume rocker on the One S feels better than the rocker on the One X. The One S rocker stands out more whilst trying to find the right position to press the One X rocker is slightly frustrating.
Again, the top of the phones are almost exact replicas of each other. The power button residing on the right with the 3.5mm headphone jack on the left. Contrary to the situation with the volume rocker, the power button on the One X actually rises out of the phone, whilst the on the One S this sits quite flush. Attempting to press the power button on the One S is one of the most annoying things I’ve ever had to do on a phone! This is a shame as it’s also one of the more common operations you’ll be doing too. I have a personal preference for power buttons to be located on the side of the phone rather than the top, especially when that is the only possible way of unlocking the phone. To me, a power button on top of the phone feels unnatural, you actually have to move your hand from the holding position to switch the phone on.
The phones differ slightly here as the One X also has a little tab on the curve between the top and back of the phone. This is where you would place the microSIM card in the phone. There is no concept of a back casing on the One X, and the SIM card is the only thing you can actually change. It’s really fiddly to pull the SIM card slot out, and if you don’t have any nails on your fingers you’re probably out of luck! The good thing to come out of this is that you’re not likely to change the SIM card very often, and it being so fiddly also means it’s very flush with the unibody casing and in normal use you won’t even know it’s there.
The back of the phones are a slightly different. The One X has a more raised camera and additional dock connectors (not found on the One S).
Both phones hold the beatsaudio branding at the bottom of the back casing as well as a HTC brand indent in the middle. The fact that the cameras on both phones extrude out of the back seems a strange decision. I mean it looks great, but seems like it also increases the chances of the metallic rim around the camera being scratched quite easily.
Unlike the One X, the One S does have some concept of a back case, however it’s only the top quarter of the back that can actually be removed. However, like the One X the only thing you can actually replace here is the microSIM card.
As mentioned, the only thing you can actually change in both of these phones is the microSIM card. There is no microSD card slot, and think again if you want to remove the battery. Personally, the lack of a removable battery is no issue at all. How many of you actually change your battery? Not me for sure, but if you do tend to buy spare or extended batteries for your phones then this might be something you can’t work around. The lack of a microSD card slot is the real kicker for me though. I tend to listen to a lot of music on my phones, and 32GB shared between that and my apps might be cutting it thin. I’d suggest you take a look at how much space you’re currently using and see if 16/32GB will be reasonable for your use, as you won’t be able to extend it in the future.
The One X has a brilliant Super IPS LCD2 touchscreen. HTC have done a great job on this display, it’s pretty much the first thing you notice about the phone when you switch it on, and that’s a very good thing. The best way I could describe it is that it seems to jump out of the phone at you. The 720 x 1280 pixel screen gives a pretty impressive ~312 ppi over the 4.7” screen too.
The screen on the One S seems quite muted in comparison. It comes with a 4.3” Super AMOLED screen at 540 x 960 pixels, which gives ~ 256ppi. Due to the lower ppi, screen ratio and pentile matrix, smaller text does seem fuzzy on the edges. For example the app listing within the app drawer suffers from this fuzziness. It’s not a major problem, but if you look close it’s quite easily noticeable.
Holding the two phones side by side you can easily see the One X trumps the One S resolution wise. Everything just looks crisper and cleaner, especially when viewing something text heavy, but also while looking at images too. The colours when viewing an image are much brighter and due to this the colours also come across as more realistic. However, one of the issues I have with the LCD screen, especially compared to AMOLED is the representation of black colours. The One S displays fantastic black colours, where as the One X by comparison displays dull greys rather than a truer black. This is completely down to the screen technology chosen for each of these phones as the AMOLED display on the One S displays black colours by turning off the pixel. I’ve also noticed that the whites on the One S are also a truer white, when held side by side the One X whites come across as an almost salmon pink.
The viewing angle on the One X is absolutely brilliant, you can literally tip the phone sideways and still see the image on the screen as clear as day, without any loss of colour or brightness too. The One S suffers badly in this aspect, the screen becoming dark with a purple/blueish tone the more you tip the phone.
Both phones come with HTC Sense 4.0 running on top of android 4.0.3. HTC’s next generation version of their Sense interface. The new Sense is slightly lighter than previous versions, with HTC cutting back on the bloat that their previous versions added to phones. However, this doesn’t seem to be quite enough as there have been many reports of the One series of phones closing running applications prematurely. HTC have since come out and confirmed this statement somewhat, describing the android os running under Sense 4.0 to be customised. Essentially, HTC have configured android to give their Sense system a higher priority than other running android applications in an effort to stop it being closed in the background causing us (the user) to have to wait for it to reload every time we press the home button to return to the homescreen.
The actual performance of both phones is extremely good, no one can describe either of the processers within these phones as sluggish. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll know I like to stay away from benchmarks as these bear little resemblance to what it’s actually like using a phone. What you should know is that a combination of both the material and and CPU means that the One S will generally stay cooler than the One X. I didn’t come across any issues using the phones, switching screens was effortless, even jumping between apps using the modified recent apps application HTC have shipped with Sense.
The loudspeaker performance of the One X was above average in my tests, whilst the One S was more on the tinny side. Sound quality through the 3.5mm headphone jack was great though as you’d expect on phones like these. The beatsaudio feature seems overrated though, with it essentially offering extended bass and not much else. A nice to have, but I wouldn’t base my purchase off this feature.
I hate to talk about Sense that much, as I much prefer the look and feel of stock android. Android with Sense could almost be described as a completely different os, and this brings both negative and positive aspects. For example pressing the recent apps button is a completely different experience on the One X/S than say the same feature on the Galaxy Nexus, and not for the better. However, Sense really does excel in some areas, none more than within the gallery and camera applications.
Sense really is one of those love it or hate it things. If you’ve ever used a HTC phone before you’ll probably know what to expect with Sense 4.0. If you enjoyed Sense when you’ve tried it previously, you’ll probably enjoy it more here, likewise if you didn’t enjoy it before, it’ll probably just annoy you on these two phones.
The “Personalize” section found within the settings on Sense is quite impressive. You get to choose a predefined Scene, or define your own. Scenes let you quickly switch between homescreen setups that include your wallpaper and widgets. You can also choose between different skins that actually change the look of feel of Sense itself, albeit not by much.
I nearly forgot to mention this, you also get a free 23GB of additional Dropbox storage with both the One X and One S, and if you use Dropbox as much as me this will be a pretty great benefit!
The lockscreen on Sense 4.0 is great. You can place shortcuts on the lockscreen and drag these into a ring on the screen to unlock the phone and automatically open the specified app. It works really well in practice.
HTC have done well to make their Sense apps ICS-themed. By that I mean the apps follow the UI design you’d expect to see in apps designed specifically for the android 4.0 API.
The Gallery is the highlight of the Sense apps for me, it’s fast and includes some nice UI transitions too. One of the more standout features is the number of third-party applications that the gallery supports. Along with photos on the phone itself, you can also sign into 5 other systems, and after doing so the galleries from those will also appear in the Sense Gallery. Included applications are:
- Picasa (comes as stock in android)
Neither the HTC One X or S come with a capacitive menu button. This becomes especially noticeable when you use more legacy applications that don’t have a menu button included within their UI (these are the norm, not the exception right now). The phones display an additional line above the capacitive keys on the screen with the single menu icon in the middle of this strip. It’s unsightly, well it’s rather ugly and I wish HTC could have come up with a more elegant solution to this problem.
HTC have been making big claims about the quality of the camera on their One X and One S. But do the quality of photos live up to this hype? Well lets find out!
First of all lets talk about the camera software. This is one of the best camera apps on any smartphone out there. HTC have added the ability to add filters on the fly and preview the output of this filter on the screen before the photo has been taken, and they haven’t skimped on the number of filters either.
The camera shutter is quite fast, meaning that the time between you pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taing the shot is very low, it’s not quite as fast as say the Samsung Galaxy SIII, but it’s still impressive.
HTC have also included their burst shot mode. What this means is that if you hold down the shoot button, the phone will take up to 99 shots continiously (or until you release the shutter button), then display all these images for you whilst also recommending the best photo out of the bunch. It works quite well too.
Rather than actually talk about the quaity of the images and video here, we’ve done a group Camera test and Video test between the HTC One X, the HTC One S, the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the Samsung Galaxy Note. Check out the Camera Test here, and the Video Test here!
I was very impressed with both of these phones. HTC have reduced the weight of HTC Sense on top of android, but for me it’s still too much and generally speaking takes away from the phone. However, it does bring some nice Sense apps along such as the Gallery and Camera apps, and fans of previous HTC android phones with Sense included will be right at home here.
Personally I prefer the HTC One X over the One S due to a number of reasons. The screen and size of the phone suit my needs more than the smaller One S. The stumbling block for me is the lack of a microSD card slot on both of these phones however, this will be especially important to you if you like to keep movies or music on your phones.
If you prefer your phones on the smaller size, and can live with the maximum storage space of 16GB and the somewhat fuzzy AMOLED screen then the One S might be the phone for you, especially as it’s priced cheaper than the bigger brother One X.
Big thanks to Clove and Vodafone for providing the phones here for review.
You can pick up the One X for £458.40 and the One S for £402.00 at Clove, or if you prefer a contract you can pick up the One X for free on a £36 a month contract, or the One S free on a £31 month contract from Vodafone!