In early September Nokia took the stage in New York and showed off the first Windows Phone 8 device. Nokia looked like they would once again easily outclass the Windows Phone competition. Two weeks later something surprising happened: HTC had an event, and they didn’t show off Android devices. Instead they announced a “signature Windows Phone device” they had worked with Microsoft to produce. It even had “Windows Phone” in the name! Now, a couple months later, both phones are ready for consumers. Has HTC done enough to convince Windows Phone fans that Nokia isn’t the only option? Let’s find out.
The HTC 8X is one of those devices that can look remarkably plain, yet still be very attractive. The most noticeable feature of the phone’s design is its lack of features. On the front there is no branding from AT&T or HTC, just the three Windows Phone keys. The back has no camera bump, ridges, or patterns. Even the top, bottom, and sides are completely smooth.
All of this makes the HTC 8X look and feel like a premium device. The back and front of the device are curved. Combined with the matte material the phone feels great in the hand. The curved front and back also make the phone feel much thinner than it is. The only gripe I have with the design is the power button. Since it is completely flush with the rest of the top if is very hard to feel it.
The display on the 8X is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s 4.3-inches with 1280×720 resolution. Windows Phone 8 looks absolutely amazing in HD. The colors on the lockscreen really pop out and look great. The screen is Super LCD 2, so while the blacks aren’t quite as black as an AMOLED screen it’s pretty darn close. The auto-brightness setting could use a little tweaking by HTC. The screen would be very bright, and next thing I know it would be very dark. The light around me hadn’t changed.
Battery life on the 8X was surprisingly good. After about 7 hours of extended use I found myself still with around 50% charge. Charging, on the other hand, seemed to take much longer than other phones I’ve used. NFC can also be a burden on the battery. If you leave Tap-to-Send turned on you will notice faster battery drain. Speaking of NFC, in WP8 there is a limited amount of things you can do with NFC. Check out the link below for a closer look at its capabilities.
The hardware is a pretty big story for the HTC 8X, but it takes a back seat to the software. On the surface Windows Phone 8 does not seem like such a huge change from WP7, but you will quickly learn otherwise. Windows Phone 8 seems infinitely faster than WP7. Just the speed alone would be enough to make most people happy. The dual-core processor is partially to thank for the speed boost, but Windows Phone 8 is definitely helping.
In Windows Phone 7 splash screens really slow down the experience of going from one app to another. Apps that have been updated for Windows Phone 8 don’t need the splash screen anymore which makes them load much faster. If the developer adds fast resume on top of that you get almost instantaneous load times.
One of my favorite new features in Windows Phone 8 is the live apps on the lockscreen. The 8X comes with an app from HTC that can display current weather conditions on the lock screen. I found this to be incredibly handy, until I realized it stopped updating. The same thing happened with the Bing wallpaper. After doing a little research I found that this is a common problem, and something Microsoft needs to fix.
Continuing with the lockscreen, 3rd party notifications are a much welcomed addition. You get to choose one app to display detailed notifications, and five apps for quick notifications. At the time of writing this review not many apps are utilizing the lockscreen notifications, but I expect more to come soon.
Windows Phone 8 just feels like a much more mature OS. It finally feels like something that can compete with Android and iOS. No longer does it just “look interesting.” There is still some work to be done by Microsoft and app developers, but in general people will be very pleased with Windows Phone 8, and new smartphone owners won’t feel like they are using a glorified feature phone.
Microsoft did a lot of work to the camera software in Windows Phone 8. Like in the OS, the experience is much faster. This is also due to the great camera hardware from HTC. The 8X has an 8MP camera that is capable of 1080p video on the back, and a 2.1MP camera on the front. The rear camera seems to do a better job at video than photos, but that’s only because the video looks really good. Photos can tend to look a little washed out if there is too much sunlight present, but you can tweak the settings to fix that.
The front camera is good at getting a lot in the picture, but the quality is nothing to write home about. If you do a lot of video chatting you will be very pleased, but most people won’t notice the attention HTC paid to the front camera.
The only problem I had with the camera was the flash didn’t work on one occasion. This is something I’ve noticed with other HTC phones in the past. After rebooting the phone it worked just fine.
For the first time in a long time there is a top notch Windows Phone device that isn’t just an afterthought, or made with recycled parts, and it doesn’t have Nokia’s name on it. The HTC Windows Phone 8X is one of the best phones I’ve ever used. It is easily one of the best Windows Phones ever. The elegant and simple design make the device something you can be proud to show off, and the software won’t get you embarrassed either. The Windows Phone 8X shows that HTC can compete with Nokia for the hearts of Windows Phone users. This phone bows down to no one.