HTC One X (AT&T): Hands-on impressions and comparisons

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Ladies and gentlemen, HTC is back.

HTC One X - AT&T

Days after releasing its HTC One S smartphone on T-Mobile, HTC is prepping the launch of its second new flagship device, the HTC One X on AT&T. The One X goes on sale this Sunday, May 6 for $200 (with a two-year contract). 

I've been spending the last week using the HTC One X as my own personal phone. After doing the same thing with the One S a couple weeks back, I can safely say that these two devices are HTC's most impressive efforts to date -- and among the most impressive handsets anywhere on the market today.

The One X, like its T-Mobile-based sibling, is a gorgeous device with top-notch build quality and outstanding performance. The X is the bigger brother of the two, with a 4.7-inch display compared to the One S's 4.3-inch screen. Size aside, though, the two HTC One phones are actually quite similar.

As such, rather than rehashing old ground and simply repeating what I've already said, I'm going to refer you to my HTC One S review for my in-depth impressions of the phones' hardware, cameras, and software, all of which are generally very consistent between the two models. Here, I'll focus on what's different about the One X device and how it stands apart.

HTC One X: Body and Display


Let's start by tackling the One X's most obvious distinction: its body and form. The HTC One X is a large device, measuring 2.8 x 5.3 inches -- just a hair bigger than the plus-sized Galaxy Nexus. It's 0.35 inches thick and 4.6 ounces in weight.

Numbers are one thing, but what's the phone actually like to hold? In the hand, the device doesn't feel bulky at all; it's pretty comparable to the Galaxy Nexus and equally comfortable to use. That said, the One S is noticeably smaller, lighter, and sleeker. If you have small hands or just prefer a svelter handset, the One S might be more your cup of tea.

The main reason for the One X's size, of course, is its screen -- and boy, is it a beaut. The One X's 4.7-inch display uses HD-quality Super LCD 2 technology with 1280 x 720 resolution. There's no comparison here: The X's screen is much, much better than the S's display, which uses the inferior Super AMOLED technology with 960 x 540 resolution. The One X's screen may very well be the best I've seen on any smartphone so far; if you're a display buff, you're gonna love this thing.

While the One X shines for its screen, however, I found myself preferring the body and build of HTC's One S. The One S just has a delightfully sexy premium feel to it, with an aluminum unibody shell and smooth, hump-free design (and yes, in this instance, "hump-free" is a good thing -- get your mind out of the gutter, pal).

HTC One X Camera Hump

The One X, in comparison, has a polycarbonate unibody casing, available in white or gray. It's certainly not cheap-looking or fragile -- in fact, HTC says it's as strong as metal -- but it feels plastic-like to the touch and is visually less striking. The One X's camera lens also protrudes significantly from the phone's back, creating an unfortunate hump that interrupts the phone's design and adds a heightened risk of accidental scratching.

HTC One X: Hardware and Performance

It's easy to get confused about what's under the hood of HTC's One X, and there's good reason: The version of the phone announced and widely promoted by HTC isn't the same version you'll see on AT&T. Due to compatibility issues with AT&T's LTE network, the U.S. model of the HTC One X uses a Qualcomm MSM8960 1.5GHz dual-core processor instead of the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor built into the international model.

Not to worry, though: This phone is plenty fast. The processor is actually the same speed chip that's in the One S, and it's every bit as effective: Using the One X and One S side by side, both phones are absolute speed demons with top-of-the-line performance. The One X was able to handle everything I threw its way without suffering a single blip, stutter, or slow-down.

The One X has a bigger battery than its smaller sibling -- a 1800 mAh battery, compared to the One S's 1650 mAh unit -- but that's to be expected, given the X's larger screen and the extra power that requires. In real-world terms, I had no trouble getting through a full day with moderate to heavy usage on either phone; I charged the devices only once a day, overnight, and never came close to hitting empty. (The One X's battery, like the One S's, is nonremovable.)

The One X has the same superb rear camera as its brother; the only difference is on its front, where it rocks a 1.3-megapixel camera instead of a VGA-quality lens. In practical terms, I doubt the difference will be terribly meaningful for most people -- we're only talking about the front-facing camera here, after all -- but hey, it's something.

One final hardware distinction worth noting: The HTC One X has support for near-field communications (NFC) -- a feature its smaller sibling lacks. NFC support doesn't mean a heck of a lot yet, but as contact-free payments and cross-device sharing become more common in the future, it could be a valuable commodity to have. (Unlike certain other carriers, incidentally, AT&T does currently allow the installation of Google's Google Wallet app, so you can experiment with phone-based payments -- in the few places they're possible, anyway -- right now.)

HTC One X: Software

In general, the software experience on the One X is identical to what I observed with the One S. Particularly for Android power users, I'd recommend reading my thoughts on that topic; for better or for worse, this ain't no stock Android 4.0 experience.

HTC One X AT&T Bloatware

Aside from HTC's modifications to the Android OS, AT&T has made a few unfortunate tweaks of its own. The carrier has tacked on bloatware a-plenty, as you'd expect -- craptastic favorites like AT&T Navigator, YPmobile, and AT&T Live TV. There's plenty of third-party nonsense preloaded, too, ranging from Amazon Kindle to Facebook and MOG Music. AT&T and HTC are kind enough to "protect" you from uninstalling any of this stuff -- thanks for that, you two -- but the system app disabling feature in Android 4.0 provides some solace, allowing you to make any of the apps invisible with a few taps of your finger.

AT&T made one other change to the software that sounds relatively minor but ends up being pretty irritating: The carrier for some reason stuck its name along the Android notification bar, so you have no choice but to constantly see "AT&T" in the upper-left corner of your screen. Given the fact that this area of the Android platform is used to display alerts and notifications, I found it incredibly irksome to have the name "AT&T" taking up space there and constantly catching my eye.

Hey, AT&T: We get it. This is an AT&T phone. Your company's name is already plastered onto the hardware and scattered throughout the software. Is it really necessary to bake it onto the freakin' notification bar, too?

HTC One X: Bottom Line

Nitpicking aside, I've found the HTC One X to be a marvelous device to use. The phone has a gorgeous display, top-notch performance, and a high-quality build. Personally, I prefer the sleeker and more striking form of the One S, but that's really just a matter of individual preference.

Android Power Twitter

However you slice it and dice it, the One X is one of the finest Android phones available today. If you like a larger screen and are a fan of HTC's approach to the Android OS, it's about the best device you could buy right now. 

Explore HTC's One series more in my in-depth review, and check out the following analyses for additional perspective:

"Which is the best Android phone out there right now?"

HTC One X vs. Galaxy Nexus vs. Droid Razr Maxx: Game on!

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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