Playtime with the HTC One X

, posted: 7-May-2012 16:27

One of the things that my iPhone excels at is being used for bite sized gaming sessions. Being new to the Android scene, I was curious to know whether I’d be able to do the same with the HTC One X, or whether I’d be suffering from a lack of quality games to chose from. Within minutes of searching the Google Play store, it became quite clear that there are more than enough games available to waste my time with.

Many of my favourites are available, and within minutes I was happily flinging furious feathered flyers at barricaded bunches of bacon. In fact, I was impressed with how easy it is to download apps when you’re searching Google Play from your computers web browser. It will check whether an app is compatible with your handset (or handsets, if you have multiple Android devices), and allow you to initiate a download to your phone, which usually starts almost instantly.

The large screen of the HTC One X also makes it great for one of my current gaming addictions, Draw Something. And the impressive display made for a bright and vibrant pocket gaming experience filled with rich colours.

Thanks to the quad core CPU, GeForce GPU, and 1GB of RAM, the HTC One X is capable of some pretty impressive graphical feats. I installed a game called Dark Meadow: The Pact, which comes close to PC and current generation console levels of graphics, thanks to some impressive lighting effects and textures.



The phone can get quite warm relatively quickly when performing such CPU intensive operations, but thats not overly surprising for a device packing so much grunt in such a slim profile.

All in all, the HTC One X looks to be a more than capable portable gaming device, so thats yet another very important feature with a tick next to it.

About the author

Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



Making sense of Sense

, posted: 4-May-2012 15:22

Regular readers of my reviews at AndroidNZ and the Clove Blog may have noticed that I tend not to write a great deal about the user interface of the devices I review. Given how thorough (some might say lacking in succinctness) my write-ups tend to be, I can see how that might seem odd.

Let me explain myself.

I’d place myself in a group of smartphone users called “Power-users”. We use our devices heavily, and often for a breadth of purposes that regular users don’t (yet) use theirs for. I say yet, because over time lots of the things we do on our devices now become the things regular users will do on their devices in months or years to come. Because of the diversity of our use, most manufacturer’s visions for the user interface (UI) tend to fall a little short for us.

That’s part of life on the bleeding edge, awesome stuff happens, but you tend to have to find your own ways to get things done. That’s part of the beauty of Android, users are allowed to exert a lot of control over how they interact with their device – even without resorting to Rooting or other more extreme measures.

One of the simple ways to do that is with a Launcher replacement, and there are a myriad of them out there. Launcher replacements usually have a plethora of customization options unavailable in stock Launchers, including a good many that enable much quicker access to the stuff you need than any stock UI.

To give a brief example, below is the homescreen of my Galaxy Note:



What you’ll notice first is that the homescreen is extremely spartan. It’s clean and uncluttered, which is how I like it. That’s not to say it is lacking functionality though – I can directly access 22 different things with a single touch on the homescreen. Here’s the list:
  1. The inbuilt clock/alarm/stopwatch app
  2. The calendar
  3. Weather forecast
  4. Battery usage statistics
  5. App drawer
  6. PowerAMP
  7. Contacts
  8. Dialer
  9. SMS
  10. Gmail
  11. Play Store
  12. Google Maps
  13. ICS+ browser
  14. WiFi hotspot settings screen
  15. Dice Player
  16. YouTube
  17. Camera
  18. Quickpic
  19. Main Settings screen
  20. Soundhound tagging
  21. Screen Filter on/off
  22. …and finally a swipe down anywhere on the screen pulls down the notification drawer, which is   ideal since that’s difficult to do one-handed with the Note otherwise
…if you ask virtually any power-user of an Android device whether they use a stock Launcher the answer, almost invariably, is no. That’s why I don’t tend to bother reviewing stock launchers. As a general rule they typically detract from a users’ experience of an Android handset, and don’t represent how many people user their devices in the real world.

It’s worth pointing out here also that Google have made large strides forward in the design of the stock Android UI in Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of the Android operating system. In terms of design cohesion and user-friendliness Android has never been better. That puts an even greater onus on manufacturers if they want to add their own skin over the top of Google’s fine work – it has to be worth it to end-users. It has to offer not only a clear value proposition over stock Android, but it also has to compensate users for the delays they’re going to face in getting Android OS updates because of the skin.

By this point you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get down off my soap box, and actually tell you what this editorial has to do with the One X. Fair enough (and if you’re still with me, thanks!).

You see, the One X sports HTC’s “Sense UI, version 4.0”, its’ homegrown UI overlay for Android. Sense actually has quite a long history, going back to HTC’s days as a Windows Mobile device manufacturer if you trace it to its’ beginnings. Possibly that goes back a little further than some readers recall, but suffice to say that the Windows Mobile UI was a dog. Truly terrible. HTC’s “Touch Flo” UI, as it was known back then, was a breath of fresh air. It brought a visual flair and usability to touch screen interfaces that only one other company had yet elucidated. Stated simply: it added value. A whole lot it. Fast forward to HTC’s beginnings as an Android manufacturer in its’ own right, stock Android devices aside, and it wasn’t hard to see that Sense was still adding a lot of value to their brand – just look at the reception the HTC Desire enjoyed.


Design hubris, Sense 3.0 style: wasted space on the dock, functionally useless 3D animation on the clock...

On this background one can understand why HTC became so convinced by, so enamoured with, Sense. It was a big part of what had taken them from being a small Taiwanese phone maker that hardly anyone had heard of, to a major player on the world stage. They were experiencing stellar sales growth, and everything looked rosy.

Like many a company in that position they lost their way a little, they became so caught up with their own success that they couldn’t see past it. If I can draw the analogy, they started to follow a rather Nokia-esque trajectory from that time. By that I mean they started releasing many different handsets, usually with relatively small incremental hardware upgrades. They gave up really pushing the envelope from a technological point of view. I think they failed to take into account how important a part of their rise that was with groundbreaking handsets like the HD2 and Nexus One. Instead they focused a lot of effort into polishing Sense and pushing unwanted services on users. Unfortunately the ‘polish’ tended to take the form of increasingly resource hungry “whizz-bang” graphical flourishes, rather than added functionality.

These two trends continued until we saw their culmination in last years’ flagship the HTC Sensation. They still hadn’t stepped up to using a gigabyte of RAM in their top of the line handsets, and yet Sense was devouring more of the system resources than ever before. I’d had mine barely a day before I started to get out of memory errors, or had to wait for Sense to reload because I’d been playing a game, or browsing with multiple tabs. I cried foul over that, and I wasn’t the only one. Sense had crossed a line, it just didn’t make sense anymore.

So, after all the preamble, the essential question here is “Has HTC made sense of Sense?” For the most part I think the answer is an optimistic yes. HTC have taken stock of their position at the end of last year, and responded to criticisms about their direction. The One X is the first signal from HTC that they’re listening.


Some of the nice little touches in Sense, the app drawer here has more levels of organisation than stock ICS, getting you in touch with the app you want more quickly
At a fundamental level the One X is a polar opposite to the Sensation – it’s a major hardware revision in concert with a minimization of Sense’s drag on system resources. While you can induce still some traces of lag here and there, these are a very minor exception, and not the rule. Sense flies, and even with HTC paring back its’ visual flair it still offers more appealing eye candy than you’ll find most places (fans of Apple’s skeuomorphic school of design may beg to differ here I guess).

Performance and eye candy aside, there still remains the (more?) important question of whether Sense is adding to your experience from a functional point of view.

There is a lot to answering that question, only some of which I’m going to cover here. The myriad improvements HTC makes to numerous stock apps like the browser, contacts, and the media experience, is better covered in review sections dealing with those things specifically. Suffice to say that there HTC add a lot of value overall in these stock apps, as they do almost uniformly to the Launcher experience.

You see, it seems that HTC just couldn’t help themselves here and there, they just had to add a bit of gloss to proceedings. I guess it takes more than one handset to completely reform your adoration for functionally deficient eye candy. Case in point? The recent apps/task switcher.



On the left of the image there is a stock(ish) implementation of the stock ICS task switcher, on the right HTC’s take on the same thing. Now I’ll grant you that HTC’s design is much more visually appealing than the stock version – a lovely high res screenshot of the app as you left it, replete with snazzy reflections beneath – but how does it compare functionally? Well, regretably it’s not a patch on stock.

You can see some of the points of difference - one app is visible instead of four and the screenshots are easily confused by orientation switches (or any app that runs in landscape for that matter), both of which make it functionally inferior.

What you can’t see is a crucial design inconsistency, which for me is a clanging bell of discord. In ICS Google did this wonderful (if obvious in a “I wish they’d done that ages ago” sort of way) thing; they unified gestures throughout the OS. In notifications swipe sideways to dismiss a notification, in the task switcher swipe sideways to dismiss an app, in gmail swipe sideways to move between emails, and so on and so forth. It’s intuitive and makes operating disparate parts of the OS easier, because they obey the same design language. In HTC’s task switcher you swipe up to dismiss them. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Certainly doesn’t sound like the egregious design faux pa that I’m making it out to be, does it? The thing is, when our Telecom Tech group first cracked these open an experienced Android user (and all-around clever cookie to boot) asked aloud how to dismiss apps. That exemplifies bad design right there. No value added, only subtracted.

Another area where HTC meddled is the Settings area. You can see here that they’ve changed the order of the items in the Settings menu, giving you Personalize, Accounts & Sync, Location, and Security, where stock ICS gives you Sound, Display, Storage, Battery, and Apps. For my money the stock placement gives you the settings you’re likely to use most right up front where you want ‘em.



It’s not a major by any means, but it’s not isolated either. I don’t want to dwell overly on negatives when the whole is actually really good, but it’s the accumulation of these small user-unfriendly decisions that stops me from whole-heartedly endorsing Sense 4.0 as the next coming in mobile UIs.

So, while Sense 4.0 may not exactly be a return to the kind of value-added UI that Touch Flo heralded all that time ago, it’s certainly a vast improvement over what’s emerged out of HTC’s stables in the last couple of years. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the one manufacturer UI skin that I don’t actively dislike, which coming from a power-user is high praise indeed (and fortunate too, since I feel like I need to stay with stock for the duration of the review). Regular users, with more typical usage patterns, will love Sense for its’ inimitable mix of performance and style – especially now that HTC have pared it back to a level where the style bit isn’t hurting the performance bit.

Rest assured I’ll be talking lots more about HTC’s software improvements in subsequent sessions dealing with multimedia, browsing, the camera and so forth, but for now I’ll just leave you with a few shots of the Launcher elements of Sense 4.0 in action:


Left to Right: The dock allows customisation even to the level of adding folders, HTC's Weather application still looks incredible, and the Clock selection remains as sumptuous as ever (note too the easy to navigate tabs and search button for widgets)


Left to right: The best looking and most functional stock lockscreen in the business, a plethora of options available too whether it be social network updates on your lockscreen or checking your stocks, HTC's pinch-gesture enabled "Leap" view

About the author

My name is Murray Winiata. When I'm not on my own time I work as a medical doctor in General Practice, and when I am on my own time I'm a dad, blogger, obsessive home barista, audio enthusiast and guitarist.  Online I'm probably better known by my handle "NZtechfreak" via my participation in many online forums including, but not limited to, Geekzone, XDA-Developers, AndroidForums and Head-Fi. Previously I've blogged for Clove Technologies in the UK, and more recently at my own blog AndroidNZ.net. Like most smartphone owners I'm fully social-media'd up, and you can find me on Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Facebook. If you've got burning questions about the HTC One X you'd like me to try and answer, or you want my up-to-the-minute impressions and experiences with the One X, then Twitter would be the best channel to tune in to. Besides that, I'm always available here at Geekzone, which remains one of the best little corners of the internet (even in spite of my membership!). Naturally I'm thrilled to have been chosen to blog about the HTC One X here at the TelecomTech blog, and plan to bring my trademark objectivity to the fray once again. Catch you here again soon!




A Burst of Fun with the HTC One X

, posted: 4-May-2012 14:58

Recently I took the family to Rainbows End, which proved a fertile ground for testing the camera capabilities of the HTC One X. It comes packed with an 8 megapixel rear facing camera with autofocus, flash, and a sensor specifically designed to take great photos in low light situations. It also has a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, but this blog post will be concentrating on the former.

In addition to the hardware, the camera software has many features to aid in immortalizing those treasured memories. One of these features is its burst mode. This allows you to take multiple photos in quick succession, and then choose which one is the best photo. This makes it a cinch to take a great photo in fast moving action scenarios. The photo below was taken using Burst mode, which allowed me to capture my kids as they zoomed past on one of the rides. Using a more traditional method of operating the camera, this would’ve been difficult at best.



While this is a handy feature, it can cause complications when you import the photos from your phone. On the HTC One’s storage media, standard images are located in /DCIM/100MEDIA, with Burst mode photos located under /DCIM/100BURST. If you use software such as iPhoto to automate the import process, it may only detect the first directory when looking for photos to import.

If you are importing the files manually using a file management utility like Finder in OSX, or Windows Explorer, you should be aware that Burst mode photos have each photo set in their own directory, with each set having the first file name starting from IMAG0001.jpg. If you like to keep all your photos in a single directory on your computer, there may be file name clashes that you have to cater for.

The photo app also includes tools which allow you to perform basic editing functions, such as cropping or rotating images.



Image editing is a non-destructive operation, with the edited file saved alongside the original image. This means you can tweak your photos to your hearts content, without worrying about the effects this has on the source image. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I could crop a photo, and yet still have relatively acceptable resolution, as the below image shows.



In addition to the editing tools, it is also possible to apply effects to the photos after they have been taken. In addition to changing the overall style of the photo, it also allows you to adjust things such as exposure and contrast.



It also offers an Auto enhance option to attempt to bring out the best in the photos you take. As with most algorithm based enhancements, the results can be a bit hit and miss, but it can often prove to be a pretty useful tool to clean up photos after they’ve been taken.



It is also possible to apply some effects when a photo is initially taken. These cover a wide variety of effects, such as taking sepia tone images, or applying an aged effect to your photos.

Another handy feature is the ability to take a series of photos which will then be automatically stitched together to create a panorama. The software will guide you through this process, with a green rectangle indicating when the next shot is correctly positioned. While it doesn’t appear to take full 360 degree panoramas, it is still useful to create wide stretching views that a single photo cannot do justice to.



All in all, I was very impressed with the quality of the photos that the HTC One X took, and also appreciated the many features the camera software offered. With this phone in my pocket, I don’t have the need to carry a dedicated camera along with me.

About the author

Hi I'm David, a self employed software developer on the wrong side of 40, residing in Auckland with my wife and two children. I am a passionate All Blacks and Blues fan, gadget junkie, mature aged gamer, and connoisseur of fine heavy metal (and music in general). I currently own an iPhone 4, but am very open to trying new technologies, and can't wait to see what the best of Android can bring to the smartphone table. I enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technological advances in general, and am encouraged to see that the smartphone market is no longer an iOneHorseRace. I’m very interested to see how the HTC One and Ice Cream Sandwich fares in this regard.



The HTC One X “Real-User” review, Part One: Initial impressions, Design/build quality, Screen and Benchmarks

, posted: 2-May-2012 10:45

Firstly I’d like to open with a big thank you to Geekzone, Telecom NZ, and HTC for making me a part of this blog. I’d also like to thank the Geekzone members who put forward my name in the selection process, it’s humbling to know I have your confidence.

Initial impressions 
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the HTC One X in my initial impression. Don’t get me wrong, I really like HTC’s design language, after all I’ve been a fan since the venerable HTC Touch Pro. It’s just that their design language tends to be a bit more staid, less likely to grab hold of you than some of the designs coming out of other stables.


The One X is one arrestingly pretty phone

It took me quite by surprise when I did actually lay eyes on it. This is one beautiful phone. Actually holding it and using it briefly at the HTC launch event only heightened the most favourable initial impression of had of any phone since my HD2 and Sony Xperia X1. The things informing that impression are a combination of the design and materials, which takes a little more time to break down, so let’s get into that now.


The volume rocker, slightly annoyingly placed in my use

Design  
In terms of the hardware tour, the front of the device is of course dominated by the 4.7inch SLCD-2 screen. HTC have done a great job in minimizing the bezel in all directions in order to keep the footprint of the device quite manageable despite the screen. There is an earpiece grill at the top, accompanied by the usual light and proximity sensors, while the bottom eschews Google’s direction to forego off-screen buttons and instead sports a trio of capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps respectively. Hiding behind the grill is the multicoloured notification LED.

The edges of the device are relatively Spartan. The top of the device sports the power button, the 3.5mm audio plug, and the micro-SIM slot (the small hole visible in the picture below looks like a microphone might dwell there, but it’s for the small tool that ejects the micro-SIM tray). The right hand side has only the volume rocker, whereas the left is home only to the micro USB port used for charging, computer connection, and HDMI out via MHL. The bottom of the device is devoid of ports or buttons of any kind. The rear of the device has the 8mp camera and LED flash, speaker grill, and the pogo-pins for connections to docking type devices.



Naturally there are a few criticisms one could level at the design of the phone.

The first is the slightly protruding camera module. When resting flat it contacts the surface the phone is lying on, and one can’t help but wonder how soon scratches might become an issue here. I was not reassured by one of the HTC employees at the launch event saying that his was already scratched (he did hasten to assure that pictures didn’t seem affected by that).

The second are the placements of the volume rocker and micro USB port. Usually volume rockers occupy the upper left hand side of the device, meaning that they are quite safe from accidental activation when holding the device in the palm of the left hand (for right-hand dominant people at any rate). So on that count it’s slightly unorthodox placement here is mildly annoying (hey, lefties may love it!), but additionally it’s also long and positioned quite far down the device’s edge, and the combination of the two factors means I accidentally activate it with annoying frequency. No doubt there is a bit of a learning curve to come to grips with here, I’ve got two years of Samsung-induced muscle memory to unlearn after all, but even bearing that in mind the arrangement here doesn’t seem optimal. 

I presume the placement of the volume rocker is dictated by the necessity to shoehorn bucketloads of technology into the 8.9mm thick unibody casing, and by the same token I suspect the placement of the micro USB port is also a victim to the need for a trim waistline.

HTC’s choice to have off-screen capacitive buttons is another aspect of the design that deserves mention, but there is some crossover into a discussion of Sense and the UI there, so I’ll leave my grumbling about that till another review piece.

Naturally a dedicated hardware camera shutter key is lacking, the absence of which has become the norm for most manufacturers. I used to lament this a lot, and while I would still very much like to have one I’ve grown fairly accustomed to not having one now. Expectations are key I suppose.

(Aside: I note that the Sprint version of the One X possesses a hardware camera key, I have a few gripes to make about that too, and again I will come to that in due course)

 
The micro USB/MHL connection, the only thing adorning the devices left hand side

Build quality and ergonomics
I want to start out here by drawing a distinction between build materials and build quality. The two terms tend to be thrown about like synonyms, but they're not. It's possible to have one without the other.

The Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation are two examples that spring to mind to make the point. The Galaxy S II build materials are disappointing plastics, like we see here with the Note, but it's durable. There are no moving parts or creaks, and as we saw recently on YouTube, it holds up to drops and knocks better than an iPhone 4S which is made from much nicer materials. In other words its build quality is good.

Contrast this with the HTC Sensation, which is made from great materials with metal and high quality soft-touch plastics, but has a more suspect build quality with the 'sleeve' design causing creaks, dust accumulation under the screen, and volume rockers that break (of course not every Sensation is afflicted by these, but it's sporadic failure rate is higher than I've observed from other high-end handsets). Now obviously I want a handset with both, but if it's a matter of choosing I'll take build quality, thank you very much.

What kind of handset is the HTC One X? It’s a member of what I count a small fraternity of phones that have both quality materials and excellent build quality.


The slightly protruding camera, virtually the only design element of the exterior that clunks just a little

The one-piece polycarbonate body is strong and feels awesome in the hand, giving it a lovely and slightly grippy soft touch texture, but also ensures that the phone is light. In the past I’ve tended to prefer slightly heavier phones for the impression of quality that endows, but as phones move up into sizes past 4.5inches I’m valuing the comfort of holding a lighter hand more than the (sometimes) false impression of quality that a heavier phone might give.

Although I discuss the display characteristics of the screen a little further down, it deserves a special mention here too. It’s a special design where the screen is laminated onto the glass, diminishing the thickness of the screen. It’s covering layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2, which gently slopes to seamlessly meet the bezel at the screens edge, has the best tactile feel to it of any handset I’ve ever had my paws on. I find hard to describe just how nice it feels when your fingers glide off the curved edge of the screen, but suffice to say that like me you might catch yourself finding excuses to swipe the entire width of the screen quite often.

Although it seems slightly counter-intuitive, the very thin phones that are presently all the rage often sport less than ideal ergonomics. The Samsung Galaxy S II is a good example of this. It’s wide, thin, and full of hard angles at it’s edges, all of which can equate to a phone that’s uncomfortable to hold and use for more than brief sessions. How can you improve the ergonomics? Add extra girth, weight and curves via the official extended battery. Fortunately in the case of the One X, the curves of the polycarbonate body fit nicely in the hand, which is very welcome in a handset of this size and thickness.

Anyways, let me conclude describing the physical attributes of the device, before I rave on forever: it’s awesome. The aesthetics, design and materials meld to a level that is rarely attained.

The Screen

 
You can see it doesn’t quite attain AMOLED levels of inky blacks, but how well does it stack up overall, and should you still be swayed by a tick in the AMOLED column of the spec sheet when weighing up your next smartphone purchase?

I have to admit I came to this section of the review with some bias in tow. I fully expected to walk away still secure in the knowledge that Super AMOLED screens rule the roost for screen tech. The inky blacks, the excessive, eye-popping contrast - you either love it or loath it. I love it. In fact I love it so much, that given the choice of two fairly equal handsets I ‘d chose the AMOLED screened one. Every time. Now I’d read that the One X has an awesome SLCD-2 screen, but given my bias my question heading in wasn’t “Is SCLD-2 better than AMOLED?”, it was “Is it good enough that AMOLED is no longer such a massive differentiator between devices for me?”

The answer surprised me.

Well, firstly, is it good enough to stand up to AMOLED screens such that I could bear to buy an SLCD-2 equipped phone instead? Yes. Unequivocally and unreservedly, yes. Now that’s pretty big, in and of itself, considering the slant I had before I even got the phone. You remember, the slant that made me not expect to even have to frame the question “Is it better than AMOLED?”. It became apparent very quickly that the SLCD-2 screen of the One X demanded that question be answered. The shocking twist that nobody saw coming, least of all myself? The answer to that question is yes.

Let that sink in a minute.

If you read between the lines, that’s  as good as saying the One X has the best screen to ever grace a mobile. Let me go on the record now, as a previously unashamed AMOLED fanboy, and state that explicitly: the HTC One X has the best mobile screen I’ve ever seen.

Obviously so momentous a statement needs must be qualified. So let’s break that down a little into the following areas: pixel density and sub-pixel matrix, contrast, blacks, whites, colour accuracy, viewing angles, brightness and sunlight usability, and deal with each in turn.


While it’s hard to truly represent the difference in a photograph of the screen, I think you can still see very pleasing levels of contrast in the One X’s SCLD-2 screen in comparison to the Note’s AMOLED offering.

Pixel density – the 4.7inch 1280x720p SLCD-2 panel sports a pixel density of around 312 pixels per inch. Furthermore, it sports a “full” subpixel matrix, unlike AMOLED screens of the non-+ variety, which use a pentile matrix that carries a reduced number of coloured subpixels for each pixel. What all that technobabble means is pixels that are invisible to the naked eye, lovely pin sharp images and text as far as the eye can see. You’ll see some other handsets boasting higher PPI counts, but once you’ve crossed the threshold where you can no longer see pixels anyway, I just can’t see any rational advantage in that.

Contrast, blacks, whites, colour accuracy – these are all fairly related. Let me keep it brief, black levels aside, SLCD-2 bests AMOLED in each of these display characteristics. As a long time user of AMOLED screens I have to say that increased colour accuracy, particularly in terms of white tone, really won me over.


Another difficult thing to represent fairly in photos – a comparison of the white tone. The overly blue tone of the AMOLED screen is clearly evident compared to the much more pleasing and natural whites of the One X

The viewing angles don’t disappoint either. While I’d perhaps give AMOLED a slight edge in this area, it’s a rather spurious advantage, since I presume most of us don’t view our phones at 160 degree angles particularly often.

Finally, let’s turn our attention to the usability of the screen outdoors. This is a pretty important screen characteristic, and one of the most common ones I get asked about any device I review. Previously sunlight legibility has tended to be one of the areas where LCD screens fall over, but happily SLCD-2 is above all of that. It’s performance outdoors in direct sunlight is roughly on a par with AMOLED, and perhaps even edging it out ever so slightly.

In summary, the screen is marvelous. Believe the hype.



 
The SLCD-2 screen of the HTC One X above, the Super AMOLED screen of the Galaxy Note below.

Speed and synthetic benchmarks
If you read any major review of a new handset you’ll see a section on benchmarks, and obviously this review is no different. Before you eagerly scroll down to see the One X’s scores, I just want to take a brief moment to pour some cold water on your benchmark lust.

You see, for all that benchmarks can give you a helpful pointer about a devices performance, they don’t really tell you a thing about what buyers really want to know about a smartphones performance. What people really want to know is how fluid is the handset in general navigation of the UI and apps, and in particular under the sorts of multitasking loads that might arise from regular use.  For example, will it grind to a halt when I’m listening to music while browsing, and then need to use the camera ASAP to capture the image of Yoda in my espresso’s crema before it dissipates?

In order to talk to how the One X performs overall, I’m going to divide this section into two pieces, the first to show off the One X’s (considerable) benchmark prowess, and the second to comment on how it is in use.

So, without further preamble, here are the benchmarks:

CF-Bench
CF-Bench is one of a number of general benchmarking tools for Android, and in my experience one of the best in terms of generalizability to actual use. The One X flexes it’s quad-core muscle here, with the Tegra 3 doubling the scores from last years best Android handset the Galaxy S II. 



Antutu
Antutu is another one of the very highly regarded general benchmarks, measuring a wide variety of activities from CPU calculations, write and read operations, and of course graphics power. The One X scores a whopping 10, 238. To contextualize that a little: most of the present crop of high end Android phones, regardless of their respective SoCs, score around the 6000 mark.



Vellamo
Vellamo is a browser benchmark software made by Qualcomm. The One X absolutely carves this benchmark up, besting the similarly Tegra 3-powered ASUS Transformer Prime tablet by a couple of hundred points and generating the highest score I’ve yet seen on a stock device.





Browsermark
Browsermark is an in-browser benchmarking tool, and as such is OS-agnostic – it’ll run on most anything with a browser. You can feel free to compare results in Browsermark to you iOS and WP7 toting friends. As you can see, the One X manages a good score here. It gets bested by several of the Android tablets, including the Tegra 3 Transformer Prime, but ranks highly in the phone stakes. Crucially, it bests the iPhone 4S by about 10,000. I say crucially, because you know you want to rub that in your iPhone-using workmate’s nose while you huddle around the water cooler oogling your new One X. While you’re at it make sure to point out that the One X is pushing 1.5x as many pixels as the iPhone en route to generating that score.



Nenamark 2
Nenamark 2 is one of the better graphics benchmarks available for Android, being one of the few that is demanding enough to max out current GPUs (graphics processing units). The Tegra 3 scores quite well here, able to push the graphics demo through at 47.4 frames per second. If “quite well” doesn’t sound like that enthused, it’s because the nearly year old Mali-400 GPU present in the Galaxy SII and Note  offers nearly identical performance, and several other GPUs in high-end Android devices for 2012 offer even higher performance. I doubt that will actually matter to most buyers though, since the Tegra 3 GPU won’t have any trouble running the most intensive games presently available, and (rightly or wrongly) Nvidia will make sure that lots of the best games get optimized for their devices.



Quadrant
I must admit that I tend to leave Quadrant off my own reviews, it’s really a rather poor benchmark and one of the least generalizable to actual use. That said, it’s something people always tend to ask about, and is another area where the One X is not short on bragging rights, so here it is (for whatever it’s worth):



Actual use
So we’ve covered the fact that the One X benchmarks pretty well. Time for the real nitty gritty; does that bear any relationship to actual use?

Happily I can report that it does.

This is easily the smoothest Android phone I’ve yet the pleasure of using, and I’ve used a few. While you could certainly speculate that a big part of that is merely down to ICS hardware acceleration throughout the launcher, it’s definitely more than that. While I have seen tiny traces of lag, for example when restoring 60 apps and backing out of the Play Store, it’s much less in evidence  in terms of magnitude and frequency here than in any other ICS handset. I’d go so far as to say it attains those mythical iPhone levels of smoothness that are so often touted.

Summary 
I know most of you just skipped straight down to this section, didn’t you? You’d like all of that above compressed into a few sound bites for easy digestion, wouldn’t you? OK then.
  • In terms of aesthetics, ergonomics, build materials and quality the One X is something special. It’s rather hard to put into words exactly what it is about the whole package that is so great, it just has that je ne sais quoimost other handsets lack (please note the considered restraint employed there to avoid using the phrase X-factor). Suffice to say that it is a complete package that precious few handsets live up to.
  • The One X has the best screen ever to grace a mobile. You could be forgiven for thinking the reviews of the One X to date were dealing in hyperbole with all the superlatives they’ve thrown at it, well they’re not. It really is that good.
  • In terms of synthetic benchmarks the One X is awesome, as one might expect from a quad-core device with a gigabyte of RAM…
  • …but the even better news is that actual daily usage lives up to the promise of the benchmark scores. If you want smoothness and fluidity that won’t show you up next to an iPhone user this is the handset to get.
It occurs to me as I conclude this piece that it totally sounds like a paid advertisement for HTC. Obviously no phone is perfect, and like all others the One X has faults (and I’ll get to those in due course). It’s just a consequence of the divisions in the review that this part is so uniformly positive. Next up we’ll look at the One X’s media chops, something HTC is crowing about in this Beats-endowed handset. Does it live up to their marketing? We’ll soon see…

About the author

My name is Murray Winiata. When I'm not on my own time I work as a medical doctor in General Practice, and when I am on my own time I'm a dad, blogger, obsessive home barista, audio enthusiast and guitarist.  Online I'm probably better known by my handle "NZtechfreak" via my participation in many online forums including, but not limited to, Geekzone, XDA-Developers, AndroidForums and Head-Fi. Previously I've blogged for Clove Technologies in the UK, and more recently at my own blog AndroidNZ.net. Like most smartphone owners I'm fully social-media'd up, and you can find me on Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Facebook. If you've got burning questions about the HTC One X you'd like me to try and answer, or you want my up-to-the-minute impressions and experiences with the One X, then Twitter would be the best channel to tune in to. Besides that, I'm always available here at Geekzone, which remains one of the best little corners of the internet (even in spite of my membership!). Naturally I'm thrilled to have been chosen to blog about the HTC One X here at the TelecomTech blog, and plan to bring my trademark objectivity to the fray once again. Catch you here again soon!




HTC One X - Hardware First Impressions

, posted: 1-May-2012 10:19

It was a warm Autumn afternoon, and as bleak as Telecom's headquarters may look on Google Maps, the complex inside is mightily impressive. At first I was surprised that the HTC booth was almost hidden away in the far corner of the foyer. However, like any other smartphone enthusiast this fact was completely disregarded when I first got my hands on the HTC One X.

The first thing that took me back is how light it felt in hand, 130 grams may seem comparatively heavy on paper to something like the Samsung Galaxy S II (116 grams) but in reality it feels light thanks to the larger volume it consumes. To prove this point, my now retired HTC Incredible S weighs 136 grams but since it is so much smaller it feels noticeably heavier in hand.



After that we were greeted by Telecom’s Richard Irvine and I could not help but eye up those five plain white boxes he was couriering around. Once being ushered away to one of the meeting rooms we were given a quick rundown of the device by HTC. Key features mentioned included the amazing 4.7 inch display, quad core Tegra 3 processor, improved camera technology plus the improvements made to Sense.

I imagine our faces were easy enough to read and those white boxes made a return and they were slid across the table. Opening them up revealed the phone and it’s impressive display hidden behind a “I’m the One you’ve been waiting for” protector. A statement that I completely agreed with. At this stage we were also issued our Telecom XT micro SIMs. I’m not sure if our numbers were hand picked, but I have to say, this is probably the fastest time in which I have ever memorized a 10 digit number.



Needless to say, the One X’s body is a uniform 8.9mm thin except for the exposed camera lens. This is easily going to be the first component to be damaged, one of the HTC employees present freely admitted he had already scratched one himself.

If you have small hands this is going to be a two hand use device. If you have average sized hands it will be awkwardly used in one hand. While if you have larger hands it should be comfortably used with one hand, at least in portrait orientation. I’d say I’d fit in between the second and third scenarios and as a result I don’t trust myself fully to walk and navigate around the phone at the same time.

The white polycarbonate body feels really nice in hand and offers enough grip to let you know you’re not going to accidentally drop it under normal conditions. It might just be me but I am fairly sure the sides of the One X have a more glossy (less grip) finish to it compared to the back.

The 4.7 inch Super LCD 2 display with a 1280 by 720 resolution is simply amazing, it is easily the best display I have ever seen on any smartphone, tablet, TV, just anything really.

Something that annoyed me from the get go is the multitasking button being on the right, why? Are you building this phone for left handers HTC? Ok, so maybe HTC are trying to prevent accidental presses of the back button if it was on the right side, but I have yet to press the multitasking key without meaning to.

So far, the HTC One X definitely lives up to its flagship status expectations in every way I’ve investigated so far, at least when it comes to the hardware; it feels good and looks amazing. What else do you really need?

About the author

I’ll be honest: there was once a day when I got bored and sick of seeing all the smartphone related news in my RSS feeds. This day was literally no more than nine months ago. Well here I stand today; known as Blair the college student in the real world, ArchSerpo in this one. Whilst not even considered an adult by the Government I have established myself as a Android and mobile technology news reporter and in depth reviewer for KitGuru, Android Mobile New Zealand, and now (hopefully) the TelecomTech blog. While bias towards the green team may appear given, I have had experience with all the major mobile operating systems except BlackBerry and MeeGo in the last six months and always keep an open mind.



TelecomTech's profile

Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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