AT&T HTC One X review: The best Android phone hands down

HTC admittedly had a tough 2011 so they promised that 2012 would be better with fewer models and more focus. In late February they unveiled the One series, which consisted of the One X, One S, and One V. If HTC had it their way, that would be it, but unfortunately it’s impossible to make one device compatible with all carriers, and I’m not just talking about the radio. They had to offer a One X XL to satisfy other markets with a different processor.

While many people overseas have been enjoying the One series for a little over a month, these models finally made there way to the U.S. T-Mobile just launched the One S and AT&T will launch the One X (really the XL) in a few days. To further complicate things, the EVO 4G LTE, another One X variant will land on Sprint in the coming weeks.

This review is on the AT&T One X, which will be released on May 6 for a very competitive price of $199 with no rebates. When you consider the One S is on T-Mobile for the same price after a $50 mail-in-rebate, this is an amazing price. This is my full review, but you can also check out my quick hands on as well.

Design

I’m not sure I can come up with anything negative about the design. Let me start off by saying I’ve never been much of an HTC fan. For hardware, I’ve always preferred Motorola. At this moment in time, the HTC One X is the best phone in terms of design. The polycarbonate body just looks and feels awesome in the hand. I’m also not a fan of white phones, but the One X in white is pure sexiness. Everybody who touches it says something like, “Wow, this is an amazing phone.” HTC paid attention to every detail. Even the way the camera lens fits into place is absolutely perfect. I dare anyone to pick this phone up and not be impressed.

I guess if you had to find a negative, it would have to be that it’s a unibody, so no removable battery or even a micro SD slot for that matter. The only entry point is at the top for the SIM card, and with that, you need the included pin tool to open it. HTC knows that the majority of consumers never change their batteries or ever require additional storage so this would only be a negative for a handful of people. Plus this design keeps it thin and light. At 9.14mm thick, it’s inline with other LTE devices and thinner than the Galaxy Nexus.

As far as buttons and controls, you will find the power button at the top right with the volume rocker on the top right side. Also at the top you will find the headphone jack to the left as well as the slot for the SIM card. The micro USB port is on the left side. On the back right side you will find connectors for conductive charging accessories. Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to try any of them, but this will be a nice feature.

Hardware

HTC didn’t want to limit the One X when it came to hardware so they made sure to put the best of the best in it. The only differences between the AT&T version and the global version is the processor and storage. The processor of choice internationally is the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core chip. Unfortunately the Tegra 3 doesn’t play nicely with LTE so we get a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4. Some may see this as a downgrade, but really the only thing you will be missing is the handful of Tegra 3 optimized games. The difference is negligible to the average consumer. As for storage, the AT&T version gets 16GB as opposed to 32GB for the global version. In talking with AT&T reps, they feel the majority of people don’t require more than 16GB, plus I really think they wanted to price this as competitive as they could. Dropping it to 16GB helped them achieve that goal, and I agree that 16GB is more than enough for the average person.

The rest of the specs include a 4.7-inch (1280 x 720) Super LCD 2 display, 1GB of RAM, 8MP rear camera with f/2.0 28mm lens and 1080p video recording, 1.3MP front facing camera, 1800 mAh battery, micro USB (MHL out), Beats Audio, Bluetooth 2.1, DLNA, GPS, WiFi, HSPA+, and LTE.

Performance

A lot of people are probably feeling a little slighted with the dual-core Snapdragon S4 as opposed to the NVIDIA Tegra 3, but I see no reason to. Although I didn’t have the chance to use the global version, I can safely say this phone flies. Might the global One X be a little faster? I’m sure it is, but seriously folks, in everyday situations I highly doubt anyone would notice the difference, which is milliseconds. I did the obligatory AnTuTu benchmark, which came in at 6772. That’s higher than the Samsung Galaxy Note, Galaxy Nexus, and the Galaxy S II.

The Super LCD 2 display is stunning. The viewing angles are incredible and the clarity is spot on. The colors aren’t as deep as the Super AMOLED 720p display from Samsung, but this is by far the best display on the market because PenTile is nowhere to be found.

As far as sound goes, many feel the Beats Audio integration is a gimmick. I tend to agree. All it does is boost the treble and the bass, but wouldn’t you rather have it than not? It’s not like this phone is overpriced. It’s a freebie and I will take it. The sound quality is noticeably better than most smartphones, but again it’s not like they make it out to be. It’s just better, not incredibly better. The plus is that the Beats integration now works with all music or media apps, not just the stock music player.

Battery

Unfortunately I don’t live in an AT&T LTE area so I couldn’t test the battery under those circumstances. I will say that the 1800 mAh size does concern me, but then again the Snapdragon S4 is supposed to help. How much is the question. I would like to have seen a bigger battery like the EVO 4G LTE or better yet, the DROID RAZR MAXX.. Since LTE isn’t in a lot of areas, it won’t be an issue for most, but if you live in a bigger city, it’s something that could be an issue. I’ve been dealing with horrendous battery life on my Verizon Galaxy Nexus, so it doesn’t bother me so much. I would rather have an incredible phone with poor battery life then an average phone with great battery life. Again, I’m not saying that battery life will be bad with LTE connectivity, but it certainly won’t be as good when only connected to 4G HSPA+.

With that said, I did my usual continuous video rundown test. This is where I play continuous video with the display brightness turned up to 2/3′s (no auto dimming). Since I couldn’t connect to LTE for this test, we will have to settle for 4G HSPA+.  I was able to get a little over 7 hours, which isn’t bad, but unfortunately all phones continue to play catch up with the DROID RAZR MAXX.

Software

The One series gets Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich along with Sense 4, which is the latest and greatest. I’ve been hearing about how Sense 4 is a major improvement and not so much in your face. I will say it’s improved, but it still can be annoying at times. Thankfully, most of the enhancements are nice. Simple things like leaving in the ability to add widgets by long pressing on one of your homescreens is welcoming. The “read” option in the browser is a nice touch where you can read a story without all the ads and graphics (similar to an RSS feed). Speaking of the browser, it’s very fast. The camera software is top notch with all the additions they’ve throw in. Sense fans will be happy to know they’ve left in the “personalize” settings menu, which allows you to set different Scenes, Skins, lock screen styles and options.

On the negative side, the keyboard continues to be the worst of all the manufacturer skins and there are other little quirks like when clicking on a Play Store link from Gmail, it doesn’t give you the option to open it in the Play Store, it just opens in the browser. Also when adding contacts in the phone, the default isn’t Gmail, but instead a “phone” contact, which is very bad in my opinion. Many beginners think their newer contacts are part of Gmail and backed up, but they aren’t. This is irresponsible in my opinion, but if you’re aware of it, it isn’t so bad. Speaking of contacts, they don’t look nearly as good as stock Ice Cream Sandwich.

For me, if this phone was completely stock with the camera application I would be happy. Sense 4 is improved, but it’s still hard to tell your using Ice Cream Sandwich in my opinion. I do feel that the interface will satisfy most people as they just don’t get caught up in stock experiences, so I will consider myself in the minority.

As with all newer HTC phones, Dropbox is included and you will get a total of 25GB of storage for 2 years. This is a great deal and more than enough for most people. The ability to auto upload your photos is nice (can be done with Picasa as well), but there should be a delay because many times you take photos and then delete them shortly after. Unfortunately those photos get uploaded as well, so you have to delete them twice.

Camera

With cameras getting better and better it’s getting to the point where you can finally leave your point and shoot at home. I’ve been reluctant to do so because nothing has impressed me enough until now. This camera is incredible. It’s not even just the pictures, its the software and the whole interface. Our own Joe Sirianni did a video showing the many features from the One S. This is the identical camera so check out the video below.

YouTube Preview Image

The biggest highlight is the burst mode which lets you take 99 shots per minute. I have a 3-year old so I don’t have to tell you how awesome this is, but there are its drawbacks. It can be a pain going through a bunch of photos trying to find the right ones and if you’re set for auto uploading to Google+ and/or Dropbox you will have tons of photos to remove. The other big issue is you need the proper lighting as the flash only hits the first shot. A final issue is the way HTC did the file indexing. If you connect your phone to your desktop and do things the manual way, you have two choices under the DCIM folder, 100BURST and 100MEDIA. 100MEDIA has all your basic photos, but 100BURST has all your burst shots. The problem with 100BURST is that you will find different folders for each set of bursts. Even if you “picked” the best photo already, you still have to go in and find the folder where your photo resides. In HTC’s defense, they would rather you never connect your phone to your computer with services like Dropbox, so it’s possible you would never see those folders. I agree as I took a ton of pictures at a birthday party, and with the Dropbox integration, I never connected the One X to my desktop. It wasn’t an issue, but there are still plenty of people who aren’t using services such as these. All in all, I would rather have the burst mode with these limitations than not having it at all.

As for other settings, HTC threw in everything from HDR and panorama to effects like distortion, vignette, depth of field, dots, mono, country, vintage, vintage warm, vintage cold, grayscale, sepia, negative, solarize, posterize, and aqua. Also, within these effects, you can still alter how much or how little they effect the picture. Below are some photos taken, some with no effects and others with.

 

Closing

There really isn’t much more to say other than this is presently the best phone on the market, and the price makes it even that more appetizing. It’s possible that Samsung will show something better tomorrow in London, but I’m a little concerned that they won’t be able to match the build quality that HTC has done here. No matter what, you can’t buy the One X on AT&T before tomorrow’s Galaxy S III announcement, so you still have time to make up your mind. Either way, I don’t expect to see the Galaxy S III stateside anytime soon.

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • http://www.cashforsmartphones.com/ Sell My Cell Phone

    This is a good review! One X is currently the best android phone for now. I can’t wait to see the Galaxy S III so that I can weigh my options and choose what to buy. Thanks for sharing this and keeping us always updated!

  • PizzaFan

    I’ve read dozens of conflicting reports. Sprint getting the one x or the one s? I’m probably buying a nexus this weekend anyhow but I’m wondering about this.

    • Skarrufa

       The One X is better than the Nexus. Quad core, 1.5 Ghz,  F2 lens, HDR pictures, beats audio, 25Gbyte dropbox, media link, 32 Gbyte internal storage. All of witch the Nexus doesnt have.

      • Richard Bown

        Have to disagree, with the nexus it’s not the hardware but how it all goes together, no sense required here

  • Ickyfehmleh

    I find it ironic that Apple was originally attacked for having a non-replaceable battery and for lacking a MicroSDHC slot on the iPhone yet this phone is declared The Best Android Phone a few years later.

    Personally I think the lack of a replaceable battery is a horrible idea.  The lack of a MicroSDHC slot, however, is a deal breaker.

  • Samps78

    How much is HTC paying you for this review. The customers have voted on this, most of us want a removable battery. That is definitely a deal breaker for me. HTC is making all the wrong choices and it will show when they lose more moneybthis year!!

  • Skarrufa

    Ive had the One x Tegra 3 variant for a month now and I have to agree with most of what is said. It really is an incredible phone. I have a dual core viewsonic 10s android tablet and this is so much better it is just weird. I am a fan of desktop computers. I usually use either a 28″ screen or a dual 22″  one. Since i bought the One X, I have been using all my computers significantly less, although they dont really compete. Even more fascinating for me is that I dont think I have really got to use my phone to the best of its ability. I think I need another 3-4 months before I rearrange my work system to accommodate it.
    BTW, most reviewers seem to not test the camera under low light conditions. I would generally never use a small camera to take stills in low light. But for video, the f2 lens makes a big difference. I recently took a video of a musical fountain at night. All my other cameras couldnt cut it, but this small phone did a reasonable job actually.

  • Cw19

    I have to agree, the lack of a MicroSDHC slot AND the lack of a removable battery are both deal breakers for me. Not getting this phone!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/TheDonnaMater Gavin

    Memory cards are old news to be fair. With applications like ES File Sharer you can access your network drives and move files around. All images and videos are uploaded to Dropbox. This is the way forward – not little memory cards. Even compact cameras are moving to cloud storage. There’s more than enough room on board for music and movies – not your whole collection, but you don’t bring that out with you. There are significant disadvantages to having little slots on your phone. The less gaps and holes the better imo. Micro SD’s are also expensive – people seem to forget that. Give it a few years and they wont be around anymore. 

    And as for the removable battery thing – I really don’t know why this bothers people. I’ve been an ipod user since the beginning and it was never a problem having a non removable battery. And they never exploded with parts when the dropped and then didn’t quite go back together properly – you know what I mean. The lifetime of the battery is longer than the lifetime that you’re going to give your phone. And I’m sure some little local store will be able to swap out these batteries if and when the time comes that you need to do it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766612980 Hilda S Laboy Plana

    I have it and in the beginning I was reluctant with this non removal battery thing, but for the heavy user I am, I am getting a good 12 to 15 hours of battery life with LTE/WiFi constantly. As for the micro sd slot, I am still missing my 32gb card since At&t decided to offer us only a 16gb version of the unit. I do not rely on the Dropbox because it consumes my data. I do a backup of my photos daily at home so it is not a big deal anyway. But I am in love with my phone, excellent pictures, excellent performance, ICS, perfect photos while recording HD video, brilliant screen, can see my screen outside in the sun, sleek and thing (even with the cover on).

  • Richard Bown

    This isn’t a review but fawning that you would normally see on an ios fansite. Like them or not microsd cards are for many the fastest and easiest way to transfer files when changing device. My mum for example who is a technophobe loves the fact that she can put the card from her camera into her tablet and quickly view and edit them