AT&T HTC One X+ Review: The best just got better

Last year when I reviewed the HTC One X, I said it was the best Android phone hands down. Of course that was a day before the unveiling of the Galaxy S III. Still by the time the year came to a close, I still picked it as the phone of the year, and it was the build quality that put it over the top for me. Late last year HTC released the One X+, which is essentially the same phone with a spec bump. It wasn’t meant for current One X owners to run out and buy one, but it was a needed release since Samsung and LG were releasing quad-core devices with LTE in the U.S. The world of smartphones is moving ever so rapidly, which means that flagship phones can’t last one year without some kind of mid-year spec bump. That’s exactly what the One X+ is, so hit the break to find out if HTC did enough to keep the momentum going.

Design

HTC has been killing it in the design department, and the One X+ is no exception. The design is essentially the same, but the polycarbonate back feels a little more rubberized, and similar to the DROID DNA. The other minor difference is the weight, which I believe is 5 grams heavier than the original. It comes in at 8.9mm thick, which doesn’t make it the thinnest phone in the world, but we aren’t complaining.

The AT&T version only comes in carbon black and it lacks the red accents that you will find in the international version. I really liked the One X in white and would have loved to see the this phone in white also, but AT&T probably went with one SKU knowing this was a mid-term phone that probably wouldn’t get a lot of attention.

As to the buttons and ports, it’s the same as the One X. At the top of the phone you will find the microphone jack and SIM slot to the left and the power button to the right. The right side has the volume rocker towards the top and the left side has the microUSB port. The only negative for me is that I prefer the microUSB at the bottom, which is how they did it on the DROID DNA. The back also sports the same charging pins that were on the One X. Since it’s a unibody design, the back can’t be opened so therefore the battery can’t be changed. You will also notice that there isn’t a microSD slot, which was also the case on the One X. More on that in a bit.

All in all, you won’t find a better quality phone. I don’t know about you, but my phone is in my hands a lot and if I am going to spend my hard earned money on one, I want to feel like I have something substantial when I hold it. The One X+ will give you that and much more.

Hardware

The most notable improvement is the processor. The AT&T One X had a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4, but the One X+ has a 1.7GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3. It should be noted that the international version of the One X had a 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3 so the bump isn’t as notable as the AT&T version. The reason AT&T had the dual-core CPU was because LTE wasn’t compatible with the Tegra 3 at that time. The other notable difference is storage. The original One X for AT&T was 16GB, but the One X+ brings 64GB of internal storage. The one gripe everyone had with the One X was the lack of storage since it didn’t have a microSD slot for expansion. I still think 16GB is plenty for a phone, but I will leave that for another article. Either way 64GB should satisfy everyone out there. Another change is that the One X+ features Gorilla Glass 2 as opposed to Gorilla Glass 1 on the One X. Last but not least, the front facing camera goes from 1.3MP to 1.6MP and the battery goes from 1,800mAh to 2,100mAh.

The rest of the specs are the same, which include a 4.7-inch 720p (1280 x 720) Super LCD 2 display at 312 ppi, 1GB of RAM, 8MP rear camera with f/2.0 lens and 1080p video recording, micro USB (MHL out), Beats Audio, Bluetooth , NFC, DLNA, GPS, WiFi, HSPA+, and LTE.

Performance

As I noted in the hardware section, AT&T users will see a more dramatic increase in performance from the newer quad-core Tegra 3 as opposed to the dual-core CPU that was found on the AT&T One X. International users already had the quad core, but still get a slight boost from the extra 200MHz in speed. I had no complaints when it came to transitions or opening and closing apps. The One X+ flies, but to give you a comparison, lets take a look at the AnTuTu benchmark. As you guys know, I am not a fan of benchmarks, since it’s everyday real world use that I care about. Even so, it’s still a good indicator to see what it shows between two phones and if it’s as dramatic as one would expect. The One X yielded a score of 6,772 last March and the One X+ came in at 16,045. As you can see, that’s a notable increase and trust me you will notice it in everyday use. I was originally concerned with the choice to go with 1GB of RAM as opposed to 2GB, but that went away pretty quickly.

The One X+ features the same Super LCD 2 720p display so there’s nothing to say other than it continues to be one of the best displays available on a smartphone. In fact, only the Super LCD 3 1080p display on the DROID DNA could be considered better, which also happens to be an HTC phone. There is zero to complain about when it comes to HTC displays. They are simply the best.

HTC continues it’s tradition with Beats Audio, but it seems as though they stepped it up a notch. I think we can all agree that the Beats concept on HTC phones is more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. Even though, it has evolved. It used to only work with Beats headphones and only with the stock music player. It now works with any audio app and the One X+ seems to have added a little more punch. Sure it’s mostly volume, but I am not going to complain that it’s there.

Battery

If there is one thing that HTC has an issue with it is batteries. The international One X was dismal due to the fact that the NVIDIA Tegra 3 wasn’t efficient. The U.S versions were much better with the Qualcomm Snapdragon. Unfortunately 1,800mAh wasn’t all that big. The One X+ steps up to 2,100mAh, but we are back to the Tegra 3, which isn’t as efficient as the Snapdragon. Why they didn’t go with the Snapdragon S4 Pro like they did with the J Butterfly / DROID DNA is a mystery to me, but it is what it is.

I ran my usual video rundown test in which I loop continuous video while the display is turned up to 2/3′s brightness. I also set GPS, WiFi (not connected) and Bluetooth (not connected) on. Last year I wasn’t able to conduct the test while connected to LTE, but this year I was. Last year I got about 7 hours with the One X and this year I got  the same 7 hours with the One X+. Considering I was connected to LTE, it is an improvement and it’s actually much better than the DROID DNA’s 6 hours and 11 minutes (2,020mAh). Unfortunately, it’s still a little behind other flagship phones. Here is a look at what other phones yielded….

  • Motorola ATRIX HD – 4 hours 45 min (not connected to LTE)
  • LG Nexus 4 – 5 hours (no LTE)
  • Sony Xperia Ion – 6 hours
  • DROID DNA – 6 hours 11 minutes
  • AT&T HTC One X – 7 hours (not connected to LTE)
  • AT&T HTC One X+ – 7 hours
  • Sprint LG Optimus G – 7 hours 30 min
  • DROID Incredible 4G LTE – 7 hours 45 min
  • DROID RAZR M – 8 hours
  • AT&T LG Optimus G – 8 hours
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II – 9 hours 30 min
  • DROID RAZR HD – About 10 hours
  • DROID RAZR MAXX HD – 13 hours 30 min

So it’s about average and something that is livable if you don’t travel a lot. Remember, the One X+ is a unibody design so you won’t be able to swap batteries. For everyday usage you should get about 15 to 16 hours with moderate use. For me, it’s not a big deal since I am on WiFi most of the day, and provides even more time, but you will have to look at your lifestyle and base your decision on that.

Software

The One X+ gets Sense 4+, which is a decent upgrade, but all One X devices will eventually get it as well. Sense 4+ is built around Android 4.1 Jelly Bean so you get Google Now, the new voice search, better notifications, and project butter. There are also slight differences with the look and feel of Sense. The circular carousel that older versions of Sense had is back, but thankfully it’s much more subtle. If you look deep enough you will find more refined fonts and icons as well. Probably my favorite change is the keyboard. I always hated Sense keyboards, but it’s much improved. The big change is the numbers/symbol key now at the bottom left instead of the bottom right, which makes a big difference. You will also find some differences with the camera app as far as some of the settings. Sense 4+ is more about the new features of Android and if you aren’t familiar with Google Now and the newer notifications, you will love it. Click here to find out more about those features.

As far as bloatware goes, you will find AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Locker, AT&T Messages, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Ready2Go, Device Help, Live TV, ME Infiltrator, MyAT&T, Nook, and TegraZone.

As to HTC apps, you will find Device Help, HTC Media Link HD, Music (Player), Notes, Task Manager, Tasks, Weather, and Voice Recorder, Watch (for renting movies from HTC).

All in all Sense isn’t what it used to be. It’s still a major change from the stock Android experience, but it’s not as pronounced and something I can live with.

Camera

The camera is essentially the same so there isn’t anything to report. It’s still one of the best cameras available on a smartphone. They did bump up the front facing camera from 1.3MP to 1.6MP as well as the sensor, but it’s not as big of a deal since most people don’t utilize it as much. As far as settings and effects goes, there are plenty of them. See our One X and One S review for more information. Below are some pictures for your reference (the last one required flash).

Closing

Since I picked the One X as the best Android smartphone, the assumption is that the One X+ has to be the new king. Well kind of. If you’re on AT&T, it’s by far the best phone, but I do consider the DROID DNA a better phone. That one happens to be on my carrier of choice (Verizon) and I own it. If I were an AT&T customer, I would be all over the One X+. Now with that said, if you already own the One X, I wouldn’t upgrade at this time. You already have an amazing phone and most likely you will get a chance to buy the M7 in a couple of months.  If you need to buy a phone today and you’re an AT&T customer, this is the one to get. Now if you are more of a casual user, you could opt for the original One X for $99. That is an amazing buy. The One X+ is $199, and if you need the extra storage it’s well worth it when you consider you would also get a quad-core CPU as well.

 

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


Google+0Facebook0Twitter60
  • RTWright

    Without a Micro-SD slot, they’ll never keep up with Samsung. They are nothing more than an iDriod, on top of sleeping with Apple they can just give up as far as I’m concerned. I had my fill with HTC when I owned a Evo 4G, they deserved their fall from grace for being such jerks. They only really gave anything back with their Evo 4G LTE and it wasn’t enough to get me back. The Samsung GS3 was by far a much better device. Still is!

    • Richard Yarrell

      No doubt Htc is done. I owned the Htc Evo 4g and Evo 3d great devices for those days. Nothing compared to my current Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. Bottom line folks Samsung is android plain and simple nothing will dethrone that. Not Nexus devices, not Motorola, not Lg, not Sony, nobody…

  • laren31

    Well, I used to love HTC but what they have done lately has just disappointed me. The htc one s was built well but its software is completely horrible. Simply One of the worst experiences that I’ve ever had and I know that what is on the one x/+ is similar. My note 2 is much better, not because its more powerful, but simply because the software works as it should. Sense needs to be shot. Killing multitasking and saying that that’s what they wanted and that it was fine (they tried turning android into ios) was just the last straw for me.

  • swtrainer

    Well, Robert, your article is interesting, but your selection of the HTC handset as the phone of the year means just about nothing. Its not selling like the Galaxy SIII and nobody else of note is picking it over the SIII. So, your credibility is about zero here. No MicroSD slot and the inability to remove/replace the battery…what were you thinking? The SIII and the Note 2 both fare better than the HTC One X+ in a feature to feature comparison. But, of course, I guess you know better than everybody else…in your own mind anyway.

    • http://twitter.com/ImSteevin ImSteevin

      Don’t be a dick

  • RobertNazarian

    Instead of replying to some of you individually I figured I would make my comments separately here since many of you seem to agree on some things.

    First of all, just because the Galaxy S III is the more popular phone doesn’t make it the best phone. Does the Academy Awards hand out the best picture award to the movie that makes the most dollars?

    As to the microSD card and removable batteries, these are nothing more than things that piss people off, but are rarely needed. These are NOT the reasons why HTC isn’t selling as many phones as Samsung. Take a look at the marketing fellas. Samsung is spending huge amounts of money on advertising as well as managing their social networks. Look how many IPhones Apple has sold without microSD slots and removable batteries. Again, another major marketing company.

    I picked the One X as the phone of the year because I thought it was. Does that mean I think the Galaxy S III is junk. No, I just felt HTC made the best product and just to let you know, I’m not an HTC fanboy whatsoever. Before my DROID DNA, I never owned an HTC phone.

    So enjoy your Galaxy S III”s and your Note II’s. They are great phones and I would never knock anyone for picking those phones as the best phones. I have also recommended them to people depending on their needs.