1. Stang68's Avatar

    Let me preface this review of the HTC 8X by saying I am currently an Android user. Im deeply invested in Googles ecosystem, using Gmail, Maps, Google Now, etc. in my daily life. My first smartphones were all Blackberrys (I waited on line for the Blackberry Storm!) After the Storm 2 left me feeling burned, I looked towards the sexy new Motorola Droid. Since then, Ive been an Android user and only an Android user (not counting my iPad). So what follows is a review of the 8X from a tech-lovers standpoint, but also an Android lovers standpoint. I was excited to see what Windows Phone 8 brings to the table along with the HTC 8X.

    Hardware on a phone is very important...and while that seems like an obvious thing to say youd be surprised by how many manufacturers drop the ball on the industrial design and feel of a device. Im happy to say HTC hit an absolute home-run with the 8X. The device is beautiful to look at and feels great in the hand. From the soft-touch backing to the slightly tapered edges on the glass, everything on this phone screams premium. I brought the 8X to work one day and everyone had to see it up close. The bold color of the device and its striking thinness caught their eyes prompting a little demo for everyone in the office.

    The speakers on the 8X didnt disappoint, either. They were loud and didnt distort that much at high volumes. The Beats software inside didnt kick in until headphones were plugged in, but once they were I enjoyed the audio very much. Im not an audiophile by any means but I know what sounds good and the 8X definitely does.

    Radio performance on the 8X was also very good. Most of the time the phone had a strong 4G LTE connection on Verizons network...something I cannot say for my Samsung. Having not had much experience with HTC connections, I was pleasantly surprised to see it hung in there with the likes of Motorola and LG. Verizons 4G LTE network was as solid as ever and made using the 8X a pleasure. I ran a few speed tests with the device over 4G LTE and the results were nothing short of exemplary. Tethering over a cellular network has become a real option thanks to the advent of 4G LTE. It really is apparent when your cell phone is getting better speeds than your home wifi!

    Great picture quality on a smartphone has really jumped up on the list of must-haves for me. Ever since owning a Galaxy Nexus, I realized how important a decent camera sensor in a phone is. The Galaxy Nexus to the Galaxy S3 was night and day. I love the camera on my GSIII so when I say I was very impressed with the camera on the 8X, it should mean a lot. Over the past year or so, HTC has really focused on imaging capabilities of its phones. Low-light performance was very good, one of the best of seen on a phone. Video was also very clear with great audio capture.

    At 4.3, the screen is the perfect size for one-handed use while staying functional for web-browsing and photo viewing. My Galaxy S3, while nice, can be too unwieldy at times for comfortable use...and I have rather large hands. With a resolution of 1280 x 720, the screen on the 8X is up to snuff with most other screens on the market today. Funny enough, the only screens it doesnt match (at least in resolution) are also made by HTC in the Droid DNA and the HTC One. But overall, the screen is vibrant with good color reproduction and good viewing angles. Basically, youre not going to see too many pixels on this thing...its a great window to the OS.

    Speaking of the OS...
    Windows Phone...the operating system vying for third place. The operating system tech blogs love but would rather not use as their day-to-day. Since Windows Phone released, I have been intrigued by its Live Tiles and the spartan, minimalist look to the OS. And I do mean minimal. Windows Phone 8 is the anti-iOS. Where the iPhone has stitched leather and brushed aluminum, Windows Phone has square boxes with bold, contrasting colors. Its a brave design decision, but does it pay off?

    Overall, yes, I like the look of Windows Phone 8 very much. It has such a clean, simplistic feel to it. Some may not like that, however, because the love to customize their devices home screen. On Windows Phone 8, you can change the color of the Live Tiles and their size. Thats it...thats where the customization ends on Windows Phone. Again, some may like that while others may not. Microsofts natively-built applications look great; they use the sliding Metro UI throughout the OS. Some really well-made third party apps also pull off the Metro UI very well. You can just see the edge of the next screen, prompting you to want to swipe over. Other operating systems like Android may not make the swipe gesture so clear. Another positive thing about Windows Phone is how smooth it is. All the animations are very fluid and never seem to slow down. The OS hummed along at a brisk pace and handled most of the tasks I threw at it.

    Once I dove into Windows Phone 8, though, not everything was so rosy. The thing most people say is keeping Window Phone down is the lack of third party applications. While the lack of apps in the Windows Store was frustrating to say the least (no Instagram, no Pandora, no actual YouTube app, no Gmail app...I can go on) the core operating system also had a whole slew of problems.

    Android easily has the best notification system on the market. A notification comes in at the top of the screen and then has an icon sit on the top left of the status bar. You can then drag down that notification shade to see all of your notifications. Its perfect, I never miss an email, a text, or an alert. But with Windows Phone, I would have no idea if I received a notification because there is no central area or aggregator. I said to myself, Thats crazy...there has to be a way to see all of my notifications. Well, I was wrong. It seems Microsoft was trying to build one but ran out of time. Seriously. For this reason alone, I cannot use Windows Phone 8 as a daily driver. I know, I know...there are notifications in the Live Tiles. But Im not always on my home screen and not all my Live Tiles are visible when I AM on the home screen.

    Besides the lack of a notification center, I also was not a huge fan of the Live Tiles *GASP*. I know...the main feature of Window Phone. I just could not get into it. While I love the look of the Tiles and the idea of the Tiles, I did not like using the Tiles. On my Android and iOS home screen, I can have any app I want just a tap away, either right on the home screen or in a folder right on the home screen. With Windows Phone, I either have to have the app as one of five Live Tiles or I end up scrolling endlessly. Windows Phone fans are probably going to hate me for this, but thats just my opinion. Maybe they love scrolling. (Sidenote: Scrolling on the home screen was way too slow for me).

    As a Gmail user, I knew going in the experience on Windows Phone would be less than optimal. Its a shame, really, that Microsoft and Google cannot play nice and develop a decent Gmail app. Instead, Windows Phone/Gmail users are given a sub-par experience that doesnt allow them to use labels or archiving. If I want any of that stuff I have to use Gmail in Internet Explorer.

    Speaking of Internet Explorer, the browsing experience on Windows Phone 8 was surprisingly pleasant! When one hears theyll be using Internet Explorer on their phone, terrible expectations fill their head. But instead I was given a very usable browser that handled most of the video I threw at it and suffered from just a small amount of rendering issues. I will say, though, it is still not as good as the browsers on iOS or Android. Sorry, guys.

    In the end, reviewing the HTC 8X was a two-sided experience for me. I loved the hardware, absolutely loved it. Its probably my favorite phone design and hardware to date. The software, on the other hand, left something to be desired. Im not saying anything groundbreaking by calling Windows Phone 8 a half-baked operation system. The animations and designs all look great but once you really dig deep into the OS, you see it just doesnt compete with iOS or Android...yet. Whether its the lack of third-party apps, being forced to use Bing Maps, or not having excellent Gmail integration, I just cannot use the 8X as a daily driver. But hey, slap Jelly Bean on that hardware and HTC will have a winner on their hands!
    Jaxland101 likes this.
    02-27-2013 06:11 AM
  2. Daniel Ratcliffe's Avatar
    The Achilles heel is that Microsoft, like Google, have pretty much a service each for everything (YouTube notwithstanding), and as such, there isn't really much room for Google apps, so why should Google bother? And with the Nokia Lumia 920, I'm thrusted into using HERE maps, by Nokia, which are solid for me in the UK. Bing Maps, is also pretty decent too, and worked well on my HTC TITAN with Windows Phone. Apps, well, that's a problem that's always going to be there. Apple and Android are THE places to be for apps, and I expect this to stay the case for at least 75 years. Any other OS will struggle, minus BB10 with it's lovely way of near enough effortlessly porting Android apps to BB10 (I'm sorry but the fact that OpenGL is supported on all platforms but WP, which instead uses DirectX11, means Windows Phone has ZERO chance in the games department. Nil, nada, MS should give up with it now or Redmond should go boom). All in all, I use Microsoft services over Google services so generally speaking, there isn't that much issue for me, and the experience is good. The notification centre should be useful though, provided it is properly implemented in such a way that it does not detriment the live tiles. I don't know how this can be achieved, but have faith that MS can do a better job of that than me.
    03-02-2013 06:59 AM

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