Review: The HTC Windows Phone 8X is everything a flagship phone should be

At a Glance
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X

    PCWorld Rating

    The 8X is a stellar piece of hardware, with a beautiful user interface, but the lack of storage (and apps) may be hard for some users to get over.

HTC’s flagship Windows Phone 8 handset, the Windows Phone 8X, is easy to love with its bright, popping colors, sleek, curved angles, and snappy new operating system. It’s everything a smartphone should be. The 8X, which should hit U.S. shelves sometime this month through carriers AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, is the first handset we’ve seen running the new Windows Phone 8 operating system. With a clean design, well thought-out features, and solid performance, the 8X deserves a chance to win you over to Windows Phone.

Design

8X in various colors.

The Windows Phone 8X immediately made a great impression. The polycarbonate unibody comes in four bright shades inspired by the vibrant Live Tiles of Windows Phone 8: Graphite Black, Flame Red, Limelight Yellow, and California Blue. The handset has subtle curved edges and a soft-touch back that make it remarkably comfortable to hold in your hand. At 5.21 inches tall, 2.6 inches across, and 0.39 inches thick, it’s similarly sized to both the Lumia 920, Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone, as well as HTC’s own One X, however, at just 4.5 ounces, it’s one of the most lightweight handsets on the market.

The top of the handset houses the power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a secondary microphone, while the volume rocker, camera button, and microSIM card input all run along the right side. The primary microphone and micro-USB input are located on the bottom of the handset. All of the physical buttons are made from anodized aluminum, in a similar shade to the handset itself, and are set flush to the body of the phone—which made it occasionally difficult to press them deeply enough to register. I also found myself often inadvertently changing the volume, as the rockers are located right where my fingers rest when gripping the phone.

The 8X takes full advantage of Windows Phone 8’s upgraded hardware requirements. With a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor and 1GB of RAM, Windows Phone 8 is (finally) cooking with fire and it shows. The 8X responded instantly to commands and had no difficulty playing videos or streaming music. Likewise, I had no difficulties during my gameplay, nor while running any apps: no stutters, shut downs, or crashes. Less impressive is the 8X’s 16GB storage, with no options for expansion, and battery life. Our battery tests showed that the 8X (running on AT&T's network) lasted only six hours and twenty-two minutes on a charge, while the Verizon and T-Mobile versions did slightly better at six hours twenty-nine minutes and six hours thirty-three minutes respectively. Comparatively, our lab tests of the iPhone 5, showed that handset was capable of running for eight hours twenty-one minutes.

Display

The super LCD 2 touchscreen display, a 4.3-inch slab of Gorilla Glass 2, has a 720p HD resolution that produces sharp colors and stunningly detailed images. Working with roughly 331ppi, the 8X has a display comparable to the One X, or the very popular Samsung Galaxy S III. Watching videos is a treat, not a chore, as is flipping through photos, which have a warmer hue than those viewed on an iPhone 4S. The display also did well in bright light, where I could easily view apps and photos while in sunlight—something I consistently have serious difficulty doing on my iPhone 4S.

The touchscreen is highly responsive; I didn't notice delays or lags when navigating through the menus or launching apps. The keyboard retains the look and feel of the one found on Windows Phone 7 handsets. In very little time, I was typing emails and messages quickly, however, there were a few occasions when I accidentally hit the wrong character. There isn’t a ton of space between letters.

At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The 8X is a stellar piece of hardware, with a beautiful user interface, but the lack of storage (and apps) may be hard for some users to get over.

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