These days, when people think "Windows Phone" they may think Nokia, given the Finnish company's deal with Microsoft to run its mobile operating system on all of its phones. But it may actually be HTC that takes "Best In Show" among the first wave of Windows Phone 8 devices with its flagship 8X handset.
Everything about the HTC 8X has "premium" written all over it, from its slick build with its gentle curves to the 1.5 GHz, dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. From its Beats Audio to the 4.3-inch, 1280 x 720 resolution, 341 ppi Gorilla Glass 2 display. And, of course, the brand-spanking-new Windows Phone 8 OS.
Build & Design
Unique builds are kind of the name of the game with Windows Phone devices, and the HTC 8X is no exception. At its thickest point, it's 0.39 inches thick, but given the way the phone's rounded back tapers towards the edges, it actually appears to have a much slimmer profile. And given the fact that it's a slightly larger phone, what with its 4.3-inch screen, one would expect it to be on the heavier side, but it's relatively light at 4.6 ounces.
Much like the rival Nokia Lumia models, the 8X has a unibody design, meaning that the casing can't be taken off and the device's battery is not accessible. But also like the Lumias, the SIM card is handled by way of a small pop-out tray on the upper right-hand corner of the phone; unfortunately, it requires a small (included) key to do so, which makes it more of a hassle.
Aside from the gently rounded back, part of what makes the 8X such a pleasure to hold in the hand is its matte finish. That being said, the thing is basically a magnet for all manner of dirt, dust, and smudges, but it's a shortcoming I'm absolutely willing to bear given how good the phone feels in my hand. The screen also looks great, given its Gorilla Glass finish and the way the edges of it are flush with the body of the device. There's barely any bezel to speak of, and it adds to the sleekness of the 8X.
In fact, while it may not be flashy or have a bizarre, stand-out design like some of the Lumias, the 8X is definitely still stylish. Its bold color gives it some personality (this particular model was somewhere between blue and purple, but it's also available in black, red, and yellow) and the matching colored trim on the device's receiver grill catches the eye.
The 1280 x 720, Super LCD 2 display on the 8X looks solid and colors are especially deep and vibrant, a perfect fit for an operating system like Windows Phone 8, which is all about colors and lively themes. As a joke, one of my friends recently changed the color scheme on the 8X to bright pink and I was so astounded by how much it popped and how great it looked that I...well, I left it like that.
Its sharpness is definitely up to snuff as well, with an impressive 341 ppi density. The edges of the tiles look perfectly smooth, even when looking at the screen up close. I've dealt with other Windows Phones that have grainy, pixelated displays, which is just a nightmare on an OS like this; the flaws become immediately evident when you can see the individual pixels on the edges of all the tiles on your home screen.
The display's brightness isn't quite as impressive, however. On maximum brightness visibility is just good enough, but that's a bit of a drain on the battery that you're probably going to want to avoid. As soon as you go any lower than max brightness, the screen is just too dark to go unnoticed. For the sake of your battery, you'll probably opt for the auto setting, but it dims the screen to the point that most users will probably be left wanting.
Other Buttons and Ports
The buttons, which are the same color as the body, are low-profile, allowing them to blend into the edges of the phone (though perhaps this isn't the best idea, as they can be a little frustrating to press at times). The power/standby button is on the top edge, while the volume rocker and dedicated camera button are both on the right side.
Other than that, the only other keys are the standard capacitive ones (back, home, search) right below the display. There is also a single speaker on the back of the phone towards the bottom, and the only ports are headphone jack on the top edge and a micro USB port for charging centered on the bottom.
The 8X has a front-facing camera for video chatting, which is located in the upper left hand corner of the phone right next to the earpiece, as well as a rear-facing camera that's centered on the back of the phone. That's probably my only issue with the design of the 8X: I wish that the camera lens was recessed or had a slightly raised ring around it to offer some protection for when the phone is flat down on a surface. That way, the lens wouldn't get scratched up so easily; I have an HTC Trophy and the camera is basically ruined because, like the 8X, the lens is flush with the surface of the phone and is quick to get scratched up the moment I set it down anywhere.
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