It looks good, but will the HTC 8X suffer because it lacks 4G and is powered by an OS that’s still daunting to some users?
The Windows Phone 8X by HTC is its full name, but everyone’s going to be calling it the HTC 8X, so let’s do the same. This is one of the most handsome, tactile and pleasurable-to-hold phones you’ll come across. The glass screen has a gloss black frame, with the matte soft-touch case framing that.
Since the case comes in various colours, including a purply blue, it looks pretty snazzy and feels very inviting to the touch. The UK version of the 8X will also be available in black and yellow, while the WP8 homepage will match the colour of the handset as default (although you can change the colour if you wish).
HTC 8X: Build
This is HTC’s best constructed phone since the metal Legend phone. It feels solid and strong – there’s no creaking or flexing here. Partly that’s because the battery is sealed inside so there’s no back panel to pop off. The advantage is the battery can be bigger as there’s no internal frame which a removable battery would require.
It also means the phone can be thinner. The result is sleek and small – it feels less hand-stretching than some 4.3-inch screened phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 or the monster-sized Samsung Galaxy S3, with it's 4.8-inch display.
The edge where the polycarbonate frame joins the glass screen is pleasingly smooth, enough to make the phone into a worry stone that you can rotate satisfyingly through your fingers.
The only disappointment in the build is the power button which is so flush with the top edge it needs a firm press to activate it. Since there’s no physical home button on the screen, it’s the only way to turn it on unless you launch the camera with its physical button.
HTC 8X: Features
HTC phones always sound good, since the company got involved with Beats Audio - with the likes of the HTC One X and HTC One S and HTC One V. This model also includes Beats tech on board and has an extra amplifier to boost the sonics while still keeping them clear and sharp. This extra audio boost works throughout the phone, whether you’re listening to music or watching video.
And there’s a good 8MP camera with wide-open f/2.0 aperture so lots of light gets in. HTC prides itself on cameras that are ready to go quickly with minimal shutter lag. There’s also a front-facing camera which, thanks to its 2.1MP resolution, is capable of 1080p HD video, just like the one round the back.
But there are few of the trademark HTC features seen on its Android phones. Windows Phone 8 is much more uniform than Android and the HTC Hub is less busy than it was on Windows Phone 7. This is a shame as HTC’s skill with phone software is exceptional.
The HTC Hub is here as a tile that stretches the width of the screen, but it’s unbranded and merely shows the time and weather info. Touch it and you have access to more weather details – though none of the visual flourishes the company was known for, along with Stocks and News.
The phone has NFC, the contactless data transfer system, though implementations of this on Windows Phone 8 are still pretty minimal.
HTC 8X: Screen
The 4.3in display has a resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, that’s 342 pixels per inch. No wonder it looks so good: it even beats the iPhone 5’s Retina Display (326ppi) and isn’t far off the Google Nexus 7 screen which is a full seven inches in size.
It’s not AMOLED but is still bright and colourful. The live tiles that make up Windows Phone 8 gleam on this display, making this OS look inviting.
Of course, it’s still so different from iOS or Android that many may find it too big a change to embrace, but the advantage of having more tiles on screen at once, thanks to different sizes, could be enough to tip the balance. If so, this phone’s screen certainly does it justice.
HTC 8X: Performance
Although the processor requirements for Windows Phone have become much more flexible with the new version of the software, manufacturers are limited by the choice of available processors. This one uses the Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon, the same dual-core 1.5GHz chip that features in the Nokia Lumia 920.
In practice, this is more than enough to keep it all running along happily and without slowdowns or glitches. The touchscreen is responsive and butter-smooth, and the live tiles update endlessly.
Another change to Windows Phone requirements means manufacturers can add a removable memory slot. But there isn’t one here, so you’re limited to the 32GB internal memory.
HTC 8X: Battery
The battery life here is acceptable but not exceptional. It will get you through a full day of reasonable use, even part way through day two, but as always we’d recommend nightly recharges for peace of mind. Still, memories of smartphones dying around lunchtime seem suddenly distant.
HTC 8X: Verdict
This is a spectacularly handsome phone with great touchability thanks to its appealing matte polycarbonate frame. The high-resolution screen means the Windows Phone 8 tiles gleam and the fast processor ensures it’s a pleasant phone to use – it won’t keep you waiting whatever you’re doing.
It’s disappointing not to see more HTC specials in the phone. Windows Phone 8 accepts less customisation than Android, but there’s still room for manufacturers to stamp their personality on the OS – just ask Nokia. Still, this is a good-looking phone that’s a delight to use. Stay tuned for a full review of Windows Phone 8.
HTC 8X release date: 2 November 2012 (available to pre-order now)
HTC 8X price: £400