HTC were early adopters of the Windows Phone platform. I check out their 2013 flagship handset, the HTC 8x.
Most people associate Windows Phone handsets with Nokia or Microsoft; however, HTC was also a big player in this market and in 2013 released two Windows Phone 8 handsets.
Alongside their midrange HTC 8s handset, they produced their flagship HTC 8x. I have recently developed an interest in the Windows Phone platform, and after handling some budget handsets, I wanted to check out something a bit heavier.
I bought an HTC 8x, and despite it being a 2013 phone, it still packs a hefty punch.
Build and Design
The HTC 8x is an impressive looking device. The back features a rubberised, slightly rounded case – available in blue, black, red, and yellow. Mine is California Blue, a gorgeous dark blue colour. The handset fits lovely in the hand, and the back gives it excellent grip.
From the front you can see the coloured rim surrounding the screen. The buttons are very slim, almost flush in the casing. While this is a great design idea, it can make accessing the buttons a little tricky at times.
The top features the earphone socket and small power button. The bottom has the Micro USB charging/syncing socket. The left side has nothing, and the right side has the pop-out SIM card tray, volume rocker, and the dedicated camera button.
On the front you have the front facing camera and coloured earpiece grill above the screen and the regular three Windows Phone touch buttons below the screen, which light up when the screen is on.
On the back you have the camera – centred – with the LED flash next to it. Other than that we have the HTC logo and, further down, the Beats Audio logo under which is an audio grill.
My HTC 8x has a cracked screen.
It has a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait processor, 1 GB RAM, and 16 GB internal storage. It lacks a MicroSD card slot, which might not be to everyone’s liking. Being an iPhone user, I am used to being limited to the internal storage only – although my current iPhone is a 64 GB. I think 16 GB could be a bit tight for some users.
The screen has 4.3” a Super LCD 2 with 1280 x 720 resolution at 342 ppi. This is no budget screen. The colours are strong and vibrant. The high ppi means everything is crisp and beautiful looking.
Viewing angles are amazing. Where cheaper handset wash out and change colour when tilted, this thing can be viewed from anywhere.
As you can see my HTC 8x has a smashed screen, which I hope to get repaired at some point.
The main camera is an 8 megapixel (MP) with LED flash, and the front camera is 2.1 MP. Both cameras are capable of recording 1080p video.
While it is an 8 MP, by default pictures are only 6 MP – but this can be changed in the settings. The camera might sound impressive, but pictures are not the greatest. The colours seem to be a little off, and image stabilisation isn’t fantastic. It is very easy to take a blurry shot.
The front camera is as expected. It is a video call and selfie camera, but at 2.1 megapixel it is better than a lot of them around – taking very decent images.
HTC 8x Camera Shots: Outdoor shots.
HTC 8x Camera Shots: Outdoor shot & Low light night shot.
HTC 8x Camera Shots: Outdoor shots & Front camera ‘selfie’ shot.
HTC 8x Camera Shots: Night time shots with Flash on.
As you can see, the HTC 8x can take impressive good quality photos, but it can be quite hit and miss. They can be crisp and well presented, but not always. They can often come out unfocused and with odd colour saturations.
An area that is important to me is sound. I use my phone for listening to music, and coupled with the Beats Audio, this handset does not dissapoint.
I tried my usual test play list and was absolute blown away. Music out of the handset speaker is okay, much as you would expect from a phone – but it is when you plug in earphones that you notice it.
The sheer volume is the loudest I have ever experienced on a phone – and the bass thundered through my ears. I rattled out ‘Bass Cannon (xKore Drumstep Redux)‘ by Flux Pavilion. The second it started, I was impressed, and then I waited with anticipation for the drop, and boy it didn’t disappoint. It kicked in and made my ears ache.
Call volume and clarifty were great too. All round excellent audio on the HTC 8x.
It has an 1800 mAh non-removeable battery, which might not sound a lot, but it is bigger than a lot of phones of the time – my iPhone 5 only has a 1440 mAh battery – and the Windows Phone OS is very optimised, giving you excellent battery life.
One thing I did notice was it charges quite slowly. Not a deal breaker, but if you are in a hurry it could be an issue.
Windows Phone runs well even on budget handsets – so how does it run on top-end gear. In short, the answer is extremely well. The OS flies around on the HTC 8x without any lag and barely even thinking about it.
The 1 GB RAM really seems to help Windows Phone handsets. There are still new handsets with only 512 MB, so it shows how high-end the HTC 8x was for its time.
Phones are similar to the computer world. You cannot always judge performance purely on specs. It might have a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM, but it benches nearly twice as high as my son’s 2015 Lumia with similar specs. Too many people rely on processor speed for guidance, and it isn’t always accurate.
Similar to the computer world – especially in the early 90s – Intel vs AMD performed differently. Athlon vs Sempron and Pentium vs Celeron all perform differently even at the same clock speed.
Anyone using this phone will not be disappointed by performance. It is blisteringly fast.
Using the Antutu Benchmark tool, the HTC 8x comes in at 10,806. Compare that to my daughter’s Nokia 620, a 2013 handset that benches at 6,485, and my son’s Lumia 435, which is a 2015 handset that benches at 7,442.
Nothing lags on this phone. Built-in apps are silky smooth, and Facebook and Twitter were a joy to use. I installed a few other apps, and these breezed along too.
Even on low-end Windows Phone handsets gaming is a great experience. The HTC 8x also excels in this area. Its high performing hardware coupled with amazing screen quality makes gaming a joy on the HTC 8x.
Asphalt 8 Airborne seems to be a game a lot of reviewers use to compare handsets, and on the HTC 8x it ran without any issues.
I ran Asphalt 8 Airborne on both my iPhone 5 and the HTC 8x side-by-side. Both loaded at the same time, and there really was no speed difference between them. Graphically the iPhone 5 seems to have the edge, adding a little extra texture, and things such as dirt on the car seemed missing from the HTC 8x.
But speedwise, both were fantastic.
You can sign in to your iCloud account on your Windows Phone, meaning you can access contacts and emails easily.
Until recently a Windows Phone app for Mac OS X worked well. However, I discovered and wrote about how El Capitan Breaks Windows Phone App Compatibility. There is a not very well known third-party fix to this problem that I also wrote about in El Capitan Windows Phone App Fix.
Hopefully Microsoft will either released an update to fix this issue or release a new app altogether.
While Photos opens and sees the HTC 8x, it doesn’t seem to see any of the photos sitting on the device – nor does Image Capture. I assume this is yet another El Capitan issue.
Not a Microsoft Phone
I have developed a big interest in the Windows Phone platform over the past year, but I am not a fan of Microsoft. I just can’t bring myself to use a phone daily with Microsoft plastered all over it, so the fact it is an HTC handset is a good thing for me.
Windows Phone 10
The HTC 8x should receive the Windows 10 Mobile update – unlike its midrange sibling the HTC 8s. It’s quality processor and 1 GB RAM should aid in it running well. I shall update my 8x at some point.
Windows Phone gets a lot of flack in the smartphone world, and I don’t think it deserves such a hard time.
The HTC 8x is nearly three years old, and it still wipes the floor with a lot of handsets. It is a gorgeous handset to look at, feels beautiful in your hand, and the hardware makes the whole experience superb.
It really is an amazing handset. I haven’t been this impressed with a phone for a long time. While I enjoyed using the budget Windows Phones, trying out the Windows Phone experience on such a flagship handset puts this phone on a whole new level.
For this first time I could actually see myself switching from iOS to Windows Phone.
HTC 8x Screen Grab: Lock Screen & Home Screen.
HTC 8x Screen Grab: Music Screen & Notifications Screen.
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