Tag Archives: HTC

HTC Butterfly: The practical alternative to the HTC One and Galaxy S4


The 2013 is proving to be the year of Full HD screens, and where quad-core is become a minimal requirement for a flagship.  However HTC launched a small scale release of an interim flagship to the HTC One X, when they released the HTC Butterfly, also known as the HTC J and Droid DNA in other markets.

The Butterfly was the first Full HD phone from a leading manufacturer, and also featured an even more improved LCD compared to the HTC One X (which was already considered one the best) and named the Super LCD3.   In addition year 2011/2012 had been the year for Nvidia to rule, but as with the Nexus 4 setting the trend late 2012 saw Qualcomm take the lead ,and the Butterfly followed suit featuring an awesomely powerful QUALCOMM Snapdragon Pro S4 quad-core paired to a very powerful Adreno 320 graphics core.

Hence the Butterfly was equipped to the very best at the time of its launch on the hardware side, and matched by an sleep and light body.  But being planned as a limited edition, it was meant to be replaced by the HTC One, which was to feature a major “shift” in camera expectations, and some in HTC felt that playing it safe and have a backup plan would be a good idea.  Turns out the decision was a good one, lack of supplies and issues with the microphone patents have dented HTC One supplies, and the Butterfly has now been launched in many more markets to fill in.

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The Butterfly maintains a simple and clean design, but does not feature anything outstandingly new, as HTC kept all this for the HTC One.  In many ways the HTC Butterfly is a upgraded HTC One X, compared to all out new phone.

The phone features the same Polycarbonate body, but this time without the matte finish HTC has opted for a gloss finish, targeting the Asian market for the phone.  The body is now more sharper than rounded, and gave clues to the HTC One design that was to come.

The centerpiece was the large 5” Full HD screen, with minimal bezel. The sides have the speakers grills, but only one side actually has speakers, the other is merely for the design, shame as that would have been awesome.  The speaker grills are colored red for the red, which mutes the design, but in the white the silver grills look awesome.

The back is standard HTC with nothing but the camera and flash, and the Beats Audio logo. 

The phone is super light for a 5” specially if you happen to have used a Galaxy Note 2 🙂 (the Apple users feedback was of course, my word its so huge, wonder what they will say when they hold a Galaxy Note 2) and the balance is superb.  It feels so much smaller than the 5” and can be easily used single handedly.  Its what you call a very likeable phone, similar to the HTC One X.

HARDWARE

The Nexus 4 set the trend with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, the Butterfly features the same, and in many ways its identical to the highly regarded Sony Xperia Z and ZL.  The Butterfly features the Snapdragon S4 Pro, before it was mildly tweaked and rebranded the Snapdragon S600, and has a 1.5Ghz Quad-core processor, coupled to a super fast Adreno 320 graphics that is capable of providing 60fps+ even at Full HD resolution.

Unlike the HTC One X, the Butterfly also has now upgraded in the memory area, with 2GB of RAM, making it future proof and also capable of supporting the memory requirements for the newer games and applications.

INTERFACE

The Butterfly is current still running Sense 4+, but its going to be the first HTC from the “prior to the HTC One” to get the Sense 5 upgrade, scheduled to happen in end May 2013. Hopefully HTC will stick to their schedules. 

Update: The update to Sense 5 was rolled out a bit later than scheduled by HTC, but only for the Taiwan phones with CID HTC_621.  Months have gone and yet the rollout has not happened for the other region phones, while the same update was rolled out for HTC One X+ phones for more regions. This has frustrated a lot of users based on the feedback visible on the HTC Singapore, Malaysia and India Facebook sites.

I checked out a HTC One, and noticed the new Sense 5 has a really nice font and simple interface, though the BlinkFeed launcher seems to be a bit “marketing” to me, but i need to try it to really see it.  However the fancy Zoe photography feature is missing in the leaked ROM and all hope that it will make it to the final drop since the Butterfly and HTC One have near identical hardware, so there is no real reason to drop it saying there is no processing power to handle it, so lets wait and see.  For now if you have an HTC One X/X+, the interface on the Butterfly is on different except for a new “App & Shortcut” widget which seems to be a HTC Butterfly one inclusion.

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UPDATE: The Sense 5 update has almost all the features first seen with the HTC One, with the only exclusion being Zoe which seems to be an exclusive for phones with Ultra pixel type cameras (possibly this might be linked to the different imagechip used for these phones).

However once the Sense 5 update comes, I will update it, as that’s the true upgrade that has many cool features which we have come to expect from new phones and have seen Samsung and Sony include in their customizations in recent times.

DISPLAY

HTC remains faithful to the LCD brigade and i am for one are happy for that, since the LCD screens have proved to be more accurate on colors than the AMOLED units. In addition many of the AMOLED units even in the S4, S3 (and the HTC One S) are pentile units, which have lower number of pixels than in reality.  The new Super LCD 3 screens is superbly sharp, and the colors are very natural.  The Full HD resolution means the pixel density is one of the best, and the text is sharp and clear.

Unlike the Xperia Z, the HTC has touch buttons so the screen resolutions is a true 1920x 1080, and you really appreciate the quality of the screen when you keep it next to a lower resolution screen.  Viewing angles are pretty good with the Butterfly and the screen is very rugged as its protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 2.

CAMERA and VIDEO

The back camera is where HTC has played it safe, and it seems the Butterfly features the same sensor and lens as the HTC One X+.   The camera in the One X+ was one of the best cameras in 2012, but was beaten by the Galaxy S3 and IPhone 5 for outdoor shooting, though the F2.0 lens cut down the advantage by offering good indoor performance. 

While the camera performance is good, the pictures tend to be a tad noisy, a historic issue with the HTC range in recent times.  However under low light the camera performs quite well, possibly due to its large aperture lens. One of the advantages with HTC is that the Field of View (FOV) of their cameras are exceptionally wide, both in stills and videos, an advantage for group shots and landscapes compared to Samsung.

The HTC implementation also supports constant focusing on video, similar to the Sony Xperia, and under good light this works quite seamlessly but under lower light conditions, the focus tends to hunt and its best that this is disable if being used indoors.  The video quality though is definitely lacking in detail compare to the video footage from the Samsung S3 (see

The camera interface is superbly implemented, and provides a great set of features including very easy to select camera effects to be applied on the fly.  The camera also supports real time HDR, which is very useful when taking photos in testing light and bright light situations. The focus and burst performance are exceptional, as it was with the HTC One X.

The front camera features a new introduction, that would be seen on the HTC One, with a F2.0 lens for low light, and a wide angle 88 degree view for group and a 2.1MP, and is considered the best front camera in the market, even better than the one on the Galaxy S4.

PERFORMANCE

Well with the hardware spec it should fly and it does fly, though if you already use a HTC One X/X+ or Samsung Galaxy S3, you will notice that the interface is smoother, and browsing is faster but you are not going to say wow, coz the snapdragon S4 Pro does not really make this that faster on normal usage, but it does so in gaming and also sustain the performance when there is high load from background processes.

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The popular Antutu benchmark shows that the Butterfly outpaces all the older devices, including the near identical configuration Google Nexus 4, and this is commendable considering Antutu includes a 2D and 3D test run at native resolution, and here with almost twice the pixels to push the scores are still better for the Snapdragon S4.  However the Xperia Z is faster than the Butterfly, and evaluation of the scores indicated that the Xperia Z had better scores on 2D and 3D, so Sony has tweaked things better than HTC?  I feel the HTC Butterfly being the first Snapdragon S4 Pro, and HTC wanting to make the HTC One shine may have not tweaked things much, and the next release of the 4.2 Jelly Bean should match the Xperia Z scores.

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One test for browsing performance is the Vellamo test suite.  Here we see that the Butterfly does manage to beat the older generation quad-core units, but is again second to the Xperia Z.  Clearly HTC has work to do.  This is also one test where the Nexus 4 a Snapdragon S4 processor device with lower resolution seems to struggle, a question that has remained a puzzle. Some say that many “leading manufacturers” have tweaked the phone software to detect the benchmark being run and made things “artificially fast”, and with the Nexus 4 having no such tweaks, could this be the reason 🙂  Another good news is the suspect usually have been Samsung and many Chinese firms such as Huawei, etc.

DESIGN PROBLEMS

Every phone has their different quirks, and some maybe user opinionated since each of us have different usage styles, however here are mine with regard to the butterfly.

  • The POWER button placement at the top for phone of this size is not very ergonomic and is rather hard to use, a side placement or side mid (as in the case of the Xperia Z) is definitely a must
  • The covers for the charger and connectivity port (bottom) and the micro-SIM and SD-card (at the top) are very hard to remove, and if you are not careful you can easily crack the cover.

CONCLUSION

The HTC Butterfly may have been an interim flagship and shadowed by the “Ultra Pixel” camera bearing HTC one, but it offers an unique design, excellent handling for a 5” phone, exceptionally light but practically rugged including the waterproof feature.  The hardware is top of the line, and specially the 2GB RAM makes it very future proof.

For those who may not like the IPhone-ish design of the HTC One, and its “premium” price, the HTC Butterfly offers nearly the same for much lower price, and comes the the added  goodies of a waterproof body, larger screen and microSD expansion and flexibility of storage which for many could be a lot of practical advantages.

The Sense 5 release for the Butterfly is due soon (as i write this) but HTC could have done better by offering the update since its been more than a few months since the HTC One release, and the Butterfly has been used to fill the void in the supplies for the HTC One.  Sadly this is an area that HTC continues to be late, which is releasing new firmware updates, specially for phones which are still very much high end (e.g. the HTC One X and One X+ are due to get the Jelly Bean 4.2 update with Sense in Sep 2013!). 

HTC clearly is showing they are wanting to get back loss business from Samsung, but Samsung is not the same company it was 2 years ago when HTC was able to compete in equal terms, and hence has to be a Mohamed Ali, and move like a bee, and be fast as lightening.  This means quicker updates on software than Samsung, while continuing to stay focused on providing only useful new custom features (Samsung puts out a lot of crappy features, good for marketing but mainly useless for most users) and very importantly improve their camera photo quality, an area they have beaten by all the big boys right now.

Ultra pixel is going to take time, so HTC needs to keep improving the camera implementation and performance tweaks of phones such as the Butterfly, HTC One X/X+/S, and the mid range to make it big again.

HTC One S, the sidekick who outguns the flagship


The HTC One series, has brought HTC back into the market after a series of bad runs for HTC with the past models mainly with the fact that the designs were not new, and that the rival Samsung phones were featuring far more powerful hardware.

The One series was launched in 3 forms the X, S and the V.  All featured very cool designs, with high quality build that made it a more classy and better proposition than the highly popular Samsung Galaxy series phones.

The One S was a bit of a wild card, as it featured the next generation Krait processors, albeit a dual-core unit paired to a Adreno 225 graphics.  With the One S also having a slightly less pixels than the flagship One X, the benchmarks showed an unusual situation that the One S practically demolishing the One X in most benchmarks, and it did even better that it left the so called powerhouse the Samsung Galaxy S3 also behind!

I am not sure if pressure from Nvidia caused HTC to go and tweak the One X heavily and the newer One X firmware restored the flagship as a “superior” device.  The firmware updates to the One S has been slower, and seemingly not as optimized possibly to keep the the newer HTC One X+ from looking silly!

HARDWARE

The HTC One S featured the difficult the Krait range of processors, also known as the S4 Snapdragon.  These were hard to come buy for all Android phone manufacturers since Apple had locked most of the suppliers to supply them for the Apple IPhone 5.

The Krait range offered a huge bump in performance, coupled with the newer Adreno 225 GPU the One S blew the rest of the Android phones running older dual-core units, and even flew past the Tegra 3 competition, and the power house quad-core Exynos developed by Samsung as well.

The One S also featured 1GB RAM giving it sufficient juice to run ICS as well as Jelly Bean without any lags.

The result of this was that even ICS responses were super fast, even more than the HTC One X.  The browsing performance was superb, and so was the gaming capability.

Design

The HTC One S featured similar design and construction material, however the black and the silver versions were made using different materials (one a ceramic finish, the other anodized aluminum) and hence were quite different to hold and feel!  The One S design had a removable flap at the top, which housed the SIM, and would have been also ideal if it had housed an microSD expansion, which HTC sadly had opted against.  This was more favorable than the IPhone like SIM tray design the HTC One X had, but it did mean that a bit of squeaks was possible, compared to the HTC One X.

The One S was slimmer and lighter, and the 4.3” meant it was ideal for one handed operation, and the Granite Black version felt awesome to hold.  The phone begs to be used without a case, as it feels great to hold, and the amazing thinness makes it far nicer to hold than even an IPhone 5 🙂

The black version comes with the camera lens having a red background which looks cool and classy and adds to the total design of the phone.

Display

The HTC One S also surprisingly opts out from using the the Super IPS LCD2 screen, and gone Samsung style with an Super AMOLED Pentile display.  Not surprisingly switching to an AMOLED means excellent contrast and brightness and wow type of color, but you loose out on that HTC sharpness that one sees on the One X screen.  Use of a pentile AMOLED as Samsung did with their S3 meant the sharpness of the display is not the best.

The One S comes in a 4.3” screen, and for some reason (maybe not to match the flagship again!) it comes with a 540×960 display as opposed to the One X 720×1280.  HTC should have opted for the higher resolution as it would have made the One S absolutely great, since the 4.3” screen size to me is near perfect for a smart phone.

The screen also comes with Corning’s Gorilla glass for added protection.

On the whole the screen is super bright, and gives the phone with its excellent design a super boost, shame that it could not have come with a 720 display, and avoided using a Pentile AMOLED screen.

Camera and Video

The HTC One S does not compromise on this department, and features a F2.0 lens just like the One X, and the dedicated image processing chip.  This means you get the burst photo feature of the One X, and identical photo quality and video capability.

The camera has the cool interface i saw and liked with the One X, and offers good picture quality even under low light conditions for a smart phone.

However HTC like Sony, has the problem that the pictures don’t have the sharpness as you see on a Samsung phone, but the colors are superb.

One feature i absolutely liked on the HTC is the HDR photo option. when faced with daylight photos with testing exposures (very bright background, and dark foreground), using the HDR feature gives me instant opportunity to get a decent photo rather having to take two photos with different exposure values and having to merge it on a desktop.

The One S also features a front camera, which is VGA as opposed to the 1.3MP of the One X, but both are not that great, and since one is unlikely to be taking photos using the front camera the extra mega pixels will not make difference.

Video playback and sound

The stock video player accessible as part of the Gallery feature, does a decent job with all multimedia file formats i tested it against.  Based on other reviews the codec support is good, and HTC seems to have learnt from Samsung to include more codecs unlike Sony who skimps on this area!

The sound quality on the headset and loudspeaker is good and music in particular does well with the Beats Audio enhancement.

HTC had shipped it with their own headset, and i loved the design and simplicity.  The headset is not the in-ear type, and i love this as the heavier head makes sure it does not get dislodged easily and the sound quality is very good for a bundled headset.

Storage

The One S comes with 16GB on-board, which maybe half of what the One X comes with but should be sufficient for most. Like the One X the One S does not feature a microSD slot, which is a shame when the competing phones from Samsung all have this feature to expand storage and also switch content easily by switching the microSD card.

The top cover removal means HTC could have easily designed one as opposed to the One X unibody design, so shame on HTC on missing this.

Battery

The One s has been brought down by supposed poor battery but it is based on the type of usage.  If you are a heavy web browser on the phone, the AMOLED and small battery will suck the juice since AMOLED screens hate white backgrounds that the web pages have.

However take this out, the phone does well and you can easily do 1-1.5 days on a full charge which is pretty standard for most smart phones, and considering the power the One S packs this is definitely great.

Issues noted

The phone i had ran the infamous 4.0.3 firmware, which had a few annoying bugs. Sadly my phone was an unlocked Orange phone hence the Jelly Bean rollout did not happen during the time i had the phone with me.  Surprisingly the HTC One X i had which had this same version did not show these problems.

  1. Pressing the home soft button caused the screen to go haywire as it kept shifting between the 5 desktop view and the desktop, for a random period before the phone got back to normal.  This problem is now called the HTC helicopter effect, and the fact that HTC did not respond to users quickly made a lot loose faith on this phone.  When such happens and you were on a call at that time you have no option but to ignore the screen behavior until it sorts itself out.  Supposedly the 4.0.4 update never fixed this ,and the Jelly Bean update has sorted this out is what i have noticed on several forums. The problem according to many online is attributed to when the network signal is low, the phone tries to boost the signal and this causes this behavior.
  2. Sometimes the phone would loose network connectivity for a moment and regain it, again this is a reported problem and been fixed in 4.0.4 onwards
  3. Using the stock browser for over 10 mins locks up the phone (freezes), and you have to do a hard restart (hold the power button for over 5 secs).  Using an alternative browser such as Chrome does not show this problem
  4. Data stops even though you have data enabled, and you have to switch data off and on to get it working.

Performance

The tests using the older 4.0.3 software shows how much more potent it was against its big brother, and also how competitive it was against the Samsung S2 and S3.

Nenamark shows how good the Adreno 225 graphics are, though it must be told that One S and S2 have less pixels for the graphic card to push compared to the S3 and One X.

However Antutu and Quadrant show that the dual-core Krait is more than capable of keeping up with the Tegra 3 and Samsung Exynos quad-core, so the quad-core Krait units that are due on phones (starting with the LG Optimus G) are sure to set things into another scale.

  Android Vn Antutu 2.8.x Antutu 3.0.x Quadrant Nenamark Vellamo 2.x
HTC One S 4.0.3   10558 4707 61.0 1535
HTC One X 4.0.3 10518   4126 54.1 1519
Samsung Galaxy SII 4.0.4 5375 10279 3093 48.0 1133
Samsung Galaxy S III 4.1.2   11596 5195 58.9 1684

Conclusion

The phone definitely caused quite a wave not to the competitors but for HTC as well, when the industry benchmarks showed it outdoing its bigger brother the One X in most of the benchmarks.  The lighter and cooler design also made this phone a hot favorite, but limited availability, and poor marketing and slow times to provide fixes to problems resulted in the One S popularity not achieving what it should have.

To me this was one of the best phones in design and handhold, with the HTC One X the next best on my usage in recent times. However HTC opting to use a Pentile type AMOLED and not rolling out the updates in the same frequency and speed HTC One X is letting down its client, as it showed the Krait based One X sold in markets requiring LTE were far more capable than the Tegra 3 versions, and the One S could have been the seller for HTC if it had given the same amount of marketing and focus as it did to the Tegra powered One X.

HTC One X review, Tegra 3 quad core power


I usually held back one model from the current since the review units are personal purchases, and hot of the block means high prices in our market.  However the HTC One X had a rather dramatic  drop in price, mainly due to the wifi issue, and more importantly the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 which seems to have trounced it most departments, except price and possibly on camera performance.

This gave me the opportunity to dispose my Galaxy Note and obtain the HTC One X, and get the first hand flavor of the quad-core Tegra 3 platform.

Initial Impression

For a phone with a 4.7″ screen its very light and extremely nice on the hand.  However just like all phones in the market, manufacturers tout low weights and they achieve this by creating unbelievable thin and skimpy back covers (hint hint samsung) or advanced constructions that sadly are prone to scratches.  The One X belongs to the second category with a unique construction that oozes class and quality, but sadly use it without a cover it shows scratch marks that will make you cry on your investment.

However going back to the subject, the phone is wonderfully  balanced and stunning design, and truly asks you should you use an external case that will hide all the great design.

The responses are blazing fast, but even with all this horsepower and running ICS there is a bit of lag, however I hear that Jelly Bean improves on the smoothness, and the One X has been confirmed to receive this update (and it should, it is just months into the market!).  And if anyone is hoping to get the HTC One V, avoid seems HTC is not going ahead with the update for the V (and not really a big surprise since that’s one of the few in the 2011 line up to feature a single core)

The camera’s super fast focus, and the lovely usability feature of the idle screen where you drag one of the 4 common apps that launches the application as the phone unlocks is super and very different.

I got the black  version but I am told the white version is simply stunning and the pictures on the net clearly indicate that.  I hope to get hold of the similar design HTC One S in white color as a phone sometime soon to see this 🙂

Display and Touch experience

The screen is a very advanced dual IPS LCD, and in you really feel the quality of the display in the colors and quality.  However if you have used a Samsung Super AMOLED screen you will feel this screen is maybe a notch below in quality, but the screen colors are very natural compared to the very high contrast in the AMOLED screens.  The screen has a coating of Gorilla glass, but unlike the S3 it features the V1 of it, the S3 being one of the first phones to feature the V2 version of the Gorilla glass, however what the real world advantages remain to be seen.

The touch sensitivity of the display is very good, and backed by the quad core its very very smooth and fast running ICS.

The display is very bright, but you need to set it to full brightness to work outside, though indoors it can be run at even minimal brightness for normal use.

Interface

This was my first HTC and I have seen many units owned by my friends, and it has one of the beautiful skins, and the standout being the very clean time widget.  The HTC Sense 4.0 on the One X did not dissapoint and the interface truly was something special, that all my former phones from Samsung, Sony could not come even close.  The level of customization on themes and the way its represented on the screen is very user friendly and cool.

The widgets are top quality and there is an immense variety of it, that one may not need to try out third party widgets for many.  However there are too many clock widgets to my liking!

The nice touch on the standby screen to drag one of the four regular used apps to start is very useful, and I wish the other phones had this feature.

Even the settings menu has been customized and the lovely touch of the toggle for switching a feature on and off is nice however HTC could make this button a bit wider for chubby fingers as it can be a bit hard to use.

Another interesting customization is how you kill an app from the current running apps.  While this breaks the standard way ICS work, the implementation is cool.  In ICS you have to long press the home button and then swipe to the right to kill the app.  Easy and most phone manufacturers have left this as standard.  However HTC has gone one step up and here you get a beautiful portrait preview of the screen, and you swipe upwards.  The usability though favors the standard ICS version, but for pure coolness the HTC implementation stands out.

A notable omission is the lack of a quick access button in the alert drop down, as found in the Samsung S3 phone and even the older range.  While this can be easily overcome using third party widgets such as Power Controls  or Notification Toggles, with such high interface customizations I expected something special from HTC in this area as well.

Size and Handling

It can be an 4.7″ but it feels so much smaller and lovely to use and feel. One of the best balanced and nicest phones I have come across on size and handling.  It simply feels so light, and the touch of that ultra cool design is very very addictive.

Processing and Storage

The 1.5Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 is fast on most benchmarks, and I believe  there is a lot more optimizations to come for that chip since its early days.  It did blow the benchmarks until the quad-core Exynos processor came along, and the S4 Krait dual core units, after which the Tegra 3 though fast is not the quickest in some of the benchmarks.

One area touted is the 5th core, supposedly to handle the idle processing and hence ensure decent battery life from the monster processing unit.  However how much the 5th core comes into play is a bit questionable since the battery life of the One X is not exceptional, and according to reviews inferior to the more powerful Samsung S3 unit which does not have any power saving option. However the S3 (32nm compared to the Tegra 3 40nm) does have an advantage its hardware die is made using a new method that inherently make it more frugal on power aspects.

From memory aspects the One X comes with 1GB which is only featured on the higher end phones currently and definitely required for ICS and beyond which are proving to be memory hungry.  But with ICS known to be memory hungry (as ICS with just a few apps running has a tendency to use around 600-700MB of RAM, and with Chrome now available its going to be using even more), most of the mid level phones are also now featuring 1GB.  Possibly understanding this Samsung increased the ante on this with the S3, as it rolled out with 2GB giving it the edge.

The phone comes with 32GB in-built storage, but there is no expansion ability as there is no microSD card. Though 32GB is a sizeable amount, the One X is marketed as a multimedia phone with BeatsAudio enhancement, etc hence large amounts of music and video files are definitely going to fill up that memory.  Add to that the full HD recordings will also take space hence the lack of expansion is definitely a major let down considering the rival S3 having a microsd slot. In Asian markets people have an obsession to share using the sd card, since they rarely carry cables with them to allow them to use the mass storage mode, and hence lack of a memory card slot really impacts their normal sharing patterns.  Sadly not only HTC but even Sony has fallen into this trap, and Samsung seems to be understanding the market better.

Voice quality

The voice quality was very good, with clear and natural sound that really made you like the phone.   The speakerphone is loud and clear, definitely among the best I have used in recent phones. However for a BeatsAudio branded unit the loud speaker volume is definitely a bit low though its refined, and that’s something the Sony Xperia range does better.

Camera and Multimedia

One of the areas strongly marketed is its camera,  boasting a F 2.0 lens, the fastest in the market besting the Apple  4S and Xperia S (F 2.4) and has its own Image processing chip called HTC ImageChip. The lens is also quite wide at 28mm and also packs a very quick auto focusing unit.  Sadly camera phone focus drops from there, with no hardware shutter button for the camera, or a focus assist light as found in the N8.

The autofocus is extremely fast, but under good light, and slows down understandably under lower light conditions.  So check one for HTC one that.

The camera interface is superb, one of the best I have seen and really makes it easy for an user to add special effects, etc.  The downside is that it can also be a bit limiting on finer control points for advanced users, as there are no options to control things too much.

The picture quality is where things started to go down hill, the camera has a ugly habit of loosing the depth in the photos towards the edges, and seems to be a processing issues than hardware as photos taken using the CameraZoom app did not have this problem.  The end result of the photos is that it has the effect that one might see with the Nokia fixed focus camera units.

Another low was the amount of noise in the images, this is specially noticed indoors of if you take  a photo of a color document.  The resulting images don’t do justice for the special lens, and one wonders if the actual camera sensor is a below par compare to rivals from Samsung and Sony.

The protruding out lens may help work low light, but sadly the design makes the glass very scratch prone and this will definitely take the toll on long term use, and a scratched glass is something you really hate.

The headset that came with it was not a Beats unit but it was also something much better than normal headsets.  I compared it against headsets provided with the Iphone 4, Sony Xperia Ray, and my standard Koss and I found this to be far superior.

The front camera sadly is an atrocious quality for a flagship its miserably dark indoors and slow that it seems to be a token inclusion.  The front camera in my Xperia Ray and Xperia P though of the same resolution are far superior, but the top spot here goes for Samsung. The one one the Note is pretty good, and front what i have read the on the S3 is fair replacement for a rear camera of many cameras.

Browsing

The native HTC browser is fast when its working properly but the interface is very clunky for some basic uses.  For example if you want to switch tabs you have to go to the Menu, select tabs and then you are shown a preview to select the tab ,which is extremely cumbersome.  The browser also has the habit to sometime get stuck in processing and you have to reload pages to complete the page load.

I opted to use Opera and Chrome which were far superior to the native browser on the phone.

Battery

Based on forums the battery life was an area the One X had fallen short, and the unit I had was already updated with a fix in firmware to improve this.  I am a person who connects to the net on need and don’t have it permanently connected, and for my usage I actually could managed around 1.5-2 days. Yet when you switch 3G one and start browsing the battery does deplete quite fast, much faster than the Galaxy Note I  had, and getting 1 day would be a challenge in such usage patterns.

While the argument of the replaceable battery goes on, I feel that’s not a big deal since you have to power on and off the phone to get the new battery in.  I am sure a 20-30$ investment in an external charger (I use a tine 1300mAzh unit from Duracell) would be the solution than having to replace batteries.

Connectivity options

First the phone joins the Iphone band with a micro SIM.  Micro SIMs are not yet popular in most markets, and with us switching between phones this is a royal nuisance until this becomes  a standard.  Looking at the design I feel this was a market move than a requirement as it could have fielded a normal SIM.

However the biggest omission I feel that lets this phone down is the lack of microSD card.  If HTC could have a protruding lens on their camera, why not just tweak the design there to allow the expansion as in a world of full HD, 32GB is now just bog low.

Network Connectivity

The unit I had was said to be impacted by the wifi issue, and I was able to come across this.  I had my wifi unit placed two rooms away (brick walls) and the distance was around 30 feet and I lost signal, something I had not come across in any of my devices.

Further another problem I noticed was that when I had the phone in my pocket it also lost signal,  again something that I had not faced before.

These were signs that something was wrong with the network connectivity both 2G/3G and WIFI.

Benchmarks

I have compared the One X to the fastest phone I had prior to that which is the Galaxy Note.  Both feature similar resolutions, though the Note has a larger display.  However it gives a good idea to compare one of the 2011 best dual-core units against the Tegra 3 quad-core.

Antutu is a benchmark that has been tweaked for multi-cores and you can clearly see that impact of the additional cores in that.  With applications getting tweaked for multi-core the impact of the multi-cores will definitely make their presence going forward so this is a clear sign how much more the quad-core can do.

However Nenamark results shows that the extremely powerful Mali GPU on the Note can hold its own against the Nvidia Geforce GPU, and benchmarks of the newer Mali unit on the S3 outpaces the Tegra 3 by a fair degree.  However one area the Tegra is strong is on game compatibility since most developers favor the Nvidia platform on Android.

HTC One X (ICS 4.0.3) Samsung Galaxy Note (ICS 4.0.4)
Linpack single 51.9 48.9
Linpack multi 147.8 80.9
Antutu 2.8.3 10518 6475
Quadrant Standard 4126 3547
Nenamark 2.3 54.1 42.4
Vellamo 1.0.6 1535

Conclusion

The phone design was truly something special, and the build also excellent.  The audio quality is very good, and the processing definitely very powerful and outclassing the dual core units (bar the Krait units that power the HTC One S for instance).

The user interface is truly superb and something that makes the phone even more special, and that’s one area the HTC definitely remains above the rest.

The low light performance of the camera matches the F 2.0 lens but sadly the image quality is a let down, and the video is also not that great.

The lack of an micro SD may not be a big issue for some, but I feel 32GB is not quite enough for a flagship phone, and featuring a microSD expansion would have been optimal.

However the issues with WIFI and network connectivity and the image quality issues was a big let down for me.  I am keen to try the HTC One S which is similar to see if this resolves this problem that that current flagship seems to suffer.

Photo Gallery

Some pictures taken during good lighting conditions.  When going through the image gallery i found that many were not sharp, and have chosen examples that were sharp.

Some taken indoors or under poor lighting conditions.  Here the lens definitely making its presence, but the photos taken with flash sadly were lacking in sharpness and focus.  Again i have taken good representatives, but the chances of getting such were less than 20%, definitely not in the class of a N8.