The original HTC One X from last year was one of the first smartphones to get busy with a quad-core processor. Since then we’ve had a clutch of quad-core powerhouses including the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Google Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 2 — so has the enhanced X+ done enough to compete with the expanding competition.
At first glance, the X+ looks much the same as the original X, with its sealed casing made of sturdy and tactile rubberised plastic. You can’t open it, but you can get to the micro SIM via a slot on the top, which sits next to the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the sides are a volume rocker and microUSB power/sync slot. Add a line of charging pins for certain docks on the back and that’s about it for extraneous detail — a nicely minimalist, no-fuss package. It’s still fairly slim, at 9mm, if a trifle wide for smaller hands at 70mm. It’s a smidgeon heavier though at 135g, probably due to its increased battery size.
The original One X had a quad-core 1.5GHz processor at its heart, but the One X+ has upped that to a quad-core 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 3. The first version was no slouch, but it’s heartening to see that HTC hasn’t rested on its laurels. Browsing is as swift as thought, hi-res gaming is a joy (though it can occasionally run a little hot during an extended session) and once you get used to apps opening more or less instantaneously it’s very hard to go back to the dawdling performance of lesser processors. Our AnTuTu performance benchmarking test delivered a stonking result of 16,157 — which has only been beaten so far by the Nexus 4’s 17,903 — and is way ahead of quad-core devices like the Nexus 7 (13,210) and the Samsung Galaxy S3 (9,317), and even ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (13,619). In short, it’s fast.
Apps and software
It also has the latest 4+ version of Sense, HTC’s justly praised user interface. Many of the differences are purely aesthetic, such as the animated cards that pop when you press the multi-tasking button, rather than Google’s usual thumbnails. They do look good though. There’s also a selection of HTC-only apps and widgets, including a wide range of clocks, HTC Watch which offers movie rentals and Friend Stream, HTC’s social networking aggregator.
HTC Watch and a preloaded EA Games portal do their bit to offer an alternative to Google Play, which nowadays offers a lot more than just apps, and there’s also HTC’s deal with Dropbox, which automatically bags you 25GB of free online storage for two years.
HTC cameras have gradually been improving and they’ve come a long way since their frustratingly underperforming early days. The 8-megapixel model here includes autofocus, LED flash and a BSI sensor to improve picture quality in low light conditions. It also has a larger than average f2.0 aperture and a 28mm lens, which protrudes slightly from the back. This is a slight worry since it doesn’t seem to have any protection around it, which could leave it prone to scratching every time it gets slapped on a table top.
Picture quality is generally very good, with sharp edges, believable colour balance and strong contrast. Like its predecessor it can shoot video in 1080p full HD but now it does it at 30fps rather than 24. The front-facing phone has had a tickle with the upgrade feather and been boosted from 1.3 megapixels to 1.6 — both offer 720p video recording though.
Overall, this is probably the best HTC phone so far. The powerful processor shows no sign of weakness no matter how many apps its running, the large screen is well nigh excellent and it’s sporting HTC’s best camera. But the competition is gathering, and with Google’s Nexus 4 offering a clutch of similar features for roughly half the price, it starts to seem quite the world-beater it otherwise might have.