Review: HTC 8X Windows 8 Phone

Rogers was kind enough to not only provide me with an HTC 8X Windows Phone to review, but to also be the first to do so. As if to underline that, the phone that I got was clearly brand new not been touched by human hands because it was still in the original packaging. That’s significant because Rogers is spending a lot of time and effort pushing Windows 8 phones because they cut a deal with Microsoft to offer an exclusive selection of smartphones that also run on Windows 8. That’s nice, but the real question is how does the HTC 8X measure up?

The phone itself has a 4.3-inch 720p Super LCD 2 display, It’s bright and even is visible in bright sunlight. It’s also is easy to type on in landscape mode. It sports a Qualcomm dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and NFC in a sleek and colorful package. If you hate the size of the Samsung Galaxy S3, you’ll like the size of this phone. It feels nice in your hand and is easy to carry because of it’s size. It also has Beats By Dre audio and LTE connectivity. The former produces some of the better audio that I’ve heard in a phone lately. The latter allows you to surf the net as lightning fast speeds.

There’s two cameras. The rear one is 8 megapixels and the front one is 2.1 megapixels. Here’s what pictures look like from the rear camera (click to enlarge):

WP_20121201_001WP_20121201_002

Besides the quality of the images, I should note that the camera is quick. If you need to fire off several picture in quick succession, this is the phone for you.

When it comes to video, it does 1080p with mono audio. Here’s an example, with a catch:

Here’s the catch: I usually post these videos straight from the phone that I am testing to YouTube at full resolution. However, the 8X didn’t come with a YouTube client or any other way to upload to YouTube. No problem I thought, I found one on the Microsoft App Store and installed it. But it didn’t support uploads. That forced me to send it to myself which required the phone to “compress” it into an MPEG 4 file that is less than 1080p. That’s a bit of a fail as pretty much anyone with a smartphone will want to upload their videos to YouTube seconds after they shoot the video.

While on the subject of software, this phone has a serious lack of software and what software is included is kind of lacking. In addition to the YouTube example, the maps application will plot a route, but it won’t do turn by turn navigation. Thus it’s up to someone else to tell the driver when to turn and what to look out for. That makes Apple Maps look good. Seriously, if Android phones and the iPhone 5 have turn by turn navigation built in, this phone should have it as well just to play in the smartphone game. There’s also no Twitter and Facebook support built in. Even my BlackBerry Torch which is an antique by today’s smartphone standards came with Facebook and Twitter support built in. That’s on a phone that was considered to be state of the art almost 2 years ago. Now there are apps on the Microsoft App Store that will fill in these gaps either for free or at a cost. But even there, there’s a lack of apps. For example, there’s only one turn by turn navigation app that I found. To be fair, it’s early days for Windows 8 and I’m sure that this will improve. In fact it better if Windows 8 phones wish to play in the smartphone game.

Another thing that I noticed is that if you do anything that pushes the processor hard, the phone gets hot. By that I mean that it’s approaching a temperature that would make it uncomfortable to hold. It never actually gets that hot, but it gets into the neighborhood. Want to try it for yourself? Start the maps application and let it track your position in a car. You’ll see what I mean in about 10 minutes or less.

This phone not only does LTE, but it also does WiFi in the form of 802.11 A/B/G/N. Sweet. Testing the LTE side of the fence was not possible as I didn’t have an way of testing the speed of this phone. but it felt plenty fast on LTE and it has a max speed of 75 Mbps. No complaints here. Battery life more than acceptable. As long as I don’t do anything crazy, I got a day out of a charge. That’s cool with me as well.

From the iPhone school of thought comes the fact that this phone comes with either 8 or 16 GB of memory and you can’t expand on it with a MicroSD card. It doesn’t bother me when it comes to the iPhone because you have the ability to buy one with 64GB. But there’s no such luck here. If I have one issue with this phone, it’s the fact that someone with a lot of videos, pictures and MP3s is going to be challenged for space.

Oh, how does it work as a phone? No issues. There sound quality was good and people who I called could clearly hear me.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s a nice feeling phone with speed, a great camera. It needs better built-in apps in the case of Maps, or having apps at all in the case of Facebook and Twitter. Your biggest challenge is the lack of space. Just make sure you offload your videos and photos to Skydrive frequently. Other than that, it’s not a bad effort from HTC. You’ll love the speed and the screen. Take a look at it if you’re in the market for a new smartphone.It’s not the perfect phone, but perhaps it might fit your needs.

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