HTC Windows Phone 8S Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction

HTC Windows Phone 8S is the company’s WP8 midranger, carrying the naming scheme over from the company’s One line of Android handsets. Executed in a two-tone body painted in a variety of colors, it is evidently aiming to attract the attention of the younger crowd, whose urge to stand out is pretty strong.

The phone is a compact and well-rounded offering, with a handy 4” display, dual-core processor, and a 5 MP camera on the back. It does skimp on a few features to reach its price tag, though, like Full HD video recording, and the amount of internal memory, so how does it stack up? Read on the full review to discover...

In the box

  • In-ear headphones
  • Wall charger
  • MicroUSB cable

Design

A compact, well-designed phone is what many people are missing in this day and age of gigantic displays, and that’s precisely what the HTC 8S is offering. It provides the now typical for HTC unibody chassis with tapered back and soft-touch cover, aiding the grip. The handset is thus comfortable to hold and very easy to operate with one hand without thumb-stretching exercises.



You can compare the HTC Windows Phone 8S with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The two-tone body, which paints the lower section in a different color, including the front part, is catchy, and the combination of hues will make you stand out in the sea of black or white phones out there - you have a choice of Domino, like in our unit, Fiesta Red, Atlantic Blue, and High-Rise Gray. The bottom panel cap is removable, hiding the microSD and SIM card slots underneath, so you can theoretically make the color combos even more versatile with another panel.


HTC has placed the power/lock key at the top, which is usually a nuisance on larger screen phones, but here it is pretty easy to reach, and provides good tactile feedback, just like the volume rocker on the side. The capacitive keys below the screen are responsive, too, though we noticed erratic behavior a few times, with them staying off when they should be lit, or going on and off for no apparent reason. The front is also provided with an LED notification light in the earpiece slot.



Display

A run-of-the-mill 4” 480x800 display is what HTC graced the 8S with, and the 233ppi pixel density, while nothing exemplary, is still decent for your everyday tasks.

The display sports good color presentation, and is sufficiently bright for comfortable outside viewing, with nice viewing angles, both horizontally and vertically.

The only gripe with it is that it it smudges very quickly, and needs to be wiped often, be it just for aesthetic purposes.





Interface and functionality

Windows Phone 8 does a few things extremely well, like social network contacts integration in the People hub, and lock screen notifications, and the HTC 8S takes full advantage. HTC has even provided live lock screen wallpapers for its weather app, for example, so you can have some nicely animated forecasts right upon unlocking the phone.


The company has also customized the handset a bit from the uniform WP8 look, providing the HTC hub with news, stocks and weather info, which can be pinned on the homescreen as live tiles. The proprietary Connection Setup and Photo Enhancer apps we have on the HTC 8X flagship are present here, too, but not the preloaded utility apps from the 8X, like Flashlight.



Processor and Memory

The dual-core 1 GHz Snadragon S4 Plus is a more humble iteration than the S4 we find in the WP8 flagships, but the Windows Phone UI is very frugal, so you don’t notice much difference. We also tried a game like Asphalt 5, which ran fine, despite the Adreno 305 GPU, so it’s a safe bet you won’t feel underpowered with the HTC 8S most of the time.

The RAM situation might make a difference, though, as the 8S comes with 512 MB, which is half of what the bigger WP8 brothers do. Multitasking will thus be more limited, with Windows Phone closing running apps more often, though we checked to see 7-8 snapshots running on average when you long-press the back key. Loading games and apps seemed a bit slower than on the 8X for example, though.

A small complaint is the paltry 4 GB amount of internal memory, which is not enough today by anyone’s standards, but since you get a microSD card slot under the removable bottom panel, plus 7 GB of SkyDrive storage, it’s no biggie.

Internet and connectivity

The IE10 browser on the HTC 8S is as good as always, snappily panning, scrolling and zooming the websites around. Redrawing seemed a bit choppy at times, but all in all, it’s a decent experience.


The HTC 8S can download data with up to 42.2 Mbps speeds if your HSPA+ network allows it. It features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and A-GPS radios, too.



Camera

The phone is equipped with a 5 MP camera on the back, and has an LED flash, but no front-facing cam. The camera interface doesn’t stray from the typical WP8 menus and options, allowing you to adjust contrast, sharpness, exposure, saturation and so on. It also throws in face detection and a few color effects, and that’s about it.


The pictures the HTC 8S takes exhibit blandish color representation and noise is very often too much, though we get enough detail for the resolution. Bright spots get overexposed at times, but there are no glaring white balance issues, and the p
hotos are sharp.



Video is recorded with HD 720p definition, and maintains fluid 30 fps. It looks a tad bland in terms of colors, just like the stills, but the footage is sharp and detailed enough, provided that you hold the smallish phone very steady. The recorded sound is clear enough, too, as long as it is not too noisy around.

HTC Windows Phone 8S Sample Video:

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HTC Windows Phone 8S Indoor Sample Video:

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Multimedia

The WP8 Music + Video hub houses your media collection, and the minimalistic interface makes it easy to browse and play your stuff. The handset’s loudspeaker sound is of fairly average depth and clarity, though it is comparatively strong.


The HTC 8S plays DivX/Xvid files out of the box, but MKV support is a no-go, and the stock player is with a pretty basic interface. Pop in your microSD card, and your movies and music will be immediately added to the media hub, which is handy.





Call quality

We get a decent call quality in the earpiece of the HTC Windows Phone 8S, with strong and relatively clear sound, without notable distortion. The microphone on the handset, however, relayed our voice to the other end somewhat muted and crackling at times, and since there is no second mic on the 8S, ambient noise is quite distinctly heard by the other side as well.

Battery

HTC hasn’t yet given official talk times from the 1,700 mAh battery unit inside the 8S, but we didn’t notice anything abnormally good or bad around the battery endurance, and it should suffice to carry you through a day or two, depending on the usage.

Conclusion

HTC has made a mucho sympatico handset with the 8S, shaping it in a two-tone ergonomic bod, with very easy one-handed operation. It has skimped a bit on the camera quality, and not even included one for video chat, but the rest of the readings are solid, and there is even a microSD slot for storage expansion, which you don’t see often with HTC these days.

Its direct competitor is the Nokia Lumia 820, which is capable, but more expensive and more unwieldy to handle. The indirect competition is the real threat here, though, as the iPhone 4 sells for just $50 more SIM-free, and has much more apps to choose from.

When we come to Android, the picture turns even bleaker for the HTC 8S, as there is an abundance of handsets just above its $350 price spot, which could take on it, including HTC’s own One S, but phones from Samsung and Sony, too, which are no less capable, like the Galaxy S III Mini, or the Xperia P with its bright display and 8 MP camera on the back.

Software version: 8.0.10211.204

HTC Windows Phone 8S Video Review:

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Pros

  • Catchy and ergonomic design
  • microSD card slot

Cons

  • No front-facing camera
  • Subpar outgoing calls

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

User Rating:

8.8
4 Reviews

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