HTC Windows Phone 8X Review

Introduction and Design

Out of the woodworks, Microsoft is about to embark in yet another chapter in its mobile platform story. Rightfully so, they have a lot of support from longtime smartphone manufacturers who believe that there is a budding growth worth investing with Windows Phones. In fact, we all know way too well how there has always been a symbiotic relationship between the Redmond based company and Taiwanese handset maker HTC.

Would you believe that it has been over six months since our eyes last feasted upon a Windows Phone device from HTC? For those of you who might’ve forgotten, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering Window Phone device releases have been non-existent of late, it was none other than the HTC Titan II. Now that Windows Phone 8 is making a big push, the Taiwan based company is banking to see its HTC 8X being the premier smartphone for the platform out of the gate. Indeed, it’s treading a different path with its out-of-character design, but will it be enough to compete in the ring with some of today’s heavy hitters in the business?

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Stereo Headphones


It’s hard not to point it out, but some would argue that HTC took a bit out of Nokia’s playbook with the design of the 8X – especially when that the handset is available in a wide array of bright and flamboyant colors. However, upon closer examination, it’s a unique design that’s in stark comparison to the cold industrial designs we’ve seen attached to many of the maker’s previous efforts. Whereas Nokia’s Lumia handsets have flat top and bottom trims, the HTC 8X employs tapered angles around its sides that converge seamlessly together in the rear – giving it the illusion of having an even skinnier frame (0.4” thick). Wrapping our hand around it, the 8X feels comfortable enough as our hand perfectly hugs the contour of the smartphone’s rear.

In addition to that, the design is further complemented by its solid unibody construction, light feel (4.59 oz), and clean appearance due to its soft touch finish. Honestly, it’s appreciable in so many levels because we haven’t necessarily seen this kind of design from HTC, but more importantly, it goes to show that the company is willing to jump outside the box and experiment with other uncanny designs. Indubitably, the palatable color options surely sprinkles a dose of character and style to the handset, which is wonderful in being attention grabbers from the onset.

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

As usual, it’s sporting the usual trio of capacitive Windows buttons we’ve been familiar with beneath its screen, which are spaced far away from one another to reduce accidental presses. Yet again, the handset shows a nice balance with its design thanks to the color-splashed earpiece. Nearby, we find its ultra-wide 88-degree angle 2-megapixel front-facing camera that’s tucked away in the upper left corner.

Although we love the uniform and flush look of the handset, we’re not particularly fond of its physical power button and volume control – mainly because they’re notoriously difficult to feel out with our fingers due to their flush appearance. However, we do appreciate the two-level shutter key that provides us instant access to the camera UI by long-pressing it. Rounding things out, there’s a 3.5mm headset jack, noise-cancelling microphone, standard mic, and microUSB port on the handset – the latter of which only offers data and charging connectivity.

Around the rear, its 8-megapixel auto-focus camera stands out amongst other things due to the shiny metallic trim around its lens. Sure, it’s not a size that’s pushing the boundaries, but nevertheless, it features HTC’s exclusive ImageSense technology, ultra-wide f/2.0 aperture lens, LED flash, and the ability to shoot videos in 1080p. Towards the bottom portion of the rear, microdots line in unison to consist its speaker grill, but above that, the familiar Beats Audio logo reminds us that it’s going to offer us an exceptional audio experience.


It’s not a massive size that we find on here, but rather, it’s a modest 4.3-inch Super LCD-2 display that’s sporting a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. Comforting to say the least, it’s about darn time that Windows Phones moved up in resolution – especially all previous Windows Phones employed WVGA.

Visually, it‘s a beautiful thing to behold with its exquisitely sharp details (342 ppi pixel density), punchy colors, wide viewing angles, and good visibility outdoors – all of the characteristics of a wonderful screen. And just like on the HTC One X, the display curves slightly around the edge to provide a seamless transition between it and the handset’s trim. Knowing that we’ve seen this kind of display elsewhere, we’re not totally bonkers over it, but for a Windows Phone, there’s no arguing that it’s a delightful sight for sore eyes.

HTC Windows Phone 8X 360-degrees View:


Hello Windows Phone 8! You’ve been teasing us for quite some time now, and with that in mind, there’s naturally a sense of anticipation in our blood waiting to finally experience it fully for the first time. After soaking in the new layout of Start Screen, with its fancy-schmancy resizable and colorful Live Tiles, we’re a bit disappointed with the final outcome. Why’s that? Well, it’s because there’s not much of a leap in terms of refinements and usability from the perspective of being a power user. Without question, it’s visually appealing with its distinct UI elements, the interface formerly known as “Metro,” but beyond that, there have been no worthwhile improvements found with the platform to sideswipe Android’s supreme personalization and function.

To its credit, the lock screen of Windows Phone 8 now provides us up to 5 quick statuses that displays a number associated to the notification – like how many unread emails or messages we have. However, we can only choose one detailed status for the lock screen, with no way of managing through other items unless we change it in the settings menu. Compared to Android’s notification system, this is both trivial and elementary at the same time.

As we’ve briefly mentioned already, the Start Screen has been revamped to now take advantage of the screen’s entire real estate – whereas as before, it was only a small strip that accommodated two live tiles horizontally. On one hand, we like the dynamic look of the live tiles and the ability to resize them as well, giving us a small amount of personalization, but they’re still limited in displaying specific app notifications.

Overall, the interface is distinctively Windows Phone, but it doesn’t offer enough substance to its core functionality to make it compete on the same level to what we see with the latest version of Android. Yes, it’s a pretty looking UI that dazzles us with its uniform layout and dynamic Start Screen, but beyond that, it’s still playing catch up to the competition.


If you’re a veteran Windows Phone user, you’ll surely fit right at home with the HTC 8X’s Windows Phone 8 experience – that’s because there only a few minor additions found with its core organizer apps. Checking out the People Hub, the new “together” section in there gives us the “Rooms” and “Groups” options. With the former, we can select certain individuals whom we can privately share calendars, photos, notes, and group chats with. Conversely, the Groups option provides us the ability to send messages to everyone in the group and aggregates relevant content related to them – like social networking posts and photos. Beyond that, it’s the same experience as before.

Sadly, there’s nothing out of the norm seen with the email experience on the HTC 8X, but then again, it’s pretty functional in getting the job done – though, we would’ve liked to see some kind of “select all” function as opposed to manually selecting everything.

Meanwhile, the on-screen keyboard of the HTC 8X is stock Windows Phone 8, which is unchanged from what we’ve seen in the past. It’s not a bad thing to find per se, especially when it has a spacious layout, very responsive, and employs one of the best auto-correct features out there.

Processor and Memory:

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Windows Phone, it’s has to be that it doesn’t require beefy hardware specs for it to run optimally. Yet another reason to like Windows Phone 8, in addition to it offering support for 720p displays, the HTC 8X performs wonderfully with its dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. On paper, it might not be something worth bragging about, especially when other high-end smartphones nowadays pack quad-core chipsets, but that’s hardly necessarily here as its real-world performance is swift and fluid enough in all of its operations to satisfy our liking.

Out of the box, it’s carrying along 14.56 GB of free internal storage, which should be a sufficient capacity for most people. Even though Windows Phone 8 adds support to memory expandability via microSD cards, it’s not something that the HTC 8X provides.

Internet and Connectivity:

Donning 4G LTE connectivity and the brand spanking new Internet Explorer 10 web browser, the two work in tandem to give us a satisfying experience. Naturally, pages load in no time at all, but even better, the fluidity seen throughout the platform is also evident in IE10’s navigational controls. As for some new features found with the experience, it includes a sharing function to quickly share pages through an assortment of options – such as email, text, or social networking. Thankfully, Windows Phone 8 also reintroduces the “find on page” feature, which was strangely removed with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.

Since this is an AT&T bound device, it’s enabled to work overseas as well if you’ll be traveling – though, 4G LTE connectivity is established domestically with AT&T. Finally seeing the love, this Windows Phone 8 powered handset also packs other connectivity features like aGPS, Bluetooth 3.1 with EDR, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot functionality, and most notably NFC. With the latter, its “tap + send” feature allows the handset to share various content by essentially tapping the rear of the phone against another NFC-capable Windows Phone. Interestingly, our PC is able to recognize the handset as a removable device – allowing us to quickly download photos and videos without the need to use Microsoft’s Zune desktop software. Likewise, we’re able to directly copy other items, like music and videos, onto the handset.


Continuing to be an appreciated feature amongst all Windows Phones, it’s undeniably great having the ability to launch the camera app on the HTC 8X by long-pressing the physical shutter key at any moment – even when it’s locked! Not surprisingly, the interface hasn’t changed much with this latest version of the platform. At the same time, we continue to see the same set of useful manual settings and shooting modes we’ve come to see previously. Also included with the camera UI, certain apps offer support to the new “lenses” feature – like Bing Vision for camera-based searching. Noticeably absent, however, is the lack of contemporary features like multi-burst mode and the ability to snap a photo while simultaneously shooting video.

Talking the talk, HTC made sure to place a lot of emphasis regarding the performance of the 8X’s 8-megapixel auto-focus rear camera, which features HTC’s exclusive ImageSense technology and an f/2.0 aperture lens. However, when it comes down to it, there’s nothing worthwhile that would catapult it over other highly esteemed smartphones. Indeed, the results are pleasant looking for the most part, as photos are filled with so-so details and natural colors. In low lighting situations, however, the biggest distractions we find are the poor details and its inability to handle dynamic range, but to its credit, it’s not heavily flawed by the unprecedented amount of noise that other devices exhibit. In dark environment, images tend to appear out of focus because the flash doesn’t turn on prior to taking the shot – plus, the hard lighting casts a noticeable amount of over-saturation with colors.

The 1080p video recording quality fares a bit better, but its exposure adjustment is on the slow side. Exhibiting very few instances of artfacing with its quality, some of its highlights include its crisp details and smooth capture rate of 29 frames per second. However, there’s an apparent distortion with recording audio when heavy wind is present, but it’s not something that’s evidenced in calm environments.

HTC Windows Phone 8X Sample Video:


Checkout the Photos Hub to preview some of our captured images, there’s nothing out of place with its layout or functionality. Of course, we’re presented with the usual sharing and minor editing functions in the Photos Hub, but there’s also HTC’s “Photo Enhancer” app that merely applies various filters. Even though the 8X is only able to use the “Tap + Share” function to send photos and videos between other NFC enabled Windows Phone 8 devices, we’re able to share them with Android devices via Bluetooth.

Being a familiar occurrence at this point, there’s nothing new in terms of visual presentation with the music player of the HTC 8X. Still, it’s something we view as modern looking – complementing the overall styling of the platform. Conversely, since it has Beats Audio support when using a pair of headphones, its bass and treble levels are cranked up tremendously to give it a heavier quality. HTC touts the built-in amplifier, for better and more powerful sound with various headphones. It should also improve the loudspeaker sound, but it is lacking any serious firepower; its quality has a neutral tone to it, but it drowns out very easily in noisy environments.

Beautiful display? Check. Fast dual-core processor? Check. Well then, considering it has those two specific items in tow, it’s the correct recipe in garnering a wonderful video watching experience. Better yet, the HTC 8X has support for a wide-array of video codecs out of the box – meaning, it’s able to play our 1080p videos encoded in DivX, H264, MPEG-4, and XviD. With its smooth playback, vibrant colors, and modest real-estate, it coughs up one fine experience, but then again, it’s lacking the comprehensive nature of other rival offerings – like the ability to wirelessly share videos with other devices.


Sadly, this is where the platform misses out greatly As much as Microsoft claims to have a healthy amount of over 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store, the platform is still lagging behind with quality third-party apps – there’s just no comparison! For example, the official YouTube app for Windows Phone does nothing more than open IE10 and redirects us to the mobile friendly version of the site. Worst yet, the HTC Hub is reduced to nothing more than aggregating the weather, news, and stocks – it’s the same thing we’ve seen already in the past! And as for the Bing Maps experience, don’t get us started, namely because it’s sorely lagging behind the competition in terms of comprehensive features that are essential in today’s world. However, we’ll give it credit for being a great device if you’re tied intimately to Microsoft Office.

Call Quality:

Proving to be right for the occasion, the HTC 8X manages to deliver the goods when it comes to call quality. Finding good things on both ends of the line, the earpiece produces natural sounding voices with zero evidence of distortion or background noise – while our callers mention experiencing the same thing. However, the only blemish is found with the speakerphone quality, as it’s very low in volume and produces a hint of distortion.

In our time testing out the 8X, it manages to maintain a solid connection to the network in high coverage areas – with no major fluctuations with its signal strength. Additionally, it didn’t drop any phone calls as well.


Carrying along an 1,800 mAh battery inside of its body, it doesn’t invoke something that would make us believe it’s going to last for the long haul. Instead, its performance is average at best, giving us a good one day of life with normal usage – and that’s strictly using the handset with HSPA+ only. Needless to say, 4G LTE connectivity will deliver results that are going to be considerably less than that.


Taking into account the $99.99 on-contract price attached to the HTC 8X right from the onset, it’s at an attractive price point that would handedly reel in some curious bystanders. To HTC’s credit, we absolutely love the direction they went with the 8X’s design, as it seemingly stands out magnificently from the staple of cold industrial designs we’re normally bombarded with. When you talk about the wow factor, they’ve really hit out of the ballpark with this one, but resounding beauty is more than skin deep.

Microsoft has been dormant of late, but with the arrival of Windows Phone 8, they hope to gain some incremental traction. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here because they’ve done very little to keep the platform moving at the same feverish rate as its main rivals. Yeah, we’ll give it that Windows Phone 8 has some attractive visual elements to it, like its Start Screen, but aside from that one notable item, there’s nothing drastically different to make existing users jump for joy. Moreover, we’re dismayed to find that HTC barely made a concentrated effort to refine the experience in some way.

Ultimately, the HTC 8X is surely a strong competitor in the Windows Phone camp, but as we look at the broader spectrum, it pales in comparison to some of the smartphone elites out there. Absolutely, its stylish looks and affordable price point are a great combination to win over some people, but there’s still the matter of that other premier Windows Phone 8 device in the Nokia Lumia 920.

Software version of the review unit:
Software: Windows Phone 8.0
OS Version: 8.0.9903.10
Firmware revision number: 1532.20.10022.401

HTC Windows Phone 8X Video Review:


  • Stylish looking design
  • Exquisitely detail screen
  • Affordable price point


  • Few worthwhile improvements with WP8
  • Lackluster low lighting photo quality
  • Weak internal speaker

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