Form or function? The HTC 8X is the classiest and best-looking of the three Windows Phone 8 devices headed to Verizon Wireless. Verizon will also offer less expensive and more flexible options, so you’re paying extra for style here. But the 8X will do an especially good job satisfying media-centric smartphone users who enjoy music and video.
Verizon’s model of the HTC 8X looks exactly like the AT&T and T-Mobile models, which we’ve already reviewed. I’ll focus here on Verizon-specific software and comparing the phone to Verizon’s two other Windows Phones, the Nokia Lumia 822 and the mysterious, upcoming Samsung Ativ Odyssey.
Physical Features and Call Quality
The 8X is definitely going to be the best-looking of the three phones. It’s noticeably slimmer, but a little taller than the Nokia 822, and it’s made from more clearly premium materials; the 8X’s soft-touch polycarbonate beats the 822′s glossy plastic any day. We haven’t had hands-on time with the upcoming Ativ Odyssey, but leaks have shown it to look rather like a Samsung Galaxy S III. The 8X’s materials would beat that one, too. And with its nicely tapered form, the 8X fits very easily into a palm. The 8X also has wireless charging built in, although I’m still convinced that’s a silly gimmick as it isn’t actually wireless—the charger still needs to be plugged into the wall.
Note: The slideshow below shows the AT&T 8X, but the Verizon model is identical other than the carrier logo.
The 8X’s screen is higher resolution, but dimmer and duller than the 822′s punchy AMOLED panel. That means everything can look a little washed out on the 8X, but you see significantly more of a Web page on the 8X’s 1280-by-720 display than on the 822′s 800-by-480 screen. If the Ativ Odyssey is based on Samsung’s Ativ S, it will have a 4.8-inch 1280-by-720 AMOLED display, which could be the best of both worlds.
What’s really missing from the 8X is under the hood. The Nokia Lumia 822 has both a memory card slot and a removable battery; the 8X has neither, meaning you must rely on the 14.56GB of built-in storage.
Reception and Internet speeds are about on par with the 822. Verizon speeds in our neighborhood really degrade in bad weather, so we should all overlook the 2-4Mbps speeds I was getting on the SpeedTest app with both phones. Rather, the important point is that the two phones pretty regularly traded places as to who led on speed.
Voice quality is a little better than on the 822, especially in noisy areas. The 822′s aggressive noise cancellation tends to cut out more of your voice through its microphone than on the 8X, so callers on the other end hear a fuller tone from 8X calls. Volume on the speakerphone and earpiece are fine, if not terribly loud. There’s no sidetone, the echo of your own voice in your ear, which is always a matter of taste.
Voice dialing worked fine with a Plantronics Voyager Legend headset, but as we’ve seen before, Windows Phone’s voice commands are more limited than on Apple and Android phones, as Windows Phone lacks natural language commands.
The 8X is a world phone, able to hit 3G speeds on GSM and UMTS 850/900/1800/1900/2100 MHz networks, and Verizon finally has reasonable international roaming plans. I was also happy to find that the 8X can do simultaneous voice and data if it’s connected to LTE. Battery life was excellent, with 10 hours, 10 minutes of talk time—more than I got on the AT&T and T-Mobile units.
Apps and Multimedia
For a full perspective on Windows Phone 8, read our review of the OS and our review of the AT&T Windows Phone 8X. This version of the 8X shares the same 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor as all of the other Windows Phone 8 devices we’ve seen, and performance is similar. Note that the lower-resolution Windows Phones such as the Lumia 822 feel slightly faster because they’re pushing fewer pixels on the screen.
Carriers are allowed to add a half-dozen apps to Windows Phones, and Verizon threw in its usual bunch. But one app stands out, and it’s a major reason to get a Verizon Windows Phone: Data Sense.
Data Sense is a data monitoring app which shows you how much data you’ve used and warns you when you get close to your monthly limit. You can break down data usage by app and see a map of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.
That’s useful, but it’s also just the start. Microsoft uses Data Sense to compress data server-side so you use less of it, and has made a deal with DeviceScape to get your Windows Phone to automatically hook up to public hotspots when you’re out and about. While you can get those features with the Onavo Extend and DataSaver apps on Android, it’s more convenient and less of a battery drain to have the feature built into the OS. The data saving feature is out now; the automatic hotspot attachment will come next year.
Windows Phone still lacks built-in, voice-guided navigation, which is something that Nokia has been able to build on with its own Nokia Drive. The 8X almost, but not quite, evens the score by including VZ Navigator. VZ Navigator offers voice-guided driving directions, but it doesn’t offer an option for transit directions. VZ Navigator also had serious trouble getting a GPS lock indoors, where the built-in Bing Maps was able to use Wi-Fi to find its location.
HTC’s key improvement comes with music and video playback: Beats Audio and the 8X’s 2.55v headphone amp. Combined with the higher-resolution screen, that makes for movies with sharper video and much deeper, more resonant sound than on the Lumia 822. Music, meanwhile, has the brain-thumping bass that we’ve come to expect from Beats.
Otherwise, camera performance is the same as on the AT&T 8X, with a decent 8-megapixel camera that records 1080p video. There are a few things to note here: the 2.1-megapixel front camera has a very wide field of view, which is great for taking group shots, but low-light photos can get blurry. Also, the video camera keeps things bright in low light by reducing the frame rate, which makes for clearer but jerkier videos than on Nokia phones, which keep the frame rate high but record dimmer images.
At $199, the Windows Phone 8X costs $100 more than the Nokia Lumia 822. You gain screen resolution, better sound, and a higher-quality body; you lose the memory card slot, removable battery, and some screen brightness. I’d pick the 8X myself, because I love the size and shape of this phone, but I can see both arguments. If size isn’t an issue for you, you might also want to wait for the larger Samsung Ativ Odyssey, which will bring a larger screen, albeit in a less premium-feeling body.
Against Verizon’s other top phones, well, it comes down to whether you’re ready to jump to Windows Phone 8. The 8X’s top competitors are the best-selling Samsung Galaxy S III, the Apple iPhone 5, and the HTC Droid DNA, and they’re all fearsome opponents, with more apps and even better features—in the DNA’s case, a super-high-res screen, and in the iPhone’s case a better camera, for instance.
Ultimately, you’ll buy the 8X if you find Windows Phone cuddly, entertaining and fun. If you use Sharepoint at work, XBox Live at home, or you just like the look of the customized home-screen tiles, you’ll be happy here.
More Cell Phone Reviews:
|Service Provider||Verizon Wireless|
|Screen Details||1280-by-720 Super LCD 2 capacitive touchscreen|
|Bands||850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 700|
|Operating System||Windows Phone|
|High-Speed Data||EDGE, EVDO Rev A, LTE, HSPA+ 21|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Processor Speed||1.5 GHz|
|Screen Size||4.3 inches|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon S4|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||14.56 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc