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HTC 8X: Designed for Windows 8
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Pictures don’t do the HTC 8X justice. If you were just to see a photo of this smartphone — which is something of an ambassador for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 OS, you would see four vibrant colour options, but you wouldn’t be able to caress this device — and believe me when you actually hold this phone, your fingers automatically itch to feel its seamless form.
HTC has been varying the design of its handsets, but with the 8X, they have obviously put in a huge effort to go all the way to being a signature product. Tech reviewers who got their hands on the phone ahead of the launch all over the world have been admiring the way the 8X has been crafted. It’s nice to see, in fact, that for a change it isn’t just Apple being worshipped for being the one company that knows something about design.
But back to what the 8X feels like. The back of this handset is some sort of softened polycarbonate rubbery material that’s great to touch. But more than that, the fact that it curves and wraps itself into the sides of the handset to meet the Gorilla Glass on the front makes the 4.3-inch phone very nice to hold. And it doesn’t feel like the kind of device that will easily slip out of your hand — though I didn’t try to make it slip.
The curve of the back is very gradual and this somehow makes it look thinner than it actually is at 10.1mm. It has a very different feel from the iPhone and those clean lines and it also feels different from the Samsung build. One warning though: If your hands are more than usually oily and sweaty, I can’t answer for what the back will be like with everyday use.
On the left side of the handset, there are no buttons — it’s a straight, slim edge. On the right you have the volume control, dedicated camera button and micro sim slot. On top is the headphone slot, and the power button. And here comes my main crib with this beautiful phone. The buttons, but specially the power button, are so recessed and subtle that you have to keep feeling along the edge for them and I for one can’t tell if I pressed them or not. Now, with a few days of use I did start to get used to the placement, but I still think ease of use has been sacrificed here in the interest of design and minimalism.
The other thing with this phone is the colours it’s been designed in, red, black, blue and lime yellow. Matching the Windows theme with the colour of the phone could be fun for those who enjoy colours. Except that we are not getting them. At least not immediately. As customers, make sure you demand them though and perhaps HTC will do something about this. The black and the blue versions will be available in India, but as for the rest — you can admire them in ads. Considering personalisation is being pushed so much and colour is supposed to be a part of that, it’s not quite fair that the options should be designed but promptly made unavailable.
That said, it’s still a great phone. It’s running a dual core Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 16 GB storage — no micro SD slot. More storage would have been nice on a flagship phone, but users will be encouraged to use Windows SkyDrive to store their stuff. The 8X feels fast. I never found any lag no matter how much I played around with the tiles and swiped around. It has a 1500 mAh battery which wasn’t exceptional.
The 8 megapixel primary camera is as good as the HTC One X’s, These days everyone’s keeping low light situations in mind, so this camera has an f/2.0 aperture and the pictures are more light filled. There’s no burst mode. The camera was set to a default 2 second timer. The front facing camera, also with an f/2.0 aperture is nicer than usual because it features a wide-angle view, fitting lots more into the picture. This is great for those who video chat from nice looking places or chat with someone as a group.
The Super LCD-2 screen is something HTC is particularly proud of. It’s 1280x720 with a pixel density of 340=ppi. There’s extra boosted sound with Beats Audio, always an important part of HTC phones and with which it co-brands.
The rest of this phone is all about Windows 8. If you have used a Windows 7 phone, it will look instantly familiar and as you start exploring it, you’ll find the additions that come with the new version of the OS. For instance, you can resize your tiles and even customise the top screen which can be live with content from Facebook, your photos, or other apps. You can set up sharing with friends, family or co-workers in different 'Rooms', sync content with your Windows PC using SkyDrive storage and there’s a brand new 'Kid’s Corner', which is a closed off area on the phone with apps specific to young kids and they can use those while the phone otherwise locks up.
The bigger changes are really under the hood, in fact, to the very core of the operating system, which make it work with other devices, most importantly your computer. With Windows 8 on the phone, Microsoft is working towards an ecosystem it hopes will be compelling. What is needed now is high quality applications to cover all the things that users have shown they enjoy and rely on. But if you are already thinking of switching to Windows 8, the HTC 8X is a great choice at Rs 35,023 though it will compete with Nokia’s Lumia 920, Samsung’s Ativ and HTC’s own differently designed 8S.
mala(at)pobox(dot)com, (at)malabhargava on Twitter
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