HTC Desire X full review [video]

November 13, 2012
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    With most people talking about which high-end Android phone to get for the holidays, let’s break the mold for a bit and expand our options. There, in fact, are affordable Android phones also worthy to be scribbled onto our holiday lists, one of which is HTC’s newest in its mid-range line — the HTC Desire X.

    The previous earlier HTC Desire and HTC Wildfire series has proven that you can enjoy a decent Android smartphone without burning a huge hole in your pocket.

    In this article, let’s see what features you’ll be getting from the Desire X at its affordable price tag. You can also jump directly to our video review below.

    Physical Build and Design

    Dimensions and Weight

    The HTC Desire X is a small and handy phone, with the following physical dimensions:

    • Length — 118.5 mm (4.67 in)
    • Width — 62.3 mm (2.45 in)
    • Thickness — 9.3 mm (0.37 in)
    • Weight — 114 grams (4.02 oz)

    You can easily hold the phone with one hand and access all the physical buttons without overstretching your fingers. Aside from being small, the phone is very light.

    The small size and lightweight design make this phone portable and easy to carry around.  Especially if you’ve grown used to the big and heavy phones, the Desire X in your hand will be a very strange feeling — almost like that of hollowness or emptiness.

    Front

    The design of the HTC Desire X is inspired by the HTC One series. The front screen is all black except for the silver HTC logo on top and the three capacitive buttons below for Back, Home, and Recent Apps/Options.

    The LED notification light, at the upper-right portion of the screen, can only be seen when you receive notifications or while charging your phone. Unfortunately, you cannot find a front-facing camera on the phone. It can be a turnoff if you intend to primarily use your phone for video calls.

    A slim aluminum trim surrounds the top and bottom bezels and smoothly folds to the sides, giving the phone an air of elegance. The bottom chassis is a little bit extended, though. This chin design is inspired from HTC One V.

    Sides

    The phone’s slightly curved edges make it comfortable when the phone rests on your hand. The physical buttons are also very accessible. You can find the Volume keys at the right side and the Power button at the center of the top side. Both Volume keys are merged and a little bit flushed to the side, which makes them somehow hard to find.

    When holding the phone with your right hand, you can reach the Volume keys easily with the thumb and the Power button with your index finger. Opposite side of the Volume keys is the standard Micro USB port for charging or transferring files. The headphone jack sits on the left side of the Power button. The bottom is bare with only a small hole for the microphone.

    I found the Volume keys a bit unresponsive to light taps. I needed to press harder in order to adjust the volume. Although, I’m not sure if this problem exists only on our test device.

    Back

    The HTC Desire X’s back cover reminds me of the one on the HTC One X. The rough ceramic feel and the ceramic, colored back cover look like the sturdy unibody chassis that protects the One X.

    But, once you remove the back cover, you will discover its true material — hard plastic. You can remove the back cover by pulling the top edge of the plastic back cover with your fingernails. The back cover is primarily made of plastic except for the metallic housing that surrounds the 5 MP camera and the single LED flash. The speaker holes and the Beats Audio logo are located at the bottom. In between the speakers and the metallic plate lies the HTC logo printed vertically in silver.

    The removable back cover is both a blessing and a curse for the Desire X. With a removable cover, you can easily replace the phone’s battery when it wears out. You can also replace it with third-party back covers to personalize your phone. The bad part is that it’s plastic and can’t protect your phone from scratches and falls. Another one is that the plastic physical buttons are connected to the back cover. The buttons look really fragile and are held in place with a thin strip of transparent rubber. I suggest not opening the back cover unless you have to change the SIM, insert an SD card, or replace the battery.

    Screen and Display

    • 4.0-inch Super LCD
    • 480×800 screen resolution
    • 233 ppi pixel density

    The HTC Desire X sports a 4.0-inch Super LCD screen with 480×800 resolution. Taking advantage of this smaller screen, the phone has a high pixel density of 233 ppi. Images on the phone appear very crisp and sharp.

    I actually had the chance to compare the phone’s screen with its bigger brother, the HTC One X, and the Galaxy S3. All phones show good image quality but vary with image colors. The Galaxy S3 produced vibrant colors, making the image more colorful but less real. Both the Desire X and One X’s screens displayed images with higher contrast and look more realistic. The Desire X, however, has some sort of bluish tint on the screen. Nevertheless, the Desire X has a good display for a mid-ranged smartphone.

    Processing Power

    Chipset Qualcomm MSM8225 Snapdragon
    CPU dual-core 1.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A5
    GPU Adreno 203
    RAM 768 MB
    Internal Memory 4 GB
    External Memory up to 32 GB

    If you love storing a lot of files or apps on your Android phone, then you won’t be happy with the Desire X’s 4 GB internal storage. Worse, only about 1 GB of that is actually usable space. If you need extra space, the phone has a slot for a microSD card that can take up to 32 GB of extra storage.

    The HTC Desire X is one of the first smartphones to run a Snapdragon S4 Play processor. Though the phone doesn’t sport the fastest processor on the market, it is good enough to power-up the phone. The processor really proved its worth when I experienced no lags while scrolling in between homescreens. I also tried playing the built-in game Teeter and it was smooth as butter.

    Benchmarks

    I performed some benchmarks on the HTC Desire X and got the following results:

    Benchmark Score
    Quadrant 2682
    AnTuTu 5099
    CF-Bench 5496
    Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML5 1183
    Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal 331
    Geekbench 2 675
    Linpack for Android Single Thread 43.663 MFLOPS
    Linpack for Android Multi-thread 70.839 MFLOPS
    Nenamark 1 58.4 fps
    Nenamark 2 35.5 fps
    An3DBenchXL 28567
    SunSpider 0.9.1 JavaScript (lower is better) 2088.4 ms
    BrowserMark 57498
    Google V8 Benchmark Suite 820

    Battery Life

    A Li-ion 1,650 mAh battery powers the HTC Desire X and is said to provide talk time of about 20 hours on 2G and 10 hours on 3G.

    To put the battery’s capacity to the test, I conducted an informal battery test on the Desire X. Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth were turned on; brightness level was set to maximum; and screen sleeping was deactivated. Starting with a fully charged battery, I played a looping HD YouTube video for an hour, and spent the next hour browsing the Web using the stock browser.

    After two hours, the battery had only 48% of power left. This means that with light and casual use, I the phone can potentially last for a day.

    Connectivity

    To be able to use the phone capabilities of the HTC Desire X, you will need a regular-sized SIM. No need to get your scissors or SIM cutters. For a small-sized smartphone, I’m surprised it doesn’t need a micro or nano SIM.

    The SIM tray is located underneath the metallic plate that surrounds the camera. You will need to remove the back cover in order to insert the SIM. The phone is capable of 2G and 3G networks. You can also connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi.

    For wireless sharing, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct are present on the phone. It also has A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) capabilities that allow you to connect the phone to your Bluetooth stereo speakers.

    Camera

    To capture special moments, the Desire X carries a 5.0 MP rear camera with a backside-illuminated sensor. This sensor increases the light captured in images, thus improving low-light performance. Taking advantage of this sensor is the phone’s Low Light feature. Take a look at how the camera fared in low-light settings:

    Looking at both pictures, the photo with the Low Light feature enabled is much brighter than the photo taken in normal mode. Pictures are little bit noisy, though, in both settings.

    Although the camera produces low quality images in low light settings, the 5 MP camera will truly shine in bright environments. I took one indoor shot with sunlight beaming from a nearby window and an outdoor shoot. Both pictures came out good and crisp.

    The camera performance is quite good, despite this being a mid-range smartphone. I also find the autofocus insanely fast. Subjects are instantly focused once you tap on the screen. The camera speed, however, is not that fast, with about 1-2 seconds delay after taking a picture. When taking pictures in Burst Mode, the camera can capture up to 2.5 frames per second.

    Video quality is quite good outdoors and a little bit noisy in low-light settings.

    Media Playback

    The HTC Desire X was designed to be affordable and, at the same time, bring enhanced media experience to its owners. Like most recent HTC phones, the Desire X has built-in Beats Audio sound enhancement.

    The Desire X uses the same stock music player as the HTC One X. Included in the music player are the SoundHound and TuneIn Radio apps. SoundHound is a music database. All you want to know about music, SoundHound has the answers. TuneIn Radio is used to listen to your local radio stations or stations over the Internet.

    The music player is quite simple and straightforward. You can find all the necessary buttons to control the music player.

    If you’re going use the loudspeakers to listen to your music, you will be disappointed. Sound quality on the loudspeaker has too much treble. The magic happens when you insert your earphones. Inserting the earphones will activate the Beats Audio sound enhancement. Sounds are louder and you can feel the bass.

    Some enhanced music tracks, however, are a little bit painful to the ears at high pitch tones. You will need to decrease the volume to avoid this. It’s also worth noting that you can activate the sound enhancer even with third-party earphones.

    Beats Audio sound enhancements also apply even when watching your videos. This is perfect if you want to watch your music videos and enjoy the same sound enhancement as your music player. You will need your earphones, though, to enjoy this feature. Another cool feature on the video player is Capture Mode, through which you can grab frames from the video while you’re watching it.

    Software

    A smooth and responsive user interface is one of the features frequently attributed to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Unfortunately, the Desire X is only running Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC Sense 4.1 on top. Let me briefly tour you around the phone’s interface.

    Lockscreen

    When you look at the lockscreen, you will instantly know that this is an HTC phone with its ring-type lockscreen. The HTC ring is still much present on the phone. Slide it upwards to unlock the phone.

    From the lockscreen, you can also launch apps as the Phone, Mail, Messages, or Camera. Just drag a shortcut toward the ring to instantly launch the app.

    When playing music, a mini music player will appear on the lockscreen, through which you can control music playback without unlocking the screen. You can also drag the mini music player towards the ring to launch the music player. The same thing goes when you receive a message or missed a call. A preview of the message or the caller ID will be displayed on the lockscreen.

    Homescreen

    The homescreen is your personal space on the phone. You can add widgets, place app icons, group them into folders, and many more.

    The Desire X has 5 default homescreens. You can find the persistent dock bar at the bottom of each homescreen. You can place app shortcuts or folders on the dock bar for quicker access. The dock only allows you to place 4 shortcuts. You will need to be extra picky on which shortcuts to place on the dock bar.

    The HTC Desire X really looks like a miniature version of the HTC One X. Both phones use the same HTC Sense 4.1 skin and user interface. One major difference is that the Desire X did not inherit the 3D Recent Apps menu of the One X. Instead, it features the stock Recent Apps menu of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

    Notifications

    You can open the notification menu by swiping the Status Bar downward. The notification menu is clean and simple and only has one button — the Settings button. I prefer having toggle buttons on the notification menu; they’re quick access to commonly changed settings. Swiping left or right on a notification will remove it from the list. You can also tap Clear to remove all notifications.

    App Drawer

    All your apps are stored inside the App Drawer, accessible via the dotted 4×4 square icon at the center of the dock bar. Swipe left or right on the App Drawer to switch to different pages. You can find three tabs below the app drawer to display all, frequently used, or downloaded apps. Above are buttons for searching your apps and accessing the Google Play Store. You cannot find a separate tab for widgets on the Desire X’s App Drawer.

    Widgets

    One of the perks of Android is you can use widgets on your homescreen. Widgets are like apps’ mini versions that you can put on your homescreen. With widgets, you can preview or launch certain app functions right from your homescreen.

    Stock Android 4.0 places all widgets on a separate tab in the App Drawer, but this is not the case in HTC Sense. To access your widgets, tap and hold down the homescreen and a menu will appear containing your widgets. Your homescreens will also shrink and will be previewed above the menu. This is quite helpful so you can have a bird’s eye view of what widgets are on your homescreens while looking for a widget to add.

    Personalization

    Personalization is one of the perks on Android and you can certainly enjoy it on the Desire X. Here some of the few things you can do with your phone:

    • Choose from 3 preinstalled skins that would change the background and some aspects of the UI
    • Add static and live wallpapers
    • Install and use third-party launchers and keyboards
    • Add widgets, apps, and shortcuts on the homescreen
    • Drag and drop apps to create folders
    • Change your notification tone, ringtone, and alarm tone
    • Change the font size to either small, medium, large, or extra large
    • Sort apps in App Drawer alphabetically, by most recent access, or according to install date
    • Set which certain type of notifications turn on the LED notification light
    • Option to set the Recent Apps capacitive button to open the Recent Apps menu by tapping and tap and hold for menus or vice-versa

    Keyboard

    The Desire X uses the HTC default keyboard called HTC Sense Input. It’s a simple and straightforward Android keyboard. The keys, however, are a little cramped, making it hard to type with my big fingers. Thankfully, the keyboard has a calibration mechanism that adapts key sensitivity to your typing style. After calibrating the keys, the keyboard worked more accurately for me and I didn’t have any problem typing with my big fingers anymore.

    The keyboard also has a personal dictionary to which you can add your own words and jargon. It also has bilingual prediction that suggests words in two languages. Voice-to-text feature is also present, but you will be needing an Internet connection for it.

    Search

    The Desire X uses Google as its default search engine. You can also run voice commands by using the Google search app. Through voice commands, you can send messages, open the Maps app, and even search for something on the Web. The Search app, however, may feel a bit too slow compared to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean’s Google Now.

    Security

    For added security, you can include a PIN lock, pattern lock, or password. Since the phone doesn’t have a front facing camera, the famous Face Unlock on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is not available on the phone.

    Android also gives the freedom to its users to sideload apps on their phone. But, before you do that, you will first need to enable the installation of unknown sources from the Settings menu. Android will also show you a list of permissions requested by an app before you can install it on your phone.

    Pricing and Availability

    No official announcement has been made of how much the HTC Desire X will cost on the market. Most online sources report the price range to be somewhere between US$360 and US$380. Various online shops are already accepting orders for the phone, although no precise date has been revealed yet regarding its availability in stores. Rumors point to late November or early December, though.

    Video Review

    Find out more about the HTC Desire X in our video review on YouTube:

    Conclusion

    Though marketed as a mid-range smartphone, the Desire X surely has what it takes to be a good Android device. It has decent specs and amazing features that you can enjoy for an affordable price.

    Having the chance to hold and play with the phone, I find the Desire X a really good phone for its price. The phone is more like the HTC One X, only smaller and cheaper. It runs HTC Sense 4.1 very smoothly, has a good and fast camera, and packs a sharp and crisp display. Music lovers will also get to enjoy Beats Audio enhancement for their music and videos.

    The Desire X is not a perfect device and has some weak points, too. At first glance, I was allured by its white chassis that really looks like the ceramic polycarbonate unibody of the HTC One X. The back cover is smooth and has that matte feel that makes it comfortable to hold. Unfortunately, the back cover is made of a plastic; fortunately, it is removable. But, in terms of protection, I’m quite skeptical if this plastic cover can withstand deep impacts and falls.

    The plastic physical buttons are also embedded on the back cover’s underside, held in place with a thin strip of transparent rubber. With enough force, you can easily break the physical buttons from the back cover. A front camera is not present on the phone.

    Despite its weaknesses, the HTC Desire X is really good for its affordable price. If you’re tight on the budget and you want an Android smartphone that looks classy, enhances your music and videos, and contains decent specs, the HTC Desire X will be a suitable phone for you.

    What are your thoughts about the HTC Desire X? Does the phone have the X factor to be a part of your holiday shopping list? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment and voting in the polls below.

    (with contributions from Elmer Montejo)

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