The original HTC One X was one of the first Android devices to rock a new-fangled quad-core processor, and marked the beginning of the Taiwanese veteran’s concerted effort to return to the glory days of the HTC Hero and Desire. We liked it enough to award it four stars out of five when we reviewed it back in April, but were slightly disappointed by the weak battery life and issues with screen flex, which produced a disturbing ripple effect on the phone’s 4.7-inch display.
The HTC One X+ (not to be confused with the 4G One XL) is essentially a revised version of that device -- from the outside, it looks practically identical. Under the bonnet however, it’s a very different story: the One X+ is packing a 1.7GHz quad-core chip, 64GB of storage and a souped-up battery. It’s also got Android 4.1 pre-installed, meaning that it benefits from all the cool new features being cooked up by Google, including Siri-beater Google Now.
You can pick up the HTC One X+ SIM-free and unlocked to any network for the princely sum of £480, while monthly contracts start at around £26. You can get a cheaper deal if you're willing to stump up a one-off payment when you get the phone though.
Should I buy the HTC One X+?
It may be a beefed-up version of a past classic, but the One X+ is being launched into a very different market than the one which welcomed its predecessor. Quad-core handsets are the rule now rather than the exception, and as such, the One X+ presents a less impressive proposition. That’s not to say it isn’t a top-of-the-range phone -- far from it in fact.
The 4.7-inch Super LCD2 screen is fantastic, and the unibody design is sleek and attractive. It's clad in a rubberised texture that almost makes it stick to your palm, so it's the ideal phone for those with butter fingers. It also comes with a massive 64GB of internal storage, which makes it perfect for music lovers, download addicts and photography enthusiasts. It arrives running Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean.
Sadly, the One X’s terrible battery life has been inherited by this newer model, despite the inclusion of a power cell with a higher capacity. Another problem which remains unresolved is the warping effect on the screen, which occurs when you squeeze the sides of the device.
With the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3, Google Nexus 4 and Galaxy Note 2 also fighting for your attention, the One X+ doesn’t make the impact HTC probably hoped it would. It’s still a competent phone with excellent features, but its lack of stamina will severely dent its appeal to serious mobile users.
Design and Screen
If you’re already the proud owner of the original HTC One X then this updated variant doesn't offer any surprises from an aesthetic perspective. Aside from the fact that it's currently only available in black (with tasteful red embellishments), the device is indistinguishable from its predecessor.
That’s no bad thing, as the One X could hardly be described as an ugly phone. It’s a little on the large side -- thanks mainly to that whopping 4.7-inch screen -- but not uncomfortably so. People with Hobbit-like mitts may struggle to use the phone one-handed or get their thumb all the way around the screen, but that's arguably what your other hand is for.
In comparison with the glossy designs of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Google Nexus 4, the One X+ boasts a polycarbonate shell covered in a soft-touch rubber, which vastly improves grip. It also shows up marks and scratches like you wouldn’t believe, so expect to become quite precious over how you handle your phone should you decide to lay down the cash for this device.
Overall though, the One X+ is relatively thin, comfortable to use and easy on the eye, giving users little to complain about from a purely physical perspective.
The back of the One X+ is quite sparse, with the camera being the most striking landmark. It juts out quite dramatically from the curve of the casing, which means it makes contact with whatever surface you happen to lay your phone down on. This could potentially lead to the lens getting scratched or marked, giving you another reason to treat this behemoth of a blower with kid gloves. Charging pins are also found on the rear of the device, allowing you to dock the phone into compatible accessories without having to use a cable.
When we reviewed the first One X we noticed a rather disconcerting ripple-like effect on the screen when pressure is applied to the sides of the case -- an unfortunate drawback of having a display with little-to-no bezel around it. Sadly, the issue remains on the One X+. Gripping the phone tightly on either side will cause waves of distortion to appear on the LCD panel. Running a finger down the edge of the screen -- as you would do to remove pieces of dust and dirt from the grove between the case and screen -- has the same effect. I'd rather hoped that HTC would have rectified this irksome problem in this updated model, but the design of the phone clearly means this isn’t possible.
If you can overlook this shortcoming, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the One X+’s 4.7-inch Super LCD2 panel. The resolution of 720x1,280 remains unchanged from the previous edition, giving a pixel density of 312ppi. While this may not be the best in show, it’s high enough to make individual pixels almost indistinguishable. To cap it all off, the screen is covered by super-tough Corning Gorilla Glass 2 -- the same protective material that coats the front and back of the Nexus 4.
Possibly the single biggest advance the One X+ makes over its forerunner is the increased speed of its CPU -- it’s now revving at 1.7GHz over the original One X’s 1.5GHz. The processor -- which makes up part of the Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip -- is still a quad-core offering, but that additional clock speed makes quite a difference. The slight lag we noticed on the previous model is gone, meaning that there’s not much you can throw at the device that it can’t handle.
Movement between apps via the multi-tasking menu is astonishingly fast, and the Tegra 3 chip makes short work of demanding 3D games, too. Such raw power comes at a price, though. Like the original One X, this successor becomes awfully hot when it’s being put through its paces. After less than 5 minutes of playing the zombie-packed shooter Dead Trigger, the back of the One X+ was very toasty.
It never became a problem during the course of the review process (in fact, it provided some much-need warmth to my digits as I waited for the bus on a chilly winter morning) but when technology generates this much heat, it’s rather worrying.
Android 4.2 may have received its debut via the Nexus 4, but it’s more of an incremental upgrade to 4.1, which is what the version of Android the One X+ ships with. Also known as Jelly Bean, this iteration of Android offers a wide range of new features, including enhanced performance, better notifications and a challenger to Apple’s Siri in the shape of Google Now.
This facet of the Android experience is a real jaw dropper, allowing you to access a world of information using nothing but your voice. You can ask Google Now what the weather is, or Brad Pitt’s age. Or, if you’re feeling particularly jovial, you can request a selection of cat photos. Like Siri, Google Now will speak back to you at certain points, reinforcing the impression that there’s a tiny little digital assistant residing in your phone. To round it all off, the service can even alert you to traffic problems on your way home (it memorises your route based on your day-to-day movement patterns) and send you the final score of your favourite sports team.
True to form, HTC has smeared its Sense UI over the top of Google’s Jelly Bean, making the user experience better in some ways, but arguably less intuitive in others. The multi-tasking menu in Sense is different to the one seen on other Jelly Bean devices. Instead of displaying a vertical row of running applications, Sense opts for a horizontal stack of cards. It’s not a major alteration, but I definitely prefer Google’s approach.
Elsewhere, HTC has included some unique apps, such as HTC Watch and an EA Games portal. These rub shoulders with Google’s own Play Movies and Google Play stores, meaning that in the case of apps and games, it feels like there’s a replication of content. It’s not as bad as it is on Sony’s phones -- which feature several different download stores all competing with one another on the same device -- but it’s unnecessarily fractured. The issue is amplified further when you consider that Google now offers movies, music and books to all Android owners, and you may find yourself questioning why would you need to resort to using another service, especially when it means inputting your credit card details all over again.
Still, choice is a positive thing, which is why I'm pleased that HTC has included not one but two Web browsers. The default option is the manufacturer's own application, which is quite a robust offering and even supports Adobe Flash -- something which has been stripped out of the vast majority of Android 4.1 devices. Despite this bonus, however, the temptation to use Google’s excellent Chrome browser is too great to ignore. It’s fast, attractive and syncs with Chrome on other devices, such as your tablet and PC.
There’s still no microSD card slot on this updated phone, which means you’re stuck with the amount of internal memory supplied by HTC. Thankfully, that figure now stands at a truly humungous 64GB, which should prove ample space for all but the most frenzied of downloaders. By making use of cloud services such as Dropbox (which comes pre-installed on the device thanks to HTC’s deal with the company), Google Music and Picasa, you can store content online and access it all from your phone, freeing up even more of that 64GB for other uses.
Performance and battery life
When the One X first launched, it had little in the way of competition when it came to raw processing power. Although the One X+ has a bolstered processor, the playing field is now crowded with quad-core challengers, some of which -- like the Galaxy Note 2 -- offer similar speeds but with even more RAM. In the case of Samsung’s big-screen phone, it’s 2GB to the One X+’s 1GB.
Antutu Benchmark 3.0 -- which tests elements such as memory, CPU performance and graphics capability -- produced a score of 15,549. While this is a marked improvement over the 10,827 achieved by the standard One X, it falls a little short of the Nexus 4’s 18,096 and the Galaxy Note II’s 17,532.
Quadrant Standard, another multi-faceted benchmarking tool, tells a slightly different story. It gives a score of 7,483, which bests the Nexus 4’s 4,906 rating. When tested with Web benchmarking app Vellamo, the phone clocked a very respectable score of 1,799 - beating its predecessor's 1,630 and leaving the Galaxy S3 (1,513) and Xperia S (1,382) in its wake.
The One X+’s faster chip was always going to mean that a bigger battery would be required, and thankfully HTC hasn’t scrimped in this respect. The 2,100 mAh power cell adds a little to the overall weight of the phone, but it also grants additional power. As logic would dictate, the simultaneous rise in CPU speed and battery capacity cancel one another out, meaning that the One X+’s staying power remains as lacklustre as that of its predecessor.
My first day with the device started with a full charge. I used the One X+ in the same fashion I would with my usual everyday phone -- a spot of Twitter, a dash of Web browsing and a generous helping of 3D video gaming. By the middle of the day the battery was already showing signs of fatigue, and by the time I arrived home at 6pm it was about to expire.
I certainly didn’t tax the phone any more than usual, which suggests that HTC hasn’t discovered a solution to quelling the juice-hungry appetite of its leading phones. And because the battery isn’t accessible or removable, there’s no chance you'll be able to carry a spare in your pocket for those long trips, so if the One X+ dies on you when you’re away from home, you're going to be uncontactable.
The 8-megapixel camera on the One X+ remains unchanged from the One X, but the front-facing snapper has received a boost, increasing it to 1.6 megapixels over the previous 1.3. Thanks to the additional power within the phone, the One X+ is incredibly fast when it comes to booting up the camera and taking a snap. From lock screen to photo capture you’re looking at less than two seconds, which should ensure you never miss an impromptu shot again.
Photo quality is good, with plenty of detail, good contrast and faithful replication of colour. Users can customise elements such as sharpness, contrast and exposure, and the usual raft of shooting modes -- including panoramic and the now-ubiquitous HDR -- further enhances the phone’s photographic credentials.
Just like the One X, the One X+ can shoot HD video at 1080p, but this time around it can do so at 30fps as opposed to 24. It’s difficult to notice the increased frame rate unless you’re an expert in this kind of thing, but it’s nice to know there’s an improvement all the same.
Although the One X+’s improved internal gubbins allow it to go toe-to-toe with other powerful Android devices, it carries with it some of the same problems which blighted the copybook of its forerunner. The screen still suffers from an unsightly warping effect when pressure is applied to the sides, and the battery life remains uninspiring -- despite the power cell receiving a slight boost.
It’s such a shame that these issues exist, because in almost every other respect the One X+ is possibly the best phone to ever emerge from HTC’s labs. It’s attractive, powerful and offers the best of both worlds when it comes to Android user experience, as it boasts Jelly Bean with HTC’s popular Sense skin laid over the top. The camera is great too, and the inclusion of Tegra 3 technology means that 3D games look absolutely stunning on that HD 4.7-inch Super LCD2 display.
The biggest threat to the One X+ -- and most other quad-core Android handsets -- is unquestionably Google’s newly-launched Nexus 4. It offers a quad-core chipset with a massive screen and lush Gorilla Glass-covered case, and all for as little as £240. The only sticking point is that Google and LG currently seem unable to satisfy the incredible demand for the phone. Once they do however, devices like the One X+, which costs almost twice the price of an 8GB Nexus 4, become increasingly hard to recommend.