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HTC One X+ Review
When HTC introduced the One X in February 2012, it stood atop the Android pile with it's impressive specifications and gorgeous design. Fast forward a few short months to May however and Samsung announced the Galaxy S III, equalling or bettering HTC's flagship in almost every regard while also including the microSD and removable battery that HTC users longed for. Whether an incremental update was always part of the strategy or whether HTC's hand was forced by rivals, the One X+ is here - a new, souped up One X. As well as providing an upgrade, the new device's release also serves to unify the chipset used on the non-LTE and LTE versions. No longer does the LTE version use a dual core Qualcomm S4, it too now runs on Tegra 3.
We have the non-LTE version here and we're looking at what has changed compared to the One X. Head on over to our original review for some background material!
Hardware - specifications
Over and above the previous Tegra 3 equipped One X, there are a number of internal improvements that, while certainly tweaks to the basic One X formula, add up to a fairly decent improvement on it's predecessor.
There's no question that most people's biggest gripe with the original was battery life. Although 1800mah is not what you'd have called deficient in the past, the One X - particularly it's screen - is a power hungry beast, hence run times were not the best. With improvements in battery density, HTC has managed to fit a 2100mah cell in the follow up. The price you pay is an additional 5g in weight at 135g. I can live with that!
Another key omission from the One X was microSD expansion. I'm sorry to say that a microSD slot is still missing from the One X+, but by way of compensation it does pack 64GB of internal storage... certainly enough for all but the most ardent video / music junkies.
The One X included a 4+1 core 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor courtesy of the AP33 chipset. The One X+ uses the AP37 chip, which brings a bump in speed to 1.7GHz. Architecturally it is effectively the same - and still based on 40nm technology when key competitors have switched to 28nm. The GPU also gets a speed bump, so overall performance should definitely be improved.
Finally, the One X+ upgrades the original device's 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera to a 1.6 Megapixel sensor. The front facing camera in the X was pretty awful, so improving on it shouldn't be too difficult!
All other hardware specs remain the same - 1GB RAM, quad band GSM / HSPA, Bluetooth 4.0 with AptX, NFC, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, that great 8 megapixel camera with dedicated HTC ImageSense chip... let's be honest, the One X didn't leave you wanting for too much in the hardware department and it remains a very desirable machine.
Hardware - design / build
The external changes to the One X+ are limited to colour and finish, with the device wearing exactly the same size body as it's predecessor. This is a good thing as it means all existing accessories are compatible - there are just the right number of changes to mark it out as something a bit special.
The original device was offered in either a dark grey colour or a much nicer (in my opinion) white. The X+ comes only in one colour (for now)... black. This isn't your ordinary black either, it's a jet black finish with a soft touch coating that definitely feels very classy. This is complemented by red front capacitive buttons, a red ring around the camera (a-la-Sensation XE) and redesigned Beats branding. The overall effect is very nice - despite being a big fan of the white One X, the finish on the X+ immediately made it's predecessor feel somewhat dated. I'm not 100% sold on the soft touch surface, it makes my skin crawl a bit, but that's just me. The coating also seems keen to pick up dust and fingerprints, so keep a cloth handy!
The final external detail change that I noticed on the X+ is an improved power button. I have both Tegra 3 and S4 One X devices and the power buttons are rubbish. They don't click with any sort of definition at all. Thankfully, the X+ has had a subtle change - the new, shiny power button is now made of a different material (it's still plastic but it feels more 'metallic') and on my unit at least it presses with a much more defined click - a minor detail that makes such a big difference.
While the Jelly Bean update for the original One X finally starts to trickle out (as we predicted for the end of October), as you'd expect the One X+ ships with Jelly Bean on board.
Of course, Sense is present (now in it's '4+' iteration) and it's very much more of the same. The key Jelly Bean changes from Google are in here of course - Google Now and it's much improved voice search, Project Butter with it's silky smooth UI and enhanced notifications. We did note that HTC's implementations of the enhanced notifications stripped back some of the abilities seen in the stock OS (specifically displaying additional data in notifications pre-2 finger sweep) but we'll be liaising with HTC on that point because it feels very much like a bug.
The X+ ships with HTC's 'Best Deals' application preinstalled (although it disappeared when we hard reset!) which, to our eyes, seems like a pretty poor effort - poorly categorised, uninspiring deals... in fact the only half decent offer is the ability to pick up a Media Link HD at a reduced price - a great companion for this phone.
One genuinely useful change in Sense 4+ is an enhanced Gallery app. Although the older version was supposed to support cloud services we could never really get it working properly, whereas now it works great. Cloud services are front and centre and various other features are improved too, such as the ability to view geotagged photos on a map.
The 'HTC Sense Input' keyboard has been improved for 4+. It's less hungry on screen real estate and exhibits much improved performance. It supports both conventional input and trace (a-la-Swype) modes, as well as the good old 'T9' style keyboard for the retro feel. Annoyingly there does seem to be a bug in the keyboard that renders predictions unavailable when used with some applications (e.g. Plume) - again we'll be liaising with HTC to bring this to their attention.
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We talked earlier about how the original One X liked to chew on battery power like it's going out of fashion and HTC have clearly acknowledged this not just with a bigger battery, but also with enhanced power management built into the device's software. First of all the auto backlight is set to a much more sensible level (I found the original One X liked to crank it up excessively high) and the device now also features a 'Power saver' mode. Always available (always!) via a notification item (a little annoying), power saver allows the device to conserve power by throttling the CPU, reducing screen brightness, turning off vibration and turning off data when asleep, either automatically as the battery level dwindles or manually when using the aformentioned notification. This is paired with an enhanced 'Settings -> Power' option which allows the user to see more easily exactly which applications / functions are impacting the battery. Quite nice, although I miss the ability to quickly view 'screen on' time (you can get this ability back by installing BetterBatteryStats).
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Finally, HTC's camera application has had some improvements. The UI itself is simplified a little and additional features have been added to take advantage of the new front facing camera module, including a self timer and face recognition.
So what's it like to use? Everything that's true of the One X applies to the X+ and that's a good thing. The device feels supremely fast in operation, the screen is stunning, the sound is good (software enhancements to Beats in the latest software release means that it actually has a fair amount of clout, although i'm still not really a fan) and - provided you don't have an inbuilt aversion to the Sense UI - the software is nicely done. I feel a little as though the Senseyness (is that a word?) is toned down slightly in Jelly Bean, to me it all feels a little more natural and fluid.
So it's all good? Well, nearly. I still found applications being switched out of memory sooner than I expected, something that was a common complaint when the original One X launched and something that I would have expected to be improved in the successor. The persistent power saving notification option is unnecessarily intrusive.
The usage of the considerable internal storage has changed for the One X, for the better. It's now one continuous block which makes it far easier to utilise and when you connect the device to your computer you are now able to install HTC Sync via a USB drive rather than having to mess around looking for it on the HTC site, a much better experience. An optimisation tool lets you 'improve performance by optimizing your memory if your phone starts to slow down' (not entirely sure what that means) and another tool helps you free space by clearing out app caches and moving (from where to where?) / uninstalling apps. It all just feels a little bit more consistent as far as storage goes. And it is... more 'Nexus like'.
So there's a lot to like, just as there was on the original... is the main problem with the original solved? Is the battery life better?
Yes, it is better. A little, little bit better.
As you'd expect, the One X+ retains the characteristics of the One X. That means that the device sips juice when it's in standby (by virtue of that 4+1 CPU) and that taxing the CPU hard will drain the battery fairly quickly (as well as make the device rather warm). What is also means is that by far the biggest culprit when it comes to battery drain is still... the screen!
Now, battery life is such a difficult thing to review because everyone's usage is so different. For me, I don't really work my phones hard - I spend more of my phone time managing social networks and triaging mail than anything else - but I do end up with pretty long requirements for screen on time. While the original One X struggled to give me 3 hours of screen on time, the new X+ can just about cross that milestone - but not go much further. Whether the device will last the day for me depends almost entirely on how big I need that 'screen on number' to be. Is 3 hours screen on good? It depends what you're comparing to... the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 with it's 3300mah battery will easily rock on through 6 hours (it's big though of course), the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL with it's 2600mah battery will get me 5 hours+ and the Galaxy S III - a key rival here too - will probably best the X+.
So, think about how you use your phone. If you're a One X user and the device nearly hits your sweet spot, then the One X+ might be perfect for you. If the One X lasts you until lunchtime, you're probably going to be out of luck. If you're using something else, check your stats and see how much screen time you're using.
Unfortunately the One X+ definitely isn't going to set any records for stamina, but to be honest we probably expected that.
The One X+ has a number of upgrades from the One X that make it a more desirable device, but at the end of the day it IS still a One X with a few tweaks. If you like the One X, you'll love the One X+. If you didn't like the One X, there's probably nothing in the X+ that's really going to change your mind.
The changes to the device help keep it at or near the top of the pile, but with devices shipping with bigger batteries than ever, HTC themselves offering a 1080P screen (and microSD expansion) in Japan, more efficient Qualcomm S4 Quad Core processors becoming more widely available and Google completely shaking up pricing with the Nexus 4, it remains to be seen exactly how long it will be before the X+ gets left behind.
The One X+ is a device that feels quintessentially HTC, but in an environment that is ever more competitive and which HTC are ever more marginalised, i'm not sure whether that's a strength or a weakness.
I ran the device through a few benchmarking suites for your pleasure.
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Pricing and availability
The One X+ is available SIM free from Handtec priced at £471.59 at the time of writing, or on contract from O2 starting at £36 per month for a free phone, or £429.99 on prepay.
Have your say
Do you have an HTC One X+? Do you agree / disagree with my review? Post below!
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