one x+

HTC looked to make a mark on the world with the arrival of the HTC One X in the spring. The device provided a new look into Android devices that veered away from its previous bulkier and heavier line of otherwise solid products. The One X was arguably one of the best, most designed Android devices we saw out of 2012’s Mobile World Conference, but it didn’t fare well against the Samsung Galaxy S3 line once the two went head-to-head.

Maybe that is why we were a little surprised with the announcement of the HTC One X+ in early October. Everything looked to be the same on the outside, but the internals packed some serious upgrades. The HTC One X+ went on sale at AT&T yesterday for $199 and Amazon for $139. We have spent the better part of a month testing the One X+ to answer the simple question: Is this your next handset? First, let’s get started with the overall design.

Hardware

The HTC One X+ does not fly that far away from the original One X design, complete with its polycarbonate shell and 4.7-inch Gorilla Glass 720p screen. HTC did away with the white version, though, and I have to say that upsets me a little. But, for those who appreciate black on a device, here you are. The screen is a 4.7-inch HD super LCD2 protected by Corning Gorilla Glass to cut down on scratches with a 312 PPI 1,280-by-720-pixel resolution. At such a large size and pixel density, the screen looks beautiful and is certainly comparable to the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S III. The HTC Droid DNA on Verizon may have it beat in the screen arena, boasting a 1080p 441PPI display that seemed a little “too good” to be true, but this is nice.

At 4.55 ounces, the device comes in on the heavier side. It has a solid feel in the hand, however. The 1.7 GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 and 1GB of DDR2 RAM inside zips right along, but they are held a little back by the software (more on that later). Another key aspect that adds to the zippiness of the device is LTE—a technology that really shouldn’t be excused from any smartphone of our time. In our testing, we found LTE to reduce loading times to data when surfing the web.

Other minor features on the device include an 8-megapixel, 28mm wide-angle lens. In our testing, we found it to take great —actually amazing—shots. The 1080p HD video recorder also took solid video, and the 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera took great photos and 720p video. No complaints in that department. The One X+ features NFC for all the bumping and tapping to your heart desires, Bluetooth 4, a Micro SIM slot at the top of the device for easy swapping, and a 3.5mm 1V Stereo Audio Jack complete with Beats Audio. The 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi is also on the device, but at some points it does not even need to be enabled due to amazing LTE speeds—— depending on where you are, of course.

One oddity we found with the hardware is the positioning of the microUSB charging port that is placed toward the top left of the device. It is awkward, and it should be placed toward the bottom of the device like the Galaxy S III. It makes for an easier time while calling, texting, and surfing the web while charging. With its 2100 mAh battery, upgraded from 1800 in the original One X, the One X+ lasted all day with LTE cranked on. The battery and storage aren’t removable, but that honestly does not feel like an issue at this point. GPS was also strong when we needed directions to a restaurant last evening. As Seth Weintraub said in his One X review, GPS on HTC’s devices trump Samsung’s.

The overall hardware design for the HTC One X+ is pretty astounding. HTC took its top-of-the class hardware for the One X and upped it in several areas. You won’t be dissatisfied with the hardware here, the DROID DNA on Verizon looks to be the only Android smartphone that would make you change your mind, and that’s just because of the screen—not overall hardware build. We just really wish HTC included a pretty white version, but that is not necessarily a big deal. There seems to be no hardware fallbacks here, but that’s not to say the same for the device’s software.

Software

It seems to be the same old story with Android device reviews, and that story is the software overlay OEMs choose to put on their devices. We give credit to HTC for including Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but the company also decided to include its oh-not-so-fine Sense 4. Sense 4 seems to bring some serious drawbacks in our minds. For those unfamiliar, Sense 4 adds a customer layer on Jelly Bean to change up the look of Android in many aspects. For example, messages, the homepage, email, camera, app drawers, notifications, and more are completely redone. That Sense 4 addition slows down the device considerably.

It’s personal preference rather you dig the design overlay of Sense 4, but there is no question that the OS should be more snappy on the One X+. Powered by a 1.7GHz processor, things should feel quicker. I blame it on Sense 4 for adding that drawback. That’s not to say Jelly Bean is not great; it is the best, most refined version of Android out of Mountain View. If adding a custom ROM with pure Jelly Bean is an option, as developers begin to crack the device open, do it. Additionally, the HTC One X+ is still pretty dang fast (just want to make that clear). I just think HTC shot its self in the foot a little with the limitations it has added on the software front.

Wrap-up

Consider this Apple’s iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S upgrade. What the One X saw here was not an overall redesign, but a solid spec upgrade to an already great device. We highlighted the issues with the software—it’s good, not great. Some also might consider the lack of expandable Flash storage to also be an issue, as you will be locked down to 64GB of internal storage. For some, that may be a problem. For me, not so much.

If you want a phone screen bigger than 3.5 inches diagonally, this is simply the best phone that AT&T offers—no question…and one of the best phones. There is also the HTC One VX that features much less specs for only $50. I’d only hesitate to recommend the One X+ to people who don’t get great AT&T service, have a lot wrapped up in Apple’s ecosystem, or find themselves on Verizon where the HTC Droid DNA is being offered or T-Mobile where the Nexus 4 is being offered. Otherwise, it is hard to find fault with the HTC One X+, especially if the Galaxy S III does not interest you. Are you on AT&T and have an upgrade? We find this pretty hard to resist.

You can pick up the HTC One X+ on AT&T for $61 off or $139 at Amazon.

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