HTC Windows Phone 8X
HTC has said that the 8X was inspired by the Windows Phone Start Screen, and is designed to look like a live tile if a tile was a physical thing.
With that thought in mind, the phone will be available in a number of different colors – Flame Red, California Blue, Limelight Yellow and Graphite Black – colors that match some of the tile color options available in Windows Phone 8.
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The HTC Windows Phone 8X is the “signature handset” of Windows Phone 8, the product of the company’s partnership with Microsoft for the newest version of its mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8. Announced last month, the phone is set to make its way to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon by the end of the year.
One of the first phones to hit the market running Windows Phone 8, and the first phone to hit Mashable’s office running the new OS, the handset will help set the tone for Windows Phone 8 in the mobile marketplace.
We had the opportunity to spend a few days with phone and found that there’s a lot to love about Windows Phone 8 and the HTC 8X.
HTC has said the 8X was inspired by the Windows Phone Start Screen, and is designed to look like one of Windows Phone's animated "live tiles" if a tile was a physical thing.
With that thought in mind, the phone will be available in a number of different colors -– Flame Red, California Blue, Limelight Yellow and Graphite Black -– colors that match some of the tile color options available in Windows Phone 8.
Made of polycarbonate, the phone has rounded corners and a curved back, making it easy to hold, and if fact is slightly reminiscent of what a tile might be like. Thinner than a lot of phones on the market, the 8X easily slips in and out of pockets, and at 4.6 ounces is light enough that it won’t weigh you down.
HTC sent us the graphite black version. While subdued on the exterior, the black really made the colors on the live tiles pop.
Customized for You
One of the standout features of Windows Phone is its Start Screen. Fully customizable, the screen is populated by individual tiles representing each app -- the same kind of experience you'll find in Microsoft's recently released Windows 8 operating system.
Meant as a quick access point for apps you use often rather than a storage place for all your apps, tiles can be dragged and arranged wherever you would like them to be on the screen.
Some tiles are “live,” meaning the information displayed on them changes. So, a weather app might display the temperature outside with a picture of, say, a raincloud if it's raining. A sports app may show the score in the game your favorite team is playing in.
As the user, you decide which apps earn their own tile space on your home screen, how big they are, and where those tiles are located.
The tile design was present in Windows Phone 7, but with Windows Phone 8 Microsoft has expanded on the interface, giving users the ability to not only customize the color of the tiles on the screen, but also the size of those tiles.
Now available in three different sizes, you can adjust tile size by pressing and holding a particular tile on the screen and then taping on an arrow that appears on the bottom of that tile.
The lock screen on the phone can be customized with a picture form your photo library, a built-in image or an image from Bing. Windows Phone 8 also allows you to display information from apps on your lock screen. For instance, your Facebook account can also provide the palette for the lock screen on the phone, pulling photos from your Facebook account -- either as a whole or specific albums that you specify.
I chose to have the lock screen pull from the photos I have uploaded to Instagram as well as my mobile uploads to Facebook. The result was a pretty interesting rotation of some of my favorite recent pictures that changed almost every time I picked up the phone.
Kids Corner is Smart
There are quite a few educational apps out there designed for kids of all ages that can be wonderful educational tools as well as fun and engaging.
Handing junior your smartphone to use those apps, however, can often be an intimidating proposition. What if he accidentally calls 911? What if he starts texting everyone in my address book?
Kid’s Corner is Windows Phone 8’s solution to that problem, creating a special little corner of your phone for your kid’s apps. Customizable just like the phone’s home screen with colored tiles and tile sizes, Kids Corner offers a safe place for your kids to use apps without giving him or her access to your entire phone.
Children can navigate between different apps you have chosen to include in the section, but are not able to get to anything else on the phone you haven’t specifically added to the section or the phone’s settings menu.
With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft added support for multiple-core processors, and the 8X takes advantage of that support rocking a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4.
The processor allows Windows Phone 8 to run smoothly on the phone. The Home Screen experience ran well even when loaded with live apps, and apps were able to launch very quickly.
HTC also added Beats audio to the 8X, a feature that can be turned on and off, which pumps up the bass on tunes you listen to, improving the listening experience no matter what headphones you happen to be using to rock out.
The HTC Windows Phone 8X has a 4.3-inch 720p Super LCD 2 display, a new screen resolution supported in Windows Phone 8 which allows phones running the operating system to have higher-resolution screen than were previously possible.
In most settings the screen looks great. However, in sunlight it was a letdown. The screen had quite a bit of glare was difficult to view from any angle but straight on while the sun was shining on it.
For instance, I tried to snap a few shots of the phone on my dining room table, which happens to be right beside a window in my apartment. The scene has served for many a previous cellphone-review shot, but pictures I took of the 8X’s screen made the tile colors look washed out, and the screen as a whole was difficult to see to a point I had to change locations in order to take the fancy header picture you see at the top of the page.
The 8X is certainly not the first smartphone out there to have a tough time in sunlight, but the difficulty is definitely worth noting.
HTC Windows Phone 8X Photo Quality
The 8X has a 2.1-megapixel/1080p forward-facing camera with a f/2.0 aperture for taking self-portraits and video chatting. While 2 megapixels isn’t an exceptionally high resolution, it is fairly high for a forward-facing camera on a smartphone. Awkward self-portraits I took with the camera looked great, and video looked crisp and clear with friends I video-chatted with.
The 8X has a dedicated shutter button for the camera, which I love, and wish was more of a standard on smartphones. What that means is you can hold the phone in landscape mode and push down on a button on the top of the phone to take a picture, just like you might on a point-and-shoot camera, rather than pressing on the screen.
Tapping on the shutter button instantly opens the camera app so you can start shooting, a speedy process that makes on-the-fly pictures a much easier experience than typically possible with many other smartphones.
The built-in rear-facing camera in HTC’s One line of smartphones is one of the best out there; an experience I had hoped was replicated with the 8X. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed in the camera experience on the 8X.
The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera often had trouble focusing on my subject when taking shots, and when I did focus on something by tapping on the screen that focus would often disappear before or while I was actually taking the picture. The result is, well, a lot of blurry photos.
Images taken in brightly lit settings with a steady hand, such as in grocery store on my street, look great. After the San Francisco Giants won the World Series I took the phone out on the street to try and capture the scene outside. However, I ended up with more blurry indistinguishable photos than photos of the celebration I might want to put on Facebook. That said, the phone performed great in low-light situations, exposure-wise, and the low-light video I recorded of celebrators was notably better than video recorded of the exact same scene using an iPhone. The 8X also blew the iPhone out of the water quality-wise for the night photos at did capture.
The HTC Windows Phone 8X is set to go head-to-head against Nokia’s Lumia 920 and Samsung’s ATIV S in the Windows Phone marketplace.
Windows Phone 8 shines on the 8X and the phone is a pleasure to both hold and carry around. It will be interesting to see how the handset stacks up against the competition as additional Windows Phone 8 handsets are released in the coming weeks.
What do you think of the HTC Windows Phone 8X? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.