A Fish’s eye view of the HTC 8X

So, I have had the Windows Phone 8X by HTC for a few days now and here is my verdict so far.

The 8X is a beauty of a phone with a real premium feel to it. HTC are well known for their quality builds and the 8X is no exception. It is tall and slim and comes with a 4.3″ 720p hd screen. From the front, the curved edges of the 8X screen seem to spill over the edges in the same illusory way that an infinity pool does, the only thing breaking that smooth flow is the earpiece speaker with its seventy micro-bored holes. It does sit plush with the screen though so doesn’t spoil the infinity edged look at all. Also up front next to the speaker grill is the wide angle front facing camera (more on that later) and at the bottom there are three software buttons, back, home and search.

The design team at HTC have been very clever with the edges of the 8X in that the back of the device tapers to a very thin form at the edge, belying its 10.12 mm true thickness and it is very nice to hold because of this. Up top there is to the right a power button and to the left the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, along the right side of the 8X there is a volume rocker and a physical camera button. The left side of the 8X has no buttons whatsoever. HTC has sat all the physical buttons flush with the edges so to start with they can be hard to locate without looking but after a day or so I found them easily enough and do appreciate the fact they are so flush as they don’t spoil the form factor of the 8X at all.

To the back of the device the finish is just as premium. My 8X is the vivid California Blue which makes a great change to the usual drab black or white devices so often seen. There is another speaker grill at the bottom of the back with a row of 175 microbored holes (will mention the rear speaker later) Above this is the Beats audio symbol and midway we have the HTC lettering inlaid in what feels like aluminium. At the top of the back there is a camera lens and led flash. The Camera in the 8X is an 8 megapixel camera with auto focus, LED flash, and BSI sensor (for better low-light captures) It has an F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens is capable of 1080p video recording which is thanks to the dedicated HTC ImageChip. The microsim card tray is sited just above the volume rocker and as on the One Series handsets, needs either the HTC tool or a paperclip to open. I find it a little fiddly but using this method does of course leave more room for the good stuff inside.

So, how about inside? The 8X runs on the latest incarnation of Windows Phone, WP8. I admit to being a Windows Phone noob so was expecting to experience a steep learning curve when it came to Windows Phone 8. This to be honest hasn’t been the case,  maybe partly due to the fact that I have been running Windows8 on my laptop for about a month now and as with the Xbox also, there is a unity of design between all these interfaces. The 8X was in fact easy to set up with Email accounts, obviously I used my Outlook account as the main  account (same one I have on laptop and xbox) so there is a great deal of symmetry there. It was just as easy to set up GoogleMail accounts on it too as was Facebook and Twitter accounts. I found that rather than comparing it in my mind to my android device that if I thought outside of the box to use it then it all became easy.

The Live tiles of the homescreen look good and are resizeable by pressing and holding them till an arrow appears, they can be moved around the homescreen in this way too. There is a familiar live tile in the form of the HTC clock. It obviously looks different to the Android version and is resizeable too. In settings you can change the tile colour in a variety of colours which I like as on Androd I am always changing skins/themes/wallpapers. In settings it is also possible to change the Lockscreen wallpaper to any image you want. There is the option to have Unread email counts/missed calls and other info displayed on the homescreen which is handy.

If you swipe left on the homescreen you will find a list of all your apps in alphabetical order, including settings and the few pre installed apps such as calendar/calculator/flashlight. Press and hold the letter A at the top and the alphabet apears on the screen, if you have an app that begins with F for example then it will be highlighted. If you have no apps that start with K then it won’t be highlighted. It is a good search system appswise.

I am still exploring the Windows Phone Store (also accessible on your computer) and though I have noticed apps missing that I use on Android such as InstagramI have found some good alternatives for photo editing apps and other apps that enable me for example to access my Dropbox as that isn’t a native WP8 app (Check out ‘Dropbox Viewer’ in the store, works great). I look forward to the expansion of the Windows Store as Microsoft have promised  soon, in the meantime I will search for alternatives to the Android equivalent. I am also wondering at the moment if some apps are region specific as two that I saw on a review video can’t be found on my 8X here in the UK. The app offering in the store is better than some may have you believe and certainly isn’t a reason to not try out WP8.

Windows Phone 8 is fast and fluid and a refreshing alternative to iOS and Android. It may not be as customizable as Android but with the ability to resize tiles, change their accent colours and the addition of live tiles, it is a great looking, simple and intuitive interface to use. Live tiles are great, as well as the usual email and messaging tiles where you will get a msg/email count displayed on them, there are live tiles such as the People tile which displays your contacts with an everchanging display of their profile pictures. You can assign a live tile to a single contact which I have done for my wifes profile details, when I click on her tile I am met not only with her phone number to call or message but also her email address, birthday and social media profiles, it displays her latest status updates, uploaded photos and interactions, all accessed thru one tile on the homescreen. In the All Apps list also, you can press and hold and it will give you the option to pin that app to the homescreen and you can pin however many apps you like to it too.

There is a native app for Xbox built in that allows you to check your progress in games/change your avatars clothes/features etc and games you download from the store will add to your gamerscore as you progress through them. I haven’t explored it fully yet but so far it looks great. There is also an app called Xbox Smartglass that I already have on my Android device. It runs like a dream on the 8X and I used it yesterday to customize my avatar, browse music and games available on Xbox and I used it as a remote control for the Xbox, it allowed me to browse titles in Lovefilm as well as showing me time remaining on the program being watched etc so is much more than a simple remote control feature. Other apps installed on the 8X include Office, Maps (not quite as good as Google maps but not bad either in my opinion), Skydrive (MS version of cloud storage, 7GB free included with the 8X) and Onenote. Onenote is an app that, being as forgetful as I am, is a very handy tech version of the Post-it. Simple to use, the notes can be pinned to the homescreen for easy reference too. WP8 also has Rooms which are a clever addition for couples and groups in that shopping lists/ideas/tasks can be shared in private without the worry of anyone else seeing. All in the Room can add or edit whats in there. For example, if my wife and I had a shopping list and are both out but in separate shops, we can tick off any item on the list we have already got so as not to buy the item twice. Clever stuff indeed. There is also a new feature called Kids Corner which allows you to hand the WP8 device to your children and lets them play games on it without being able to access things like your email account or deleting that important note from your homescreen.

The 8X has Beats Audio built in and has TWO amplifiers built into the back. It has superb sound and at a volume I have never heard on a phone before. As usual with Beats enabled HTC’s, plug in headphones and the sound is great too. Adding music to the 8X I found a bit fiddly but not too complicated. When you plug the 8X into a computer, it will prompt you to download Windows Phone app (no Zune needed) which is an easy enough task. Adding music and photos/videos is easy enough and fast using this method and tho different to the Android method isn’t too much for a Windows Phone noob like myself.

Onto my favourite part of any mobile phone, the camera. The 8x has as usual a great 8mp camera on the back which can be started when the phone is locked by pressing and holding the camera button on the right side, you half press the button when the camera is active to focus and full press to take the photo. There is also the option to press onscreen to do this tho I am one of those people that has missed having a physical button so having it back is great. To zoom you pinch or spread fingers onscreen tho as usual with digital zoom you are better off getting closer to your subject matter than using zoom as it degrades the image using it.

There are basic settings with the camera such as grayscale/negative/sepia and solarize, as well as changing the resolution (oddly the default is 6mp?),white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation,sharpness, ISO and face detection. Video settings can be altered in the same way with the default setting for resolution being 1080p. Photo and Video quality are excellent from the rear camera and I will post some images in a separate post to show this and to show how remarkable the superb front facing camera on the 8X is. HTC have given it an 88 degree 2.1mp camera and images from it have to be seen to be believed. Despite ‘only’ being 2.1mp, HTC have outdone themselves here and I have been very impressed with quite how wide angle the images are, these can be found in the 8X images post. Though effects like HDR, Panorama, Macro and Burst Mode are missing at the moment, it is hoped they will appear in a future update. There are ‘Lenses’ available in the store and other apps such as ‘MirrorCam’ that bring different effects to the camera and I have found a panorama app called Ztitch+ that allows you to stitch photos together and is easy to use. I will do a photo app review later this week.

In summary, the Windows Phone 8X by HTC is a great new addition to the HTC portfolio and I am very much enjoying getting to grips with it. It is great to look at, to hold and a real pleasure to use. So far so good, the future looks bright for WP8 and for the HTC 8X. Full spec on the HTC 8X can be found here: