HTC Windows Phone 8X review: Signed and sealed

GSMArena team, 06 November 2012.

Final words

HTC has seen better days in the smartphone market - we know this doesn't sound too good but somehow it has little to do with the quality of its devices. The company had solid offerings in the One X and the One S but it seems Samsung is better at making money off of Android. On the other hand, HTC has been getting along with Microsoft for as long as we can remember, so Redmond could once again help it get the show back on the road.

But the competition will have its say of course and the Windows Phone competition is not what it used to be in the PocketPC days. Nokia and HTC have been having quite an entertaining exchange lately. Microsoft is not making things easier by calling the Windows Phone 8X a signature device, whatever that means.

It may look like Microsoft is married to Nokia and having an affair with HTC. The HTC Windows Phone 8X is the one that's a few years and a few pounds younger, so nothing quite out of the ordinary. But at the end of the day, being able to challenge the Lumia 920 is currently HTC's biggest hope of being relevant again, in smartphone terms.

By the looks of it, the HTC Windows Phone 8X fails to achieve what it sets out to. A more compact and a more affordable package without compromising the overall experience is what we were hoping for, but in the end we got a phone of similar size to the Ativ S and Lumia 920 with a much smaller screen.

Some will say that the voice-guided navigation of the Nokia Lumia 920 and its PureMotion HD+ screen alone are enough to justify the difference in price tags, Lumia's vastly superior low-light camera performance a nice thing to have on the side. And unless the weight of the Lumia 920 is a major turn-off (the Finn weighs more than a Galaxy Note II), we're willing to agree.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

And even if the Lumia 920 is out of your budget, the HTC Windows Phone 8X will still have a hard time competing. The Samsung Ativ S offers 25% more screen estate, a microSD card slot, a replaceable (and larger) battery and a better camera for just a few extra bucks. Not to mention the fact that Windows Phone just looks better on AMOLED.

Samsung Ativ S I8750
Samsung Ativ S I8750

In fact, the HTC Windows Phone 8X will probably end up hitting way lower and competing with the Lumia 820. Nokia's mid-range device has AMOLED technology, a more compact body, a microSD card slot, LTE connectivity and easy customization through the replaceable covers. The Lumia 820 is slightly cheaper than the Windows Phone 8X too, but the lower-res screen might be the deal breaker here.

Nokia Lumia 820
Nokia Lumia 820

We guess it's a good thing then that the HTC Windows Phone 8S is positioned far away from its bigger brother. The most affordable of the current crop of WP8 devices seems better fit to survive in the current market. It's not really an alternative here

HTC Windows Phone 8S
HTC Windows Phone 8S

If you're still not quite sure about Windows Phone and you're going to wait for a notification area of some sort, or for some of your favorite apps to make it to the platform, Android is always an option. The Samsung Galaxy S III and the upcoming HTC One X and LG Optimus G are all viable alternatives that cost about the same as the HTC Windows Phone 8X, while offering vastly superior hardware.

Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III HTC One X LG Optimus G E973
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III • HTC One X • LG Optimus G E973

It seems the Windows Phone 8X by HTC finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Microsoft-powered competition and Android flagships are putting pressure it cannot quite handle. That said - it's not too late for HTC to take one of the escape routes and emerge unscathed.

The easiest solution is a price cut - it won't really help the bottom line, but it will let the company save face and buy them some time to regroup and mount another challenge to the top.

A harder task would be to try and market what they have at the current price. After all, the smartphone still has the great build quality, the light weight and the wide array of available colors going for it, so some good marketing can probably do wonders for it. A bunch of cool new HTC apps supplied through an update may come in handy too.

The third workaround are carriers - if HTC manage to get good deals on their smartphone, then the day is saved. Early indications from the US aren't positive, but Nokia had to go full exclusive to achieve that, so maybe there's still hope.

If you're eager to try something new Windows Phone 8 is a great place to be, especially, if Android or iOS are on the way of becoming a habit you want to break. There's plenty about the HTC Windows Phone 8X to like. It has that immediate appeal that many buyers will appreciate - it's slim and colorful, a smooth performer and a perfect blend of style and personality. It's a smartphone you'd want to show off. It's a smartphone too that you'd love to use, but one that involves some compromise.

We wouldn't go as far as saying that HTC's plan to position it as the premium compact alternative has backfired, but the Windows Phone 8X isn't quite the Windows phone to deliver the best experience on the market.