HTC One X Mini Review

Overview

It’s been almost 2 years with my HTC Desire so it was time to update my handset. The Desire was my first Android phone after owning an iPhone 3G.

I have had the phone for just over a week now and here is what I thought:

Android

I’d admit that Android as a whole (software and ecosystem) doesn’t quite have the sleek and integration as the iOS systems but as a power user it suits me well. I wanted to stay with Android thanks to it’s customizability and flexibility. As a Linux advocate I’m happy to tinker around and after using Cyanogenmod it shown what Android is capable of.

My two main gripes with the Desire was the storage space and battery life. The storage was very small and required a lot of compromise when installing a new app. With Android 2.2 Foyo apps were able to be installed to the SD Card which was good at first. Later on I discovered apps still take up space on the phone memory and the amount of space it takes up all depends on how efficient the developer has optimized the code. Another problem is downloading apps including updates to existing apps required the space available on the phone to be downloaded. If it’s an update you need the space to have the app installed you need the additional space to download it first before the older version is removed. Lastly apps moved to the SD card have limitations like widgets were not available or in case of Facebook app, it could not sync with contacts.

One X Or One S

I had always advocated that Android phones were getting too big. This was a trend I did not like and it also looked like the flagship phones were going to be also the biggest in the ranges including the Motorola Droid Razr, Google Samsung Nexus and now the One series from HTC. I believe the Apple design and size was good for one handed use allowing a lot of screen coverage without moving the hand.

The One S was very good but still slightly bigger than I liked it to be. The case was and felt like metal with a contrasting red bezel on the camera. The screen size is stated to be 4.3 inches with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 1.5 GHz processor. It has 16GB of storage and VGA front camera.

The X on the other hand has a nVidia Tegra 3 quad core 1.5 GHz processor with 32GB storage, 1.3MP front camera and NFC3. The screen is a 4.7inch Super LCD.

Whilst the added size to the screen does make it sound like the X will be extremely large physically in reality it was only slightly bigger in height, width and depth. The trade offs between the two also include the case material. Whilst the S uses metal construction the X uses plastics. Also the X includes 802.11a (not that I have a use for this protocol) and NFC3. The lack of NFC in the S seems like an oversight to me as it should be more and more prevalent in the future.

The battery is comparable between the two. The X has a larger one than the S but the X battery also needs to power the larger screen. I think the S4 processor is a better design to the Tegra so it remains to be seen which is better in terms of longevity. For day to day use both processors should be good enough.

As for the storage space both have a lot and the only limit is the amount of music / videos you can put on the phone. The quoted size is not the available user space but the 16GB Galaxy Tablet still has plenty of space on it but that doesn’t have any music on it.

For the trade off in size I decided to get the X.

HTC One X Sim

Before even getting my hands on the phone I had to make sure I could get a micro sim for my O2 Simplicity contract. O2 Confirmed I could and so I had to get a replacement one from O2 and then I went to Carphonewarehouse to get a sim free HTC One X. If I was to get a micro sim from Carphonewarehouse I would have to “purchase” one which meant topping it up with £10 for a pay and go micro sim.


The O2 micro sim now comes with in three sizes. First is the credit card size card which I believe was used in the 90s mobile phones. Then there’s the modern day sim card size and lastly is the micro sim size. All sizes were achieved with perforated cut outs for the correct size. the perforated cutouts were still very strong and hard to get out so it should be have no problems staying as a normal sim card size.

Hardware

The build quality is very good. Even though its made of polycarbonate there are hardly no flexing in the case. The sides are tapered which makes holding it comfortable and feel slightly thing than it is (not that it’s not thin). The back of the phone has the rubberised feel at the back and front and the sides have a matt finish. The top and bottom ends of the phone looks like its raised slightly to make a concave shape. With that shape the screen is thicker in the middle but looks as though the screen is wrapped around the edges.

The front camera is sunken into the case which means it will gather dust and dirty very easily and also makes it hard to keep clean. This is a quite a big oversight in design in my opinion and only a brush will clean it properly.

The camera does protrude at the back it still remains to be seen if this is going to cause any problems. The touch sensitive buttons are very far apart so it’s hard to press two or the wrong one by accident but it does lack the menu button which was present in my last phone. Also I think soft keys are the way forward so buttons appear on the screen rather than dedicated hardware buttons (with the exception of things like power and volume buttons) if the implementation is right.

The phone has 2 microphones, one for capturing voice and the other for noise cancelling. The noise cancelling mic is located at the top of the phone which should be a better than the Samsung Galaxy S2 where you get echo because the second mic is too close to the normal mic.

The loud speaker is fairly good. It can go to max volume and be quite clear but it does cut out on the heavier bass notes. Two notches down on the volume scale is the sweat spot. The speaker and earpiece grills are microscope holes which i like because they are so small it looks like dust will have trouble getting into them but if something do get into those holes I think it will be extremely hard to remove.


There is a tiny LED indicator behind the earpiece grill which is a very nice touch and what is lacking in the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Processor

The so called 4+1 nVidia Tegra 3 processor is more than capable to keep the software running smoothly with little effort. 4 is the number of cores which makes it a quad core ship and the + 1 is a smaller, less powerful but also uses less power core which also the phone to keep running using a lot less power. This is an interesting design as it also the 4 cores to do the heavy lifting when using the phone but switch to the single core when the phone is essentially on standby to allow notifications and background tasks to run. Personally I would prefer a chip which is powerful and efficient like allowing the CPU to throttle down and overclock when necessary and allow the demand to change the running of the chip.

Battery

The battery life is holding up very well in my day to usage. I’m getting approximately 25-50% battery life left at the end of a working day which is a lot better than the Desire which was always on amber (30%) or less. I don’t use the phone as a music player so I can’t comment on continuous usage but keeping the screen on does take a toll on the battery. I have the screen brightness on automatic but find it has it on too bright most of the time but there is no way to adjust the automated brightness level like you can in Cyanogenmod.

Screen

The large size of the screen makes it more comfortable to look at for longer periods of time. I’m finding it less stressful to the eyes to read and watch things longer than 5 minutes. Where as before I would glace at things, mark them as favourite, star it, etc for later when I’m either on a PC or tablet.

Storage


The memory on the phone is spilt very oddly. There’s approximately 2GB which it recognises as internal memory and over 25GB as “phone storage”. This means there are two separate “partitions” where apps can be held and this could be a massive drawback because even moving apps off the internal memory it still uses some. The potential scenario is that you use up the 2GB internal memory with plenty of space left on the phone memory. Why could it not be one big bank of internal memory!?

Only time will tell if this will become an issue or not.

Camera

The shutter speed of the camera is very impressive. There is hardly any delay between pressing the button and taking the picture and the burst mode is very good almost too good because I managed to take a picture where the top half had the flash and the bottom half did not as if it took it in between.

Low light performance is what you’d expect form a a camera phone – bad. In ambient or bright day light the camera will cope fine but for going out in the evening it still does not beat a good old fashion point and shoot camera.

The face detection was very picky and the smile detection did not work for me at all even when it detected a face in the shot. HDR is rubbish compared to the iPhone. The image tends to blur when taken a HDR picture unless it’s on a mount of some kind (no traditional tripod mount for the phone as far as I’m aware).

The face unlock was very good and detected my face most of the time. The face unlock can be improved by taking multiple pictures from different angle and lighting. If the unlock failed then it resorts to the unlock code / pattern. The process of unlocking by facial recognition is a novelty because it adds time to unlock the phone. It takes about 1 sec to initialise the front camera and more to get the front facing camera lined up. Also you would look pretty stupid holding up the phone to unlock it every time.

NFC

So far I’ve been very disappointed with NFC purely because of the lack of support. There is no real world application out in the UK at the time launch / writing this post which utilises this feature. I was hopping VISA or the Google Wallet will be out but there is nothing. Fingers crossed they will materialise over time or I will be very disappointed.

Seeing as the UK Play store doesn’t have even Google Wallet available it is useless. If after my time of ownership nothing comes of age with this feature then I probably would regret getting the HTC One X and should have got the smaller HTC One S.

Beats Audio

I have always had an issue with Beats and question the value it adds. Whist the device has “Beats” logo branded on the back it didn’t come with any beats earphones. The only other thing which bears the logo is a wallpaper included and when an headset is plugged in a Beats icon appears in the notification tray. From I can tell the wallpaper does nothing but aesthetics and the notification icon just boasts the bass on the music being played. It allows you to turn it on and off from the notification but nothing an equaliser can managed. Overall it’s a marking thing and adds nothing to the phone.

Software

The phone comes with HTC Sense on top of Google’s Android UI. Sense runs very smoothly and the Sense 4.0 gives it a very nice look to it. As usual it comes with an array of widgets and bundle apps whether you want them or not. These include:

The list above is extremely large and I wish HTC would stop including these apps or at least cut them down.

HTC has improved on a lot of things like allowing the number of homes screens to be configurable, re-arranging home screen order and having the settings in the notification pull down but all of this still does not match up to Cyanogenmod.

I have had 1 reboot so far due to a crash and after it booted up a dialogue box came up requesting to send the error report in Windows style.

Summary

So far the phone has lived up to my expectation. The battery life very good and everything runs very smoothly. I am slightly concerned by the size because I am no longer able to text with one hand because my fingers cannot stretch to cover the screen without moving my hand up and down the device.

Carrying the phone in my trouser pocket is not an issue because it is so thin. Everyday use has been great so far but I do criticise the Beats Audio branding.

About Danny

I.T software professional always studying and applying the knowledge gained and one way of doing this is to blog.

Danny also has participates in a part time project called Energy@Home [http://code.google.com/p/energyathome/] for monitoring energy usage on a premise.

Dedicated to I.T since studying pure Information Technology since the age of 16, Danny Tsang working in the field that he has aimed for since leaving school.

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One Response to HTC One X Mini Review

  1. Richard says:

    i got one of these, i love it, but i wish i could take landscape photos more easily with one hand, too scared of dropping it! lulz
    although if the tumble dryer thing is anything to go by, maybe it’s a lot tougher than i think

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