First Samsung unveiled the ATIV S. Then Nokia lifted the curtain on the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Today, HTC is introducing their flagship Windows Phone, the 4.3-inch, brightly colored unibody Windows Phone 8X and the 4-inch, uniquely two-toned Windows Phone 8S, both of which come with Beats Audio. I’ve been working with these devices since the early prototype days and they’re flat-out awesome. HTC did an incredible job of building devices that are beautiful, packed with killer specs, and feel great to use.
From the second you lay eyes on the 8X and 8S you know that these are no ordinary smartphones. Both phones are really, really thin (around 10mm), and look and feel even thinner due to the sweeping curve of the edge and caseback. That curve isn’t just cosmetic, though; it’s also a key reason both the 8S and 8X feel so good in your hand. Pick one up and it perfectly conforms to your hand. I’ve found this to be true not just for me (I’m about 6’1” and have pretty big hands), but also for people of all shapes and sizes on our team. Ask any industrial designer and they’ll tell you that it’s a pretty rare feat to make something that feels tailor-made for a wide range of people. Big props to HTC for pulling it off on both models.
Both phones go big on color, albeit in different ways. Every Windows Phone 8S is two-tone polycarbonate. The one I tested was called Fiesta Red, and you can also get it in Atlantic Blue, a really slick Domino Black and white color combo, and something HTC is calling High-Rise Gray & Yellow, which has a pavement-gray body and a bright tennis ball-colored chin. It’s totally different from anything else you’ll find on the market today.
All Windows Phone 8X’s are monochrome, unibody polycarbonate. They’re coming in California Blue, and Flame Red, a super-deep Graphite Black, and “Limelight Yellow”, which is the same color as the chin on the Highline Gray 8S. These colors are bright, bold, totally unique. I’m a lifelong tennis player, and the Limelight Yellow version looks like the color of a brand-new tennis ball. That’s the one that’s going to be in my pocket!
The display on the 8S is a 4-inch SuperLCD Gorilla Glass display, which means it’s easy to read in almost every lighting condition and resistant to scratches and drops. The 8X goes even further with a SuperLCD 2 720p 4.3-inch display that’s readable everywhere, even in direct bright sunlight. It’s made from Gorilla Glass 2, which makes it even stronger and lighter than the almost-bulletproof 8S display. Both displays are laminated to reduce glare.
Specs & Performance
We all know that specs are important but they’re certainly not everything, so let’s get them out of the way first. The Windows Phone 8S sports a dual-core 1 GHz processor – plenty fast for all but the most intense of power users – a 5MP rear camera, and 4GB of internal storage. There’s also a microSD slot so you can add as much storage space as you need.
The Windows Phone 8X bumps the processor up to dual core 1.5 GHz, 16GB of storage, and two amazing cameras. On the back, you get a backside-illuminated 8MP camera that shoots full 1080p video, and on the front you get a 2.1MP, 1080p capable camera that has an 88 degree viewing angle. Why is that important? Because it’s tremendously wide compared to the competition. You can comfortably fit about 4 people into the shot on one Skype call, which is a huge improvement over most other front-facing cameras. Check out the difference in viewing angle between my HTC Titan II (top photo) and the new Windows Phone 8X (bottom photo):
Both cameras have an F2.0 aperture, which translated into English means you get clean, noise-free images in low-light situations like dimly lit restaurants. No more orangey/streaky/I’m-not-sure-what-the-heck-I’m-looking-at photos! Last, but not least, the Windows Phone 8X has a dedicated image chip, which means you can fire up the camera almost instantly and take back-to-back pictures in rapid succession with basically zero lag. Check out the video of the phones – and the camera – in action:
Both the Windows Phone 8X and 8S have Beats Audio, too, so your music is clear and crisp, with high trebles, clear vocals, and deep bass. The 8X also has two dedicated amplifiers (one for the headphone jack and one for the speaker) to make playback even more awesome. Audio is kind of hard to explain in words, so here’s what I’d recommend–when the Windows Phone 8X hits the shelves, try listening to the same track on your current phone and headphones, then listen to the same track on the 8X with Beats headphones. The difference is staggering.
The Windows Phone 8X and 8S by HTC are the result of months of collaboration between Microsoft and HTC, and the result is really impressive. The design of these phones instantly stands out from the glass-and-aluminum crowd and the ergonomics are unparalleled. All in all, seriously good stuff that’s going to rock with Windows Phone 8.
Updated November 7, 2014 8:25 pm