Apple iPhone 5s review

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I’m sure that you all know by now that Apple has announced their latest addition to their smartphone lineup – the iPhone 5s. As ever with Apple, there has been a lot of hype surrounding this launch, and that has resulted in the fact that some of the sites that have reviewed it haven’t really understood what the phone is about, or what it is trying to be. Some put it down for its “bad” specifications. Others fawned over the device just because it was sent down by the Apple gods from above.. Even though I’m pretty late with this review, hopefully I’ll be able to give my thoughts on the device, and while doing that tell you what this device is really about. Continue reading

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Flappy Bird or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bird

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Mobile gaming is a wonderful thing. While it once took a 10 tonne console to escape to another world, where one would typically find a selection of guns, aliens and Italian plumbers, we can now use conveniently portable devices to take us away from our troubles instead. Or allow green pipes to cause even more.

Flappy Bird was the latest avian title to land in our pockets and find surprisingly astronomical success, with a deceptively simple premise and mechanics. A single tap performs a single flap of the wings of a small bird that looks like Kirby with Jay-Z’s lips which, although officially nameless, I affectionately call Flapster.

But why did a game made by a Vietnamese indie developer in a few evenings after work that launched in May 2013 become the most popular mobile game of 2014? The answer lies deep within the struggles of our lives.

Mario uses his raw plumbing tekkers to open wormholes and transcend dimensions with green pipes, but Flappy Bird and its nameless protagonist present a whole new facade to these former allies. He’s not a trained worker. He’s a bird. Pipes are enemies, and serve solely to crush his hopes and dreams with a brutal splat. Should our friend succeed and pass beyond the blockade, life throws up yet another challenge before his eventual death.

Attaching no name or back story to the bird lets us project our own emotions and struggles onto its journey. Life, like Flappy Bird, is not fair. To stand any chance of reaching double figures and cross the obstacles in our paths, we must stay focused and tap carefully. Yes, we may fly face-first into a pipe now and then, but we won’t give up. We will keep tapping. Tapping towards freedom.

Now, as creator Dong Nguyen, with $50k a day in his pocket, withdraws the app from stores and himself from the limelight, lil’ Flapster flies off into the sunset (via a few green pipes, naturally). All we have left are fond memories of the winter of the bird, who taught us it was alright to fail, as long as we got straight back up to seek the bing, and the hours we lost in our quest for a high five.

Nokia Lumia 720 audio review

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Earlier this week, I published my extensive review of Nokia’s Lumia 720. If you haven’t read and watched it already, I’d sincerely recommend that you check it out, but today I’m bringing a new option of consuming our written word to the table. Alex, the lovely robot found within iTunes on Mac OS X, has made an audio version of my post which sounds remarkably good for one of these text-to-speech things. The concept of audio reviews is something I’ve been considering for a while now, so if you think it’s worth us continuing (even if we have to replace Alex with a human or alternative robot voice) give us a shout in the comments or on Twitter.

Right click and save this link to download, and you can subscribe (and rate and review the podcast) using iTunes! Don’t fancy iTunes or use a different podcatcher? Here’s our RSS link!

If you have any feedback, questions or comments, tweet us or send us an email to podcast@digixav.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Nokia Lumia 720 review

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For years, Nokia has known that the best way to expand market share is to saturate every corner of it with a device. After an initial launch of just two devices in late 2011, Lumia devices are now available at seemingly every price point from £99 to £499, and one of the latest devices to join the range, the Lumia 720, sits firmly in the middle of this vast expanse, priced at around £249 unlocked. It follows on from the Lumia 710, which I reviewed last year and felt was a bargain considering its low price and high quality, but the 720 faces fierce competition from a sea of Android-powered handsets including diminutive versions of the top-selling flagships from HTC and Samsung. As such, is this mid-range combination of Windows Phone 8 and Nokia’s trademark hardware design worth your attention? Read on to find out.

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Microsoft Surface RT review

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Last June, a mysterious event invite came out of Microsoft’s Washington HQ. Unlike pretty much every other tech launch in the last two years, we hadn’t seen any major leaks beforehand, although rumours of the launch being for a tablet with Windows 8 (or, according to Mat Honan, a #MSFTaaaaaablet). What the company ultimately unveiled was the Surface, its first piece of Windows-based hardware, in both RT and Pro flavours, the latter of which still hasn’t made it to the UK. In a brave experiment, I have spent the last couple of months using the RT model as my primary computer, and it’s definitely been turning heads. Has this been for good reasons, though? Read on to find out. Continue reading

LG Nexus 4 review

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Nexus 4

Like the inevitable tick-tock of a clock, Google, in partnership with LG, released the fourth Nexus phone late last year. On a day inundated with news on Hurricane Sandy, they managed to send the technology community into overdrive and rain on Microsoft’s parade by introducing a flagship smartphone for just £239.99 unlocked. Despite the shambolic release that occurred through Google’s own Play Store, there is no phone out there that appears to provide this kind of value for money. Google has taken a huge gamble with this device by selling it through its own channels with next to no profit margin, but has it paid off by making the best Android phone out there? Read on to find out.

Hardware

This phone is beautiful. There are no other words to describe it. It is right up there with the iPhone 5 and One X in terms of hardware design and build quality, which is a massive achievement considering the price point. The unadorned glass façade gently curves down to meet the plastic frame which, when flipped over, reveals a gently shimmering micro-etched glass back. Sure, it was a poor design choice in terms of durability, but it looks great. The front is graced with a small speaker grill and a front facing camera. It also features a hidden notification light centred on the bottom bezel – which is very clear and bright. It’s also RGB, meaning it can be programmed to be any colour with apps such as Light Flow. Aside from the volume rocker and power button, the only keys you’ll see here are on-screen, keeping with the pattern started by 2011’s Galaxy Nexus and continued throughout many other post-Ice Cream Sandwich devices and, while not without their critics, I love them. It’s simplicity done extremely well.

Nexus 4 Back

The screen is a 4.7” WXGA (1280 x 768) IPS affair, but some of it is taken up by software buttons. The screen is also up there with the best, using the same in-cell technology the iPhone 5 made a big deal about which, seeing as both panels come from LG, makes perfect sense. The colours and vibrancy are great, although still trail behind AMOLED in certain aspects. The Nexus 4 feels solid in the hand, but also feels very slippery due to the glass back and curve, and I therefore highly recommend getting a case for it, no matter how difficult it is to cover up the beautiful exterior. Another slight problem is the chrome band surrounding the front. While it is done very well, it does have the tendency to scratch or dent. The buttons are made of the same material. They have a nice travel, and feel solid, but they are quite slippery – a recurring theme with the hardware on this phone. However, in spite of all of these flaws, this is easily one of the best designed Android phones ever.

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Inside, the Nexus 4 sits perched upon the top of 2012’s internal hardware. It has a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro with an Adreno 320 GPU, coupled with 2GB of RAM giving you a blazing fast phone, although the upcoming flagships like the HTC One and Galaxy S IV should easily eclipse it. Benchmark scores demonstrate this, although these should be taken with a pinch of salt, as our testing shows that the US variant of the Galaxy S III (with dual-core S4 chip) obtains a higher Quadrant score than the quad-core S4 Pro-powered Nexus 4, suggesting that this benchmark has not been properly optimised for Android 4.2 yet.

Benchmarks

Device Chipset Quadrant AnTuTu NenaMark2
LG Nexus 4 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro (Quad) 4694 17561 59.6 fps
Samsung Galaxy S III (US) 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 (Dual) 5325 7373 48.7 fps
HTC One X+ 1.7GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 7652 13546 57.0 fps
HTC One X (Intl.) 1.5GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 4602 9795 54.7 fps
Asus Nexus 7 1.3GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 3734 10426 55.3 fps

Software

This phone is running pure, unadulterated Android and is all the better for it. Untouched by manufactures, this allows the end user to experience and enjoy Android as Google intended, which is of course one of the major selling points of this phone. A positive knock-on effect of this is that it should receive timely updates to Android, currently on version 4.2.2. This is why the Galaxy Nexus remained a great phone throughout it’s lifespan – and why the Nexus 4 will be the same. It’s a safer choice than a Samsung or HTC phone, which may or may not be updated to the latest version of Android.

Nexus 4 Corner

Android 4.2 is the best version of Android yet, and it looks great on the hardware of the Nexus 4. I’m not going to do a full review of the software as it’s still the Jelly Bean that we know and love from I/O 2012, but I’ll go over a few of the new features, such as lock-screen widgets. Combined with the ever-growing number of third party apps that support this functionality, this is amazing. My favourite use case is to see my to do list and edit it all from my lock screen. This is joined by gesture typing (a Swype-esque keyboard), Photo Sphere (StreetView-esque 360 degree panoramas) and Miracast streaming to make the latest point upgrade of the dessert-flavoured OS.

Nexus 4 Camera

What does this all mean to you? Basically, you get a rock solid, lightning fast version of Android. This is easily on par with the iPhone, if not smoother thanks to Project Butter. It also blends in with all the apps that follow the Holo design guidelines (unlike the One X). I realise I must sound like a fanboy when I say this, but honestly it’s true. There are still places where Android lags behind iOS, but those places are few and far between. I’m genuinely excited to see what Android 5.0 will bring.

Camera, Battery and Radios

As many reviews have stated before, and more will state after, the Nexus 4 camera is simply average. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but not amazing. I would put it about on par with the iPhone 4S in terms of picture quality, and slightly worse than that for colour reproduction. Rather than telling you, it’s better for me to show you. There is a full gallery of sample shots on the way to be added to this review later.

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Again, the same goes for battery life. It is average, and maybe even slightly below. The Nexus 4 lasts about 10 hours on a charge, but with screen on time fluctuating wildly depending on usage and the ROM. My highest is about 4.5 hours and the lowest is about 1.5 hours. Not great, but with a bit of careful usage here and there it will get you through the day. I’ll also update this review with screenshots of a few charge cycles. I’m not entirely sure why the battery life is so sub-par considering it is a non-LTE phone with a 2100mAh battery, but I assume that the internals or apps are draining it.

The radios in the Nexus have been very good, definitely better than the One X I reviewed last year. WiFi reception has been pretty good, reaching 3 bars out of 4 in my room. This is pretty good for a smartphone as my room has brick walls, and 3G reception has been pretty good too. One major thing that the phone has been bashed for is the lack of 4G LTE capability, but if you are in the UK then that shouldn’t be a problem until much later when 4G is widespread, unless you are an EE customer.

Conclusion

Nexus 4 Conclusion

The Nexus 4 is easily the best phone in its price bracket and, in most ways, it is definitely the best phone on the market. However, is it the phone that you should buy? The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S IV are both lurking just days away, and I say if you are buying a phone to last 3 or 4 years, this probably isn’t the phone to buy due to the crack-prone glass back and lack of LTE. If you are buying a phone to last 1 year (or even 2), then this is your phone. The promise of prompt Android updates ably aided by the swift internals will keep you ticking by nicely. Sure, in 2 years it might not be the best-specced phone, but it will remain the yardstick for Android in 2013. Why? Because it’s a Nexus, and this is how Android phones should be done.

 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review

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With the launch of the original Kindle in 2007, Amazon revolutionised the ebook and print industry. With its e-ink screen and thin construction, it allowed for people to literally fit entire libraries into their pockets. Couple that with Amazon’s free worldwide 3G service and its best-in-class content library, and you have a winner. And so it has been – four generations of Kindle have come and gone. All of them have been very successful, and now it is time for the fifth. Since its launch, Amazon have been diversifying it’s lineup – with larger, smaller, cheaper and keyboard-equipped variants of the Kindle. This time around, they have done the same. They upgraded the base model with a new black body and higher resolution screen along with a £20 price drop and ushered in the Kindle Paperwhite while expanding on the LCD equipped tablet lineup they began last year with the Kindle Fire. Today, I am going to be reviewing the Kindle Paperwhite – the successor to last year’s wildly popular Kindle Touch. Does it live up to the hype? Is the new ‘glowing’ screen any good? Read on to find out.

Hardware

Kindle Paperwhite (left) and previous generation Kindle Touch

Kindle Paperwhite (left) and previous generation Kindle Touch

There is an old saying – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and Amazon has certainly abided by this for the fifth generation Kindle lineup, with both the Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite being almost identical to their predecessors in terms of design. However, both devices have got a new lick of matte black (fingerprint magnetic) paint. However, not everything is the same. The Paperwhite is lighter, thinner and sleeker then the Kindle Touch, while also getting rid of the home button. This is definitely one of the timeless classic designs, much like the original iPhone. These improvements haven’t come without a cost though. The new Kindle has done away with the text-to-speech function with the omission of the 3.5mm headphone jack and speakers. There is also less storage – not that it would matter with ebooks being as small as they are.

The Paperwhite’s biggest new feature is the inclusion of an integrated light – a functionality that Amazon used to force you to buy a £50 case to obtain. This frontlight makes the screen ‘glow’, and this is done with LEDs on the edge, which are shone onto an overlay on the screen. This overlay bounces light off the screen, and at you – not causing eye strain like the backlit LCD displays on the majority of tablets.

And now for the question lots of people have been asking – “Does it work well?”. Short answer – yes. The screen can be very bright for pitch black situations, or dimmer to supplement natural light around you. There is some minor inconsistencies in light distribution around the edge of the display but nothing major that would impede the readability of the screen. The new Kindle also swaps out the infrared touchscreen of old with a new higher resolution smartphone style capacitive display. It is a lot clearer, less inset and refresh times are miles better. I did notice some very slight burn in, especially after leaving a book on a page for over 5 minutes, but it was nothing to worry about.

Software

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Software

Kindle software of old was heavily focused on the reading experience – browsing your library, keeping track of your reading etc. With the new Kindle generation, Amazon have brought in a much more tablet-style operating system. It has front cover previews, suggested items on the home screen and other things too. To be honest, I don’t really like the new software as it is a bit more cumbersome to navigate what’s important (your books) and it makes certain information a lot smaller, such as how far you are through a book. As it is an e-reader, there isn’t too much to talk about, but you are now missing the ability to playback MP3 files as there is no speaker or headphone jack, which is a bit annoying but by no means a dealbreaker.

Content

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Store

However, there is one place where Amazon is an undisputed king – it’s content library. Pretty much any ebook you can name is on the Kindle Store –  almost always at a discounted price compared to the physical copies, and Amazon’s usual array of daily deals and fantastic sales (including Yann Martel’s Life of Pi for just 20p) help to ensure that, for heavy readers, Kindles are unquestionably cheaper in the long run than paper books. Amazon has also become a publisher, allowing people to publish their books without any fuss straight to Kindle, and they have also restarted the old fashioned trade of releasing chapter a week books, much like Dickens would have done.  Amazon’s Kindle library is ever growing – and with subscription services like Prime – it is reason enough to buy a Kindle.

Battery Life

The Kindle has had (and still does have) astonishing battery life. This is most likely due to the fact that the e-ink display only uses battery to turn the pages, and also due to the great power management technologies used by Amazon. This year, it has become a whole lot more complicated with the inclusion of the light. Now that has to be powered, there was expected to be a huge hit to the battery life. Not so. According to Amazon’s statistics – and roughly corroborated by our own testing – the Kindle Paperwhite will power through 8 weeks of typical reading even with the light on. This figure is with wireless turned off, but it is impressive nonetheless. It really is fantastic to be able to use a device for extended periods of time without having to worry at all about running out of juice.

Conclusion

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Conclusion Amazon has hit the nail on the head with the Kindle Paperwhite. With great hardware, an unmatched bookstore and a great price, the flagship of Amazon’s e-ink lineup is both the best e-reader out there and a worthy bearer of the Kindle nomenclature. I would have no trouble at all recommending this to anyone, and it certainly has boosted the amount of time I spend reading.

HTC One X+ review

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When HTC unveiled the One family at MWC earlier this year, the simplified line-up was meant to represent a new beginning for the Taiwanese firm. One range of phones for the entire world was supposed to be the result of a shift of focus from quantity to quality, and overall they impressed us. When we reviewed the One X back in August, we concluded that it was a stunning phone and confidently pointed towards a bright future for HTC. Sense aside, HTC could be in a position to become market leaders. But then things changed.

Surrendering to the wills of various carrier partners, mostly in the United States, HTC’s production lines began to churn out even more devices. Since that impressive MWC launch in February, no fewer than 10 Android devices have been launched by the company in various parts of the world, many of which did not bear the One family name. The most recent of these – and the company’s new European Android flagship – is the One X+ which, at first glance, looks no different to the original One X. How does it fare against its latest rivals, and, with new devices just around the corner at CES and MWC after the turn of the new year, is it worth your money? Read on to find out.

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HTC Sense 4+ review

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This summer I reviewed the HTC One X, a phone that came preloaded with Android 4.0.1 and HTC’s comparatively lighter but nevertheless bloated Sense 4 skin. You might recall I went on a bit of a rant about it, with the problem being that it lagged. A new operating system on a top of the line phone should not be stuttering on the homescreen. Now, to coincide with the release of the One X+, HTC has come up with an answer. The new Sense 4+ skin is layered on top of that buttery Android 4.1 goodness, also known as Jelly Bean, but does it fix the inherent problems its predecessor had? Read on to find out.

The Good

HTC really has fixed a lot with the new version of Sense. Most noticeably, the stuttering has been eradicated completely and utterly. I’m not completely sure whether this is down to the new Jelly Bean’s Project Butter or simply HTC’s optimisations, but it really doesn’t matter. Whatever they’ve done, it makes the phone a joy to use. Expandable notifications have been introduced too, bringing all sorts of new functionality to your pull down shade. The only problem with these is the slightly awkward two finger pinch gesture to open them up – something that is not present in stock Android. The keyboard is really a lot better than it used to be, nixing the pointless arrow keys at the bottom and adding altogether better feedback and responsiveness. My biggest annoyance with the One X has also been fixed – the menu button situation. It used to be that the One X did not have a hardware menu button, with a software version popping on screen as and when it was needed, wasting about a tenth of the screen real estate. With this update, TC has added the option in settings to reassign the multitasking button to menu. Holding down this button with this setting enabled will take you to recent apps, giving back the screen that was taken. Google Now, Android’s answer to Siri, has also been added, with a long press of the home button propelling you straight into the new voice search feature. While I don’t want to go as far as to compare it with Siri as they both perform different functions, I have to say the retrieval of data is snappier and the voice is not nearly as robotic.

The Bad

There isn’t really much that has become worse in Sense 4+. After all, it is an update: something supposed to make something else better, unless you are Apple.

The Ugly

There is a lot in this section, and while there is not as much as there used to be, the list of negative aspects of Sense only reinforce my desire to see stock Android being shipped on more than one phone a year. The first thing is the icons, which remain childish and displeasing to the eye. Compared to the polished look of iOS, Windows Phone and post-ICS stock Android, you realise how far behind such skins remain, and a little customisation with an icon pack goes a long way aesthetically. I still feel that the greens and whites of Sense clash with the deep blues and Tron-like lighting of Holo clash horribly, however certain elements appear pleasant and muted. Another thing that hasn’t been fixed is the lockscreen shortcuts, still default to the ones you have placed in your dock.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Sense 4+ is a great upgrade over Sense 4, making Sense a decent skin once again. It makes it smoother, faster, slicker and better looking while also tying in new functionality that you won’t necessarily find in a stock Android build. If you are a user of one of HTC’s One series phones, I urge you to upgrade to keep your sanity and enjoy the butter.

HTC One X review

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After declining sales and being criticised for releasing too many handsets into the market, the new One series from HTC represents a much needed refresh of their strategy. What once used to be a floundering attempt to satisfy the demands of the many carriers has been diluted to this, a trio of phones to carry them headfirst into 2012. The One X, however, is even more than that. This sits on the top of the tree as a superphone with specs that raise the bar for future Android devices to come. It also debuts with HTC’s refresh of their Sense skin, layered on top of Android 4.0.3, fresh from Mountain View. Alas, we must ask the question – is it really as good as it seems? Read on to find out.

Unboxing

Video Review

Hardware

To say that this phone is good looking is an understatement. The phone is genuinely beautiful and is a breath of fresh air compared to the dull black slabs that most companies are churning out these days. The amount of detail and care put into this design definitely shows in the product. The glass covering the screen curves over the sides, blending in with the sleek polycarbonate body. The One X is made of a similar material to Nokia’s Lumia 800 and 900, albeit a little less textured. It is 8.9mm thick, which, while chunky for a flagship phone on paper, certainly doesn’t feel it. The phone feels comfortable in the hand despite its 4.7″ display, and is in reality not much larger than most 4.3″ devices such as its baby brother, the wafer-thin One S. The bezel is minimal, and you really feel like you are actually touching the content on the screen thanks to the laminated panel. The only slight annoyance I have is that I do struggle to reach the top left and bottom left hand corners without adjusting my grip on the phone. It has a curved profile reminiscent of the Galaxy Nexus, with the top and bottom gently tapering upwards. It is worth noting that the camera lens protrudes just enough to give the speakers a megaphone effect when placed on a table.

The sides are fairly minimal, with the left holding an MHL (MicroUSB/HD Video out) port and a volume rocker on the right, which is conveniently placed where your thumb grips it during normal usage. It has a nice amount of travel and you can use it while it is in your pocket. On the top there is a power button, 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSIM tray. On the bottom there is one of the two microphones (the other being just next to the headphone jack) and three capacitive buttons which cause some concern that I shall get into later. A notable omission is a camera button – a little strange considering that the camera is HTC’s major advertising point with the phone. However, the care and attention to detail that HTC employed when designing this product is apparent is the notification LED. While it is not RGB, it is integrated into the drilled holes for the earpiece, which was a very interesting idea, and it works. The LED is completely invisible when not in use, and bright enough to be visible in any light when notifying you. As a whole, the design of the phone immediately strikes you as HTC. It seems like they have perfected their design language, with none of the failings of the myriad of phones that came before, although it isn’t without fault. The black international model which I acquired picked up grease really easily, and as of the time of writing I have not been able to remove it. I would recommend picking up a case if you are considering this phone, despite what HTC says. Another thing that I have noticed is that the micro-holes for the earpiece, while aesthetically pleasing, could easily pick up dust, blocking it up.

As for internals, it is safe to say that this is one of the most powerful phones on the market. The international One X has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 clocked at 1.5GHz which is no slouch at all. It also has a gigabyte of RAM, which is par for the flagship course. These big numbers certainly show up in the benchmark scores below. Despite Nvidia’s graphical prowess, gaming performance does not live up to expectations. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the lack of RAM, or maybe the fact that that the processor is driving 921,600 pixels, but the effect is noticable. Games do seem to settle down after maybe 5 minutes of gameplay, but it is still unnerving. Another thing that I noted was that the area in between the camera and volume rocker can get really hot, but the heat was isolated to just that place, most likely due to the positioning of the processor. Speaking of the processor, the presence Tegra processor inside allows access to the Tegra Zone suite of games. These are games that are ‘optimised’ for the Tegra processor with better graphics and more effects, and you really can tell the difference. There are two major omissions when it comes to the One X in terms of hardware, namely being the lack of expandable storage and removable battery, but having a replaceable back would weaken the structural integrity of the phone, so we can give HTC a pass there.

Benchmarks

Quadrant – 4602
Vellamo – 1854
Antutu – 9795
Nenamark 2 – 54.7fps

Display

The 1280 x 720 SuperLCD 2 display on this phone may be the best display I have ever seen on a phone, with vibrant colours and sharp text. With a pixel density of 312 pixels per inch, the panel is not quite as dense as the 342ppi displays found in HTC’s own Rezound and Sony’s Xperia S, but it is well into the area  of over 300ppi referred to by Apple as ‘Retina territory’, meanng that individual pixels cannot be distinguished by the human eye. It also lacks the PenTile subpixel arrangement infamously found on many other flagship phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Nexus, thus ensuring a higher-quality display free of jagged edges and fuzz. One of the reasons that phone manufacturers give in favour of using AMOLED in their phones is that it is thinner than LCD and allows for slimmer profiles, but HTC’s SLCD2 has shown that LCD technology is catching up, although it still remains more power-hungry than AMOLED panels.

Software

The One X comes with Android 4.0, the (second) latest operating system from Google, but the presence of HTC Sense 4 is the most intriguing software tweak. Sense has been criticized a lot in the past for its superfluous animations, flamboyant graphics, and purely idiotic design concepts made for a subpar user experience. Users have yearned for a toned down or stock Android experience, with less of the idiotism of days past. HTC says they took this into consideration when designing Sense 4, but did they do enough? Short answer, sort of.

Sense has definitely been toned down. The over the top weather animations have gone. The person who made the stupid decision of having a permanent ‘personalize’ button on the dock has been fired. It’s just generally been cleaned up, but it isn’t enough. The icons look like they were designed by a 4 year old, being full of white accents and just looking dated. The recent apps list is a waste of space, with the switcher taking up the entire screen, and is also more challenging to use than the stock multitasking menu. The notion that lockscreen shortcuts can only be the icons you have in your dock is just plain stupid, because I don’t need a camera in my dock, but I certainly do on my lockscreen. The widgets look like they were designed in the 90s, with stupid gradients that make me want to throw the phone in a river. The keyboard has arrow buttons, which are completely useless and render the keyboard almost impossible to type on. Finally, I said in the hardware section that the capacitive buttons had a problem. Sticking to the Android 4.0 guidelines, there is no menu button but this means that legacy apps need to display an annoying black bar underneath any app that isn’t optimized for ICS. I would have much preferred software buttons or a menu button instead of a multitasking key, similar to the setup on the Samsung Galaxy S III.

I will admit that Sense does have its perks, 25GB of free Dropbox space being one, but the performance of the phone is what matters, and Sense simply won’t do. I promptly refused to use Sense and flashed a build of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean onto it. This seemed to speed things up a lot, but please note that this does void your warranty.

Camera

The camera on this phone is the second best phone camera I have used after that of the iPhone 4S. The 8MP rear shooter takes bright and vivid photos with little to no blurring and an instant shutter. This is because of what HTC calls ImageSense. What this means is that there is an extra chip inside the phone just for processing images and video. This and a dual shutter mean that the One X can take pictures and video at the same time. It also gifts the One X with astoundingly fast picture taking to the point where the phone actually sounds like a machine gun when in burst mode. The camera software on this phone is second to none. It lets you take awesome pictures, is well thought out, and gives you a nice range of effects to choose from. Low light pictures weren’t great, so you’ll need to use a flash, and sometimes photos get blurred really easily. You can view a gallery of pictures here.

Battery Life & Radio

The battery life of this phone ties into the software section. With Sense, the battery is rubbish. An hour of YouTube and 15 minutes of Dead Trigger brought me down to 50%. That might not seem that bad, but with Sense taken off and replaced by a CyanogenMod ROM I could do the same thing and only lose 20%.

The cellular radio is simply average. I got signal where most other phones get signal, however I did note that the WiFi usually displayed 1 bar lower than on other devices. I don’t know if this has something to do with the way that signal is displayed or an actual discrepancy in the WiFi, but it’s there nonetheless.

Conclusion

All things considered, the One X is a solid flagship. It is the epitome of what HTC has learned from a year of failed designs, however the phone faces some stiff opposition from Samsung’s Galaxy S III. As for which one to buy, my answer would be whichever suits you best. If you need expandable storage and a removable battery and can live with the Pentile AMOLED display, then the Galaxy S III may be your best option, but if you desire design then go with the One X. You can’t go wrong with either.