Look and feel
The HTC Desire X is both slender and compact and fits great in the hand, with a rubber rear to keep it glued to your palm. Only the slightly dubious fit of the back panel puts us off.
Ease of Use
HTC’s Sense interface is once again the star, packed with tips for beginners and loaded with customisation tools and great features. The Desire X’s four-inch screen is responsive and the virtual keyboard is as good as it gets, minus Swype.
The 5MP camera punches above its weight with an excellent array of features and some stunning results, except in low light. Beats audio brings your music to life, but more built-in storage would be appreciated.
A dual-core processor means the Desire X will capably handle your games and media, and one graphical glitch aside we had no issues.
We got over a full day’s use even with hours of music playback, apps and emailing. If you want to watch movies, expect around six hours of playback from a full charge.
HTC’s Desire X has crashed into the mid-range smartphone market, offering some commendable specs (dual-core processor, feature-packed 5MP camera, Beats audio) and the usual joyous HTC experience for an impressively low price. Of course there’s plenty of competition around the £200 price-point, from the likes of the Sony Xperia U and ZTE’s Grand X gamer phone, so can the Desire X do enough to stand out?
We’re big fans of HTC’s smooth, rounded design, and its ‘One’ range of phones – from the mighty One X down to the humble One V – are some great-looking mobiles. The Desire X is no different. It fits comfortably in the hand thanks to its mid-sized 4-inch build, and sticks to your palm with the rubber backing. The screen is surrounded by a tough brushed metal rim which wraps around the edges, and we’re confident that the Desire X could happily survive a drop from waist height, especially as the lip juts out a fraction to protect the screen.
The rubber rear peels away to reveal the SIM card slot, Micro SD memory card slot and removeable battery beneath. The cover itself is a little loose around the Desire X’s lip and upper-right corner, but it never felt like it could accidentally flip off. Our main problem was with properly reattaching the cover, which seems to take us minutes rather than seconds. Still, unless you’re regularly swapping memory cards, this shouldn’t be a problem.
HTC’s usual thorough set-up process guides you through everything you’ll need, while existing HTC account holders can quickly and easily transfer their contacts and other bits over from their last phone. Anyone new to smartphones gets some handy tips whenever they try doing something new, a great little addition that no other mobile manufacturers bother with (as far as memory serves).
Anyone who’s used an HTC smartphone in the past will be right at home with the Desire X. Android Ice Cream Sandwich is hidden behind HTC’s Sense overlay, one of our favourite tweaks to the Android interface. Take the lock screen, where you get fast access to your four favourite apps simply by dragging their icons into the bubble. The excellent phone book which lists your most important contacts first. The fantastic virtual keyboard which gives you fast access to numbers and symbols and includes an excellent auto-correct facility for fast typists. Using the Desire X is simply a pleasurable experience.
That said, we did encounter a couple of funny bugs. On one occasion the Desire X refused to place any calls, and we had to reset the phone before we could call anyone. The phone also kept forgetting our work Wi-Fi at first, but thankfully soon rectified this all by itself.
The Beats goes on
One of HTC’s biggest marketing pulls is its collaboration with Beats Audio, and the Desire X has this technology built in to give you great-sounding music. We tested it out with a range of music, and had to admit our tunes sounded punchier with Beats enabled. The biggest difference was on poor-quality MP3 tracks with a low bit-rate. Originally a bit dull and lifeless, they were transformed into crisp bass-heavy audio that sounded as good as any CD. You can turn Beats off in the notifications tab when you're playing music, but we wouldn't recommend it.
The four-inch Super LCD screen is impressively bright, and we had no problem navigating with maps or browsing our emails even with bright sunlight beaming down on us. More expensive Androids such as the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III obviously have sharper displays, but the Desire X easily holds its own against the likes of the Sony Xperia U and HTC One V, and you can comfortably enjoy a TV show or YouTube clips on the move. Viewing angles are impressively wide, with little colour distortion when you tilt the phone.
The Desire X’s on-board storage is listed as 4GB but you’ll only have just over 1GB free for your own media, apps and photos. Thankfully you can upgrade with the Micro SD slot, and every HTC user gets 25GB of free DropBox storage for two years (by which point you’ll presumably be upgrading anyway).
I got the power
A dual-core processor is on board, and we had no trouble running the latest games such as Blood & Glory: Legend from the Google Play store. Our only issue was a graphical glitch when playing Dead Trigger, which caused some objects to flash and become transparent. The four-inch screen is certainly large enough to enjoy everything from puzzle games to first-person shooters, and the touchscreen is perfectly responsive as you’d expect.
That power isn’t detrimental to battery life, as we easily managed over 24 hours of use even when we spent most of the day listening to music, playing around with apps and downloading enormous files over Wi-Fi. Stream videos online and you’ll still get six hours from a full charge, great news for those regularly on the road.
While the HTC Desire X’s 5MP camera struggles to match its rivals in terms of sheer megapixels, it’s a better snapper in so many ways. For a start, our photos were crisp enough when viewed back on a TV or monitor to render the megapixels argument defunct. In good light, colours are impressively bold. There is a second’s delay as the lens focuses, so you might miss that all-important spontaneous shot, but you can hold the virtual shutter button down to catch lots of fast shots at once – up to 20 in total at a rate of 2.5 per second. With that done, you can either keep them all or choose your favourite and discard the rest.
You can manually focus on specific areas by tapping the screen, and we were happy with our up-close-and-personal macro shots, with the specified area appearing sharp and the background blurred. Evening shots fared less well, and we had to employ the powerful LED flash to light up our interior shots. Still, you get a full range of settings and features, from timers to face detection, plus a range of ‘crazy’ filters. Film fans can also shoot full HD video.
HTC’s Desire X is a great option for anyone – but in particular smartphone newbies – who wants a capable and friendly mid-range media mobile. The Sense interface is intuitive and packed with great features, the camera is excellent for this price point, and with Beats audio on board you can fully enjoy your music as well as your movies and games. Only a few little issues keep us from awarding the Desire X the full five stars.