Despite sporting a brighter display and a faster camera than the Galaxy S III, the original HTC One X didn't get as much love from shoppers as Samsung's flagship. Now the HTC One X+ is here ($199 for AT&T) to escalate the smartphone wars, packing a more powerful 1.7-GHz quad-core Nvidia processor and a whopping 64GB of internal memory. HTC also promises up to 50 percent more battery life. Running Android 4.1 Ice Cream Sandwich -- plus HTC's own refinements -- has the One Series reached its full potential?
The HTC One X+ mirrors the One X's elegant design. Its unibody polycarbonate body feels strong yet soft to the touch. The device has gently rounded curves that curl slightly upward when viewed from the side. Whereas the One X is available in white or black, the One X+ only comes in the latter color.
While having the exact same dimensions as the One X (5.3 x 2.8 x 0.36 inches), the One X+ is slightly heavier, weighing 4.8 ounces against the 4.5-ounce One X. The Samsung Galaxy S III is slightly thinner, at 0.34 inches, and weighs 4.7 ounces.
Smaller hands may have trouble using reaching the full 4.7-inch display with one hand, and even regular-size hands will still be stretching to reach certain corners. There are three capacitive buttons beneath the display: Back, Home and Recent Apps. The power button sits on top of the device, while the volume controls line the right side. The camera on the back of the One X + protrudes slightly, the only belmish on an otherwise minimalist design.
Unfortunately, like the One X, there is no microSD card slot for storage expansion nor a user-replaceable battery. The good news is that the One X+ has 64GB of internal storage, four times that of the One X.
Our first thought after turning on the HTC One X+'s screen was: Wow. This 1280 x 720 TFT Super LCD 2 display has bright and vivid colors and some of the widest viewing angles we've seen on any phone. The screen brightness measured 462 lux, well above the category average of 311 lux but behind the original One X (525 lux). The Samsung Galaxy S III is not even half as bright as the One X+, registering only 210 lux.
When we watched a trailer for "Pacific Rim" in HD, images were crisp and colors popped. The bright yellow glow of the undersea dimensional portal shone bright against the dark background, and every detail of the high-tech machine and clothing was crystal clear.
Beats Audio and Music
Like the HTC One X, the One X+ has Beats Audio technology to enhance music and audio playback. As with all Beats Audio-enabled smartphones, this technology is only available through headphones and not via the One X+'s speakers.
We plugged in a pair of Denon Urban Raver headphones and played Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild." Overall, we were very impressed with the depth of the audio; bass was thumping, the vocals crisp and clear and the entire experience was full and rich. We then played Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," and had the same great audio experience. Vocals, cymbals and Freddie Mercury's jamming piano were all in perfect balance. You can toggle Beats Audio via an on/off switch.
The volume on the One X+'s speakers easily filled our testing room, but the quality was much lower than the Beats-enhanced headphone experience. At the highest volume, high notes sounded mechanical in "Don't Stop Me Now" and the bass was lacking in "No Church in the Wild."
The Music app acts like a hub for music-related applications. It includes My Phone (the default music player), SoundHound and TuneIn Radio by default, but you can add additional apps manually.
Sense 4+ and Android 4.1
The HTC One X+ comes with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which is chock-full of great features such as Google Now, a location-based personal assistant. When linked to a Google account, Google Now can send reminders and directions to appointments, weather updates, public transit information, nearby places of interest, upcoming flights and sports scores.
Also new to Android 4.1 is lock screen widgets, which allows you to set a variety of dynamic information to display on the lock screen, without needing to unlock the phone. There are different Lock Screen styles to choose from, such as Productivity, which shows the weather, your most recent email, upcoming calendar events and social media messages. Photo Album displays random photos, similar to a notebook screensaver. Friend Stream displays the latest updates from your social networks, and People adds shortcuts to your favorite contacts. There is also a an option for displaying stocks or controlling your music.
The HTC Sense 4+ Android overlay is much more simplified from previous versions. There are no more 360-degree carousel animations when you flip through home screens, and all buttons on the device's home screen can be rearranged. Recent apps are shown in a horizonal Cover Flow-like interface; while visually interesting, some will prefer to have the thumbnails overlaid on the home screen for quicker access.
There are four quick launch icons on the lock screen, so the One X+ can be unlocked directly into an application. By default, these app shortcuts are Phone, Email, Messaging and Camera. These shortcuts can be easily changed by changing the icons in the home screen dock. Unfortunately, you can't set the lock screen shortcuts and the home screen shortcuts to be different from each other.
By default, the clock and weather widget is featured prominently on the home screen by default. When you tap the clock, it opens the weather app. The widget takes up half the screen, so you may want to choose a smaller option.
The HTC One X+'s keyboard provided gentle haptic feedback. The keys were large and allowed for quick typing when jotting down a quick note or entering a Web address. A trace option allows users to trace lines between letters to spell out words. This made typing fast and easy, and the word prediction was very accurate.
By default, the One X+ shows arrow keys beneath the regular keyboard. We found this to be an unnecessary use of space; fortunately, this option can be disabled in the keyboard options settings.
HTC packs a quad-core 1.7-GHz Nvidia AP37 Tegra 3 processor into the One X+, a step up from the 1.5-GHz Qualcomm MSM 8960 dual-core processor in the One X. In our real-world testing, the phone immediately opened and switched between apps. On the One X, we had noticed some lag at times, such as when opening HTC's own Mail and Calendar apps. That wasn't the case here.
To test the One X+'s graphics power, we played the first-person shooter "Shadowgun." We navigated through the 3D world, shooting at cyborgs and droids with no stuttering or delays. We quit "Shadowgun" in the middle of the game and switched to the browser without delay. The HTC One X+ provided decent results on the CPU Benchmark test, notching 4,301. That's more than 1,000 points higher than the 3,054 category average, but less than Samsung Galaxy S III ( 4,785) and the previous HTC One X (4,885).
We saw similar results for the Linpack Multithread test, as the One X+'s score of 137 was higher than the 97 average, but lower than the One X's 153. The Samsung Galaxy S III was even higher, at 169.
The HTC One X+ killed it in the graphics department. The 12-core NVIDIA GeForce GPU scored a 7,488 on the An3DBench, higher than the One X (7,138) and the Samsung Galaxy S III (7,272). The category average is 7,172. On Quadrant, which measures CPU, graphics and I/O performance, the One X+'s score of 7,568 more than doubled the category average of 3359, and trounced the One X (4,901) and the Samsung Galaxy S III (5,159).
The NFC chip inside the One X+ enables features such as Android Beam, for content-sharing with other NFC-enabled devices.
4G LTE Data and Web
The HTC One X+ uses AT&T's 4G LTE network, which doesn't yet provide as much coverage as Verizon but gets great speeds where LTE is supported. In New York City, for example, the phone averaged a download rate of 15 Mbps on the Speedtest.net app. The upload rate was a more modest 3 Mbps.
When surfing the Web, NYTimes.com loaded in 7 seconds, ESPN.com took 5 seconds and Laptopmag.com took 8 seconds. These fast speeds led to a great Web-browsing experience.
The Web browser features a quick browser strip at the bottom of the display that can be shown or hidden with a flick up or down. This area is designated for quick access icons to bookmarks, social sharing and quick access to news.
The 8-megapixel camera on the HTC One X+ captured sharper photos than its predecessor. When we snapped a picture of a green bush in front of a rock set in some gravel, images from the One X+ had truer colors and sharper details than the One X. We then shot a busy street in Manhattan. Edges were crisper and clearer on the One X+, and we could easily make out curtains in the windows across the street. However, colors were a little washed out and dull on the newer HTC phone.
The One X+'s camera includes a BSI sensor for low-light shooting, but don't expect performance on a par with the Nokia Lumia 920. When we took a photo of some tchotchkes in a darkened room, we could barely make them out on the One X+.
The camera app is jam packed with a ton of great features. One-press continuous shooting fires off four shots per second for five seconds, ensuring the best shot is captured. HTC VideoPic allows you to take pictures while recording video.
The camera application also includes 16 different filters, similar to Instagram, which allows users to easily customize their pictures. Turning on a filter changes the image in real-time, so you can make sure you like a shot with a filter before snapping the picture. These filters aren't quite as robust as Instagram, but definitely add some personalization features to the phone.
Other features include ISO and White balance adjustments, face detection and auto- smile capture.
The rear-facing camera records up to 1080p HD video. We took to the streets of NYC and recorded moving traffic. The video quality, like the picture quality, had a grayish hue. The yellow cabs and pink shopping bags, however, popped against the concrete and asphalt background.
The front-facing camera on the One X+ records 720p video, which allows for high-quality video chatting. We video chatted using both Google+ Hangouts and Skype, over both Wi-Fi and AT&T's 4G LTE network. The Skype video quality over LTE was not very good, but the Google+ Hangout video was decent. A Wi-Fi connection provided the best video clarity.
AT&T and HTC have cut back on the amount of apps preloaded onto the One X+ compared to the One X, something we appreciate. HTC Media Link HD, allows users to stream photos or videos to their television using the DLNA HTC Media Link accessory ($90). Barnes and Noble's ebook NOOK app is also preloaded on the One X+.
From AT&T comes Navigator, FamilyMap, Locker for cloud file storage, and Ready2Go for "fast and easy" phone setup. Other apps include Wi-Fi Hotspot for setting up the One X+ as a Wi-Fi hub, TegraZone, "Mass Effect Infiltrator" and YPMobile, which is a business app similar to Yelp.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The HTC One X+ delivered good call quality in our testing in New York City. We called an out-of-state landline and the caller's voice came in loud and clear. The caller reported a minimal amount of mechanical quality to our voice, but our voice wasn't overwhelmed by the background noise of cars passing by on the street.
The HTC One X+ includes a 2100 mAh battery, up from 1800 mAh on the One X. HTC rates its newer phone for 12.75 hours of talk time and up to 15 days standby. In our testing, which includes continuous Web browsing over 4G with 40 percent screen brightness, the phone lasted 7 hours and 19 minutes. This runtime is a hour longer than Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X, which lasted 5:59. The category average is 5:51.
HTC really puts the + in the One X+. The company took an already excellent Android smartphone and souped up the graphics and camera performance, quadrupled the amount of internal memory to 64GB, and increased its endurance by an hour. AT&T shoppers should also consider the Samsung Galaxy S III, which has more innovative software and sharing features but a dimmer screen. But for the moment, the HTC One X+ is the most powerful smartphone on AT&T.