Moto G: Unboxing, Overview, and Hands-on With Motorola’s New Prepaid Phone

A tasty little Black Friday treat arrived on our doorstep today, so even though we’re sitting in the middle of a long holiday weekend, we couldn’t hold back and decided to unbox it. Yessir, here is our first look at the Moto G by Motorola, an incredibly inexpensive phone targeted at emerging and prepaid markets.

For those not familiar with the Moto G, you are talking about a phone that is either $179 (8GB) or $199 (16GB) off-contract, works on all sorts of HSPA+ networks across this globe (CDMA variant on the way too), and still has decent enough specs to give everyone a solid smartphone experience without the typically high price. The GSM version is currently available now in the U.S. through Motorola’s store with the CDMA variant arriving in a month or two. Amazon has it up for pre-order.

In terms of specs, the Moto G has a 4.5-inch HD (720p) display, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (quad-core) processor, 5MP rear camera, 2070mAh battery, and runs Android 4.3 (with a guaranteed upgrade to Android 4.4 on the horizon). It may not have LTE, but at those prices, I’m not sure even data speed freaks can complain.

So what do we think about it? After only a few minutes with it, it’s obvious that this is the little brother to the Moto X. In fact, it feels (and is according to measurements) almost identical in hand, outside of a little extra thickness towards the bottom. The craftsmanship is there, plus the camera, dimple, ports, and buttons are all in the exact same places. It’s certainly plastic, but by no means does it feel cheap.

Performance doesn’t seem to be an issue yet, as the device is responsive enough for its price and set of specs. It isn’t necessarily as buttery smooth as the Moto X, Nexus 5, or LG G2, but it shouldn’t be. If I only had $200 to spend on a phone, I think I’d understand that it isn’t going to be the best of the best. No matter what, this phone seems so far to be able to hold its own.

If there is one downside, it’s that the phone doesn’t have Touchless Control or Active Display, two of the most popular features of the Moto X. I guess I’m not sure I was fully expecting them to be there, but since the phone size and style-wise is so similar to the Moto X, it was a bit of a disappointment. Then again, Motorola is trying to keep the price as low as possible, so their X8 Computing System and variety of chips had no chance of making the cut.

Overall, I’d being lying if I didn’t say that I was impressed. For what you get at $179, everyone should be.

 

 

Source: Droid Life

HTC One S Review (European version)

HTC knows it has to deliver in 2012. The past few months haven’t been kind to the veteran Android manufacturer, with tumbling revenues and unrelenting competition from Samsung and Apple. And so, as it hopes to reclaim some lost glory, HTC has launched its new range of “hero” handsets, the HTC One series.

Much of the media attention since the HTC One announcement at Mobile World Congress has been focused on the new flagship product, the One X. And with good reason — the One X is a fantastic phone, and one that makes smartphone history as the world’s first quad-core handset. But equally alluring is the X’s smaller, sleeker sibling, the HTC One S — a 7.8mm-thick, metal-framed device powered by a next-gen Snapdragon processor. Unlike the polycarbonate-clad One X, the One S retains the classic HTC aluminum unibody design, with both vanilla and plasma-fried flavors unveiled at MWC. Though it lacks the pin-sharp 720p display found on the One X, the One S nevertheless is a premium product.

But now that it’s actually available to purchase, where does the 4.3-inch One S fit in the broader Android landscape, and has HTC been able to cram all this high-end hardware into the phone’s slender shell without compromising in other areas? Find out after the break, in our definitive HTC One S review.

-The Good-

An unbelievably thin phone with superlative build quality. Performance is speedy thanks to the Snapdragon S4 CPU. There’s also the same fantastic camera that’s found in the One X, and great battery life to boot. HTC Sense 4 compliments ICS rather than replacing it.

-The Bad-

USB storage is limited to 10GB. Although superior to other PenTile displays, the One S’s qHD screen will be a turn-off for some, as will the lack of removable storage and battery.

-Conclusion-

The One S will inevitably live in the shadow of its big brother, but it’d be foolish to overlook this device. Despite its position in the middle of the HTC One series, this is no mid-range handset. The One S is a smaller, sleeker, leaner version of the X (with much better battery life, we might add), and it’s just as capable a smartphone as HTC’s new flagship. If you can get past the lower screen resolution, it’s definitely worth a look.

-HTC One S Video walkthrough-

-Hardware-

Before we dive into specifications and build quality, it’s worth getting to grips with exactly how thin the HTC One S actually is. At 7.8mm, it shames both the Galaxy S II (8.7mm) and Galaxy Nexus (8.94mm). And although it doesn’t quite beat the Droid RAZR’s 7.1mm, it also doesn’t include any unsightly bulges or raised areas — the camera lens protrudes ever so slightly from the back, and that’s about it.

HTC is well-known for its use of aluminum unibody construction in its high-end smartphones, and this long-standing tradition is continued in the One S. Like the Sensation before it, the One S features a smooth, rounded aluminum frame that’s interrupted only by a couple of soft-touch areas where the antennae are housed. You get the picture — it’s thin, well-built and feels great in the hand. And as for weight, the One S isn’t quite the lightest phone around, at just under 120 grams, but it doesn’t feel any heavier than it needs to be. In a smartphone world dominated by black plastic slabs, there’s something refreshing about the colder, metallic look and feel of the One S. And as is always the case with leading HTC phones, the One S’s build quality is exemplary.

We alluded to two flavors of One S in our intro, and depending on which color you pick, the phone’s chassis will have undergone a completely different finishing process. The gray version, which we’re reviewing here, features a traditional aluminum shell with “gradient paint color sheet” finish. The black version is a little more exotic, with a “micro arc oxidation” coating. Essentially, HTC takes the same aluminum shell and fries it in plasma, turning the outside coating into a ceramic. The result is a slightly rougher, matte feel compared to the grey version’s smooth finish. A word of warning, though — we’ve noticed that the black version seems a little more prone to knocks and scrapes than the gray variant, so accident-prone users may want to bear that in mind.

Encased within the phone’s aluminum (or ceramic) chassis is its 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display. It’s a step back from the current crop of 4.7-inch, 720p phones, and if you’ve used any of these higher-resolution devices, then going back to qHD is going to take a little adjustment. Also problematic is the fact that the One S’s screen is plain old Super AMOLED, not Super AMOLED Plus. This, combined with its lower resolution, means that PenTile matrix patterns (jaggy edges around text and other on-screen elements) are more visible than we’re used to on HD Super AMOLED phones. For some people, this kind of aberration will be like nails on a chalkboard. However in our opinion it’s not too bad, and if you’re upgrading from a non-720p phone it probably won’t bug you all that much.

It also bears mentioning that the One S’s screen seems to be of notably higher quality than the Droid RAZR, which on paper has an identical display. There are no issues with discoloration at low light levels, and the phone’s auto-brightness setting always keeps things light enough for comfortable viewing. Similarly, we noticed that despite its lower resolution, the One S’s screen seemed brighter than the Galaxy Nexus at equivalent brightness settings, and with more accurate color temperatures to boot.

Underneath the screen are your three standard Android 4.0 buttons — back, home and app-switching, and like the One X, these are capacitive buttons rather than Galaxy Nexus-style on-screen dealies. And, yes, just like the One X, this leads to a bit of frustration when you come across an app that needs the legacy “menu” button. Part of the screen has to be reclaimed to make way for a virtual menu key, which is all the more intrusive on the One S’s smaller screen. As we mentioned in our One X review, this should become less of an issue as more apps are updated with full support for Android 4.0 and its standard three buttons.

The rest of the One S’s buttons and ports are exactly where you’d expect to find them an HTC phone. Along the top edge is the power button and headphone jack, with the volume rocker on the right and microUSB port on the left. Above the screen there’s a basic VGA shooter for video calls (or checking yourself out in the bundled mirror app). Around the back is an 8MP backside-illuminated ImageSense-powered camera, which will sound familiar if you’ve read our One X review. As on the One X, it’s backed up by a single LED flash.

Around the back, the soft-touch plastic area near the camera lens snaps off to reveal the spring-loaded microSIM slot, and nothing else. That’s right, there’s no removable battery or microSD card, so you’ll have to make do with the 1650mAh battery pack and 16GB of internal storage that’s included. We’d rather these things were user-replaceable, but in this instance HTC has sacrificed expandability in favor of sleek, compact design. Generally, this is a price we’re willing to pay, and we’re seeing a slow migration away from expandable storage in many leading Android phones anyway. What’s a little harder to swallow is the relatively meager 10GB of USB storage that remains once you deduct the OS partition and app storage from the One S’s 16GB of internal flash. However you spin it, that’s not a lot of space on a phone with no other storage options.

Internally, there’s a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU running the show, along with 1GB of RAM. The S4 (aka Krait) is Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chip, and despite “only” being a dual-core CPU, it’s among the fastest smartphone chips out there at the moment. If you’re the type of person who cares about benchmark scores, then rest assured that the S4 routinely matches NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 in most benchmark apps. It’s also the same chip that’ll be shipping in AT&T’s LTE version of the HTC One X, so you’re definitely not going to be short on computational horsepower.

As for plain old voice calling, well, the One S does that too. And it does so pretty well — we noticed no dropped calls, and cellular and Wifi reception is comparable to other Android smartphones.

Finally, we should note that NFC (near-field communication) support, which is present on the One X, is absent from the One S. We’ve yet to see this technology take off in a big way, but it’s a little disappointing to see it omitted from what’s likely to be a popular handset.

-The Specs-

-HTC One S Software-

The HTC One S runs the latest software from HTC and Google — that’s Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC Sense 4. We’ve been over this in detail in our exhaustive Sense 4 walkthrough, and it’s pretty much the same software experience you get on the One X, albeit on a slightly smaller screen.

The look and feel of Sense 4 will be familiar to anyone who’s used an earlier Sense phone, but HTC’s taken a more minimalist approach this time around. Many of the chunky, embossed 3D elements and superfluous animations have been pared back, and the animations that remain show none of the trademark lag that plagued earlier versions of Sense. We’d even go as far as saying that the software experience on the One S is, on the whole, slightly smoother and more responsive than on the One X. The differences are subtle, and you’re not going to notice them unless you’re using both phones side by side, but they’re there. To us, the One S’s software just feels that little bit more optimized.

Although the One S runs HTC’s UX layer, there’s little that’s been changed just for the sake of it. The ICS-style dock, for example, remains, complete with customizable icons. All the navigation bar clutter from Sense 3.x has been removed, and replaced with a single settings button, just like vanilla Android. The dedicated task switcher has been re-worked slightly, and now shows larger app previews similar to Windows Phone 7. This means you get to see fewer apps at a time, but that’s balanced by the fact that task switcher will automatically scroll to the last app you were using, making it really easy to hop between two different apps.

Despite bringing Sense closer to vanilla Android than it’s been in the past, HTC hasn’t abandoned our favorite features — leap mode in the launcher, the wealth of skinning and customization options and the excellent Sense lock screen are all present and accounted for. HTC’s Trace keyboard (think Swype) is much improved in Sense 4, too. That’s to say it’s actually usable now, and you can type on it without wanting to throw your phone out a window.

Sense also retains its considerable multimedia chops, with codecs aplenty, DLNA support and movie streaming through HTC Watch, which offers some content not available through Google Play Movies. And the Sense Gallery app has been expanded to include photos and videos from a variety of sources, including Dropbox, Facebook, DLNA, Flickr and Picasa.

Similarly, the Sense music player has been updated with content from SoundHound, TuneIn Radio and the 7Digital music store. And unlike previous versions of Sense, the Beats Audio enhancements now work in all multimedia applications when you’ve got headphones connected, not just the stock music app — good news for streaming music subscribers. Beats remains something of a contentious subject, with some claiming that it does little beyond boosting bass. It’s difficult to quantify exactly what Beats does during music playback, but we’ve consistently found that our stuff sounds better with Beats enabled. That said, in some tracks the combination of boosted bass and clarified vocals can result in playback anomalies.

If you own any Beats Audio hardware already, you’ll be pleased to find individual options within the Beats software for iBeats, urBeats, Beats Solo and Beats Pro.

HTC’s less intrusive approach to Android is reflected in its new Sense browser. It’s pretty much the same old stock ICS browser we’ve been using on the Galaxy Nexus for the past few months, with just a few additions from HTC. The menu bar has been adapted to include the option to enable or disable Flash on the fly, and bookmarking and tab-switching buttons are now found at the bottom of the page. The latter is largely a matter of personal taste — buttons are easier to hit further down the screen, but since the browser controls hide themselves when you’re not scrolling up quickly, it can be difficult to anticipate when the buttons are going to show up.

Social network and calendar integration has been a long-standing feature of Sense, and both are alive and well in version 4. In addition to showing calendar content from Google, Facebook and Outlook, Sense now includes a dedicated tasks area, which can sync with Google’s Gmail task list. The Friend Stream app does a decent job of aggregating social content, though you’ll find better dedicated clients for social networks like Twitter in the Google Play Store.

On the whole, HTC Sense 4 builds on Android 4.0 with some useful additions and only a few minor annoyances. Not everyone’s going to be a fan of the look and feel of Sense, but we think the changes that’ve been made in the latest version make it easier to enjoy HTC’s UX, as opposed to merely putting up with it.

-HTC One S Battery Life-

The HTC One S includes a 1650mAh fixed battery — not the heftiest smartphone battery, but still a respectable capacity. Some will bemoan the lack of removable battery pack, but considering the One S is a 3G/HSPA phone with a 4.3-inch screen, the included battery is more than sufficient. Even with relatively heavy use, including capturing a wealth of still photos with the phone’s rear camera, we struggled to kill off the One S in under 17 hours. HD video recording remains a major battery drain, but that’s true of every smartphone.

The One S’s screen is by far its most battery-intensive component, but unlike the One X, we didn’t notice excessive battery drain at high brightness levels. And on a similar note, we were much more confident in the One S’s ability to get us through a full working day. Despite its svelte physique, the One S packs in plenty of juice, and you shouldn’t have to worry about a mid-day recharge.

-HTC One S Camera-

Like its big brother, the One S includes an 8MP ImageSense camera, complete with ImageChip for photo processing, the new HTC Sense camera app, 1080p video recording and all that good stuff. As such, the camera experience you get on the One S is almost identical to that of the One X. Same lightning-fast focus and capture speeds, and comparable image quality. Burst mode has made it across too, letting you capture up to 20 frames in rapid succession. If you’re into wacky filters, you’ll be pleased to see that HTC’s included a great selection of camera effects that are applied in real-time. 

The One S’s still shot quality is among the best we’ve seen from any phone — its images are bright, detailed and on the whole, free from noise and other artifacts. That’s made all the more impressive by the speed at which the phone captures its photos. And as the camera uses a backside-illuminated sensor, it does an impressive job of capturing images in darker conditions, too.

Video recording remains a bit of a mixed bag. We’ve no problems with the quality of video recorded in daylight, but low-light footage suffers the same fate as on the One X — greatly reduced frame rates, down to around 19fps in some cases. To give some perspective, the Sony Xperia S shoots 1080p video at a silky smooth 30fps, even in dark conditions.

Despite this one area of weakness, we have no trouble recommending the One S to buyers looking for a great smartphone camera experience. As you’ll see in our sample shots below, it’s possible to capture some genuinely impressive shots in the right conditions, with the right combination of settings.

-Hackability-

Being an HTC phone, the One S is unlockable via the HTCDev bootloader unlock site. Once the phone’s bootloader is cracked open, you’re free to root it and fool around with ROMs and custom recoveries, if you’re into that sort of thing. Right now an interim version of ClockworkMod recovery is available for the One S, and a few custom ROMs, including MoDaCo, are starting to appear.

It’s still early days, but given the quality of its hardware, the ease with which it can be unlocked and its position as T-Mobile USA’s new flagship phone, we anticipate a strong developer following for the One S.

-The Wrap-up-

In the One S, HTC has itself an almost perfect high-end, 4.3-inch smartphone for consumers who don’t want to deal with the additional bulk of a 4.7-incher. And on the whole, the compromises that have been made to allow for the One S’s slim figure don’t directly impact the user experience. The main exception is the screen — going back to a PenTile qHD panel is tough — but even that isn’t as clear-cut as the numbers would suggest. That said, it ain’t no 720p SuperLCD 2.

We’re sure many — particularly those unconstrained by an existing service plan — will be torn between this phone its big brother. Ultimately, the argument between the two boils down to this — the One S delivers almost all the benefits of the One X in a slimmer form factor and at a lower price point. It also feels better in the hand, mainly because it’s easier to actually fit it into your hand. The two biggest trade-offs you’ll have to make if you pick the One S relate to screen quality and internal storage size.

The One S will inevitably live in the shadow of the One X, but it’d be foolish to overlook this device just because it’s not a “flagship phone”. Despite its position in the middle of the HTC One series, this is no mid-range handset. The One S is a smaller, sleeker, leaner version of the X (with much better battery life, we might add), and it’s just as capable a smartphone as HTC’s new flagship. If you can get past the lower screen resolution, it’s definitely worth a look.

Source: androidcentral

LG Lucid Review

With new devices rolling out on what feels like a daily basis, making the decision of which device is worthy of signing the next two years away with can be a daunting task. While the push is towards the evolving and new technologies such as 4G LTE and others, that doesn’t mean they are for everyone. LG has hit before with some great devices like the LG Spectrum among others, and they are back at it again with the LG Lucid.

Could a device that launches with Gingerbread and promises Ice Cream Sandwich in the future be your next device? Could you put aside the fact that the display isn’t 720P, or are these not things you are needing and just want a reliable Android device? Either way, let’s hit the break and check out how the LG Lucid stacks up, and if it may just land in your pocket or purse.

– Video (Review) –

– Hardware –

Over the years I have tried, really really tried to find an Android device that I loved. Not so much on the software side, but more so on the hardware side of things, and I think that time has come. The LG Lucid has one of the best in hand feels of any phone that I have used to date, and the build quality feels exceptional. The perfect combination of weight to size makes using this device an enjoyable experience, and the layout of everything is just as good.

LG has done some minor appearance tweaks on this device that make it not only look great, but also function very well. Starting with the front of the device you will notice that the screen takes up a larger portion of the real estate, there is only a small area up top where they have their logo, a front facing camera, and a nearly hidden speaker. Down below is the obvious Verizon branding and the four capacitive buttons. With LG minimizing the amount of extra space on the front of the device, they have eliminated the need for an overly tall device.

Wrapping from the left side to the right side of the device LG has placed a silver plastic inlay, which provides a very nice look to the device. On the left side they have the micro-USB charging port at the bottom, and a volume rocker about 3/4 of the way up. Both of these sit underneath the silver line so looking from the top of the device you can barely notice them. On the right hand side they have the power button at the top and the rest is just smooth without any buttons. The placement of the power button takes a few times to get used to, but after using it for only a few minutes I instantly loved the placement.

The top of the device has a nice rounded look to it, and on the left hand side there is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Along the bottom you will see the cut out to open the battery door, in which they have placed the microphone. Attention to small details like this is what makes the device look and feel so great.

Flipping the device over you will instantly notice the red and black diagonal stripping pattern that LG has laid into the battery door. One gripe about the battery door is that the slick surface attracts finger prints so easily, and for people like myself that will be sure to drive them nuts. At the top you will notice a 5MP camera in the center, and spaced to the left a decent sized (for a phone) flash. Aside from the normal LG and 4G LTE branding there isn’t much else to the back except for the speaker down the bottom.

Removing the battery door will reveal the 1700mAh battery, the micro-SD card slot, as well as the micro-SIM slot for the 4G LTE SIM card.

– What’s under the hood –

Packing a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GM of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 4G LTE radio into a device sure sounds like a recipe for success, right? While some would argue that 1.2GHz isn’t the most powerful process, or that some other spec should have been bumped up, keep in mind it isn’t all about the specs.

You will have about 1.5GB of space to put your applications on, and this is due partially to the rather large OS that comes due to the bloat that is installed. The processor is more than sufficient to move you around quickly, get in and out of applications and animations without much overall lag.

Verizon’s 4G LTE network packs a serious punch, but as we know punches cause injury, and the battery is what receives that injury. LG has put a 1700mAh battery inside the device to defend it a little, but the LTE network is power hungry, and loves to guzzle through the battery. Though I have noticed some pretty good times on the battery, and standby to be pretty good, experiences with this will definitely differ with each of your use cases.

– Software –

We all have our own feelings about “skins” on Android, and whether you love them or hate them, we should all give credit where it is due. Being a fan of various skins, and being able to see their advantages and disadvantages, I think LG has done a great job implementing a bunch of added features along with keeping a nice clean look.

LG has launched the Lucid running Gingerbread, Android 2.3.6, and while many of you may automatically dismiss the device because of this, that wouldn’t be a favorable decision. LG does plan to update the Lucid to ICS, the question at this point is just when exactly it will land as an update. This said, let’s take a look at what LG has done on the software side on the device to make for the best experience.

The Lucid is almost identical to the Spectrum in terms of software, with the exception of a few differences. First off you will notice that the Lucid features five home screens which they have already preset some widgets and icons for ease of use.

Adding items to your home screen is a customized experience on the Lucid, instead of popping up a menu in the middle of the screen for what to add, the options pop up from the bottom. From here you can add widgets, which LG has a few of their own already installed, shortcuts, folders, or change the wallpaper. Once you select a widget you will then be able to select the size (if applicable) and then add it to the screen.

Pulling down the notification bar you will notice that at the top there are quick access icons to various settings, and these can be defined by you. Directly below there is a Wifi button which will show what network you are connected to, and tapping this will bring you right to the Wifi settings of the device.

Unlike the Spectrum, LG has left four different themes in this device, each of them offering a unique set of icons and wallpaper to match. The themes available are:

  • Optimus (the default theme)
  • Playworld (cartoonish theme)
  • Opart (dark styled theme)
  • Cozywall (professional styled cartoon theme )

Being able to change the look and feel of the device without needing to root the device and load a custom ROM is definitely something that many will enjoy.

Jumping into the app drawer you will notice the applications broken down into categories which can be minimized and maximized. While they do pre-organize the applications for you, the applications can be moved around to your preference and placed into folders which make sense to you. In addition you can change the view of the applications into an alphabetical list if preferred with just a few clicks.

Being a Verizon branded device it is quite obvious that there will be a laundry list of applications that come pre-installed. Included applications on the device are:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Apps
  • Backup Assistant
  • Let’s Golf 3
  • Mobile Hotspot
  • My Verizon Mobile
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • V Cast Tones
  • VZ Navigator
  • Netflix
  • Share Genie
  • YouTube
  • News
  • Google Search
  • Finance
  • Richnote
  • Places
  • Polaris Office

This is quite unfortunate, and we hope at some point Verizon realizes that we want the space on the device to install applications we want, not what they think we want.

– Camera –

When it comes to cameras on Android devices there appears to be either cameras that work well enough to get the job done, or cameras that just stink. The Lucid features a 5MP camera that captures some rather nice images, and while it may not be perfect, they turn out a lot better than other Android devices I have tried.

– Conclusion –

Could a device that launches with only a promise of an Ice Cream Sandwich update be the one for you? Combining a great overall build quality with a stylish design, the LG Lucid is no device to simply overlook. The 1.2GHz dual-core processor is no joke when it comes to power, and the 4G LTE (if available in your area) is a great thing to have.

While packing nearly every spec you could wish for in a high end device, the Lucid is currently sitting with a price tag of only $79 (after a $50) rebate, and this is about 1/3 the cost of most other high end devices. The Lucid is definitely worthy of a look, take it for a spin, and see if the device is right for you.

HTC One X Review

> The Good

A great camera, equally great display, and all the power of NVIDIA Tegra 3 that we’ve come to expect. Sense 4 meshes nicely with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Free 25GB of online storage thrown in via Dropbox. Impressive design and build quality. Battery life is pretty good.

> The Bad

That said, the non-removable battery and lack of microSD card may be a sticking point for some. The 4.7-inch phone may be too large for small hands. The protruding camera lens can be easily scratched and isn’t easily replaceable.

> Conclusion

The leader of the next-generation HTC One series of smartphones has been a breeze to use. Android 4.0 has been improved upon with HTC Sense 4 while still retaining the overall look, feel and function of Ice Cream Sandwich, which in and of itself has an excellent user experience. The camera is a high point, Beats Audio makes music sound better, and you get a bunch of online storage thrown in for free. HTC easily has a winner in the One X.

– HTC One X Hardware –

The X is the big brother of the HTC One family. As in, it’s the svelte older brother who drives a Bitchin’ Camaro. No, really. The X looks great, runs great, and, like Lane Meyer, is a much-needed big bowl of win served up after too many bad runs. It’s also the start of a new era of design for HTC.

The One X has a 4.7-inch display, putting it into the class of “Seriously? That’s pretty darn big.” Not as big as one of those newfangled tablet hybrid things (That’s the Galaxy Note you see above, with the original Nexus One on the other side), but it’s the same size as the first phone in this new generation of Android, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The display might also be the most impressive part of the One X. In fact, we’re just going to come out and say it:

The HTC One X has the best display we’ve ever seen in an Android smartphone, and it’s quite possibly the best display we’ve seen in any phone. It’s that good.

That’s a big claim, we know. And resolution fanatics will cry out that its pixel density still doesn’t match the 326 pixels per inch of the iPhone 4S. Know what? It doesn’t. But 317 pixels per inch on a 4.7-inch display is plenty impressive. (The One X has a 720×1280 resolution.) It also bypasses the AMOLED argument, using a Super LCD 2 display. There’s virtually no space between the glass and the display, so the colors and icons seem to nearly be floating on top, also giving it some excellent viewing angles. You know those dummy phones you’ll see in some stores, with the fake displays that are really stickers stuck to a shell and that look a little too good to be true? It’s almost like that, but in a real, working phone.

And we’re not done singing the display’s praises. The ambient light sensor keeps things surprisingly bright. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a phone we can actually use outside, let alone in direct sunlight. So long as the big bright ball in the sky isn’t reflecting directly back into your retinas, you’ll be able to use the One X outdoors.

And then there’s the body of the phone. Much hay has been made over HTC using a special polycarbonate for the One X shell. At the end of the day for the end user, it’s going to still feel like plastic. It’s got a matte finish to it, and while we still miss the soft-touch paint of days gone by, the One X feels just fine to the touch. We’ve yet to experience any scratches on it in a week’s worth of pocket life, but there’s no substitute for the test of time. (Same goes for the durability of the display, too.) It is, however, subject to smudges.

Above the display you’ll find the HTC logo, the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 52 little pinholes for the earpiece speaker grille. (A great design touch, even if not all 52 serve as the speaker.) Neatly hidden one of the pinholes (sixth from the right on the bottom row) is a tiny LED used for notifications and charging indication. It’s very subtle.

Below the display is where you come to the first controversial bit. Being a phone of the Ice Cream Sandwich generation, the One X has shifted to a three-button scheme. But unlike the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, its buttons are capacitive and not a part of the display itself, on screen when needed and hidden from sight in apps that want to use the full screen. That leads to a couple concerns. One is that HTC is deviating from the spirit of Ice Cream Sandwich, and that sticking with off-screen buttons will lead to confusion when it comes to actually using the phone. We’ve had no problems whatsoever. Sure, you lose the little animation effects that linger on the Galaxy Nexus as your thumb lifts away from the screen, but we wouldn’t say we miss them.

The other issue is a matter of software and user interface in Ice Cream Sandwich, because there’s no longer a dedicated menu button on the phone. We go into it in more detail here, but the short version is HTC has had to come up with an interim solution. Developers should be reworking their applications to better include menu options without the need for a superfluous button. But change has been slow to come, and HTC’s addressed this by making the on-screen menu button take up a small portion of the display. That upsets some, because it means less real estate for the rest of the app. Hey, it’s a 4.7-inch display. There’s lots of room to go around, but point taken, and developers need to update their apps to Android’s new standard.

The two sides of the One X are fairly benign. On one is the volume rocker. On the other is the microUSB port.

Up top you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, power button and a pinhole for a secondary noise-canceling microphone. The main microphone is on the bottom of the phone, exactly where you’d expect it to be.

Moving to the rear of the One X, this is where you find the other major design feature. (Or flaw, depending on who you ask.) There is no battery cover. Well, at least not one that can be removed. The One X has a single-piece polycarbonate shell. That gives it some extra strength, and it looks damn nice. But that also means you can’t swap out the battery for a fresh one. And there’s no microSD card, either, so you’re left with whatever internal storage the phone comes with. (Ours has 32 gigabytes of storage, but remember that AT&T’s version is only going to have 16GB.) The storage situation is mitigated by the fact that so much is shifting to the “cloud” these days — and HTC has teamed up with Dropbox to give you 25GB of free cloud storage for two years. The battery situation is what it is. The One X has an 1800 mAh battery, and that’s it. When it’s dead, it’s time to charge.

The rear-facing camera is an 8MP shooter with LED flash, a 28mm lens and an f/2.0 aperture. HTC’s pretty proud of it, and it should be. We’re a little worried about how much it protrudes from the phone, though. We can’t help but think about how horribly scratched our HTC EVO 4G lens cover became, and quickly, too. We’ve already managed a few scratches on our lens cover. Be careful is all we’re saying, because this thing’s attached to the phone itself, and you won’t be replacing it.

Near the camera lens you’ll find the SIM card tray. It’s got a little pinhole that you stick HTC’s SIM card tray unlocking mechanism tool thingy, or cousin to the battery cover unlocking mechanism tool thingy we saw on the Motorola Droid 4. In essence, it’s a well-designed paper clip used to eject the tray. It’s easy enough to use, just remember to insert your micro-SIM card face down. You’ll either need to cut down or replace your mini- or full-size SIM card. (Check out our micro-SIM tutorial.)

The final features on the rear of the One X are five gold contacts used for dock integration — you’ll recall that the One X has a killer car dock and app — and there are 44 pinholes that serve as the rear speaker. Again, great design there. Just above the speaker grille is the Beats Audio logo, and FCC information is printed beneath it.

The HTC One X is not a small phone. But neither is it setting any records for size. It’s roughly the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. In fact, because of design differences, the One X actually is just a tad thinner than the GNex over much of the body (though they both match up on paper at 8.9mm), and it’s a hair more narrow. The One X may be big, but it’s no fatty.

– HTC One X Software –

The HTC One X (as well as the other phones in the HTC One line) has the latest version of the Android operating system, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Specifically, our One X review unit is running Android 4.0.3.

The One X also has a brand-new version of the Sense user interface — HTC’s custom design of Android. Just as we saw at its unveiling in February at Mobile World Congress, Sense 4 perhaps is the best iteration yet. Sense 4 more gracefully lends itself to Ice Cream Sandwich, which in and of itself has an excellent, if not a little robotic, user interface. Instead of replace large portions of the UI (trading the customizable dock for the old-school Sense dock, for example), Sense 4 leaves intact the vast majority of what’s been done in Ice Cream Sandwich, improving on it in bits and pieces. A few examples:

  • Folders behave the same way in Sense 4, but HTC has made adding items a little more intuitive.
  • Menus are more friendly and colorful (but not in an overly cartoonish way).
  • HTC’s customizable “Scenes” and “Themes” — sets of preloaded home screens and different colors for icons and widgets — add even more functionality to the ICS UI.
  • The HTC lock screen with its customizable background and quick-launch apps is a major plus, though it has lost a little functionality.
  • HTC has improved on the browser, which already is pretty good. You can still download the Chrome beta if you wish.

For our part, Sense 4 is pretty darn good. It’s toned things back (in particular with the launcher and app drawer) while still putting its own stamp on Ice Cream Sandwich. Not too little, not too much, with improvements in just the right places. If you’ve been using stock Ice Cream Sandwich, you’ll be right at home in Sense 4.

The question we’ve kept asking ourselves while exploring Sense 4 is “What are the haters going to hate?” When someone says they don’t like Sense, what, exactly, are they talking about? Is it the large, colorful (and often useful) widgets? Swap ’em out. Is it the dock and app drawer? Install a third-party launcher. Is it the color menus? Well, you’re kind of stuck with them, but Sense 4 has some useful themes to you can use to change that.

But that’s just the user interface stuff. Where things really start to get sexy is with the camera, and with music.

HTC in the latter fall of 2011 made a significant deal with Beats Audio that brings some fairly major audio enhancements. News in Sense 4, HTC’s made Beats available to any application that outputs music. There aren’t any settings for Beats. There’s no customizable EQ. You’ve got the option to turn it off, if you so desire, but you’re not going to want to.

The Beats enhancements are like smartly applying a sharpening filter in Photoshop. Sure, the picture might have been pretty good before. But now it’s sharper and clearer. And Beats makes everything just a tad louder, too.

By the way, you might have noticed that we didn’t mention the earbuds that came with our One X review unit. That’s because they’re pretty basic earbuds, aren’t Beats branded and really aren’t anything to write home about. If you’re OK with cheap earbuds, you’ll be OK with these, we suppose. But let’s hope we see some nicer ones in regional releases.

And all that leads us to that other major piece of software …