HTC Desire X

The HTC Desire still has a place in our hearts: it was a phone that really shook things up. It impressed us with what Android could do and what HTC could do for Android. It was our hottest phone of 2010, with HTC top of the mobile pile.

What followed in 2011 was a huge number of "S" updates, a diverse range of incremental devices that paled in comparison to Samsung's Galaxy S II. Arrive in 2012 with a new strategy for HTC, the One series, a simpler portfolio, fewer devices… and we don't know exactly where the Desire X fits in.

It sits above the One V, but rather than rolling into that nice, clean, One series strategy, it sits on a skew along with the Desire C, keeping alive memories of HTC of old.

But does this HTC handset have what it takes to divert your eyes from something like the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini, or the likes of the Motorola RAZR i? Or is this just AN Other HTC handset?

Design

Glance at the Desire X and it screams HTC back at you. From the discrete micro-drilled speaker holes to the small chin at the bottom of the display, this bears many of the hallmarks of HTC design. 

However, it's perhaps less eye-catching than many HTC phones when you place it down on the table in your favourite bar. You might say it lacks drama even, but if your phone is more about practicality than showing-off, then you might not care. 

The back cover is a little flimsy - in the same way that the Samsung Galaxy S III is - but we can't see people complaining about that once you've peeled it off to insert the necessary cards within. 

There is a volume rocker on the right-hand side and a power/standby button on the top in the centre, but aside from that, this is a button-free affair. Other control falls to the three touch controls ranging across the bottom of the 4-inch display. There's a Micro-USB port on the left and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top.

READ: HTC One X review

Unlike the One series, however, the Desire X loses out on the premium materials. There's no aluminium or polycarbonate unibody here, but in the hand the HTC Desire X feels solid enough. There's little sign of flex or creaking as you manipulate the phone so we can't complain about build. The back of the phone is tactile too, so it's easy to grip. Measuring 118.5 x 62.3 x 9.3mm and weighing 114g the X is compact and will slip into any pocket with relative ease. 

Hardware and display

What marks this phone out as a mid-range handset is that the specs that fit neatly into 2011. A 1GHz dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage - upgradable via microSD card - and a 4-inch display. 

Those specs mean that the HTC Desire X will be able to happily set about most daily tasks you'd want it to do. Sure, you'll notice the difference in snap and speed compared to the HTC One X, but it's typical for this level of device. The internal memory is on the low side, but throw in a card and you'll be ready to rock. 

Turning to the display, the 4-inch Super LCD display offers a resolution of 800 x 480, again falling smack into the mid range. It's capable enough, although naturally isn't as sharp as the best displays out there. It gives you a pixel density of 233ppi. 

The display offers up reasonable viewing angles and is bright and vibrant enough although the whites aren't quite as white as the best displays around.

Software and user interface

HTC is best known for the level of modifications it makes over Android. The Desire X is no different in this respect, with Sense 4.1 layered over Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (at the time of review). Visually, Sense looks much the same as it does on the HTC One devices, a slightly lighter touch than previously, giving you a homepage launcher slightly closer to stock Android and less restrictive than old versions of Sense.

 

Elsewhere you'll find that HTC tweaks just about everything. We're not going to describe this in granular detail because if you're a follower of HTC, much of what's on offer you'll have seen before. There are plenty of widgets to bring features to your home pages and we like the little details, like adding a shortcut to Google Play from the apps tray, which make things nice and convenient. 

If there's an area that we think HTC could improve, it's in the notifications area. Swipe down from the top of the display and things feel slightly under-used compared to some rivals. There are no power controls here, just a link through to settings, so things could be more immediate.

When it comes to the surfing the internet, the default HTC browser offers all the usual features you'd expect although we'd say it is overshadowed by Chrome, which feels faster and more dynamic. Perhaps confusingly, the option to "enable Flash player" persists in the menu, although it's no longer supported.

 

The keyboard is HTC's usual effort, which is reasonably smart, although as always, we found that having used the keyboard for some time, it just didn't seem to offer the speed or intuitive prediction of SwiftKey, which we installed in its place. 

One thing to note is that the default haptic feedback out of the box is inhibitive on the Desire X: it can't keep up with your fingers and it will limit the speed of text entry. The first thing you should do is switch off haptics and the device will feel instantly better.

Entertainment

When it comes to entertainment, the HTC Desire X is relatively well stocked. It comes branded with Beats, indicating that you get Beats Audio enhancement. This is an on/off option that's enabled when you connect a pair of headphones. You don't get a set of Beats in the box, but we know some retailers are offering a pair if you buy from them. 

The Desire X sounds good with Beats Audio turned on. It's a bassy delivery which will suit the type of music that will probably find its way on to this sort of handset; in taking Beats you do lose out on a regular EQ option, so Beats is all or nothing. 

 

You'll find that the Music app bundles other music apps in, so it acts as a hub rather than just somewhere to play music. For example, install Spotify and it will leap into Music, which is convenient, as it gives you one place to go to for all your music needs.

We like the fact that HTC incorporates media server access, as well as the option to send music to external players, so you can pretty much do anything you want. If we had one criticism of Music, it's that the music controls in the notifications area only offers pause: we'd love to see a skip option at least.

When it comes to video, the Desire X is something of a mixed bag. It naturally lacks the wow factor of the larger devices out there, but it's still a nice display for watching your movies on. It's a slight oddity that this phone has a patchy relationship with HD: the video camera doesn't offer HD capture, nor will it reliably play HD content back, despite older devices with these sorts of specs being perfectly capable of.

However, it's something of a moot point, unless you have your heart set on playing video from the Desire X on a larger display. Move content over to your phone that fits the resolution of the display and it will still look fantastic, as well streaming content from the likes of BBC iPlayer or Netflix. 

Cameras

As we mentioned, HD capture isn't an option on the Desire X. The top resolution on offer for video is 800 x 480, which sets this phone a little behind the times, as HD capture is available on many rival mid-range devices. It's a minor drawback when it comes to absolute quality if you're going to be sharing video.

The video camera offers continuous autofocus and it does this will minimal delay, so it's pretty good at keeping your footage sharp. The results are pretty good, but don't stand up against HD rivals. Colours are vibrant and the audio is reasonable.

On the camera front, there's a 5-megapixel sensor on the rear, but no front-facing camera. The camera offers some of HTC's latest features, like continuous shooting: keep a finger on the shutter button in the camera app and you'll capture a stream of images at 2.5fps to then select the best. 

Focusing is fast and continuous, but lacks the snap of the top devices from HTC. The same is true of the results. In low light images suffer from plenty of noise but that's nothing unusual.

Finally

The battery on the HTC Desire X has a capacity of 1650mAh, which is a little on the low side. The result is that, although the HTC Desire X will see you through most of the day, you can't stray too far from a power supply. Sure, it will outlast the original HTC One X, but we'd like to see a little more endurance from this type of phone.

Verdict

The HTC Desire X falls into a space between the HTC One V and the HTC One S, but is more restrained in its design. There are some points where the Desire X has been squeezed on the spec sheet: the lack of front facing camera and limited HD support being notable. There are also devices out there offering a higher resolution at this screen size.

The result is an Android handset that is for the most part perfectly capable. The HTC Desire X will set about your daily tasks without complaint and the experience is typical for a mid-range device at a mid-range price. If it's HTC Sense you want, then the Desire X will give you a phone that's (almost) up to date, without breaking the bank.

But you don't step away from the Desire X with a big sense of wow factor. It's safe, it's competent, but it never really steps beyond that. Some might say that it doesn't quite have the X factor, but it is reasonably affordable.