Hands-on with the HTC 8X and 8S (video)

Daniel Bader

September 19, 2012 5:18pm

Today we got a glimpse at HTC’s future: Android and Windows Phone. In particular, HTC is aligning itself heavily with Redmond in a way that we didn’t anticipate, and it speaks to either how confident the company feels in the potential of WP8, or its lack of confidence in Android. Either way, diversity is a good thing, and these phones announced today, the 8X and 8S, are great examples of HTC’s design evolution.

The 8X feels incredibly solid in the hand, with a great build quality that avoids any seams. While it incorporates many of the manufacturing advantages of the One X, it and the 8S, feels slightly more metallic. HTC is emphasizing that coating, which comes in multiple colours such as red, black, blue, and yellow, is scratch-resistant and made from a single piece of polycarbonate.

There’s a 1.5Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 8-16GB internal storage (no microSD slot) and a 1800mAh non-removable battery to round out the specs. An LTE-capable baseband will also be on board, in contrast with previous reports that it would be HSPA+ only.

We weren’t able to see any new software features in Windows Phone 8 — Microsoft had a big presence at this event, and kept all the demo phones on the lock screen — but HTC is touting its 8MP ImageSense camera on the back, which takes burst shots at 15fps. Its sensor and lens combo is the same as in the One X — f/2.0 aperture and all — but Microsoft claims that the photo-taking experience is significantly better than on Android, afforded by the dedicated shutter button and optional lenses (which we saw during the Lumia 920 demo, though those were Nokia exclusive).

The 2.1MP front-facing camera, which will be used to power WP8’s powerful Skype integration, has a wide f/2.0 aperture as well, creating a much wider field of view than traditional FFC’s. While we don’t think 1080p video capture from a front camera is especially valuable in daily use, it’s nice to know that it’s not an afterthought.

The phone is significantly thinner at 10.1mm than Nokia’s flagship, too, though we can’t say which boasts the better screen. The 4.3-inch Super LCD2 display is absolutely gobsmacking, however — a stunning piece of technology that looks significantly better than the already-fantastic One X. This is because of a tighter pixel density which, at 342ppi, is among the highest in the industry. Blacks look Super AMOLED-good and colours, which receive such emphasis in Windows Phone 8, are vivid, accurately saturated and just plain beautiful.

The 8X and 8S are the first Windows Phone devices with integrated Beats audio, and come with a more powerful internal amplifier than typical smartphones, which drives both the headphone jack and back speaker (etched with 245 “microdrilled” perforations). The 8X feels very compact, much more so than the Lumia 920, and is practically dwarfed when put next to the massive One X. It’s clear that this generation of Windows Phone devices is keeping screen sizes to within reasonable numbers — 4.0-4.3 inches, generally — and will benefit from higher pixel density as a result.

The 8S is a bit of a combination between the One S and the One V. Its two-toned colour scheme (with cheeky names as Fiesta Red and Domino Black/White) is being marketed as the “playful” version. It’s really compact — the 4-inch display feels smaller than it is — and it will be a considerably more accessible mid-range device than the 8X.

Despite the lower specs — a 1Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512MB RAM, an 800×480 pixel Super LCD display, and only 4GB of internal storage plus microSD slot — the build quality is just as good as its bigger brother, and I would feel comfortable recommending it to photography lovers as well. The 8S has a 5MP camera with ImageSense and a f/2.8 lens, plus 720p max video support. There’s a 1700mAh non-removable battery in there as well.

We know that the 8X is coming to both Rogers and Bell, and the 8S is coming to Bell. More on price and specific availability in the coming days.

Update #1: Looks like the 8X will not have LTE capabilities. That definitely makes the decision a lot easier for prospective buyers.

Update #2: The HTC site was updated to reflect the fact that the 8X will in fact have LTE support. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Steven

    If the HTC One S is priced right, it’ll be a great budget/mid-range model!

  • Dop

    I am definitely picking up a WP8 phone as my next device of choice. It just looks so polished, so fluid, and perfectly functional. I would like to give Android a nod here as well, but WP8 seems like an overall smoother OS.

    Nice HTC devices – sexy, playful, though I will be picking up a Lumia instead. Most likely the 920.

  • duw

    The 8X seems to make quite a nice mid-range phone, really; the 8S rounds out the lower end of the spectrum with the L820.

  • Kevin

    You have to be excited for all the hardware for the Window phones. HTC proves again that they have design. But will the full package be deserving of the W8 flagship phone over the Lumia 920 and Ativ S?

  • Jay

    Those look sexy.
    Lumia 920, HTC 8x, Samsung’s version

    looks like Windows phone fans should have some nice choices. 🙂

    Although htc and lumia kinda look similar to me :p

  • Vengefulspirit99

    nothing amazing spec wise. The screen seems better but tbh the difference is minimal. sorry but ill give wp a few more years to figure things out

    • George K

      The lumia 920 has some pretty decent specs. What more are you looking for (keep in mind that Windows Phone has historically been drastically more efficient than Android, with first gen WP7 devices running much smoother than my Gnex with Jelly Bean).

  • Miknitro

    No LTE on the 8X?

  • f0x

    i think he meant to say that the 8S does not have LTE. The 8X has 4G LTE.

  • Joe

    “the 8X and 8S, are great examples of HTC’s design evolution.”

    LOL! Yeah, their design evolution is to blatantly steal Nokia’s design, rather than come up with thier own. Still the 920 has the following features that the 8X doesn’t.

    – Qi wireless charging
    – Optical image stabilization
    – Bluetooth 4.0
    – Larger battery
    – PureMotion HD+ 60FPS screen(no blur)
    – Super Sensitive screen(use with gloves)
    – Better low light camera performance
    – 3 High Amplitude microphones
    – Better fit and finish

    Do I need to go on?

    • til-bar

      Better fit and finish?

      Honestly, before these devices hit market the comparisons between the 8x and 920 are purely speculative.

  • Christian

    What? No love for Telus?!

  • Piff

    If this comes to Wind then I am all in.

  • Vengefulspirit99

    and HTC… No sd slot again? did they not learn their lesson?

  • Hooligan

    They look like nice phones, now if only fido would carry a wp.

  • bala

    look at the design its a copy of Nokia Lumia’s designs

  • rain55

    Again HTC given your new phone to only two Carriers good job because you are up from one maybe next New phone you would be up to 3 carriers . Take a look at Samsung being exclusive to everybody all 3 carriers but good looking phone

  • Jer

    Yea, more choice for the consumer. A little extra competition is always good. Samsung will have to step up it’s game if it wants to stay on top.

    I’m curious to try out that Windows OS!

  • Keith

    They did a pretty descent job on their design. But putting a 4.3″ screen in a body that is wider than the Titan which had a georgeous 4.7″ screen is a step backwords. I have 4.3″ now and I’m not all excitived about screens that small anymore.

  • nathan

    I really like that I’m having a tough choice choosing between nokia and htc phones here for my first windows 8 phone.

  • Swizzlerz

    Its down to price for me and which phone is on telus. Is it the Lumia 920 or Htc 8x 16gig “as its not exclusive” it may come to telus.. who knows???? Someone tell – us lol which one telus is getting ?????

  • thepeddle

    These phones look amazing, I just don’t understand why android can’t get the same look and feel. I love samsung and android and I really hope they are paying attention to this build quality.

    • Blake

      Love the design of the Lumia 920 and 8X, no way I’m buying the plastic crap that Samsung makes. I would also prefer if these phones came with Android, not sold on WP8 just yet, although I’m willing to give it a go.

  • stylinred

    they’re nice looking phones a little toooooo Nokia Lumiaish though but still nice

  • Cavemeron

    Nokia lumias are still better. No questions asked. Htc do make good phones, but they should stick to android where they can apply the sense magic they do.

  • watership

    “Update: Looks like the 8X will not have LTE capabilities. That definitely makes the decision a lot easier for prospective buyers.”

    Not according to a bunch of other tech sites. They say it’s both LTE and HSPA+, depending on the carrier.

  • No BBM

    This phone looks sick!

  • nekkidtruth

    Nokia files suit in 3…2….

  • Glenn

    I want the 8X with the 8S case.

  • Eluder

    I’m pretty sure the 8X phone is LTE.

  • Bilal

    The way I rank current gen Windows Phone handsets…

    Premium: Lumia 920

    High-medium: HTC 8X & Ativ-S

    Medium: Lumia 820

    Low-Medium: HTC 8S

  • Blas

    Well WP8 is certainly going to have a strong line up.

    Nokia is coming out the strongest, but I really feel they missed the mark by going past the 4.3 inch mark and neglecting the microSD slot for the 920.
    Samsungs ATIV S looks great, but the flimsy aluminum brushed plastic backing is less than stellar. I’d prefer not to have a case if I can avoid it.
    HTC’s look great and are probably pretty sturdy, although the 8X is lacking a microSD slot which isn’t ideal either.
    Guess we’ll see how it goes.

  • Billy Flanigan

    Wide apertures and wide angles of view are completely unrelated. The front-facing camera is both bright and wide, which is awesome.
    Wide angle lenses tend to be a bit darker, typically 2.5-4X darker than 2.0, with apertures of 3.5-4.5 (f/2.0 is twice as bright as f/2.8 is twice as bright as 4.0, etc…)

  • rikin

    what navigation software does this phone have?