Introduced back in February, HTC's One X was a new attempt to unify the company's product lines and stop pushing out the iterative, hard-to-differentiate models the company had unfortunately become known for. So it came as a bit of surprise to see HTC release the One X+ in October, an iterative update on the One X that simply bumps up the specs. It keeps the "One" brand and improves on its predecessor in a number of ways, but are the new, flagship-caliber specs enough to give the flagging company a boost?
On the outside, the One X+ is nearly identical to the One X. It comes only in matte black, but the overall dimensions are essentially unchanged. Build quality does seem slightly improved — a tiny creak on the piece surrounding the camera lens on my One X is not present on the new unit. I still think the One X / One X+ is the best looking Android phone in recent years with the one of the best screens, and HTC hasn't messed with a good thing. The only tangible difference is that the AT&T logo on the front and the Beats logo on the back are both simple logos now. The "Pogo pins" for charging with a dock are still present as well, despite the utterly mystifying lack of a dock to buy for it.
HTC has increased the storage on the One X+ to an impressive 64GB. But the biggest change between the One X and the One X+, at least on AT&T's LTE variant, is a switch from a dual-core Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon processor to a quad-core Tegra 3 from Nvidia. HTC also bumped the clock speed up from 1.5GHz to 1.7GHz, but it's really an apples-to-oranges comparison. The S4 is both very fast and very efficient when it comes to battery life, but HTC apparently wanted to differentiate itself from the Galaxy S III by definitively giving its own flagship a processor with a higher clock speed.
The Tegra 3 is a good processor, but not a world-beater
In our benchmarks, the One X+ scored quite high on a couple of tests but wasn't radically impressive across the board. In actual usage, a much better gauge, I didn't experience any significant lag and generally found the One X+ felt slightly faster than the One X. That's no doubt a combination of the faster processor, the performance improvements found in Android 4.1, and improvements to be found in HTC's Sense 4+ customizations. The One X+ is fast, but it's not the standout performer it once was — the competition has caught up.
|GLB 2.1 Egypt (720p)
|GLB 2.1 Egypt (1080p)
|HTC One X+ (LTE)
|HTC One X
|Galaxy S III (AT&T)
|Galaxy S III (international)
|HTC One S
The Tegra 3 processor isn't without its drawbacks, however. I did find that the One X+ runs slightly hotter than the One X, especially when using LTE intensively. The bigger concern is power, something HTC has offset by increasing the size of the battery from 1,800mAh to 2,100mAh. In our standard battery test, the One X+ lasted an unimpressive six and a half hours loading a web page or image once a minute over Wi-Fi. That's about half of what the current Android battery king, the Droid RAZR Maxx HD, can pull off. Using the One X+ very heavily, including very regular web browsing and email along with a full two hours of GPS-powered navigation, my unit gave up the ghost at around the eight hour mark.
The larger battery is not a panacea
Those battery life results are less disappointing than they might sound given how hard I was pushing the device. What they do mean that the larger battery is not a panacea — you are still going to need to keep half an eye on the battery through the course of a normal day. On the whole, battery life is improved a bit over the One X, but as with the speed, there's not enough here for a One X owner to upgrade.
On the software side, the One X+ ships with Android 4.1 and Sense 4+, which means you get Google Now with a long-press of the home button and a few minor software tweaks over the previous version of Sense. Nitpickers won't like the persistent and non-removable "Power saver" toggle in the notification area, and for some reason Android 4.1's expanded notifications don't work either. On the bright side, HTC has finally made its own Twitter and Facebook integration sane, so you won't have doubled-up options for those in your settings. Like any custom Android build, Sense 4+ is divisive and it's still not really my cup of tea, but the big-button aesthetics of Sense 4+ are at least consistent and don't slow the phone down.
Unfortunately, AT&T has its hooks in here as well, with a "Browser Bar" on the default browser, annoying integration into the Address Book, automatic Hot Spot connections, and all the rest. AT&T is still pushing its custom "Ready2Go" setup software, which is particularly annoying because HTC has its own setup solution at htcsense.com, which has been removed from this device.
The One X+ portrays itself as a spec monster, with 64GB of storage, that fast quad-core Tegra 3 processor, and a larger battery with the same great screen we loved on the One X. The result is an impressive and good-looking Android phone, but not one that's significantly better than the other devices on the market. It’s definitely a better purchase than the original One X, but unless you're feeling severely pinched by storage space, there's no reason for current One X owners to upgrade.
Compared to other LTE devices on AT&T, the One X+ certainly deserves to be considered, but it's not really the slam dunk it might look like on paper. Choosing between it and the Galaxy S III, against which it's clearly designed to compete, will require you to balance your feelings about their respective Android skins, aesthetics, and whether a replaceable battery is important to you. For most people, the GSIII probably deserves a slight edge, but I like the look and feel of the One X+ better. The fact that an underdog like HTC has made it a toss-up is commendable, but at some point the company needs to show it can produce a runaway hit.