When HTC came up with its original Desire in 2010 it had a smartphone watershed moment. The handset was quite lovely. I carried on using mine well past its sell-by date simply because it was nicely designed and its optical trackpad was so clever. I know people who still use the phone.
HTC ran and ran with the Desire brand, but more recently its One series handsets have taken over. Yet here we are with the mid-range Desire X (£228 inc. VAT from Clove Technology). This phone is not to be confused with the Sensation XL, One X, One XL the new One X+ or, indeed, the new Windows Phone 8X. That’s an awful lot of Xs running across your product lines, HTC.
While the Desire X might retain that old and loved by many Desire name, it bears no physical resemblance to the original Desire. Like others, HTC quickly dispensed with the optical trackpad concept and here we have a standard array of three touch buttons beneath the screen for Android home, recent apps and back functions.
The plastic chassis isn’t the most sturdy, and I found if I squished it between my hands the backplate had a tendency to free itself from its side moorings. The backplate is a bit flimsy too – when I first prized it off to insert the SIM and microSD card into their slots I thought I was going to snap it in two.
HTC has managed to build in a few neat design features, though. The top and bottom edges taper to a point, and the bottom edge has a small upwardly curved lip that’s characteristic of a lot of HTC handsets. The back is rubberised for easy grip and there’s a large framing area around the camera. Lest we forget HTC’s association with Beats Audio, its logo is rather small on the back alongside a much larger HTC marque that’s embedded into its surroundings.
Buttons and connectors are minimal. The thin, narrow on/off switch is centrally located on the top, pushing the headset connector off towards the left. On the left edge there’s the micro-USB slot, and the right edge houses a long thin volume rocker. The bottom edge is clear.
Nothing about the design is particularly eye-catching or original, but the tall, thin frame is nonetheless attractive and this is one of those handsets that fitted my palm perfectly – not too big and not too small.
I’ve already noted that the Desire X is a mid-range phone, and that shows in the plastic build materials and also in some of the specs. HTC has made sure the Desire X doesn’t fall foul of being criticised for having a small display; its 4in, 800 x 480 pixel Super LCD screen is really quite impressive.
It doesn’t have the resolution of more expensive phones, but it is bright and sharp, its viewing angles are good, and I found it perfectly vibrant enough for everyday use. And HTC has been careful with the hardware design in respect of the screen, so that the side bezel is narrow. This means the handset feels ‘all screen’ when it is in use, which is a psychological win.
Touch responsiveness is good too and typing is particularly comfortable even in portrait mode. I was happier typing fairly long emails on the Desire X than I have been with some other offerings with 4in screens.
With a 1GHz dual-core processor that’s supported by a generous 768MB of RAM, the screen was served with information quickly too. HTC has been a little ungenerous with internal memory. It states there’s 4GB on board and that available capacity varies. Checking the phone’s storage out-of-the-box I found there was just 1GB free due to pre-installed software. At least memory cards are cheap these days so upping the storage capacity shouldn’t be a problem.
There’s no front camera, and the rear one shoots at five megapixels. The LED flash is small and not particularly effective even though it has five light levels which auto-set depending on how far you are from the subject. The highest video shooting resolution is 800 x 480, which is rather average. Still, you get the ability to do continuous shooting where pressing and holding the shutter button captures 2.5 shots per second, and there’s that neat ability to take a still photo while shooting a video, which I’ve found rather useful in the past.
HTC has done its usual job of laying its Sense interface on top of Android 4.0, and it is as good as ever here. I’m a fan of the lock screen, which lets you launch into apps by dragging them into a half ring on the screen, and now that you can put apps into folders with Android 4 you can launch to a folder too.
Beats Audio is a bit of a mixed bag. It only works when a headset is installed, and while it does enhance audio quality you only have the one option – either on or off. There’s no equaliser to vary sound output, and what you get from the speaker is decidedly tinny. There’s plenty of volume, though. There’s a little SoundHound icon in the music player and that can be used to deliver additional information about the track you’re listening to, including the inevitable lyrics of course. Elsewhere there’s the 7digital store, FM radio and TuneIn Internet radio to keep you happy as well as media server support.
With a 1,650mAh battery, the HTC Desire X performs to the usual standard of being likely to need a mains power boost during the latter part of the afternoon if you are a reasonably heavy user who likes to listen to music on the commute. Light users will probably get away with a charge every 24 hours.
There’s nothing particularly special about the HTC Desire X. Instead, it is yet another mid-range handset offering yet another set of mid-range specs. I do like the screen though, and it’s nice to see the HTC camera features on a handset at this price. If you are a sucker for HTC Sense and on a budget, then it’s worth a look.
Manufacturer and model
HTC Desire X
GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 850/900/2100
1GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
4GB (1GB free)
4in, 800 x 480 pixels
118.5 x 62.3 x 9.3 mm