HTC One X and One S Review: The Best Android Phones Money Can Buy

PHOTO: The HTC One X pictured left; HTC One S pictured right.
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The other day I wandered into an AT&T and a Verizon store. I wasn't in the market for a phone, I was just killing time. (It's what nerds do!)

Within a couple of minutes in each store, I was actually overwhelmed by the choice of Android devices. There were more than ten Android phones -- yes, I counted -- displayed in each store. And while my life's work is knowing about each of them, it was hard even for me to tell them apart.

And that's the major challenge facing manufacturers of Android phones these days: It's nearly impossible to stand out in the sea of Android phones lining store walls.

HTC, however, has a new formula with its new HTC One line, which currently includes the $199 One X for AT&T and the HTC One S for T-Mobile. Both phones have incredible displays, great cameras, and a slightly redesigned version of Android 4.0 software.

So are they good enough to stand out in the crowd? It sure looks like it.

It's not exactly rocket science to focus on the screen, considering that's the main part of the phone users interact with. HTC has managed to come out with brilliant new screens.

Describing the screens on these phones is hard to do, but here goes: colors look incredibly crisp and vivid, and blacks are especially deep. The One X's Super LCD 4.7-display (slightly larger than the One S) has a higher 1280 x 720-resolution, so text looks even crisper. But blues and greens on the One S' Super AMOLED display look slightly more vibrant.

Hands down, these are the nicest screens on any Android smartphone on the market today. And while it's nerdy to admit, I just kept bringing up bright images and video just to stare at them.

The hardware manufacturing quality of the phones matches the top-notch screen quality. Both have very sturdy aluminum backs and are comfortable to hold. The One X's larger screen gives it a bigger footprint, which might be too wide for some. I preferred the One S's smaller size, but then you have to sacrifice the slightly crisper screen. Everything's a compromise!

The two both have identical 8-megapixel cameras with HTC's Image Sense Technology, which is a mix of hardware and software enhancements. The result is some very clear, well-lit images. The camera and the LED flash really shine in low-light situations. Image quality is impressive in its own right, but the camera software offers more than many other phones. The "zero shutter lag" feature lets you snap photos very quickly and you can capture photos while recording video. Both phones also have front-facing 1.3-megapixel cameras, fine for the random teeth or makeup check.

On the back of both phones you'll notice some Beats branding. (Yes, the same Beats as in those headphones from Dr. Dre.) Last year, HTC teamed up with the audio company, but it hasn't proved to be more than a gimmick. While the speaker phone on the phone is good, it's not superb by any means. And playing back music sounded decent, but the phone isn't going to replace an external speaker or even your laptop's speakers. (Check out the Big Jambox if you're looking for a great speaker, by the way.)

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