HTC's Desire range of Android phones has been through several years of revisions. It was once the big dog in the HTC family, the pick of the litter. But things have changed, as they tend to do, and now the Desire X is on one of the lower rungs. Available through Optus in Australia, the Desire X is as cheap as AU$32 per month on a two-year plan, or roughly half the price of the One X.
In the hand, the Desire X feels a lot like the original Desire, even though the screen on this newer version is slightly larger at 4-inches diagonally. It's aesthetic, too, has changed and is much more in line with this year's One Series, with a slick polycarbonate chassis and soft navigation keys rather than buttons of the clicky, mechanical variety.
The screen technology is the same as in the One X, too, with HTC opting for a Super LCD panel for the Desire X. It's WVGA resolution may not seem exciting with all the 720p resolution phones in the market, but with these pixels packed into a smaller 4-inch screen, this resolution looks quite sharp.
Side-by-side, the Desire X looks a lot like a smaller One X, but there is one important difference. If you tuck your fingernails under the white plastic across the top of the phone. you'll find that the back comes off, giving you access to the phone's battery, a microSD card slot and a place for your SIM. This may sound insignificant, but for some users, not having access to the battery is a deal-breaker.
User interface and performance
The Desire X may be a physically smaller and cheaper version of the One X, but this doesn't mean you get a different user experience compared with the pricey model. This is HTC Sense UI version 4.1 running on top of Android version 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which means you have the same attractive home screen design, the same ability to customise the phone and the same awesome HTC designed widgets that we've come to know and love.
This handset does, obviously, run on less powerful hardware than the One X, but most users won't see the difference in everyday use. The Desire X has a dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm processor and 768MB RAM, and though our eagle-eyes do see a drop in the frame-rate of the animations across the system and do spot the pauses when loading apps, the general system performance is good.
Some specific tasks can feel a tad sluggish, though. Web browsing is a good example of a core application that, while it works well, does drag in the performance department. On desktop pages, pinching to zoom will not feel responsive or fluid, and scrolling can take longer than we like. It gets there in the end, but the journey from page load to web page enjoyment can be bumpy.
Unlike HTC's top-shelf models this year, we haven't struggled with the battery in the Desire X. While it's 1650mAh is only good for about 3.5-hours of continuous web browser, which is lower than most phones achieve; the Desire X is fine for everyday use. It's smaller screen sucks less power than the larger displays on the One X and One S, and we comfortably found that we could get through a day and a half between charges, while automatically syncing email and social networks. Power users will definitely need more, but then, these customers will probably shop in a higher price category anyway.
HTC brings most of what we love about the photography features on its top-line phones into this cheaper model, so for photography buffs on a budget, the Desire X is quite a good option. This camera is extremely fast for this price category, and capable of burst shooting, which is impressive. Colour reproduction is fine, though it tends towards over-saturation.
The main problem we've had, though, is the auto-focus. It is reasonably fast, like the shutter, but it isn't always as accurate as we'd like it to be. But then, you get what you pay for, and this camera performs well for a shooter on the back of a AU$300 phone.
In many ways, the similarities between the Desire X and the more expensive models are pretty impressive, but there are a few multimedia related concerns that you should be aware of, if this is important to you.
For starters, the Desire X refused to play our standard 720p and 1080p MP4 video test files. These are files that work on 90 per cent or more of the phones we review, and so we can only assume that the handset doesn't play HD content. This seems strange to us; a dual-core 1GHz processor seems sufficient to access this sort of content, but it refuses to.
We also had to delete our 1080p test file before we could transfer the 720p file to the phone, because you are only given 1GB of space in the memory for personal files. With some of the better games requiring several hundred megabytes to install, this may pose a big problem for some users. Thankfully, microSD cards just keep getting cheaper, but you will have to remember to pick one up if you choose a Desire X.
It really is impressive how much of the One X DNA has trickled down to the cheaper Desire X. The Super LCD screen is especially welcome in this price category, and those choosing the Desire X have security in the knowledge that they have the best version of HTC's Sense UI available at this time. In most areas, the Desire X holds its own hardware-wise, though its 1GB of storage is stingy. Photo buffs will need a more expensive model for great photos, and power users will need a bigger battery, but for everyone else, the Desire X ticks the right boxes.