Review: HTC 8XT for Sprint
The 8XT provides the same tie-ins to Microsoft's XBox entertainment services as do other WP8 devices. The music experience has always been good on Windows Phone devices, and the 8XT is no different. The media player is a solid piece of software that syncs with iTunes, Windows 8, and older Windows desktop systems with ease. The addition of HTC's Beats Audio and the dual speakers is icing on the cake. Music playback sounded great through my favorite headphones and through the 8XT's speakers.
The 8XT also includes Sprint's music app. Stay away. This app is miserable. I found it to be difficult to use, the selection to be poor, and the prices don't compare to competitive services. The native XBox Music store is much better.
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Video is another story. Windows Phone 8 will not work with iTunes movies, and the XBox Store doesn't offer video content. The 8XT does, however, include Sprint's streaming mobile TV and movie app. This app lets you watch video content, such as primetime televisions shows and movies, streamed over the network. It does not perform well over 3G, and I was unable to test it on 4G thanks to Sprint's limited 4G footprint.
The 8XT's camera can be launched with a long press of the dedicated camera button, even with the device is asleep. This is, perhaps, its best feature other than its raw speed. The 8XT has the same dedicated ImageChip that HTC has used with its phones for more than a year. The 8XT focuses quickly, shoots quickly, and saves quickly.
There are more settings available in the software for tweaking the behavior of the camera, such as setting the resolution, white balance, etc. You can also apply some effects (B&W or Sepia) before taking pictures. The camera can also take advantage of Lenses, which are third-party apps that perform specific actions with the camera. The main camera app works well.
The 8XT also includes a separate HTC-developed camera app. You can choose to set this app to open instead of the stock app when the camera button is pressed. The HTC camera app mirrors its camera application for Android smartphones. The basic controls (access to the gallery, separate camera and video buttons, and access to effects) are found on the right side and function exactly like HTC's Android camera. The rest of the settings are accessed via tools placed along the left edge of the viewfinder.
The HTC camera app offers far more control over the imaging sensor, and lets users select from nine different scenes (including HDR, panorama, and macro); set the timer; and control aspect ratio, and adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness, exposure, ISO, and white balance.
The HTC camera also has a burst mode and lets you control how many shots are taken in a given burst. Images captured via Burst Mode get their own gallery to help organize the high number of images. It's a simple app that serves best to pick the best of 20 images.
The 8XT has an 8-megapixel shooter. Images are 8 megapixels if you shoot full frame 4:3 images. If you want to shoot 16:9 images - which better match HDTVs and PC monitors - images are 6 megapixels. Whichever you choose, pictures are good, but not great. I thought focus and white balance were sharp and accurate, respectively, but exposure was all over the map. Images taken in low light were particularly grainy and lost detail. The 8XT has a flash, but as with most phone cameras, it doesn't light up much beyond about 6 feet.
Bottom line: There are better camera phones out there, but the 8XT's camera suffices.
The 8XT captures video at a maximum resolution of 1080p HD. Results mirror those of the still camera. Focus and color are spot on, but there's more grain than I wanted to see. You'll be pleased with results taken outside on a bright day, but stuff captured indoors with little light is going to be a hazy mess. Again, the 8XT suffices, but there are better options on Sprint's network.
The Pictures Hub is all about the community experience. It lets you easily upload images to Facebook, SkyDrive (Microsoft's photo upload service), Flickr, or send them along via MMS or email. Microsoft wants users of Windows Phones to enjoy their photo experience.
The native gallery app only offers a few editing tools, which are limited to crop, rotate, and "auto-enhance." All this does is fix exposure, white balance, color, etc. The 8XT also comes with HTC's Photo Enhancer app for those who like to spend time touching up their photos before sharing them. This separate app is a rich photo editor with a vast set of features that include crop, rotate, fix brightness, fix contrast, fix color, etc.
The 8XT has only a handful of unnecessary apps on board, which are the Sprint-branded music and video apps. Ditch those and stick with Microsoft's apps instead. The 8XT does have a limited amount of memory on board: only about 5.5GB available to the end user. This means you need to manage your apps. Content can be stored on a microSD card.
The 8XT supports Bluetooth 3.0 with the typical set of profiles, such as stereo Bluetooth, object push, and phone book access. The 8XT paired easily with other Bluetooth devices, including mono and stereo headsets, and other phones. I thought phone calls routed through Bluetooth headsets sounded excellent. They were quite loud, too. Music also sounded excellent when sent to Bluetooth headphones.
Internet Explorer 10 is a solid web browser and is good at displaying web content. I don't think the app itself is as feature-rich as the stock Android and iPhone browsers. There are alternative browsers available in the Windows Phone Store. As much as I like the browser, it did not prove a good match to Sprint's slower 3G network. When used with Wi-Fi, it is excellent. Over EVDO? Not so much. I was unable to test in on Sprint's LTE network thanks to the limited availability of Sprint 4G.
The 8XT has a nice digital clock on the lock screen, It also displays the day of the week and the date. I wish the clock were bigger — or at least customizable — but it is not. Thanks to the bright display, it's pretty easy to see outdoors.
I had no trouble with the 8XT's GPS radio. It worked well with the Maps apps and always managed to locate me within about a half minute and to within about 25 feet. All WP8 devices uses Nokia's HERE maps, though the actual application on the 8XT is just called "Maps." The data is the same. One of my favorite features is that you can download specific maps so they can be viewed offline. Downloading the maps also makes the GPS and Maps app perform faster because it doesn't need to talk to a server across the network.
Maps on Windows Phone is second to Google Maps, but just barely. It offers an incredible array of tools and functions for managing locations, sharing points of interest, and routing directions. It's all free.
The 8XT also includes TeleNav's Scout application. This free navigation app is pretty good when it comes to searching for nearby stuff, like gas stations and banks. I think the native Maps app is better at navigation, but Scout does a good job when it comes to finding local points of interest.
Kids Corner is a feature in WP8 that lets parents cordon off a special area of the phone for their kids. Basically, parents put the phone into a mode that only lets kids access certain apps and features, such as cameras and games. It's meant to prevent kids from wiping their parents' phone or emailing pictures to their entire inbox.
Some of the useful tools on board most Windows Phones - the 8XT included - are SkyDrive, Office, and OneNote. SkyDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service. All WP8 devices have access to 7GB of online storage for free (you can pay for more if you want). It is accessed online via your Outlook/Hotmail account. You can set SkyDrive up to automatically upload your photos for safekeeping, as well as store documents and so on. Office needs no introduction. On the 8XT, you can open/edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as sync them to your personal (or corporate) computers. OneNote is Microsoft's extensive note-taking and -managing app. It functions similarly to EverNote.
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