HTC 8S Review

Reviews Basil Kronfli 14:14, 10 Dec 2012

We review the HTC 8S, the mid-range two-tone Windows Phone 8 handset loaded with a 1GHz dual-core processor and 5-megapixel camera

Rating: 
4
Pros: 
Fantastic design, Affordable, Good camera
Cons: 
Occasional performance glitches, Limited app selection, HTC don't differentiate their WP8 devices
Verdict: 
A great value Windows Phone 8 with design appeal to rival top-end Androids.

The HTC 8S is the little brother to the flagship Windows Phone 8 device from HTC, the 8X.  It continues HTC's Windows phone 8 styling with more of the same design - defined corners, curved back and rich matte finish. Undeniably unique, it adds a two tone aesthetic to the line with our version sporting black and white.

We've been stopped dead in our tracks and asked about the phone three times by absolute strangers in as many days, so there's no denying the HTC 8S is distinctive. But can the performance and day to day use of the handset match its attention grabbing visual style?

HTC 8S review - Design

HTC has pulled something very special out of the bag with their Windows Phone 8 handsets. Both adopting contoured premium plastic bodies, while the HTC 8X was all about refinement, the HTC 8S is a whole lot more playful. 

Despite being just £180 offline on Three, thanks to the matte finish, bold angles and elegant curves it still manages to feel undeniably rich in the hand. The corners may look sharp but they sit comfortably with the soft back just melting into your grip.

Despite seeming so slender, at 10.28 mm, it's thicker than most thin phones out there. At 113 g though, its certainly light and when compared to its main competition - the considerably higher end Nokia Lumia 820 - it's a waif. 

There's a two stage camera button on the right side along with a volume rocker. Up at the top is a power button and 3.5mm headphone jack while down below sits a standalone microUSB port. On the back is a 5-megapixel camera, LED flash and loud speaker. Unlike the HTC 8X, the 8S has expandable memory and this can be accessed by removing the bottom portion, along with the microSIM card slot.

HTC 8S review - Screen

Text and images look crisp on the HTC 8S and its 4-inch SLCD display. The screen has noticeably weaker viewing angles than the Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 range and indeed the SLCD 2 panel on the HTC 8X. It’s also not as bright, making it the weakest for outdoor viewing. 

 

IMG_6250.jpg

 

At its low to mid-range price-point though, it is definitely competitive with its WVGA resolution resulting in a pixel density of 233 pixels-per-inch (ppi). This means text looks great and with pure whites web browsing is enjoyable. Colours also look bold when viewed head-on and an extremely responsive touch experience rounds things off nicely.

HTC 8S review - Operating system

Windows Phone 8 couldn't be further removed from Android and its fragmented look and feel. By this we mean it packs one user interface and one user interface alone.

This means that HTC's phones look and feel just like Nokia's, which in turn behave just like Samsung's. All the differences in terms of the OS can be put down to exclusive applications.

Unsurprisingly, HTC's 8S applications are unrelentingly identical to those of the 8X, so for a more in depth look, hop over to Paul's 8X review and our Windows Phone overview. That said, here is the 8S in a nutshell.

Windows phone 8 comprises two main home screens. On the left hand side is a Start screen with all your shortcuts and on the right a vertical list of all your applications. These can be pinned to your start menu with an long press.

The start menu consists of Live Tiles. These update to display information corresponding to the application they represent. They can be resized to make a bespoke grid of shortcuts and rearranged with a long press and drag. 

In its favour, Windows Phone 8 is a visually cohesive interface. One typeface, consistent transitions, predictable navigation, its a pleasure to thumb through in terms of eye candy and ease of use. If you're not sold into the iPhone or Android ecosystems it is a definite contender.

However, it has its fair share of shortcomings. The lack of a notifications bar means you're susceptible to missing emails and text messages, application load times are irritatingly long and frequent, even seeming pointless at times, and there are many services current smartphone users will take for granted that aren't supported such as Google Drive and Dropbox, not to mention a strong Google Reader RSS client.

Unlike Nokia, HTC doesn't add all that much value in terms of its exclusive applications. Exclusive apps include a hub for news, stocks and weather. There's also an HTC Photo Enhancer which is good for a selection of filters as well as a unit converter. All were present in the Windows Phone 7 range of devices and its a shame the Windows Phone 8 line hasn'tt seen a refreshed app suite.

Unfortunately we did have a couple of patchy moments in terms of stability as well. Windows Phone hung in between screens five or six times in our review period with the 8S. While this never crashed the phone or lasted more than three seconds, we haven't experienced this on any of the other Windows Phone 8 devices so far.

Specifications

Typical Price Latest Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini prices
UK Launch December 2012
Network Latest Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini prices
Phone Style Candybar
Thickness 10.28mm
Length 120.5mm
Width 63mm
Weight 113g
Built-in Memory 4GB
Additional Memory 64GB via microSD
Connectivity 3G, HSPA+
Screen Size 4-inches
Camera Resolution 5-megapixel
Flash Yes
Video Resolution 720p
Browser Internet Explorer 10

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