Tech Review: HTC One X9 (HTC, 2016)

HTC is one of what could be considered the “old guard” when it comes to Android smartphones. Despite a clear commitment to the Android market, they’ve never achieved the lofty successes of some of their contemporaries despite many innovations.

The HTC One X9 aims to change this by taking an “if you can’t beat them, ape them” approach.

I do not have a great degree of experience with Android phones. As a long-time iPhone owner, this review was always going to present something of a learning curve for me, and what a learning curve it was. If you notice anything in this review that makes it seem like I’m a total Android noob and that I should know better, that should tell you why.

The thing that comes through right away is that HTC really know what they’re doing with the Android OS. For a device placed squarely in what you could call the “mid tier,” it runs like a dream. It runs so well that it puts other phones in its price range to shame. In terms of performance and stability, this feels like a much more expensive phone.

In terms of looks, what HTC are clearly going for with the X9 is a fit and finish comparable to what Apple do with their iPhone range — a single piece aluminium body with a 5.5″ FHD screen. It feels weighty in your hand and, rather alarmingly to me at least, a bit slippery. Make sure you get a case on it as soon as you can because if you’re anything like me the close calls will begin as soon as you take it out of the box.

While visual comparisons to other phones will be inevitable, the single-piece design really only has one style which renders all such conversations a bit pointless. That said, something to add a little personality to the physicality of the finished product would have been nice. It’s a good look, it’s just not a particularly striking one.

HTC have kept the usual face buttons below the screen and this is where one of my main complaints with the phone came into play. I kept pushing them by accident. They’re just not quite far enough below the edge of the screen that I can avoid them with my thumb if I’m trying to use the phone one-handed. A minor thing, but one that annoyed me never the less.

The rear facing camera, in my opinion, is specced just right but still needs some work because I never got the shot I was looking for with this thing. The app takes what feels like three geological epochs to open and the autofocus couldn’t ever pick just one thing it wanted to look at. I missed shot after shot because I was messing around with this thing just trying to get it to take a damn picture. Ultimately, I went back to my iPhone if I was looking to take a quick snap.

That said, if you DO actually manage to get a shot off with this thing, the results are very nice indeed. The front facing camera delivers comparable results but doesn’t seem to be the star attraction here, which is interesting considering how far towards the all-powerful selfie such devices lean these days.

In terms of battery life, I found the X9 to be a bit up-and-down. There were days where it felt like I was using it constantly and, come bed time, it would still have plenty of juice left. At other times, it felt like it was consuming power with insane speed and needed two or three bumps throughout the day to make it through. As far as I can tell, there are certain apps that force the phone to guzzle juice like its going out of style because whenever I put the phone into rest mode it barely used any power at all.

Taken as a whole, the HTC One X9 is an extremely decent handset. The user experience is solid, but won’t change the hearts and minds of Apple devotees anytime soon. Android fans will be a bit bewildered by the lack of customisation options, but for those who don’t mind the standard UI there won’t be much problem. Performance is strong and games run great. If you’re looking for a phone that has a decent amount of grunt behind it while still being reasonably priced, especially on a plan, this is one that works hard to earn your attention.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Great design; Great screen; Great performance
Lowlights: Weird face button placement; Uneven battery
Manufacturer: HTC
RRP: AU$699
Available: Now