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HTC Windows Phone 8S review

on January 28, 2013 – 3:32 pmNo Comment

Microsoft and HTC have been closely related ever since the days of the first Windows Mobile devices so it was no surprise when HTC was amongst the first ones to launch Windows Phone 8 devices.

We reviewed the HTC 8X at launch and found it quite deserving to be amongst the first WP8 phones. The HTC 8S caters to a different and perhaps more budget minded audience. Does it deliver an experience as good as its higher priced contemporary ? Read on to find out.

Video Hands-On
We’d previously gone hands on with the HTC 8S at launch and we’ve included that video below here as well.

Box Contents

The HTC 8S ships with a fairly minimal accessory set. The box contents include :

  • HTC Windows Phone 8S
  • Earphones
  • micro USB cable
  • Charger

Hardware

The HTC 8S is part of a new design direction that HTC is following for its Windows Phone line of devices. While similar to the larger HTC 8X, the 8S has some changes which in fact work out for the better. We’ll be talking about those further along in the review.

The front as expected is mostly the 4inch WVGA display. The three capacitive buttons below represent back, Windows key and the much debated Bing search button.

Over at the back we have a 5MP auto focus camera accompanied with a single LED flash and HTC branding towards the center. A Beats logo is present towards the lower half which represents the custom equalizers baked into the firmware. Unlike the HTC 8X, the 8S does not have a Beats branded amplifier chip. The back is finished in a soft touch rubberized coating which makes it incredibly easy to grip.

Further down below is a particularly hard to remove plastic tab. Under the tab lies the microSD and the micro SIM slots.

The left side of the phone is free of any buttons while the mandatory volume rocker and camera keys are located on the right. The two stage camera key offers sufficient feedback and the volume rocker is easy to access as well.

The microUSB port is located at the bottom of the phone. The HTC Windows Phone 8S is light enough at just 113 grams but does not feel cheap at all. Definitely not the slimmest phone out there but the 10.3mm thickness is definitely bearable. Over all the dual tone color schemes suit the handset making it standout from the competition. We still prefer the look of the Nokia 820 over the HTC 8S but the latter is a handsome looking device as well for sure.

Display

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is equipped with a 4 inch LCD screen. This is not an SLCD2 panel as seen on the 8X. We weren’t very satisfied with the contrast levels and the maximum brightness too could have been stepped up a notch.

The screen has good viewing angles and sunlight visibility is great. There are some issues with touch sensitivity where the screen occasionally doesn’t register a tap. We believe this to be a software issue that HTC will hopefully fix via an OTA update.

Performance

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is powered by a 1Ghz Snapdragon S4 processor instead of the 1.5Ghz unit found on competing hardware. As expected, this does take a toll on performance but not enough to be a major setback. While the performance remains slick and smooth most of the times, there’s the occasional bit of lag and curiously stuck screen that users might have to face. Inconsistent and rare enough to not be a major concern but something worth keeping in mind for prospective buyers.

 

In terms of software, the 8S runs Windows Phone 8 with a few minor additions made by HTC. Users get access to a flashlight, connection setup tool and an HTC app that provides access to weather, stocks and news items. Our favorite addition has got to be the Live Tile which combines weather and time.

The 8S comes with the Windows Phone ‘Portico’ update preinstalled allowing users to keep the WiFi switched on even when the screen times out. Other features like SMS drafts and the ability to reject calls with text messages has also been added in.

We’ve covered Windows Phone 8 extensively in the past and other than the few additions by HTC, the review still holds true. The major concern here is still the relative lack of applications in terms of quantity and quality as well.

Camera

The camera on the HTC Windows Phone 8S is a 5MP unit with an accompanying LED flash on the side. There is no front facing camera on the HTC 8S. The rear camera module itself isn’t anything special and images tend to look a bit washed out. The JPEG compression engine was also clearly being over enthusiastic with the image sharpening resulting in some not so great looking images.

Images aren’t particularly impressive and tend to be fairly noisy. Low light photos are passable but high on noise levels. The default camera mode is set to 4MP wide angle which you can change to the full 5MP resolution. All the basic editing options are included in the camera app and Microsoft lets OEMs and 3rd party app developers enhance this experience by means of lenses. Unfortunately, HTC does not include any lens at all in the firmware and we must say that Nokia has done an exemplary job here. Bit disappointing for sure.

Owing to the chipset in use here, the HTC 8S maxes out at 720p video capture. Audio recording isn’t great but the video itself is above average. The phone manages to keep everything in focus but the lack of any form of stabilization means that you’ll have to put in extra effort to keep videos shake free.

Battery Life

The phone is equipped with a 1700mAh battery pack which is on the lower end. The phone manages to last just about a day of average usage. That isn’t too hard to deplete the battery if you stress it too much and you mileage will vary depending on use case considering the small-ish battery.

Conclusion

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is a great looking smartphone for those on a budget. Behind all that beauty are guts that are able to deliver a smooth experience for the most part. We did experience the odd lag or stuck screen which we expect to be resolved via subsequent OTA updates.

Check out the HTC 8S if you are looking for a well priced good looking smartphone. While we still can’t recommend Windows Phone 8 to the app addicts, it is perhaps the perfect OS for first time smartphone buyers and for those with simpler needs. The HTC 8S retails for Rs. 19,000. We’d also recommend prospective buyers to take a look at the Nokia Lumia 820 and 620.

Pros
1. Great looking hardware
2. Lightweight

Cons
1. Average camera
2. No front facing camera
3. Occasional performance issues

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Dhruv Bhutani is a technology enthusiast who is always in sync with the latest and greatest in tech. He is currently using a Nokia Lumia 1020, HTC Butterfly S and whatever device he is reviewing at the moment. Suomirock ftw! . Catch him on Twitter @DhruvBhutani , you can also reach out on Facebook or .