The launch of Windows Phone 8 has ushered in a new mobile age for Microsoft. Not only has the software been rebuilt from the ground up for better performance and simpler app development, but the hardware is considerably more drool-worthy. Nokia continues to pump out attractive Windows Phone devices under its Lumia brand and the 920 is its crowning jewel, at least until next year’s model.
But the Lumia 920 isn’t alone at the top. HTC has stepped up to the plate and released its Windows Phone 8X, the first real competitor to Nokia’s impressive line up. While Nokia chose a larger profile and stuffed the Lumia 920 with extras, HTC went the minimalist route, leaving Windows Phone 8 untouched and wrapping it up in a slender package.
The differences don’t stop there, however, and we are here to point out each and every distinguishing feature. In the process, the true champion of Windows Phone will be revealed and the choice between HTC and Nokia will be that much clearer.
Design and Construction
The Lumia 920 and 8X are entirely different pieces of hardware, only sharing a fondness for brightly colored casings and polycarbonate. Design-wise, these two devices couldn’t be less alike and yet each one is attractive in its own way. However, beauty is relative and so we need to look at the practicality behind their design to pick our winner.
As we said before, both devices are made from a polycarbonate unibody. The Lumia 920 is 10.7mm thin and 185 grams, quite heavy for a smartphone but not excruciating by any means. The weight is justifiable since the body holds a large battery, floating lens, and wireless charging components. Seams only appear where absolutely necessary (around the screen and the SIM card slot). Nokia curved the Gorilla Glass 2 display into the casing here, making the device feel like a cohesive unit. The body’s finish depends on the color you prefer. Black and Cyan are matte and scratch-resistant, but prone to fingerprints. The other colors use a shiny finish that is more susceptible to scratching.
When compared to the beastly Lumia 920, HTC’s Windows Phone 8X is quite slim. 10.1mm thin at its thickest point, the 8X feels much smaller than the Lumia 920 because of its tapered sides. Like the Lumia 920, the screen slopes into the body and is also made from Gorilla Glass 2. HTC chose a soft-touch covering for the polycarbonate shell, much like what it used on the new One X+. Unlike Nokia, every color comes with the same finish. Because of its smaller screen size (4.3-inches as opposed to the Lumia’s 4.5-inches) and tapered edges, the 8X is definitely more pocketable. There is also a small LED embedded in the speaker grill for notifications, a feature we wish was included in every smartphone.
Both phones are made well with top-notch materials and eye-catching designs. With no physical flaws in construction or design, personal preference prevails. Those who like ‘em big will choose the Lumia 920 and the rest will prefer the 8X. No shame either way.
The Lumia 920’s rounded sides make it comfortable to hold. However, due to its rather large size, it can be difficult to get a secure grip, especially when you’re using a thumb to poke and prod the screen. After a while, the extra weight does seems natural and – depending on the person – can actually feel comforting. Nokia’s button placement here is worth mentioning as well. The Lumia 920 takes the logical route when designing a larger phone by placing the camera and power buttons, as well as the volume rocker along the right side. The sharper corners can also dig into your skin at certain angles, a minor gripe but still bothersome at times. In the end, it just isn’t the most ergonomic handset.
In terms of design, HTC checks every box. The 8X is thin, attractive, and original. The best way to describe holding the 8X is that it feels almost identical to cradling a well-used and dry bar of soap. The edges are rounded and sink easily into your hand. The soft-touch exterior is smooth and begs to be held. Due to its slimmer profile, the HTC 8X is easier to grip and much harder to drop. Our one objection is the button placement, all the physical buttons are too flush with the body and the power button should have been moved to the right side. But when it comes to overall in-hand feeling, the 8X wins without a question.
Winner: HTC 8X
The Lumia 920 and 8X have very similar displays. Both use an LCD and both sport a very similar resolution that only differs because of their respective screen sizes. The 4.5-inch Lumia 920 is rocking 1280×768 pixels, while the 8X has a 1280×720 panel. Both displays have impressive color reproduction and blacks that are deep enough. The Lumia 920 and 8X both use a technique which reduces the space between the glass and touch sensors for reduced glare. Nokia calls this ClearBlack, saying it uses polarizing layers of glass to minimize reflections. HTC simply calls it optical lamination. Regardless of name, both devices have great viewing angles and are visible under direct sunlight.
There are a few distinctions that make the Lumia 920 pull ahead by a slim margin. PureMotion HD+ is a technology employed to smooth out transitions and reduce lag when using Windows Phone 8. It works well too, animations look the slightest bit smoother on the Lumia 920 when side-by-side with the 8X. There is also the Lumia 920’s extreme touch sensitivity that allows it to be used while wearing gloves, a feature that those in colder climates will appreciate.
In the end, both the Lumia 920 and 8X have stellar displays. Nokia’s PureMotion HD+ and ultra-sensitive touchscreen may provide an edge over the competition, but ultimately the features are more gimmicky than game-changing.
Processor and RAM
This one comes down to numbers, pure and simple. Because of Microsoft’s strict hardware requirements, there is no difference in processing speed between the Lumia 920 and 8X. Both run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor combined with 1GB of RAM. It’s worth noting, however, that the Lumia 920 does feel faster because of the PureMotion HD+. But due to quality internals and the newly streamlined Windows Phone 8, both smartphones are snappy and quick to load.
Another one for the numbers and once again, the Lumia 920 is squarely in the lead. Featuring 32GB of internal storage, the Lumia 920 has enough room for a respectable mobile media library. The 8X is no slouch either, but only offers a maximum 16GB of internal storage. Neither device supports additional storage via microSD, though that isn’t surprising since Windows Phone 7 steered clear of expandable storage as well.
Winner: Lumia 920
Nokia’s PureView camera technology puts the Lumia 920’s snapper near the top of any smartphone heap. The 920’s 8.7-megapixel camera may not seem impressive on paper, but suspended optics stabilized by springs and superior low-light performance boost its usefulness. The spring-held optics help to reduce blur from shaky hands both when snapping photos and filming video. In practice, they work great and motion blur is a thing of the past. Photos taken in low-light are really clear and details are more pronounced than they look to the naked eye, as if every available speck of light was magnified to illuminate the scene. However, the low-light photos aren’t perfect and can be tainted by a light source, causing the image to adopt an odd hue. Color reproduction on the Lumia 920 in general can be jarring to the average user. Colors tend to be more true-to-life, resulting in a “cold” look that may be more accurate but still seems odd in quick snapshots.
On the other hand, the 8X’s rear-facing camera is much more snapshot-oriented. Color reproduction is solid, offering the familiar warmth that is typical of smartphone shooters. It also performs well in low-light conditions, though it won’t capture the amount of detail the Lumia 920 is capable of. The 8X handles macro photography quite well for a smartphone as well, perhaps a niche interest, but still worth bringing up. Video recording is the 8X’s true forte. Besides capturing 1080p video, the 8X handles motion very well and moving objects can be seen clearly with no blur. The 8X’s front-facing camera also has some tricks. HTC decided to include an ultra-wide angle camera that can fit “up to four faces and additional background into your self-portraits.”
Both cameras will take care of on-the-go snapshots, but the Lumia 920 is more geared towards hardcore shooters. For the average user, the HTC 8X is going to take photos that are more pleasing without editing and ready to be shared with friends, family, and strangers on the internet.
Winner: HTC 8X
As you may have noticed, the Lumia 920 and 8X are pretty evenly matched across the board. This pattern holds true in the battery category as well. The Lumia 920 has the slight advantage with a higher-capacity 2000mAh battery, compared with the 8X’s 1800mAh juice pack. It’s a bummer for the 8X because that bump in battery size is actually noticeable and alleviates charger anxiety while using the Lumia 920. During moderate usage (web browsing, texting, calling, apps, etc.), both smartphones are able to stay alive from morning to night without a hitch, but the Lumia 920 will still be primed and ready for a late night rendezvous. Under minimal usage, however, the Lumia 920 is fully capable of lasting 2 days on a single charger.
Winner: Lumia 920
The HTC 8X is available from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The Lumia 920 is an AT&T exclusive, though once unlocked it can be used on any carrier. The 8X still wins out in this category for offering consumers a much broader choice of carriers.
Winner: HTC 8X
Keeping with its “more is more” mentality, Nokia stuffed the Lumia 920 with software extras, including some exclusive apps like Mirror’s Edge – a popular side-scrolling game ported over from consoles. The standouts here are Nokia Music, Nokia Transport, Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive Beta+, Nokia City Lens, Panorama, Smart Shoot, and Cinemagraph. Nokia Music is a free music-streaming app that isn’t available in all countries, but is a welcome addition to WP8. Nokia Transport covers public transit in most major cities, Nokia Maps offers a speedy interface for directions, Nokia Drive Beta+ produces turn-by-turn navigation, Nokia City Lens directs you to shopping, restaurants, and more in your area. Panorama, Smart Shoot, and Cinemagraph are add-ons to the stock camera app. Panorama allows for panoramic photos. Smart Shoot employs burst photography and allows the user to choose the best features of each one. You are even able to pick between different faces if someone blinked or made a weird face. Cinemagraph lets users create their own animated GIFs. It can be fun to play around with, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly.
The 8X sticks to the classic Windows Phone 8 experience for the most part. On the app front, the HTC Hub provides easy access to news, weather, and stocks. For Instagram fans, the Photo Enhancer feature supplies photo filters for retro-transformations of modern photography. Finally, Beats Audio is featured just like on HTC’s Android line-up. Opinions of Beats Audio are all over the map, but it is hard to argue with the increased bass levels made possible by the addition.
Winner: Lumia 920
The Nokia Lumia 920 is available exclusively through AT&T, but comes at a more desirable price of $100 on contract and $450 without one. The HTC Windows Phone 8X is available on more carriers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile), but the 16GB version is priced at $200 on contract and $550 without. Considering all the extras that come along with the Lumia 920, the 8X seems really expensive.
Winner: Lumia 920
Overall winner: Lumia 920
After duking it out with the 8X, the Lumia 920 takes the crown as reigning leader of Windows Phone 8. It may have won by a slim margin, but it looks like Nokia’s primary focus on Windows Phone 8 has paid off. Let’s tally it up.
- Design and Construction: Tie
- Feel: HTC 8X
- Display: Tie
- Processor and RAM: Tie
- Storage: Lumia 920
- Cameras: HTC 8X
- Battery: Lumia 920
- Availability: HTC 8X
- Extras: Lumia 920
- Price: Lumia 920
The Lumia 920’s win is a direct result of Nokia’s aggressive desire to bring a flagship device to WP8. The HTC 8X only lost be a slim margin, however, and shouldn’t be considered a sub-par device. A lot of the features included in the Lumia 920 won’t be essential for everyone and the 8X has a much slimmer and pocket-friendly design for those who prefer a lighter device.
Once all is said and done, we’d recommend getting your hands on these devices at a wireless store to see which you prefer. Though we found the Lumia 920’s weight negligible after considerable use, some people are utterly turned off by its tank-like body. But if you are a spec-hungry, mobile photographer extraordinaire, that appreciates exclusive features then the Lumia 920 is the only option.