Windows Phone 8S by HTC: The MyBroadband review

In keeping with their design direction on the Windows Phone 8X, the Windows Phone 8S by HTC  has a bold and colourful design.

It comes in four different colours, from a striking yellow to a beautiful blue, but we had a red 8S to review. It’s bright and vivid, and from the start it stood out from the usual crowd of black slabs.

Along the top right edge is the power/wake button, while the top left has the 3.5mm jack. The former can be a little hard to locate by touch alone as it is positioned a little too shallow for our liking.

The left side is empty, while the right side has a nice big volume rocker at the top as well as a 2-phase shutter button, both of which, unfortunately, have the same depth problem as the power button. Along the bottom is the microUSB port.

The back is a soft-touch plastic which is wonderful to hold and grips very well. It did show off some signs of fingerprinting, but it’s not too bad and nothing a quick brush over your jeans won’t fix.

However, the back isn’t a single piece. The bottom chin pops off – with quite a bit of effort I might add – to grant you access to the microSD and microSIM slots. If you were thinking that this would grant you access to the battery – think again. The battery stays locked up, away from prying fingers.

In the top middle of the back is the camera with the LED flash to the right of it. In the middle is an HTC logo, with the Beats logo at the bottom and the external speaker just below that.

On the front is a 4-inch screen, with the usual assortment of Windows Phone buttons below it (Back, Home, Search), and an HTC logo and earpiece above it. The earpiece is rimmed by some red plastic, adding some extra highlights to the front of the 8S.

All in all, it’s a striking yet simple design design from HTC, and the bold colouring is bound to turn a few heads.


Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Internals and performance

The 8S features a Qualcomm S4 SoC, with a 1GHz dual-core CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. There’s 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, most of which won’t be available to you due to the size of the OS. Luckily, the 8S also has a microSD slot, but sadly doesn’t come with one.

Most of this part of the spec sheet is decidedly mid-range, but the lack of storage is a real concern. Without an SD card, installing a few apps and snapping a few photos will quickly deplete the small amount of resources available. Buyers essentially need to factor in the cost of a memory card, but most probably won’t realise this until it’s too late.

On the wireless front, the 8S supports WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.1, and HSPA.

In regular day-to-day use, the 8S mostly performed as we’ve come to know (and now expect) from Windows Phones. Navigating about, browsing, and even some light gaming all handled quite well. However, there were a few stuttery moments, and even one or two where an animation would completely freeze for a few seconds midway through.

AnTuTu benchmarked the 8S at 5983.2, almost half that of the Lumia 920’s 11086.6, though we can’t fully compare these scores as the Lumia couldn’t include GPU benchmarks at the time. Excluding the GPU benchmark actually ended up improving the results, to a more respectable 6900.2.

Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Screen and responsiveness

The screen on the 8S is a 4-inch S-LCD panel, with a resolution of 800 x 480 (WVGA).

It’s not a screen that will give you gadget envy (like the J Butterfly for instance), but it gets the job done.

Text was crisp enough if you didn’t look too closely, colours were bright and vibrant, in general images were clear, and viewing angles were surprisingly good. Taking it outside on a bright afternoon posed few problems, with the screen remaining legible and usable.

It’s not a bad screen at all, and it falls decidedly in the middle of things, though we did find ourselves wishing that it was just slightly higher resolution.

Responsiveness was never a problem – touches were accurately detected and quickly acted upon.

Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Sound and call quality

Call quality on the 8S was good, with callers coming through loud and clear and no problems reported on the other end of the air.

Unfortunately, our review unit didn’t come with a pair of ear-buds, so we opted to test with our own personal gear. The 8S had little trouble powering some of our usual on-the-go headgear (Sennheiser MM-400 headphones and a trusty old set of Sennheiser CX300II earphones) and had loads of room to spare in the volume department to blow our ears off.

Sadly, any praise that can be levelled toward 8S headphone prowess can’t be said of its external speaker. It sounds like it came directly from the cannery with instructions “Best used in small and infrequent doses”.


Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Camera

The 8S has a rear-facing 5 megapixel camera, capable of taking 2592 х 1944 photos and 720p video. Sadly, there’s no front-facing camera at all.

In general, photos were decently detailed and clear, though perhaps a little oversaturated. Colours could also easily wash out on cloudy days.

In low light, the camera performed about as well as we could have expected. You could make out what you were taking a photo of, but there was a lot of noise. The flash helped a little, but there was still a lot of noise present, and if you didn’t have a steady hand, you’d be left with artistic blurs.

Basically, the camera on the 8S is good enough for your happy snaps, but we wouldn’t suggest it for anything more than that.

Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Battery life and software

Battery life was acceptable, with the 8S usually powering through a day of medium to heavy use. Lighter use let it get two days or maybe three at a stretch.

The Windows Phone 8S is, obviously, powered by Windows Phone 8. HTC don’t include a lot of extras, though we did find some handy tools like a converter (from currency to volume), a basic flashlight, photo enhancer (for the times that you have to hipster-filter your happy snaps), as well as their clock and weather tiles – the former will go into an app that lets you see the weather in a bunch of locations, stocks, and news, while the latter will give you a detailed breakdown of the weather in the location it refers to.

While oodles of crapware is generally frowned upon, we find it hard to fault HTC for including things that are genuinely useful.


Windows Phone 8S by HTC – Conclusion

What we’re left with is a device that is solidly in the mid-range category. A good design, decent specs and performance, usable sound and camera, and a screen that neither “Wow”’s or utterly disappoints.
Maybe the colourful design will let it stand out from the smorgasbord of phones to choose from, or maybe it’ll be the still-relative-freshness of Windows Phone (even though it’s been two years of tiles). Or maybe you’ve already decided on Windows Phone, but you don’t want to throw your wallet in the fire.

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Windows Phone 8S by HTC: The MyBroadband review