HTC Windows Phone 8X vs Nokia Lumia 920

Born as two flagship devices built on the Windows Phone 8 platform, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920 could not be much further apart in delivering two polarizing user experiences. In boxing terms, Windows Phone 8X is the light flyweight and Lumia 920 is the super heavyweight, fighting each other with two different software and hardware skill sets for the "Best Windows Phone 8 smartphone" title.

But this one is a tough nut to crack as there are many aspects to consider. Price, performance, build quality, software and hardware features, dimensions, weight, look and feel, color trim, among others, are all very important when choosing a device that will likely be alongside you for two years. So without further ado, let's pit the two against each other and see how they stack up.

Physical Differences

First, let's talk about the dimensions. The Windows Phone 8X comes in at 132.4 x 66.2 x 10.1 mm and 130 grams while the Lumia 920 measures 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm and weighs 185 grams. At a first glance the two smartphones are similar in footprint, however that impression changes shortly after holding them.

The Windows Phone 8X feels small in the hand because of its highly-tapered edges and is comfortable to use and hold due to its textured back and low weight. I have never once had the Windows Phone 8X slip from my hand. By comparison, the Lumia 920 tells a different story that highlights the contrast between the two.

The Nokia has rounded (and not tapered) edges that make it feel big in the hand, something that is easily noticeable after holding the Windows Phone 8X. Furthermore, the handset has a more substantial weight and a very, very smooth back (even with the matte colors, and especially with the glossy ones) that make holding it more difficult and potentially more slippery.

Overall Windows Phone 8X takes this round.

Build Quality

After using the Windows Phone 8X and the Lumia 920 for extended periods of time I have no doubt in saying that the Nokia-branded handset has the better build quality of the two.

Whereas the area under the volume buttons on the Windows Phone 8X creaks and the back travels a bit under pressure, the Lumia 920 shows no such weak spots. I could definitely see the latter making a dent in the floor and not the other way around. But that's not the whole story, as there are other differences as well.

One weak trait of the Lumia 920's build quality -- and the only one I noticed thus far -- is the power button, which after a couple of days of use does not require the same firm press as the volume keys or the camera shutter button. By comparison, the buttons on the Windows Phone 8X held up pretty well over time but they are flushed with the case and very difficult to find and press at times, especially the power key which is placed at the top of the handset.

Looks

Colors spruce up one's life. And the Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 920 sure embody this philosophy. The former is available in Black, California Blue, Limelight and Red with a matte finish while the latter can be purchased in Black, Gray, Red, Yellow and White with a glossy or matte finish, depending on the color.

Looks are always subjective, but from my point of view the Windows Phone 8X features the less mature and futuristic design of the two. It's not boring, but it's not great nor impressive either to look at -- at least the bolder colors help. On the other hand the Lumia 920 has a more industrial design that looks more professional and high-tech.

Lumia 920 takes this one.

The Display

Let's talk display differences first. The Windows Phone 8X comes with a 4.3-inch S-LCD2 display while the Lumia 920 features a 4.5-inch IPS LCD screen with PureMotion HD+ and ClearBlack technology. From the two, I prefer the panel on the Lumia 920 because it's both more lively and bigger. Colors pop more and there's also less bleeding. As a bonus, the display can also be operated using gloves which is something to consider for folks in colder climates.

The panel on the Windows Phone 8X, on the other hand, has more real-to-life colors and a higher 342 pixel-per-inch density (compared to the 332 ppi on the Lumia 920's display). Sadly, it takes the second place because it has plenty of bleeding (black is not quite black) and the viewing angles are not as good as on the Lumia 920.

Hardware Features

On the hardware forefront, the Lumia 920 also takes the crown for features such as wireless charging (which is not available on the Windows Phone 8X -- except on the Verizon model) and extra storage (32GB of internal memory out-of-the-box). Both are features to consider as wireless charging plates are cheap, while the extra storage is more than welcomed when there is no microSD card slot on either device.

Lumia 920 takes another round.

The Cameras

Windows Phone 8X has a bigger front-facing camera -- 2.1-megapixel shooter with 1080p video recording -- but from my experience it is not necessarily better than the 1.3MP front-facing camera on the Lumia 920, which can shoot up to 720p video. Both are not good (I shall not call them crap), so comparing is similar to tasting and judging two mediocre apples.

The best back-facing camera of the two is, undoubtedly, on the Lumia 920. I managed to snap some pretty impressive pictures in pitch-dark conditions with the Nokia, while the HTC only delivered average-looking photos. In good lighting conditions from my own experience the two are closer in terms of quality.

Overall the Lumia 920 has the better camera.

Software Differences

After I got the Lumia 920 I wrote a first-impressions review where I briefly discussed the apps that the Finnish manufacturer provides atop of Windows Phone 8. After using the smartphone for longer I can definitely say that Nokia collection puts HTC's exclusive app collection to shame.

There are 58 exclusive games and apps (some can be had from the app store on other devices as well from different publishers) ranging from the HERE suite -- City Lens (augmented reality), Drive+ Beta, HERE Maps and HERE Transit -- to Accuweather, Bloomberg (news and finance), Burton (skying and snowboarding), Cinemagraph (photos), Draw Something, Express, Glam Me (portraits), Nokia Music, Panorama and Smart Shoot (equivalent to burst shot), among others. HTC only offers weather, data and time apps, a photo enhancer and a couple other basic and not-all-that-valuable additions.

I like and use the HERE City Lens to find nearby places and get directions via HERE Drive+ Beta. Smart Shoot is great for snapping a couple of pics at once and choosing the best one. Also, Nokia Xpress is a nice and basic browser that compresses websites as to use as little cellular data as possible. I've only touched the surface of what these exclusive apps can offer, but suffice to say I'm genuinely impressed by the added benefits. Nokia even adds extra ringtones, alarm sounds and menus in Settings to further customize the experience.

I have to point out that the I'm running the latest software update on the Lumia 920, which was announced by Nokia in mid-March. The build also allows to clean temporary files, among other improvements, a feature not (yet) available on the Windows Phone 8X. Unquestionably, Nokia is the manufacturer that brings more value to the table, whereas HTC places its faith more on the ecosystem.

Lumia 920 is the better of the two in the software department.

Performance and Battery Life

Both Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 920 are based on the same 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor alongside an Adreno 225 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and 1 GB of RAM.

The difference between the two smartphones, therefore, is practically non-existent. Both perform similarly in apps, games and run Windows Phone 8 just as good. What about battery life?

I use all my smartphones in a similar fashion -- answering and making calls, reading and writing texts, surfing the web here and there when I'm away, installing and using apps, etc. From this point of view both Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 920 deliver decent results (to be honest, I didn't benchmark either).

The latter has more potential to live through the day than the former because of the larger battery --- 2000 mAh vs 1800 mAh for Windows Phone 8X. In one instance I managed to get more than 24 hours of battery life from Lumia 920, with light gaming, browsing, calling, texting and surfing the web. Windows Phone 8X is not that far off, however, managing to post similar results. This, as you might imagine, depends largely on usage patterns.

There is no winner, only a tie.

Price

Depending on where you live, you may find the Windows Phone 8X and the Lumia 920 at two different price points. In Europe, at various mobile operators, the former -- available at roughly EUR450 -- is significantly less expensive than the latter -- available at around EUR600 -- when purchased without a contract. Meanwhile, in the United States they are available at the same $99.99 on a two-year contract at AT&T or Verizon, for instance.

They're Different

HTC and Nokia have released two different smartphones that cater to two different kinds of needs. Lumia 920 is for people who want a great camera and build quality while providing more software benefits, meanwhile Windows Phone 8X pits itself as a light and comfortable to hold smartphone for people satisfied with the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem.

I've said this in my initial-impressions review for the Lumia 920 and I say it again now -- Windows Phone 8X, to me, feels agricultural by comparison. All the little downsides add up to a point where I regret choosing it, so pick your Windows Phone 8 smartphone carefully.

Having owned both, I prefer Lumia 920 to Windows Phone 8X. I like the heft of the smartphone, which feels just right in my fairly large hands and appreciate the hardware and software improvements it brings along. The Nokia-branded handset is what I should have bought in the first place, a realization that, sadly, only came to me a little too late.

Photo Credit: Mihaita Bamburic

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