Review HTC Windows Phone 8S Smartphone

Waldemar Trautwein (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 01/18/2013

Entry-level Windows. A dual-core processor, 512 MB RAM and a 4-inch screen for 260 Euros (~$346). In cooperation with HTC Microsoft tries to pull smartphone users away from the Android and iOS camp. But is Windows Phone 8 with weaker hardware still fast enough and competitive?

For the original German review, see here.

Like the Windows Phone 8X the 8S is a reference device from Microsoft to present the Windows-Phone-8 operating system. While the 8X addressed smartphone enthusiasts the HTC 8S wants to reach mainstream customers. To lower the price, adjustments to the hardware were necessary. The processor only runs at 1 instead of 1.5 GHz, the memory was cut in half and the display size shrunk from 4.3 to 4 inches. The result is a 200 Euro ($266) lower price. The Windows Phone 8S by HTC is therefore the entry for Microsoft’s new smartphone operating system and has to compete with midrange Android smartphones. But can the midrange smartphone with Windows Phone 8 OS convince?

Case

Different color schemes
Different color schemes
Only a small plastic cover is detachable.
Only a small plastic cover is detachable.

special feature of the Windows Phone 8S is the different case colors which always consist of two colors. Available case colors are Domino, High-Rise Gray Yellow, Fiesta Red and Atlantic Blue from our review sample. Below the display are capacitive buttons whose background is either colored light or bright. The detachable cover on the back gives access to the micro SIM and micro SD card slot and also continues the color scheme. The rest of the case consists of one piece of polycarbonate in a subtle color under which the built-in battery is located. Despite the lack of an aluminum case the 8S does not feel cheap. Thanks to HTC's proven Unibody-design the build quality and the stability of the smartphone are good.

The plastic case also enables a lightweight design. The review sample with its battery only weighs 113 grams (~0.25 pounds). Furthermore the back is rubberized and the edges are heavily rounded. As a result the 8S lies comfortably in the hand and avoids slipping out of the hand at the same time. With dimensions of 10.3 x 63 x 120.5 millimeters (~0.41 x 2.48 x 4.74 inches) handling the device with one hand is possible. The physical buttons for Standby, Volume and Camera are to be evaluated negatively. The smartphone buttons don’t stick out very much and can hardly be felt, but after a few days you memorize the position. Unfortunately the undefined actuating point of the Standby-button remains. The lack of a distinct feedback is the reason you press the button more often and immediately lock the display again.

Features

Bottom: microphone, micro USB
Bottom: microphone, micro USB
Top: 3.5 mm jack, power button
Top: 3.5 mm jack, power button
Right side: camera button, volume rocker
Right side: camera button, volume rocker

Software

The operating system is Windows Phone 8. In our review of the Windows Phone 8X we already took a close look at Microsoft’s latest smartphone OS. HTC just slightly modified the user interface, for example the implementation of the tile color based on the color of the device itself into the OS. The number of preinstalled applications from HTC is very small. HTC Hub is one of these applications and gives a quick overview of the weather, stocks and news. The applications Connection Setup and Make More Space are quite useless in contrast. While the former configures mobile network settings, Make More Space gives you advice on storage management. The map material is now provided by Nokia instead of Bing. The navigation option with speech commands we know from Lumia devices is not available, instead the directions are displayed as text. 

Some inconsistencies remain with Windows Phone 8. In some applications the status bar is hidden so the time, for instance, is not shown when you are browsing the web. Furthermore there are only three manual brightness settings (low, medium, high), but if you activate the option "auto brightness" the display dims more than in the "low" setting.

Communication & GPS

The communication with a wireless router can be established with the standards 802.11 b/g/n. Additionally, pictures and videos can wirelessly be transferred to DLNA enabled devices. Contact to peripherals and other smartphones is available over Bluetooth 3.1. Near Field Communication (NFC) is not included.

For the journey to the World Wide Web on the road HSPA is available. Up to 14.4 Mbit/s download and up to 5.76 Mbit/s upload is possible.

The current location can be determined with A-GPS and Glonass. Thanks to the simultaneous use of both location systems the connection to the satellites is fast.

Telephony

The default view of the phone application is the call list. After pushing the little button "Keypad" a numerical keyboard appears from the bottom where you can enter a number. An auto fill has not been integrated.

Cameras & Multimedia

The back camera has an aperture ratio of f2.8 and a 5 megapixels sensor. It is a 35 mm lens and you can use the LED flash in dark environments. With low battery the flash cannot be used anymore to take a picture. Videos can be recorded in the small HD mode (720p). The 8S was not treated with a front facing camera for video calls or self-portraits.

The image quality of the Windows Phone 8S cannot convince: colors are presented too pale and the whole picture is slightly bluish. Small details are lost due to the small sensor. HTC didn't implement any special features such as continuous shooting. Of course, the camera of the Windows Phone 8S cannot keep up with a system camera or even a DSLR. But even the image quality of cheap compact cameras cannot be reached. You shouldn't trust the 5 megapixels camera with holiday pictures, but it works fine as a snapshot camera.

The preinstalled application Photo Enhancer applies effects and image optimizations to pictures, like the software Instagramm. However, additional details cannot be made visible from initial pictures with a lack of detail.

Windows Phone 8S: 4 Megapixels (Standard)
Windows Phone 8S: 4 Megapixels (Standard)
Windows Phone 8S: 4 Megapixels (after use of photo enhancer)
Windows Phone 8S: 4 Megapixels (after use of photo enhancer)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2: 12 Megapixels
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2: 12 Megapixels
Windows Phone 8S: 5 Megapixels
Windows Phone 8S: 5 Megapixels
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2: 12 Megapixels
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2: 12 Megapixels
 

Accessories

The small and stylish box contains, besides the smartphone and a modular power supply unit, a multi-language documentation, the manual on a mini-CD and a headset with a 3.5 mm audio jack. HTC offers optional accessories in its own online shop, among them the hardcover HC C820, which is available in the same colors as the smartphone itself.

Warranty

The warranty period is 24 months. A warranty upgrade is not offered by HTC, but there are numerous warranty extensions available in online shops or electronics centers. 

Games

The graphic calculations are handled by the Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU. The performance is below the older Adreno 225 GPU, but none of the tested games could bring the HTC 8S to its knees. However we have to admit that the selection of performance demanding games in the Windows Phone Store is still limited and these are even playable on older Windows Phone devices.

Input Devices & Controls

Profile mode
Profile mode
Landscape mode
Landscape mode

The capacitive touchscreen reacts quickly and accurately to input. Multi-touch gestures work as reliably as navigating through the menus. The four row QWERTZ keyboard is automatically shown in both the profile and the landscape mode. In the landscape mode the virtual keyboard seems a bit small yet there is available space on both sides. However, the buttons are bigger than they are in the profile mode and the typo ratio is quite small. The auto fill of the keyboard also works very reliably and all in all allows fast typing.

Display

The 4-inch screen of the Windows Phone 8S has a resolution of WVGA (800x480 pixels) and presents up to 16.7 million colors. The pixel density calculates to 233 dpi and is the reason why texts and pictures are not displayed razor-sharp. The Super-LCD is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass which should prevent scratches for the most part.

With the Gossen Mavo-monitor we measure a maximum brightness of 355 cd/m² in the lower left corner. The average is a good 331 cd/m², which leads to a brightness distribution of 88%. This puts the 8S slightly ahead of the more expensive Windows Phone 8 smartphones Nokia Lumia 920 (322 cd/m²) and Windows Phone 8X (294 cd/m²). The leader remains the Apple iPhone 5 with an average 487 cd/m².

316
cd/m²
330
cd/m²
330
cd/m²
311
cd/m²
333
cd/m²
327
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
349
cd/m²
355
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 355 cd/m²
Average: 330.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 333 cd/m²
Black: 0.41 cd/m²
Contrast: 812:1

Despite the absence of a display with IPS-technology the 8S offers a good black rate of 0.41 cd/m², which results in a contrast ratio of 812:1. Colors appear rich, but not oversaturated.

During outdoor use the user benefits from the high contrast and the good brightness. Use under clear skies is therefore not a problem. Only under direct sunlight reflections complicate the readability of the screen content.

The viewing angle stability is very good even without IPS-technology and applies equally to the horizontal as well as the vertical area. Only under extreme viewing angles does the screen content turn a touch brown in places.

Viewing angle Windows Phone 8S by HTC
Viewing angle Windows Phone 8S by HTC
Viewing angle Windows Phone 8S by HTC
Viewing angle Windows Phone 8S by HTC

The heart of the Windows Phone 8S is an SoC by Qualcomm based on the Krait architecture. The integrated 1 GHz dual-core CPU called Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 is similar to the Cortex-A15 architecture and therefore superior to the Cortex-A9 processors. Alongside the CPU are the Adreno 305 GPU and 512 MB RAM. The system meets the minimum requirements for Windows Phone 8.

The user interface works snappy most of the time but has to deal with some occasional lags. Especially while typing it becomes noticeable when the pop-up keyboard does not appear at times or the typed characters appear with a 1-2 second delay. The rendering of websites with the default browser Internet Explorer 10 is also slow. When the page is completely loaded there is no lagging or reloading. If you additionally want to switch between other applications like OneNote or MS Office the application has to reload again. The memory seems to have already reached its limit at this point.

For the comparison of Windows Phone smartphones we use the benchmarks Multibench 2 and WP Bench free. The Multibench test splits up into the four categories CPU: 11.378, Data: 15.012, Memory: 1.822 and Graphics: 33.998. In all categories it is clearly beaten by the Windows Phone 8X, the WP Bench free is with 233.5 to 179.94 points in favor of the 8X as well.

Because of the still relatively new platform there are no established benchmarks and cross-platform benchmarks are also still rare. A first step in this direction is made by the AnTuTu benchmark that is familiar to Android devices. There our review sample reaches 7332 points and is slightly ahead of the HTC One S with better hardware and Android OS. The Windows Phone 8X - with the same hardware as the One S - pulls ahead by 67%. The enormous performance difference is therefore caused by the operating system.

The browser based benchmarks show a clear picture: in Browsermark 2.0 and Peacekeeper the Windows Phone 8S can position itself ahead of the rival Galaxy S3 mini by 33% and 24%. Only the JavaScript benchmarks Sunspider and Google V8 are in contradiction. While the HTC 8S takes the lead in the Sunspider benchmark, the Google V8 favors the S3 mini.

Browsermark
HTC Windows Phone 8S
1543 points ∼21%
Samsung S3 Mini GT-I8190
1038 points ∼14% -33%
Google Nexus 4
1839 points ∼26% +19%
Google V8 Ver. 7 - Google V8 Ver. 7 Score
HTC Windows Phone 8S
477 Points ∼3%
Samsung S3 Mini GT-I8190
1013 Points ∼6% +112%
HTC Windows Phone 8X
785 Points ∼4% +65%
Google Nexus 4
1381 Points ∼8% +190%
Sunspider
HTC Windows Phone 8S
1410 ms * ∼13%
Samsung S3 Mini GT-I8190
2082.8 ms * ∼20% -48%
HTC Windows Phone 8X
896 ms * ∼8% +36%
Google Nexus 4
1894.7 ms * ∼18% -34%
AnTuTu Benchmark v2 - Total Score
HTC Windows Phone 8S
7332 Points ∼30%
HTC Windows Phone 8X
12281 Points ∼50% +67%
Legend
      HTC Windows Phone 8S Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8227, Qualcomm Adreno 305, 4 GB Flash
      Samsung S3 Mini GT-I8190 ST-Ericsson NovaThor U8500, ARM Mali-400 MP, 8 GB SSD
      HTC Windows Phone 8X Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8260A, Qualcomm Adreno 225, 16 GB SSD
      Google Nexus 4 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064A, Qualcomm Adreno 320, 16 GB SSD

* ... smaller is better

Voice Quality

The caller was clearly understandable and there were no complaints about distortions or unusual sounds on the other side. Only some background noise was mentioned by the caller. When using the included headset there were no distortions except the background noise.

Emissions

Temperature

The temperature development of the Windows Phone 8S remains in a suitable area. At idle we measured a maximum of 31.2 °C (88.16 °F) at the capacitive buttons with the Voltcraft IR-350. During maximum load the temperature rises above 40 °C (104 °F) in several spots. You can clearly feel the warming up but it does not get uncomfortable even with longer use.

Max. Load
 37 °C38.5 °C40.2 °C 
 38.8 °C39.8 °C41 °C 
 38.1 °C38.8 °C38.9 °C 
Maximum: 41 °C
Average: 39 °C
39.7 °C40.4 °C35.6 °C
40 °C41.1 °C36 °C
37.2 °C40.4 °C34 °C
Maximum: 41.1 °C
Average: 38.3 °C
Power Supply (max.)  34.1 °C | Room Temperature 22 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speaker

Beats Audio only works for headphones.
Beats Audio only works for headphones.

The HTC 8S has only one speaker, located on the back. However the earpiece is not active. The sound is not convincing, trebles are too pronounced and the bass is too weak. The maximum volume is not very high but it still blasted and produced distortions.

The writing Beats Audio on the back does not apply for the speaker. Beats Audio is just software that gets activated with attached headphones. When you plug the headphones in Beats Audio is instantly available. The headphones are only standard quality and produce a slight acoustic noise. The volume however is more than convincing. Bass comes across with the headphones but it sounds a bit tinny.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Compared to other 4-inch smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini or the Apple iPhone 5, the HTC 8S turns out to be considerably more power hungry. This problem might be caused by the Windows operating system since both the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X show higher power consumption. At idle the Voltcraft VC 940 measures 1.2-2.6 Watts, where the S3 mini with 0.7-1.2 Watts is considerably more frugal. Even at maximum load the S3 mini consumes less power with 2.4 Watts. The Windows Phone 8S by contrast uses 4.1 Watts.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 1.2 / 2.1 / 2.6 Watt
Load 3.0 / 4.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

The maximum battery runtime is determined with minimum brightness (setting low) and constantly activated energy-saving mode. The energy-saving mode prevents multitasking, so background tasks are paused. In the foreground a script refreshes pages of a text document in the browser. In this scenario the device shuts down just after 15 hours. Without the energy-saving mode it is only 12 hours and 46 minutes. The very opposite is determined with the help of the application WP Bench free which utilizes the device to its full capacity. All wireless connections are activated and the display brightness is set to maximum. After 2 hours and 47 minutes the device runs out of power. Both tests show two very rare scenarios. A more common scenario is estimated with surfing with WLAN that utilizes a script to refresh a website every 40 seconds. For the brightness we use the Windows option "medium" which corresponds to a value of 117 cd/m² and therefore cannot be compared to our other smartphone reviews (~150 cd/m²). The energy-saving mode is now activated when the remaining battery capacity is below 20%. More than 8 hours elapse to full discharge.

A repeated charging of the 1700 mAh battery is finished after only 2 hours and 21 minutes when the device is turned on. The Windows Phone 8S does not have to hide from competitors, it offers a solid battery runtime in all scenarios.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
15h 10min
WiFi Surfing
8h 37min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 47min

Verdict

Windows Phone 8S by HTC
Windows Phone 8S by HTC

For currently 260 Euros (~$346) HTC brings an entry-level smartphone for smartphone newcomer and switching users to the market with the Windows Phone 8S. In this review we especially liked the case with its solid appearance yet low weight and compact dimensions. The performance convinced us as well, however there were some lags from time to time. The small amount of available memory has a negative impact and limits the multitasking.

Among others the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini comes to mind as a competitor from the Android camp. It offers better battery runtime but cannot score with its outdoor use ability due to the low screen brightness. The latest Google Smartphone Nexus 4 can also be seen as an alternative. It is packed with power and offers a bigger screen with HD resolution.

If you want to use Windows Phone 8 as an OS the options are currently very limited. A true alternative for supporters of the tile-based operating system is currently Nokia with the Lumia 620 and Huawei with the Ascend W1. If you dig a little deeper in your pockets the more powerful devices Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X are also worth consideration.

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In Review: HTC Windows Phone 8S, courtesy of:
In Review:  HTC Windows Phone 8S

Specifications

HTC Windows Phone 8S

:: Processor
:: Memory
512 MB, onboard
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
4.0 inch 5:3, 800x480 pixel, capacitive, Multi-Touch, SLCD, 233 DPI, Corning Gorilla Glas 2, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
4 GB Flash, 4 GB integrated
:: Connections
Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack, Sensors: A-GPS, Glonass, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, micro-USB
:: Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b g n ), 3.1 (EDR, A2DP) Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, HSPA/WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 10.3 x 63 x 120.5
:: Weight
0.113 kg Power Supply: 0.056 kg
:: Battery
Lithium-Ion, 1700 mAh, integrated
:: Price
260 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows Phone 8
:: Additional features
Webcam: 5 Megapixel, Autofocus, F2.8, 35-mm-Objective, HD-Videos (720p), Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, Smartphone, power adaptor, headset, documentation, picture optimization, HTC hub, 24 Months Warranty

 

The presentation starts very successfully with the packaging.
The presentation starts very successfully with the packaging.
The power supply provides up to 5W...
The power supply provides up to 5W...
The supplied headset is not convincing.
The supplied headset is not convincing.
The earpiece does not work as a speaker.
The earpiece does not work as a speaker.
The only speaker is located at the back.
The only speaker is located at the back.
...is accompanied by an LED flash.
...is accompanied by an LED flash.
The 5 megapixels camera at the back...
The 5 megapixels camera at the back...
...and illuminated in dark environments.
...and illuminated in dark environments.
...are touch-sensitive...
...are touch-sensitive...
The buttons beneath the display...
The buttons beneath the display...
...and gives access to the SIM and memory card.
...and gives access to the SIM and memory card.
The lower cover can be detached...
The lower cover can be detached...
...is two colored.
...is two colored.
The plastic case...
The plastic case...
...and is connected to the bottom.
...and is connected to the bottom.

Similar devices

Similar devices from a different Manufacturer

Devices from a different Manufacturer and/or with a different CPU

Devices with the same GPU

» Sony Xperia M2 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8926, 4.8", 0.149 kg
» Huawei Ascend G6 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8226, 4.5", 0.115 kg
» HTC Desire 816 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8928, 5.5", 0.165 kg
» HTC Desire 610 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8226, 4.7", 0.143 kg

Links

Price comparison

Pro

+Expandable memory via microSD
+4 different colour variations
+Good build quality
+Responsive menu controls
 

Cons

-Low resolution display
-Small memory for apps and games
-Limited feedback from the keys
-Built-in battery
-No video-out

Shortcut

What we like

The unique design and the very good haptics.

What we'd like to see

A higher resolution display and more storage versions.

What surprises us

Even big applications and games cannot be stored on the SD-card.

The competition

Google Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S3 mini, Motorola RAZR i, Nokia Lumia 620, Huawei Ascend W1

Rating

HTC Windows Phone 8S
08/05/2013 v3
Waldemar Trautwein

Chassis
87%
Keyboard
46%
Pointing Device
92%
Connectivity
36%
Weight
100%
Battery
95%
Display
82%
Games Performance
25%
Application Performance
44%
Temperature
81%
Noise
100%
Add Points
77%
Average
72%
86%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review HTC Windows Phone 8S Smartphone
Author: Waldemar Trautwein, 2013-01-18 (Update: 2013-06- 6)