HTC's Windows Phone 8X and Phone 8S: Hands-on

With today's launch of the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S, Microsoft has a worthy pair of flagship devices for the Windows Phone 8 platform. In an era where phone designs feel increasingly commoditized, the new HTC phones showed a design flair that's often been absent from devices that don't start their name with “i.”

When I handled the devices at HTC's launch event today in New York City, I was immediately struck by how comfortable the phone felt in-hand. Each had elegantly curved sides that fit my (admittedly smallish) hands well. The rounded edges are thinner than on a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S3, but not so much so that it's distracting.

The phones were each lightweight and well-balanced. The 8X weighs 130 grams, while the 8S is slightly lighter, at 113 grams.

Each phone is elegant; they look very similar in design, but for the 8S's smaller display (4-inches to the 8X's 4.3-inches), and for its distinctive colorful accent running along the bottom, near where the dedicated Windows Phone 8 navigation keys sit (the 8S is two-piece design, whereas the 8X is a polycarbonate unibody design).

The back is a matte soft-touch finish that extends up and folds around the edges. Meanwhile, the Gorilla Glass 2 display curves a bit towards the edges, taking a design cue from the HTC One X.

HTC didn't demo a lot of screens on-site; the Windows Phone 8 operating system is still largely under wraps, save for what morsels Microsoft already revealed during the summer at a developer's event. However, noticeable immediately was that both phones feature a bonded display; which means images looked crisp, even at wide angle of view. The 8X has a 1280 by 720 pixel resolution display, and what little was on show looked great. The 8S has an 800 by 480 pixel display, but I didn't see any video on that unit.

The two phones next to a Samsung Galaxy S III

A couple of more notes about the design. The volume rocker buttons felt a bit flat and narrow to the touch, likely a side-effect of the phones' narrow depth—each measures about 10mm deep. I could see that becoming an issue over time, especially if in day-to-day use it ends up being difficult to find those buttons. But only time will tell whether that will be the case .

Several of the bright, cheery colors were on display here; I liked the navy blue and red colors the best, but there's also a fluorescent-like yellow and standard black, too.

Both phones will be released in November on over 150 carriers in more than 50 countries. Further information on carrier availability, pricing, and a handful of other specifications are still to come.

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