Big cameras, Beats audio, bright color: new Windows 8 phones from HTC

Nokia and Samsung aren't the only phone makers embracing Microsoft's next-generation mobile OS. Today, HTC unveiled a pair of colorful handsets that have Windows Phone 8 in their names.

Dubbed the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S, both devices have HTC's high-speed camera chip, Beats Audio and come in wide range of bold colors.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

HTC's new flagship Windows 8 handset features an attactive 4.3-inch, Super LCD 2 screen that operates at a 1280 x 720 resolution for a PPI of 341.54, a bit better than the 4.5-inch Nokia Lumia 920's 332 PPI. Inside, the 8X is powered by a 1.5-GHz, dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 1GB of RAM and a 16GB eMMC storage. An 1,800 mAH hour battery promises reasonable endurance while Beats audio with 2.5-volts of amplification offers loud, accurate music playback and NFC chip will allow the device to work with mobile payment systems and tap-to-share applications.

The Windows Phone 8X's camera features the same speedy "ImageChip" as HTC's One phones, but none of the custom imaging software that HTC bundles with its Android handsets. Because of the ImageChip, the both the 2-MP front and 8-MP back cameras can fire up and shoot an initial picture under a second while also supporting burst mode. With a f/2.0 aperture and BSI sensor, the rear-facer promises sharp images with strong low-light performance that's designed to compete with Nokia's Lumia 920 and its PureView camera.

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However, the Windows Phone 8X's design is the real star of the show. Available in bright neon red, blue and yellow as well as black, the .39-inch thick handset has an angular shape that looks nothing like most Android devices, but reminded us of Nokia's Lumia 920. At just 4.5 ounces, the 8X is a full 2 ounces lighter than the Lumia 920 as well. In a brief viewing, we were particularly impressed by the dark blue Windows Phone 8X, which an HTC rep told us is the device's "halo color."

The Windows Phone 8X will support LTE and be available on Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S. There's no word on pricing, availability or what carriers will get what colors.

HTC Windows Phone 8S

The mid-range HTC Windows Phone 8S has more modest specs, but a design that's just as attractive, if not more so. With a 4-inch, 800 x 480 resolution Super LCD 2 screen, the 8S doesn't provide as rich a visual experience and its 1-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU is also a bit slower than its big brother's while it provides half as much RAM (512MB) and a quarter the internal storage (4GB). However, at just 4 ounces, the Windows Phone 8S is lighter than the 8X though it is the same thickness.

The Windows Phone 8S has the same speedy ImageChip but has a lower-res rear-facing 5-MP camera with a shallower f2.8 aperture lens and only the ability to record 720p video. There's also no front-facing camera at all so forget about video chat.

That said, we really like the vibrant two-tone design of the Windows Phone 8S, which has one color on its front and a second color on its back with small panel of the front color as a back accent. Available in yellow / gray, dark red / light red, blue / black and white / back, this mid-range phone really stands out in a crowd.

There's no word yet on pricing or availability for the Windows Phone 8S, though we expect it to cost significantly less than the high-end Windows Phone 8X. We also don't know whether it will support LTE or not.