Connectivity

Wireless connectivity options for the HTC Windows Phone 8S are 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 3.1, 3G and GPS. You can expand the storage with a microSD, and there is a microUSB port for charging and synching with a PC. The latter is important - as with Android, you can use your Windows Phone 8 device like a USB drive, dragging and dropping media files. It's a welcome relief from the tyranny of iTunes if your only experience of smartphones is using an iPhone. There's also the standard 3.5mm jack for headphones and speakers.

Camera

As discussed earlier, the HTC Windows Phone 8S is cheaper than other WP8 devices, and this can be seen in its photographic capabilities. It has only a single camera - a 5Mp snapper that sits on the back. This immediately rules out video calling.

But let's accentuate the positive. There is a dedicated camera button on the side of the phone, and you can add what HTC calls 'lenses' - special add-ons that plug in features and functions to your camera such as a barcode scanner.

And this is a decent phone camera, it's just not going to replace your standalone compact. It's not as good as the snappers on the Nokia Lumia Windows phones, for instance. There are no scene modes, but you can switch the flash on or off, change the exposure, adjust contrast, sharpness and white balance, fiddle with saturation and ISO. You can capture video at 720p and add effects to your efforts, such as black and white or sepia.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to see our test shots with the HTC Windows Phone 8S.

Software

Windows Phone 8 looks similar to Windows Phone 7 but offers a few new features. The Start Screen, made up of live tiles, is more customisable than before with more sizes available. The larger you make a tile, the more information it can display. Other new features include Rooms which enables you to privately share content from within the People Hub and the great Kids Corner which puts the handset into a customised mode for children. No other mobile platform currently offers as good a child-safety feature - it makes your phone a toy, for the duration of your child's interest.

There's no getting around it: Windows Phone 8 is short of apps. Microsoft will say that a good percentage of the most popular apps are in the Windows Store, and that IE10 is a good enough browser to negate the need for many apps. And these things are true, but Windows Phone 8 is a new platform for everyone: even if all the apps you use regularly are already available, you may have to pay for them. Right now it's unlikely all your apps will be there.

On the plus side Windows Phone 8 is, like iOS, a curated app platform. Microsoft tests all the apps it allows in, so you shouldn't fall foul of any scams or malware.

People who like Windows Phone tend to love Windows Phone 8. It's a bit different from iOS or Android, but it looks great and - well - it's Windows 8 on your phone. It's impossible to say whether one platform is better than another. We suggest you try to use Windows Phone before you make a purchase.

HTC add to the Windows Phone 8S a handful of its own apps including Converter, Flashlight and Photo Enhancer. Another one, simply called HTC, provides weather information, stocks and news. Like HTC's Android smartphones there is Beat Audio 'enhancement'. This annoyingly just cranks up the volume and adds more bass.

HTC Windows Phone 8S test shots

Look, don't take my word for it, check out these test shots.

Windows Phone 8S test shot

Windows Phone 8S test shot

Windows Phone 8S test shot

Windows Phone 8S test shot

The above have all been entered into the work photography competition.

OUR VERDICT

The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the first Windows Phone 8 handset to fit into the mid-range price category. As such it's not quite the performer of the high-end Windows Phone 8 devices, but it's not so poor as to make it a bad deal. It offers solid performance and features for a reasonable price. Whether you prefer it to a similarly priced Android phone will depend on your own subjective preference of platform.