If you are in a gathering and happen to observe the high-end mobile phones that people are carrying around, you may notice a trend – the majority of these devices will either be an iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S III  or the Note.

The new Windows Phone 8 devices – Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X – hit the retail shelves earlier this month and if you want your next phone to stand out from the crowd, these models may well be an option worth considering. I have been testing the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X phone simultaneously for more than a week now and my experience with these devices has largely been very positive.

Let’s start with the Nokia Lumia 920. This one is clearly the most beautiful and gorgeous mobile phone that I have ever seen. The technical specs say that this phone weighs 185 gm, or about 70 gm more than iPhone 5, but the rounded edges and the smooth back panel make this Lumia phone extremely comfortable to hold. The 4.5” display is bright and crisp and the on-screen text is easily readable even in sunlight.

The one area where the Lumia 920 series has a definite edge over competition is the 8.7 Megapixel camera. All high-end smartphones now come with equivalent cameras, as far as megapixels are concerned, but Lumia’s camera excels at capturing low-light shots (compare photographs). The camera has built-in OIS so the videos are smooth and less-blurry if you are shooting in situations when the hands aren’t steady (like in a moving car).

The HTC 8X, like the Lumia 920, packs a similar powerful processor and thus the screen transitions are quick and you never notice any sort of lag on either of these devices.

The 8X sports a 4.3” screen but unlike the weighty 920, this one is light and thin. It also has a very capable camera though the Lumia would outperform in low light situations. HTC has included Beats Audio into 8X for a richer sound though it gets activated only when the headphones are plugged in. That said, even in speaker mode, the audio quality of HTC 8X was superior to that of 920.

I really liked the placement of the rear camera in these phones – the lens isn’t in the upper-left corner but along the center of the phone. Thus, when you are capturing a shot or shooting a video, your fingers are less likely to block the lens.

The phones run the vanilla (unmodified) version of Windows Phone 8 and thus the software experience is very similar (more on Windows Phone 8 OS in a later post). You can use voice commands to launch apps or call contacts but there isn’t a way to dictate emails or documents. You may not be a fan of Internet Explore on the desktop but the mobile version of IE included in Windows Phone 8 is outstanding.

You can use a standard micro-USB connector to charge the phones or to connect them to your computer. They have a dedicated hardware button for the camera and you can long-press the shutter to activate the camera even while the phone is in locked state.

The hardware buttons in the Lumia – Volume, Power and Camera – are placed at one side and they extend out a little making it easy for you to press them without looking at the device. The buttons in the HTC 8X however blend with the body and it thus takes some effort to locate and press them.

The other thing that goes in favor of the Lumia 920 is that you get access to certain exclusive apps built by Nokia. These include Cinemagraph (for moving GIF images), City Lens (get to know the various places of interest near you), Panorama creator, Nokia Maps & Drive (offline maps and turn-by-turn navigation) and Nokia Music (millions of songs that you can listen offline).

The Lumia also includes a useful Transfer my Contacts app, built by Nokia again, that will automatically import contacts data from your other phones wirelessly over Bluetooth. It just works.

Overall, these flagship Windows phones are sturdy, stylish, are available in a variety of colors and feel very responsive but there is no one size that will fit all.

Some may prefer the lighter HTC 8X as it is easier to hold and has superior audio. The rubberized back gives this phone a better grip especially when you are holding it with one head. The Nokia Lumia 920 has a more “premium” feel and is equipped with a camera that delivers outstanding shots in darker environments.

Unless you are a shutterbug, you may want to walk into a store and play around with each of these phones for some time before making a choice.  The phones carry about the same price tag on online shopping sites in India but Lumia 920 offers 32 GB of storage space while the 8X has 16 GB.