Seriously though, whatís special about the XL is that it has a quad-core processor. While still quite rare, quad-cores have now been around for almost a year. Looking at Windís lineup, they have the Note II for $299, the LG Optimus 4X is at $199 while the XL is $99. For 99 bucks, theyíve also got the HTC One S and Motorola RAZR V.
So the Wind and Huawei have found a good place in their lineup for the XL. Itís cheaper than the more brand name-y Note II and the 4X while you get more hardware for your money than the One S and RAZR V.
So what do you get for $99? A quad-core processor from Huawei. Thatís right, itís not a Tegra 3, Exynos or a Snapdragon. The chip appears to have Cortex A9 cores (like the Tegra 3 and Exynos) but unlike them, the GPU is from Hisilicon. Weíll check out the GPU performance later in the review.
You also get a 4.5Ē 1280x720 display, a huge 2600mAh battery, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage which is kind of skimpy, a microSD slot which makes my comment about the storage moot, penta-band HSPA and a 8MP camera. While playing with the XL, I noticed that 4 features are missing; LTE, NFC, a more up-to-date version of Android and support for dual-band WiFi.
LTE isnít a big deal, Wind doesnít support LTE and none of their phones do. Anyways, if you unlock the XL the penta-band HSPA gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of switching carriers.
NFC is a minor let-down. NFC does have some practical use right now. You can use NFC stickers to setup your phone to launch car mode when you drive. Some bluetooth headphones can auto pair with your phone if you have NFC. NFC can also be used for mobile payments though thatís still in its infancy here in Canada. NFC is a nice thing to have but it hasnít reached critical mass yet. Itís one of those feature that most people who have it donít use it (yet).
The dual-band WiFi is another nice thing to have. Depending on how congested the WiFi is at your place and if you have a dual-band router it may be a must have.
The XL ships with Android 4.0. While there are still a lot of 4.0 phones on the market, 4.2 just came out and more and more phones are coming with 4.1. Hopefully, Huawei will fix this.
One thing about top tier manufacturers like Apple, HTC and Nokia and to a lesser extent, Samsung have, is a distinctive and original design language. Itís like this with other industries as well, like Cars, clothes and even appliances. A really good design can tell you what company made it without you having to look at the logo.
While I wouldnít say that XL is a blatant copy of anything, itís a really generic looking phone. It manages to not look like anything, yet itís not original looking either. However, the back is not bad. While its laid out in the generic ĎGalaxy S IIí layout, it has a fine texture to it plus itís covered with rubberized paint. I guess one area where Huawei is trying to distinguish the XL is the red trim around the camera and on the earpiece. Itís sister, the P1 is a more elegant looking phone.
Behind the back cover is the full-sized SIM card slot and microSD. I donít like how the XL has a removable back cover but no removable battery. Unless youíre Samsung, removable back covers are usually the enemy if you want a really solid feeling phone. Indeed, the cover on the XL makes it feel less solid and cheap. itís an idiotic idea.
The XL has a 4.5Ē display. These days, quad-core phones like the HTC One X and Nexus 4 ships with 4.7Ē displays. It doesnít sound like much of a difference but the difference between a 4.7Ē and 4.5Ē is bigger than youíd think.
Out of the box, the XL ships with everything turned down, the screen is extremely dim and the processors are clocked so far down that the XL felt like a single-core phone. It made a terrible first impression. There are actually 2 different screen brightness settings. First, you get the usual auto-brightness and brightness slider but you also get a Smart backlight feature. Turns out the screen looks really nice if you turn the brightness up and turn off Smart backlight.
It has excellent viewing angles and it pretty bright. Colour is nice. Next to the iPhone, itís actually very similar in terms of brightness and viewing angle. Compared to the Nexus 4, Iíd say the XLís is brighter and has better viewing angles. Itís a very good display! Unfortunately, there hasnít been a lot of sunlight lately so I canít comment on how the XLís display is in direct sunlight.
The only bad thing I have to say about the XLís display is that the screen doesnít have the greatest blacks. Theyíre actually slightly purple - it reminds me of the Blackberry Playbookís display in this regard.
Itís funny because when I first got the XL, I thought the display sucked. Turns out, itís a combination of the overly-conservative display settings and the fact that the XL ships with the stock Android launcher which frankly speaking, is ugly and unflattering.
I donít normally comment on this much, but the XLís touchscreen occasionally skips when itís recognizing that Iím touching it. Since itís an intermittent problem, it took me a long time to figure out what was going on. It was only when I was trying to enter my pattern unlock and this problem crept up that I finally figured it out. When I was entering my pattern, the line would break after the first 2 dots. I occasionally noticed this problem when Iím swiping.
Since itís intermittent, itís not a huge problem but it is something I noticed.
power button, headphone jack
camera, dual LED flash, speaker
The XL camera software has HDR mode, burst, smile shutter, panorama (only in one direction) and night mode. There are colour filters like Sepia, Antique, etc. You also get wacky morphing effects so you can make your subjectís nose big, shrink their head - that sort of thing.
Thereís also White balance, ISO, Timer, Face detection, Red eye reduction, Exposure, Saturation, Contrast, Brightness settings. Feature-wise, the XLís camera does not leave me wanting.
The problem is that Iíd trade all these features if it would make the XLís camera more-responsive. Itís not that itís a slow camera. Its focus speeds are fine but I wish its shot-to-shot speeds were faster.
I also wish the XLís camera had both shutter and record buttons on the same screen like on HTCís and Samsungís. While there is a burst mode, you have to turn it on, then, when itís on it, itís on. Pressing the shutter will take about 8 pictures in around 2 seconds. If you want to switch back to taking one picture at a time you have to change it manually. Iíd prefer if you could just take bursts by press and holding the camera shutter button.
Image quality is a mixed bag. While Iíd say itís adequate, itís definitely not class-leading. Pictures lack contrast, theyíre all a little washed out looking. Then again, adding a little bit of saturation mostly fixes this. At higher ISOís, there is very strong noise reduction which pretty much removes all fine detail.
Video quality is average. Itís a little soft. The microphone does a decent job. It sounds fine and doesnít pick up too much handling noise.
Out of the box, the XL ships with stock Android. There actually is a Huawei 3D launcher but itís turned off by default and for good reason. It looks cheap and isnít very smooth at all.
There are a few extra programs: All Backup, AppInstaller, DLNA, File Manger, Flashlight, FM Radio and Music+
DLNA is always a useful extra as is a File manager.
The XL actually has decent video codec support. Itís able to playback 480p DivX aviís and 720p mkvís. That coupled with the built-in DLNA makes the XL a useful media players. Many phones have lousy codec support so even though they have DLNA itís not useful for anything besides sharing your files to a TV. Since the XL has good codec support itís actually able to play back a lot of the media stored on my DLNA server.
The inclusion of an FM radio is a nice extra. Itís a feature thatís beginning to disappear from phones.
As I mentioned before, there are different performance modes; Battery saver, Balanced and Performance. Battery saver increases battery life by reducing the frequency the XL uses background data (for email).
So I mentioned the D Quad XL has a Huawei designed quad-core processor. Iím guessing it has 4 Arm Cortex A-9 cores. It also has a Hisilicon GPU. Youíre probably wondering why Huawei decided to use their own chip and not a Tegra 3 or Snapdragon? Well, looking back at 2012, youíll notice that most high-end Android phones came with Qualcommís S4 dual-core processor. First was the HTC One X followed by the wildly popular Galaxy S III. After that, it took around 6 months before Sony and Motorola released their S4 powered offerings.
I suspect that there was a chip shortage (Samsung buying up all the chips) so using their own chip will help ensure supply. Since the Huawei chip probably has Cortex A9 cores, I expect it to be competitive with other Cortex A9 based chips like Nvidiaís Tegra 3. Note that the current Qualcomm offerings are based on their own Krait core which are more advanced than the Cortex A9.
Peacekeeper is a cross-platform HTML 5 browser test.
Peacekeeper benchmark (higher is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 807
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 749
HTC One X+: 662
LG Optimus G: 505
Sony Xperia T: 502
Motorola RAZR HD LTE (chrome): 500
Samsung Galaxy S III: 476
Huawei D Quad XL: 433
Nexus 4: 407
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 264
Peacekeeper doesnít make much use of more than 2 cores so itís not surprising that the XL doesnít score any higher than many dual-core phones.
Vellamo is a suite of browser benchmarks. Itís only available on Android so weíre only able to compare the 4 with other Android phones here. Like other browser tests, Vellamo rarely uses more than 2 cores, so donít expect much of an improvement over dual core phones.
HTML 5 (higher is better):
HTC One X+: 1852
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 1841
Sony Xperia T: 1786
LG Optimus G: 1713
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 1632
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1630
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 1608
Huawei D Quad XL: 1447
Galaxy Nexus: 1324
Nexus 4: 1158
Again, while itís not class-leading, the XLís scores keep it in the game.
Metal (higher is better):
LG Optimus G: 643
Nexus 4: 636
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 628
Samsung Galaxy S III: 580
Sony Xperia T: 567
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 553
HTC One X+: 526
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 492
Huawei D Quad XL: 398
Galaxy Nexus: 393
GL Benchmark 2.5 (on-screen, higher is better):
Google Nexus 4: 4380
LG Optimus G: 4221
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 2504
Sony Xperia T: 2431
Huawei D Quad XL: 2347
Samsung Galaxy S III: 2335
HTC One X+: 2042
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 1960
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 1650
While the XL isnít as fast as the Adreno 305 in the Nexus 4/Optimus G itís competitive with the Adreno 225 in the Galaxy S III/Xperia T/RAZR HD LTE. Itís actually a bit faster than the Tegra 3 in the One X/X+. Not bad for a chip Iíve never heard of before.
GL Benchmark 2.5 battery life:
Google Nexus 4: 114
LG Optimus G: 117
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 208
Huawei D Quad XL: 116
Samsung Galaxy S III: 165
HTC One X+: 124
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 277
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 115
Apple iPhone 5: 129
The XL does poorly in GL Benchmarkís battery benchmark which is a bit of a surprise because it has a huge 2600mAh battery.
However, thatís not the whole story. In everyday usage, I actually found that the XL has pretty good battery life. Even with heavy usage, it should be able to make it through the day on a single charge. Hereís an example: when I take the train into town, I usually watch some HD videos in a pop-up window while using a pair of Bluetooth headphones, use Foursquare, check emails, surf the web, text, etc. I normally blow through about 40% of my GS3ís battery (the T999v - the Wind/Mobilicity variant). With the XL, I only used about 25% of the battery.
I suspect that the XLís GPU uses a bit more power. Since my typical usage doesnít tax it too much I got decent battery life.
As a Phone:
Incoming sound quality is good. Itís natural and clean with only minimal background hiss.
My basement is a bit of a black hole on Rogers (Wind is awesome in my house so no point testing with it). Iím actually very surprised at how good the XLís RF performance is. Itís able to hang onto HSPA just fine in my basement. Iím not getting huge speeds or anything but itís not dropping to EDGE or GPRS like my iPhone 5 does.
Speaker volume was a disappointed. My iPhone 5 is much louder.
One of the reasons why people choose a quad core is because they believe the extra cores will make their phone more future-proof. After all, no want wants a phone that isnít able to run the latest software in a few years time.
The problem with this thinking is that most software doesnít use more than 2 cores. If you look at the PC market, even though quad-core computers have been around for years, even now most programs donít use more than 2 cores.
To me, right now, what really makes an Android device future-proof is 2GB of RAM. If youíve used a NExus 4/Optimus G/GS3/Note II, 2GB of RAM completely transforms the device. 1GB of RAM is adequate but if youíre switching between a lot of programs, youíll find it takes longer to switch between them.
1GB sounds like a lot but when you consider than most Android phones with 1GB of RAM only have less than 400GB of free memory the 2GB is more important that youíd think.
If youíre a heavy multi-tasked and have ever used an Android phone with 2GB of RAM, youíll notice it immediately. When you switch between many tasks on a Galaxy S III, youíll notice that you rarely have to wait for it to re-open any programs. With the XL, I can only get about 4 or 5 programs open before it has to pause before it can switch tasks because it has to launch them again. It happens more than youíd think.
I also think extra RAM will be the hedge against obsolescence. So in that sense, the D Quad XL is no better off than any other phone from the past year that has 1GB of RAM. Of course, this is assuming Huawei supports their phones for a while. Since they only released their first serious phone a few months ago so this is a big unknown.
One trend in Android Iíve noticed is the ability to multitask by being able to view more than one program at a time. Iím not talking about listening to music while surfing the web. The Note II allows you to watch videos and surf the web while you do pretty much anything else on your phone. The GS3 and LG Optimus G also allow you to watch video while using the rest of your phone. Sonyís Xperia T letís you surf the web, using the calculator and a bunch of other stuff at the same time.
Usage like this is tailor made for multiple cores so Iím disappointed, that out of the box, Huawei doesnít supply any software that takes advantage of this.
I guess I sound pretty down on the XL but really, you have to take into account the price.
A year ago, the thought of a budget quad-core phone would seem absurd. After all, quad-core phones represented the next big leap in phone computing power. So, good for Huawei to come up with a budget quad-core phone.
Donít forget, while quad-cores are not as important as youíd think, theyíre still a nice thing to have, especially if youíre not really paying anything extra for them.
vs HTC One S:
Since the XL is only 99 bucks on Windís Tab, I figured Iíd compare it with the HTC One S.
On paper, the XL has a great advantage. More cores, bigger screen, bigger battery and memory card slot. Indeed, the lack of a memory card slot is a huge turnoff from the One S. Youíve heard of a killer feature? The One Sís lack of a memory card slot is the opposite of that. Itís like buying a fancy new car and finding out it has roll up windows. So based on that one difference Iíd say skip the One S and get the XL.
vs Nexus 4:
Now the XL costs $499 if you buy it straight up. The 16GB Nexus 4 costs $140 less and comes with a more powerful quad-core processor, more RAM plus it should always receive the latest version of Android for at least the next year. It also has hidden LTE support though thatís not very useful on Wind.
Compared to the 4 the XL has, better battery life and a microSD slot. If youíre choosing between the 2 phones, are willing to dish out $359 or $499 on a phone and can live with around 13GB of storage space get the Nexus 4. Yeah, the 4 has the same problem as the One S but the 4 also has much more interesting hardware.
However, If youíre willing to go on a Tab then thereís only one choice. Get the XL.
In the end, you get a powerful phone with a lot of features for a reasonable price. The Huawei D Quad XL represents a good deal.
- strong RF
- sound quality
- good video codec support
- inexpensive for what you get
- few Ďextrasí over a stock Android phone
- back cover makes it feel cheap
- no NFC
- quiet speaker phone
- Android 4.0 (4.1 and 4.2 are now available on some phones)