Nokia XL: Bigger isn’t Always Better

Nokia finally buckled this year and launched Nokia X, its first range of Android-powered smartphones. The largest of the bunch, the suitably titled Nokia XL, is now retailing for less than JD150. But just how much bang do you get for your buck?

Even though the XL comes with a huge 5-inch display, it still weighs a porky 190g, which is heavier than most similar sized phones. Furthermore, the IPS LCD capacitive screen is a letdown in terms of resolution, with a WVGA pixel count of 480×800, despite decent viewing angles.

The processing power under the hood is close to what you’d expect to get for the price. The XL has a fairly dated 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 768MB of RAM. But though the specs are low, they’re still capable of handling the phone’s requirements. The XL also allows for 4GB of internal storage, and it is thankfully expandable with up to 32GB on an external microSD.

The big deal with the Nokia’s X phones is that they run on Google’s Android operating system, rather than Microsoft’s Windows Phone. The XL features a heavily modified open source Android Jelly Bean OS that more resembles an amalgam of the best features of Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia’s Asha OS. Visually, the user interface is similar to Windows Phone, with the use of a Live Tiles app drawer. It also utilizes Asha’s Fastlane, which is a mix of notification center, activity list, and app switcher.

By opting for Android, Nokia gets access to Android’s strongest suit: app support. The device doesn’t use Google’s Play Store, however, and its own dedicated Nokia Store doesn’t provide a wide variety of apps, which means users are forced to download apps through third party stores. The severe modding has also exchanged Google support services for the likes of Here Maps, Here Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage.

Taking pictures with the XL is a middling experience, which is to be expected with only 5MP in the back and 2MP in the front. The biggest issue we had with our test model was that taking pictures with the camera was frustratingly sluggish. Video quality was also below par, filming at 854×480 and 30 fps, even though you could shoot from the front as well as the back. The 2000 mAh battery surprised us with a decent life, especially since it runs two SIM cards, which can handle half a day of intense usage.

The XL is beyond doubt the best phone in the Nokia X line. It’s a decent bargain for consumers looking for a phablet-style phone, but with similarly priced devices quickly rising in number and quality, a big screen alone might not be enough to keep the XL from getting lost in the crowd.