GadgetsLab: Huawei Ascend D1Quad XL

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Specifications:

  • Network: 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G: HSDPA 850/900/1700/1900/2100
  • SIM: Mini-SIM
  • Dimensions: 129x64x10.9mm
  • Weight: 150g
  • Screen: 4.5-inches, 720×1280 pixels (326ppi)
  • Memory: 8GB storage, 1GB RAM
  • Processor: 1.4GHz quad-core CPU
  • Camera: 8MP primary, 1.3MP secondary

What’s Hot:

  • Quad-core CPU
  • Quality sound
  • Quality screen
  • Good battery life

What’s Not:

  • Gets hot to the touch with prolonged use
  • Low internal storage
  • Some high-end connectivity options   missing (no 4G/LTE, NFC)

Bottomline:

  • The CPU stands out as the star of the show, but its other features also help make sure that the Ascend D1 Quad XL holds its own against the beefier smartphones out there despite lacking some of the features that are now becoming commonplace for smartphones in 2013.

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Huawei finished a strong third in smartphone production to close out 2012—not enough to topple the South Korean tech giants or the Cupertino-based tech firm—but it was proof that they could hold their own against some of the big names in the tech industry. The Ascend D1 Quad XL is one of the latest offerings in the five-inch smartphone market, and will be one of the products representing Huawei’s push to establish itself as one of the big players in the smartphone world.

The back cover felt nice to hold, but those looking for durability won’t like its plastic build. It does have some grip, so dropping the phone should be a rare occurrence. Upon opening the back cover, the SIM card slot is conveniently located right behind the power button and there is no need to remove the battery to insert the SIM card into the slot. The microSD card is above the microUSB port—although it would have been somewhat better if you had access to the microSD slot without needing to remove the cover, especially if you find yourself swapping out microSD cards frequently. The volume rocker is off to the right side, and the 3.5mm jack is on the upper left hand corner.

The Ascend D1 Quad XL’s 4.7-inch display is crisp and clear—the 720×1280 resolution at 326ppi was brought out quite well, although the screen could do better in outside situations. Like most smartphones, it has in-plane switching and capacitive multi-touch, so there’s really not much we can say beyond that. One of its highlights is its quad-core 1.4GHz CPU along with 1GB of RAM, which means it works four times as hard to keep the experience with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) smooth and hassle-free.  AnTuTu, Android’s benchmark app, scored the Ascend D1 Quad XL at a solid 14766, below some competitors’ flagship devices, but holding its own against them quite well.

I’m not sure if it was just unique to this unit, but the Google Chrome app was bugged and wouldn’t load properly, so I had to use the stock browser application for my browsing needs. The websites loaded quickly, and scrolling, aside from the occasional jitter, went smoothly. There’s only 8GB of storage on the phone, of which only 5GB is usable, so if you plan to use this as more than just your phone, such as having it double as an MP3 player, camera, or video recorder, you might want to look into getting yourself a microSD card to ensure you have space for your music, photos and videos. Some of my other favorite apps, such as Facebook and Gmail, ran without any problems, as well as games such as Temple Run 2. In an era where mobile gaming is largely becoming the norm, this phone does not disappoint.

Calls and texts went through well—although, like any phone, that will largely depend on your carrier and how strong your signal is. For heavy texters, if you don’t like the default Huawei keyboard, you can also select the regular Android keyboard for familiarity. One thing I noticed, however, is that when I was on the phone for several minutes, the phone got hot to the touch, an indication that quad-core CPUs in mobile phones still need some work. To be fair, it is still a new concept, so there is only room for improvement. Fans of 4G and LTE will not have that option on this phone, which is a bit disappointing as well.

If you plan on using the phone as a camera, you’ll need to make sure the lighting is sufficient—low light situations are like the Kryptonite to the phone’s otherwise decent 8-megapixel main camera and 1.3-megapixel front camera. You can also shoot videos in full 1080p HD with the main camera. The same protocol that applies to photos also applies to videos—you’ll need sufficient lighting to get the most out of it.

The audio was exceptionally strong and of very high quality, as is expected of something with the Dolby logo on it. I’m a deep sleeper, and the alarms on the Ascend D1 Quad XL managed to wake me each time they were scheduled to go off. At full volume, the sound quality is loud and clear, and the Ascend D1 Quad XL makes its presence heard. If you plan on making the Ascend D1 Quad XL the device on which to listen to your music or to view your videos, you won’t be disappointed with the sound quality.

The 2600 mAh Li-Po battery can last up to 10 hours with heavy usage, but I found myself going almost three days of low to moderate use before I had to reach for a charger. If you tinker around with some of the settings, such as lowering the screen’s brightness, and keeping screen timeouts reasonable, you can probably squeeze out an extra hour or two from the battery even with heavy use. But all in all, the battery is great, especially if you’re always on the move and can’t charge your phone too often.

If you want to sample a good quad-core CPU phone, the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL is a good bet. For PHP 18,990, it is a bargain for the specs it comes with. It has more positives than negatives overall, and the positives are worth the buy, especially if you’re looking to join in the 5-inch smartphone party that is coming our way in 2013.

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First Published in Gadgets Magazine, April 2013

Words by Jose Alvarez