We’ve had an HTC One X, a One X+ and now we’ve got a One XL. What are all these suffixes about? The One X is the original HTC flagship announced at MWC earlier in 2012, the One X+ which we reviewed not long ago is a beefed up One X with more power, memory and battery and the One XL is an LTE laden One X, only this time loaded with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor inside. Exclusive to Everything Everywhere’s 4G network, it’s the One to go for if fast web browsing is your cup of HTC.
HTC One XL Review - Design
Stylistically the HTC One XL is identical to it’s non-LTE counterpart. Unibody polycarbonate, micro drilled holes, Gorilla Glass and protruding camera mount, this is an undeniably well put together bit of plastic.
Measuring 135mm top to toe and weighing 129g, the One XL isn’t a small phone despite its elegance. It does make up for its imposition with its large, immersive 4.7-inch display. Thanks to the ergonomically curved back one handed use is perfectly realistic with all the buttons are easily accessible. Ports include a micro USB port to the right hand side and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.
HTC One XL Review - Screen
The 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 display still looks fantastic almost a year after the original One X launched. In addition to being large, it also offers strong viewing angles and responsive touch input. Colours are rich and detail is fantastic, bettering the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3, though at maximum brightness things can start to look slightly washed out.
HTC One XL Review - User interface
With Android 4.0, the HTC One XL offers a plethora of applications out of the box. HTC customise the Android experience with their skin, also known as Sense. This adds a variable number of homescreens, a redrawn icon set and a distinctly HTC look and feel to the phone.
Being Android, you also have access to all the applications in the Google Play store, not to mention tight integration with social networking and sharing. HTC’s Sense can pool together all your Facebook and Twitter updates into Friendstream, their social aggregator, or you can use the apps in isolation.
Naturally, being exclusive on Everything Everywhere there are a couple of tweaks on the XL that you won’t find on the other Ones, though all are none intrusive. The first is a simple EE wallpaper and the second, a pre-installed broadband speed checker app.
With a pretty stock version of Sense therefore and its strong visuals and functionality, the One XL is another solid addition to HTC’s portfolio in terms of UI, and with a Jelly Bean update expected shortly, things are only looking up.
HTC One XL Review - Camera and multimedia
The 8-megapixel autofocus camera and f/2 lens the the HTC One XL deliver the same performance as the original One X. This was a real contender when it came out and is still one of the best camera phones out there. Speed of shot is fantastic, detail is decent and exposure is almost always on point.
Thanks to the wide open aperture, outdoor shots in bright light have a tendency to be over exposed, though this is a saving grace indoors. While this can hamper dynamic range of shots, the on board HDR mode does a good job of evening out exposure hiccups - just make sure you maintain a steady hand.
HTC load up their Android cameras with amongst the best user interfaces around. In addition to being easy to get used to, they also enable a good amount of control over your shots not to mention quick access to your video camera.
Speaking of your video camera, the HTC One XL shoots at full HD. Good detail and fantastic focus come together well, with both continuous autofocus and tap to focus. Recorded video doesn’t just look good on the phone, export it to YouTube or a TV and it should still hold up.
Unlike on the US version of the HTC One XL, its Everything Everywhere variant packs a full 32GB of memory, perfect for your movies and music. The 720p display looks incredible when viewing well optimised video on it. That said, streaming is also made much more realistic thanks to Everything Everywhere’s 4G network. Apps like Netflix and TED feel like they’re made for the combination of 720p brilliance and super fast mobile internet, just be mindful of your data usage.
The HTC One XL is bigger than most MP3 players and yet its ergonomic form makes it well suited to MP3 playback. It sits well in the pocket, in the hand and thanks to the beats audio sound profile adds an extra oomph to your audio. Admittedly, this isn’t suited to all types of music, but it can easily be switched off in the notifications bar.
Games play back well despite the processor not benchmarking as well as the quad-core non-LTE variant. Asphalt 7 and Nova 3 for example showed no sign of slowdown and the design is perfectly suited to two handed landscape gaming.
HTC One XL Review - Connections and storage
With 32GB of onboard memory, you should have plenty of room for all your files, though the HTC One XL isn’t expandable, so won’t be as versatile as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 for hardcore file hoarders.
It does however deliver every connectivity option known to man. Well, within reason. These include 4G, 3.5G, 3G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi direct, NFC, Bluetooth and GPS.
When it comes to web, the HTC One XL is king. On top of Everything Everywhere's fast 4G internet, the browser benchmarks better than any other in HTML5 tests. With fast load times and responsive pinch zoom action, not to mention the One XL’s large, sharp screen which delivers pure whites and great text display, it’s easily one of the best web crawlers out there.
HTC One XL Review - Performance and battery
We didn’t see any sign of the 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor cracking in our time reviewing the One XL. Despite not being as multi-cored as its Tegra 3 alternative, it handles games and the general UI well and HD video content looks great. The phone also delivers superb audio quality in-call.
The 1850mAh battery was underwhelming in our initial review of the HTC One X, however thanks to optimisations on HTC’s, Nvidia’s and no doubt Qualcomm’s part, these precious mAh are now managed pretty well across the One X range. You might not make it through a full day if using the screen intensively and tethering, but you will with moderate use - considerably better than when we first reviewed the original. The XL in particular impresses given the LTE on board, with no discernable hit to battery life.
HTC One XL Review - Conclusion
With the One XL hitting all the marks across performance, multimedia and interface, there’s very little going against it other than its price. On EE’s 4G network, the handset will set you back £46 per month and a £26 up front payment. If this sounds like a reasonable outlay for having the speediest web crawler out there, then you can purchase a One XL with confidence. If you’d rather hold off and stick to 3G for the time being, you can save a fair bit opting for the original, or even the altogether better HTC One X+.