The writer has posted comments on this articleRavi SharmaRavi Sharma,TOI Tech | Aug 26, 2014, 10.25 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Indian smartphone makers are a dominant force, accounting for a majority of sales in the country's booming market. Their formula has been simple: Offer the most basic version of Android (often an old build) and package it in a device with susceptible build quality and big screen.
However, smartphone maker Xolo is breaking away from this 'tradition' and is now offering a big-screen smartphone made of glass and plastic and comes with a proprietary Android skin, a first for an Indian company.
So how does Xolo's first attempt at creating a customized user interface work out? Does it hamper the user experience of the phone or does it help it work better? We find out in our Xolo 8X-1000 review...
Xolo has gone for the unibody design for its 8X-1000 smartphone, so the microSD and the two sim card slots are accessible from the sides. The front and back are made from glass, while the sides are made of quality plastic, so the smartphone feels solid and rather light. The Xolo branding is in the front as well as on the back.
There are no hardware keys below the display, with the Home, Back and Options keys designed as touch-sensitive, backlit dots. The speakers are at the bottom edge, so it is unlikely for them to get muffled. Both the microUSB port and earphone jack are on the top edge. The glass on the back panel is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.
The 5-inch HD display, layered with Dragontrail glass, takes up most of the space on the front. It is a pretty good display panel, offering good sunlight legibility and viewing angles. It can also easily change from warm to cold tones when the themes are changed. In fact, the display of Xolo 8X-1000 easily finds a place among the best screens we have seen recently in the sub-Rs 15,000 range.
Xolo 8X-1000 packs a 1.4GHz octa-core processor by Mediatek and 2GB RAM under the hood. It has 16GB in-built storage and supports microSD cards with capacities up to 32GB. You can access the internet via 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi, while data can be transferred using Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0. On the back is an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP camera is in front. This phone is powered by a non-removable 1,920mAh Li-ion battery.
Xolo 8X-1000 is the launch vehicle for the company's new proprietary Android user interface, named HIVE. Much like Xiaomi's MIUI, Asus's Zen and HTC's Sense, Xolo's HIVE UI is a launcher that adds a number of functions to the core Android 4.4 (KitKat) software, redesigns app icons and offers various effects that together give more control over the look and feel of the software of the phone.
The most important custom app in HIVE UI is Edge, where you can download themes, wallpapers and ringtones. At present, it has only three themes, and one theme (named Calli-Cool) caught our eye. It offers a glimpse into the potential of HIVE UI as a platform for designers.
In this theme, as well as in the remaining two, you cannot choose which functions you want on the lock screen; for example, you cannot open WhatsApp from the lock screen, something that I can do with Asus's Zen UI.
HIVE UI has an app called Connect, where users can connect with each other, share ideas, post suggestions etc for Xolo developers. It also gives a list of service centres around your location and lets you check for software updates.
The phone also comes with a proprietary power management app that lets you see, and control to an extent, the apps that hog resources. Another custom app by Xolo is Fusion music player, which remains much the same.
All custom apps feature a drop-down menu that is characterized by sharp lines, and does not merge well with the themes that HIVE UI offers. This drop-down menu is not a HIVE feature and has been part of earlier Xolo apps, such as Fusion. Therefore, Xolo may have to alter the design of this menu to make it look more a part of the theme than its own UI.
There are some elements of the UI (not the themes) that we would like to have more control over. For example, the Quick Settings menu in Notifications shows the option to change the screen timeout period. Not many people we showed this feature to found it useful as this is something hardly anyone bothers about after setting it once. Similarly, we would like to have the choice to put a few icons on the lock screen for easier access.
Xolo 8X-1000 seems like a potent smartphone due to the combo of octa-processor and 2GB RAM. However, this does not translate to a snappy performer in real-world usage. The phone is not slow, but it is not as fast as we would like it to be either.
Lag is apparent if you perform too many actions in quick succession. Memory management is when themes are active is also a problem, as even commonly used apps like WhatsApp and Facebook crashed on more than one occasion due to 'out of memory' error. Now, these are common occurrences on low-end phones, but not something we would expect from a phone that has 2GB of memory to offer.
Battery life of the phone is okay, lasting around 10 hours if you have an active 3G or Wi-Fi connection all the time. Moderate usage can help the phone last nearly 24 hours before you need to plug it in for charging again.
Xolo 8X-1000 plays multimedia content well, and watching videos on the phone is a pleasant experience. However, its speaker output is not very loud, and you would struggle to enjoy music or videos unless you use earphones.
The 8MP camera of Xolo 8X-1000 is quite good for the price. You can pick between different filters - such as sepia, dark and white - and the usual shooting modes, such as Auto, Pro, HDR and Panorama. Its Gesture Mode, where the phone detects bunny ears to take the photo, is a hit and miss feature and does not always work.
Photos taken using Xolo 8X-1000's 8MP camera under daylight deliver images with accurate colours and good white balance. Even photos taken in the dark look nice but a bit oversaturated, with a little less noise than we are used to with cameras in this price range.
Gaming on Xolo 8X-1000 is a decent experience. You can, quite obviously, play the likes of Subway Surfer and Temple Run with ease. However, there was just a little stutter when we tried our hand at Real Racing 3 and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Nevertheless, both these graphics-intensive games were playable most of the time, with the HD screen rendering the graphics pretty nicely.
Xolo 8X-1000 is a decent smartphone that tries to distinguish itself from the crowd with the help of its new HIVE UI. In this attempt, it is successful to an extent, but the hardware and software do not complement each other as well as potential buyers would like them to. Memory management is a concern as a device with 2GB RAM should not ideally hang.
Camera and display are the two best features of Xolo 8X-1000 and are easily among the best in their range, barring the Full HD touting Xiaomi Mi 3. HIVE UI is pleasing to the eye and shows potential, so we would wait for it to get better and add more features in the future.