HTC One XL - L for LTE

Launch SRP: S$998

Attack of the Clones

The First 4G LTE Smartphone in Singapore

Barely two months after the launch of the NVIDIA Tegra 3-equipped One X, HTC unveiled a LTE variant - the One XL. Both devices appear to look identical, but the HTC One XL is technically about 0.5mm longer. Design and handling wise, it mirrors the One X. The other two major differences are under the hood: processor and LTE support.

Unlike its quad-core sibling, the HTC One XL runs on Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 dual-core 1.5GHz processor. So what's so unique about the S4 chipset? Well, the S4 chipset is the first mobile processor to be fabricated on a 28nm process, whereas the Tegra 3 and Samsung's Exynos 4212 quad-core chipsets are built on 40nm and 32nm processes respectively. All else remaining constant, a smaller footprint enables manufacturers to build even smaller devices. According to Qualcomm, this S4 processor also sports lower power consumption, and better thermal characteristics.

The chipset is also the first in the industry to pack a 3G/4G world/multi-mode LTE modem, which supports frequency bands ranging from 700 to 2600MHz. Due to the versatility of the S4 class, the HTC One XL is the first 4G LTE device that can operate on the 1800MHz and 2600MHz frequency bands used by all three telcos here. This is also why users of Apple's third generation iPad cannot enjoy 4G LTE speeds here, as the tablet operates on the 700 and 2100MHz frequency bands. If you want to know how SingTel's 4G LTE network performs on the HTC One XL, you can read our hands-on article here.

For the review of the HTC One XL, we will focus on its performance aspect and how it compares against the current crop of Android heavyweights, which are the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III and ASUS PadFone. On the aspects of design and handling, as well as what's new in the Sense 4 UI, you can turn to our One X review. For those who want to know the key differences between the HTC One X and One XL, here's a quick look at the specs:

Comparison between the HTC One XL and One X
  HTC One XL HTC One X
Dimensions 134.86 x 69.9 x 8.9mm 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
Display 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 4.7-inch Super LCD 2
Resolution 1280 x 720  1280 x 720
OS Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich 
with HTC Sense 4
Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
with HTC Sense 4
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 dual-core 1.5GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz
RAM 1GB 1GB
Storage 32GB 32GB
Front Camera 1.3-megapixel  1.3-megapixel
Rear Camera 8-megapixel with autofocus, smart LED flash, BSI sensor,
F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens
8-megapixel with autofocus, smart LED flash, BSI sensor,
F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens
Networks GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / HSPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
LTE 1800 / 2600
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / HSPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
Weight 130g 130g

 

 

Performance

The HTC One X received two OTA updates (1.28 and 1.29) over the past two months, while the Quadrant benchmark was updated to the latest version on 9 June 2012. Hence, we decided to run the Quadrant benchmark again on all four phones to see if there is any significant difference. For those who are unfamiliar with the Quadrant benchmark, it evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O, and 3D graphics of Android devices. 

 

How the Phones Stack Up
Device HTC One XL HTC One X Samsung Galaxy S III ASUS PadFone
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz  NVIDIA Tegra 3
quad-core 1.5GHz
Exynos 4212 Quad
quad-core 1.4 GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
dual-core 1.5GHz
GPU Adreno 225 12-core GeForce Mali-400MP Adreno 225
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
OS Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0 Google Android 4.0

 

As expected from our review of the ASUS PadFone, the HTC One XL fared better than the One X in the Quadrant benchmark thanks to the newer processor architecture design. However, the discerning reader will notice something amiss: the ASUS PadFone has a better score than the One XL even though both phones are powered by the same processor, 1GB of RAM and Android 4.0. Well, it's not hard to piece together the puzzle.

The ASUS PadFone runs an almost stock Android 4.0 user interface (UI) with minor add-ons, such as ASUS-designed widgets. On the other hand, the HTC One XL ships with Sense 4 which comes with a collection of tools and new features that are deeply integrated throughout the device. Hence, it is almost certain that Sense 4 is the limiting factor here.

Numbers crunching aside, the HTC One XL ran as smooth as the One X despite "having two lesser cores". Apps loaded quickly and the user interface was generally responsive, although it was not as fluid and smooth as that of the ASUS PadFone.

 

Battery Mileage

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters: 

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on 
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Phones Compared
Specifications/Device HTC One XL HTC One X Samsung Galaxy S III ASUS PadFone
Processor
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
Display Size
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.8-inch
  • 4.3-inch
Display Type
  • Super LCD 2
  • Super LCD 2
  • HD Super AMOLED
  • Super AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1280 x 720 pixels
  • 960 x 540 pixels
Dimensions
  • 134.86 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
  • 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
  • 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm
  • 128 x 65.4 x 9.2mm
Weight
  • 130g
  • 130g
  • 133g
  • 129g

 

The S4 processor is designed as an asynchronous symmetrical multiprocessor system (aSMP). Qualcomm claims that the aSMP architecture offers a 25-40% power improvement over current synchronous SMP architectures as each core can operate in low power mode due to the independent voltage and frequency control. This effectively removes the need for a "companion" or "fifth battery saver" core, such as NVIDIA Tegra 3's "4-PLUS-1" quad-core architecture

Even though the S4 processor should theoretically deliver better power efficiency, the HTC One X only managed to last about five hours and 22 minutes. We conducted the battery test twice to verify our findings, and the results were somewhat similar on both occasions. This battery mileage is also a far cry from that of the ASUS PadFone, which came in at an impressive 6 hours and 45 minutes despite having a smaller battery capacity. However, one cannot discount the fact that the PadFone has a smaller 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display which is known for its power efficiency.

4G Battery Life Comparison

For the 4G battery test, all the test parameters remain the same except substituting Wi-Fi with 4G connectivity. Of course, the handset mix is now different. For this test, we compared the HTC One XL with two other LTE-enabled phones: LG Optimus True HD LTE, and Samsung Galaxy S II LTE.

The Samsung Galaxy S II LTE lasted the longest at 7 hours and 50 minutes, followed by the HTC One XL at 4 hours and 43 minutes. Taking into account the minor differences in battery capacities and screen sizes, Samsung probably did a better job at optimizing power management on the Galaxy S II LTE. The power-efficient nature of AMOLED displays also plays a part here.

 

Power Consumption

Contrary to Qualcomm's claims, the power consumption of the HTC One XL is actually higher than that of the Tegra 3-powered One X, or the Exynos 4212-equipped Samsung Galaxy S III. Optimizing battery performance and power management remain key hurdles that HTC ought to focus on in order to position itself favorably among the Android heavyweights. To be fair, HTC makes it clear that it continues to put in a great deal of effort in improving the battery performance of its devices, especially the HTC One series. If you want to know more about its on-going efforts, do check out its blog post here.

In the Portability Index where the overall dimensions, weight and battery performance are taken into consideration, the One XL ranked the lowest among the competition. Its less than satisfactory battery life unfortunately dragged the device's standing down even though it is neither the heaviest (130g) nor the thickest device (8.9mm) of the lot.

Under normal usage conditions, we found no difference between the HTC One XL and its quad-core One X sibling - it could last us through a day of moderate usage. The One XL is better in one aspect, which is it doesn't feel as warm as the One X under heavy usage. This is not surprising as improved thermal performance is another highly touted feature of the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 class of processors. Not convinced? You can check out the video below from Qualcomm, which depicts three phones running a CPU intensive benchmark (Dhrystone) for over 20 minutes. One of the phones was using the S4 processor.

 

 

Conclusion

Many consumers will find themselves in a dilemma - should they get the HTC One XL, One X, ASUS PadFone, or the Samsung Galaxy S III? Let's break it down one by one.

  • Design and handling: This is a no-brainer. The HTC One XL is almost an exact clone of the One X in these two aspects. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S III and ASUS PadFone, we prefer the better-looking HTC phones with their unibody polycarbonate chassis. 
     
  • Features: The HTC phones come with a flashier Sense 4 UI while Samsung's TouchWiz UI offers unique features, such as Pop-up Play, S Voice, and Smart Stay. On the other end of the spectrum, the ASUS PadFone has little customization done to the UI, and it is as close as you can get to the "pure Google experience" besides the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
     
  • Performance: Overall, you won't gain or lose much if you get either of the HTC phones, except that the One XL does not get heated up as much as the One X. The Samsung Galaxy S III trumps the HTC camp in terms of better battery performance, superior processing performance, a slightly bigger 4.8-inch display and a microSD option. The ASUS PadFone is somewhere in between the HTC phones and Galaxy S III with its decent performance. However, if you want to enjoy LTE speeds on a smartphone, there is only one choice - the One XL.
     
  • Price: At S$998 (inclusive of GST) without line contract, the HTC One XL does not offer a better deal than the similarly-priced Samsung Galaxy S III. For S$100 less, you get similar performance on the One X without the LTE connectivity. Perhaps the best deal among the four phones is the ASUS PadFone, which is priced at S$800; you can then top up to get its suite of accessories, such as the PadFone Station and Station Dock.
8.5
Design
9
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
8.5
Performance
8.5
Value
7.5
The Good
Nice design and solid build quality
Fast LTE speeds
Good overall performance
Does not get as warm as the HTC One X
The Bad
Pricey
Battery life shorter than expected