Wednesday 6 June 2012

Review: Intel Lava Xolo 900,

NEW DELHI: When we first heard about Intel's choice of partner for its smartphone foray at the Mobile World Congress in February 2012, India's brand Lava did not exactly draw inspiration as a formidable name.

Cut to May 2012: The world's first smartphone with an Intel Inside was launched by Lava and considering that both the partners had no prior experience in making smartphones, Xolo has not turned out to be a bad product.

However, it does give an impression that Intel was not quite ready for the market, but was perhaps keener to prove a point to itself and to the whole world that it could take on just wanted to prove a point that it could make good smartphones in the times to come.

That perhaps might also be the reason behind its tying up not with a Taiwanese or Korean firm, but a little-known Indian handset vendor Lava.

For Lava, a brand that had so far introduced only Android-based entry-level phones, the alliance with Intel will help add not only in brand equity, but perhaps pitchfork it as a competitor to other more established makers.

For Intel, a company that has dominated global microprocessor supplies for laptops and PCs, its maiden entry into the smartphone market brings it in direct competition with established players such as ARM, Nvidia and Qualcomm, among others.

Lava Xolo 900 runs on Intel's latest Atom processor Z2460 reference design code processor code-named Medfield. After having played with the device for a couple of weeks with the first 'Intel Inside' smartphone, we were a tad disappointed. The specs on the phone had seemed quite good on paper, but it is the total package that one looks for in a high-end smartphone. And that seems missing.

Xolo 900 is a good-looking, sleek device that has a slate design with 123 x 63 x 10.99 mm dimensions. It has a plastic body, weighs 127 grams, an 4.03-inches TFT capacitive touchscreen that offers 1024 X 600 resolution that offers excellent graphics and videos and is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass that provides high resistance to the screen from scratches and damages.

While the left side of the phone has no physical keys except one HDMI port, the right side has keys for volume and camera. The phone has two speakers: one on the right and the other on the top of the screen. On the same side is a Micro SIM card port. The SIM card tray can be pulled out using a pin, but we found it to be very tight and quite difficult to pull. Build quality issues?

On top of the phone, there is the power button and a 3.5mm universal audio jack, whereas the bottom button has a micro USB port. The phone also sports two cameras: a front camera that is a rather poor 1.3 megapixel (MP) camera with flash that can shoot at 480 pixels.

The rear camera specs are much better in contrast. It is a nifty 8 megapixel (MP) with auto-focus, zoom and LED flash. It can shoot full HD videos with 1080p and thanks to a fast processor, can have a burst of 15 frames per second (fps). The rear camera also supports most of the shooting modes like Auto, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night etc.

Though an 8 megapixel sounds fancy and impressive on paper, we did not find the picture quality to be as good. Even after selecting 8MP, the picture always turned out slightly blurred which was quite disappointing.

The screen has four touch buttons: Undo/Revert, Menu, Home and a dedicated search button which is missing in other Android phones around the same price tag. Upon unlocking the home screen, however, the standard Android interface welcomes you with three virtual buttons for Call, Menu and Browser.

Of course, as the name says, Xolo 900 is powered by Intel's Atom processor Z2460 (Medfiled) that has 1.6 GHz CPU with Hyper Threading technology and a 400 MHz clock speed. Though it sounds promising for gaming and video watching, the phone's processing speed drops and if you play games for a longer duration, the battery starts draining much faster.

Another huge disappointment which we think this phone has is that its operating system (OS) which is Android 2.3(Gingerbread). The phone is upgradable to ICS 4.0, but ideally it should have been Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) at this time. The phone has a 16GB internal memory and 1GB RAM and therefore no slot for SD card.

The battery too is concealed and can't be taken out. Promising a standby time of 14 days and talk time of up to 8 hours with 3G connection and up to 14 hours with 2G connection seems contradictory with a fixed 3.7V-1460mAh battery, which looks pale in front of most smartphones in the same price category. HTC One X too boasts of 1800mAh battery, similarly Samsung Galaxy Note boasts of 2500mAh battery. Also you might experience slight heating when the phone is on charging.

The smartphone is priced at Rs 25,999 which is not too bad for its specs, but seemed overpriced going by the performance and the fact that Lava is not exactly an established, known brand. For that matter, the smartphone packaging box carried Intel branding on almost all sides but one where it said 'A Lava product'!

For connectivity, the phone supports EDGE/ GPRS, WCDMA, HSPA+ and the browser is compatible with HTML5. The phone also supports USB 2.0, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC and WLAN. The other features include Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Ambient light sensor, and even a Proximity sensor.

In terms of speed, looks and connectivity, Xolo will stand against its competitors like Samsung Galaxy Note, Motorola Droid Razr, HTC One X which run on dual-core processors. But when it comes to the camera, OS and especially the battery, the phone has some serious minuses. But considering the fact that it is already available with a discounted tag of Rs 22,000, Xolo 900 can be a good option to consider.

Raj Rajput  [  MBA ] 
Mobile Reviews Expert
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