XOLO has distinguished itself in the Indian market with good build quality and smartphones at all price points with good software support including OTA updates. The XOLO A500L is the less costlier variant of the successful A500S and seems to have a good balance of price and specifications. But with competition like the Karbonn A12+ which offers a 5MP camera in a lower-price bracket, what does the XOLO A500L that sets it apart or should you go with the Karbonn A12+ ? Here's the PhoneBunch in-depth review of the XOLO A500L.
- Good Build Quality
- Good Gaming Performance
- Apps movable to SD card
- No Bloatware pre-installed
- Ergonomic Design
- Abysmal Camera
- Glossy Backcover attracts fingerprints
- Speakerphone could have been louder
The XOLO A500L is powered by the 1.3 Ghz MT6572 MediaTek dual-core processor which has become ubiquitous in this price segment. There's 512MB of RAM which seems enough to run even high-end games without lag and multitask as well. The display on the XOLO A500L is 4-inch in size with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. There's a primary 3.2MP camera which is capable of 720p video recording and a VGA front-facing camera.
The display covers most of the front part of the device and is a bit recessed into the frame, but we'll talk about that in the display section of the review. The capacitive buttons just below the display do not light up. Just above the display you have the VGA front-camera, sensors and the main earpiece. There are three sensors in the XOLO A500L:
- 3-axis Accelerometer
- Proximity Sensor
- Light Sensor
At the top of the A500L you have the 3.5mm headphone jack and the micro USB data syncing/charging port. Similarly on the right you have the power lock/unlock button which too is quite sturdy and doesn't make any clicking noise.
The buttons offer acceptable feedback. The buttons are made of the same material as the backcover which has a glossy finish and a sort of a sparkling shimmer.
XOLO A500L has a 4GB ROM, out of which about 2.5GB is available to you but you can move apps and games to the SD card. There's no OTG support in the A500L as with other MT6572 based smartphones. If you want to have a look at what all accessories come with the A500L as well as its first boot just have a look at our Unboxing.
The XOLO A500L doesn't do much to stand out from the crowd of black slabs, but it does have a sense of purposeful design including the back of the device which is convex making the phone easily fit in your hand. Then there's the metallic looking trim which runs on the sides, its a bit higher than the front, protecting the display from scratches.
The continuity of the metalic trim is broken only by the microphone in the front, below the capacitive buttons. The buttons are sturdy, and overall there's no creaking anywhere. The speakergrill in the front too has been colored black to keep the appearance classy. The camera on the back protrudes ever so slightly but that too is protected by the backcover which has a higher lip surrounding the camera.
The hole for the speaker is almost flush with the surface therefore you will get muffled sound when the phone is put on its back. The backcover has a glossy finish with a sparkling paint which doesn't speak class at all, but it doesn't flex or creak. It attracts fingerprints but is atleast easy to clean. We would have loved a matte backcover, it would have contrasted perfectly with the front glass and glossy sides. Although, the backcover doesn't make the phone feel cheap but it doesn't give it any brownie points either.
The XOLO A500L is fatter than the Karbonn A12+ and its rounded design makes it look even thicker. But its lighter and has better overall build quality. The design may not appeal to everyone, but it seems the A500L was designed keeping comfort in mind.
Network & Call Quality
We did not have any issues with network, call quality is strictly average and the speakerphone tends to crackle on calls. While on call the other person was able to hear us quite well without any echo or distortion added by the phone. 2G data speeds were consistent with other similarly priced smartphones.
There's a 4-inch WVGA display on the XOLO A500L which is a bit recessed into the frame, meaning there is a large gap between the front glass and the display. Yes, its noticeable. But it doesn't affect touch response but does affect viewing angles and sunlight visibility. The horizontal viewing angle on the A500L is really acute, and colors start to distort even with a little tilt. Vertical viewing angles are acceptable at this price point but we would have liked a better display from XOLO.
The brightness of the display is strictly average. The touch response of the display is great and we were quite astonished to see that given the price of the device. But there are some issues with multi-touch where touch goes a bit haywire sometimes and when lying on a flat surface multitouch doesn't seem to work at all. Color reproduction of the display is a bit off and it tends to favor cooler colors more.
Camera and LED Flash
The LED flash on the XOLO A500L is a joke, its just there to be there, it isn't a value add and does nothing for images taken in dark. The camera isn't good either.
The interface is similar to other phones in the market at the same price point with panorama shot and video recording at 720p.
However, the video is recorded at just 8FPS, which is practically useless. You can see the embedded video sample here.
Image quality isn't that good either, images taken in ambient light too are a bit grainy and have a bit of artifacting. Post-processing also makes less visible areas muted and faded. But atleast the colors are almost right, tending towards less saturation. The front-facing camera too is nothing to write home about. Its just suitable for video calls, if you don't have any other phone or aren't near your PC.
The speakerphone is loud, does crackle a little bit at full volume and there's a little hint of bass to it as well. On calls the speakerphone does tend to crackle a bit at full volume. You can tweak settings using Equalizer and get the desired output.
Music and Bundled Earphones
The bundled earphones are not good, I'll just leave it at that. If you want to listen to music get anything from Sony, Philips, Sennheiser or any other brand and you would be better off.
Music playback through the loudspeaker is clear and sufficiently loud. Low frequencies generally sound muddled but then again at this price you are not looking at a audiophiles' delight. The phone plays mp3's and several other formats out of the box without any stuttering.
FM radio reception is decent, we didn't have any issues with getting a clear signal. The A500L also supports RDS using which it displays channel and media information. You can directly record FM from within the app as well.
The A500L can play 720p videos at 30FPS without any issues. AVI, 3GP and MP4 videos are supported out of the box while other formats can be played using MXPlayer alongwith 1080p videos using Software Decoding mode.
There's no framerate drop while playing local or streaming video, fast forwarding of jumping through large video files also causes no issues for the A500L.
Software and Apps
XOLO, quite like other Indian Manufacturers has decided to leave the software experience vanilla Android without any ghastly skin. The A500L is no exception, it has an almost stock Android 4.2.2 ROM with subtle changes made to include dual-SIM functionality as a few other tweaks. Most Google apps come pre-installed and you can always install more from the Play Store.
There has been no customization made to the launcher, you have the widget and app drawers still stitched together in one interface and 5 default homescreens. You have quick toggles in the notification drop-down which cannot be customized. You can however choose which SIM to use for data and also audio profile to use.
You get XOLO Power and XOLO Secure apps pre-installed which are a definite value add, XOLO Secure lets you remotely locate and wipe your phone in case you loose it or its stolen, while XOLO Power makes battery usage optimal. XOLO power does help get more life out of the 1500 mAh battery of the A500L. As I said earlier most Google Apps come pre-installed everything works quite flawlessly on the phone. Apps like Facebook, Flipboard, Twitter, WhatsApp all work great. You also have the option for video wallpapers but its mostly a gimmick and consumers more processing power than you'd want.
We like the fact that XOLO hasn't tried to change too much from stock Android experience which means the phone can be updated more quickly, if ever it is going to be. But it does leave the you feeling that the A500L has nothing special going for it and that's the point, there's nothing special about the phone.
In terms of security you have several options including Face and Voice unlock, which do kinda work and fall back to a PIN or a password. XOLO Secure is another great addition, using which you can remotely locate, lock, wipe your device or make it ring.
It can also take an image of the person trying to get into your phone using the front camera and email it to you. Some of these options are also available in Android Device Manager from Google, which is now available in the Play Store.
The XOLO A500L performed quite well in our gaming tests, we played several high-end games including Modern Combat 4, Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8, FIFA 14 and several others. The gameplay was smoothly most of the time, but there was an occasional lag here and there.
512MB of RAM may not be enough to play high-end games, but the A500L can play most without much hiccup.
Performance and Battery life
Performance is great on the A500L, right from the first boot to playing high-end games you wouldn't be left wanting more. App launch times are fast, the interface is fluid without lag even after prolonged usage. The phone does get a bit hot after playing games but never gets uncomfortable to use.
Battery life is good at more than a days usage in our regular test in which we have 2G internet always on with Sync on for all services including Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, gaming for about 30 minutes, browsing internet for about an hour on Wi-Fi, listening to music and watching local videos for about an hour alongwith streaming video from YouTube for about 30 minutes. Our usual day parameter also consists of 20 minutes of voice calls without the use of the speakerphone. With mixed usage you can easily get more than a day of battery life from the XOLO A500L.
The XOLO A500L leaves us with a difficult proposition, at first glance it looks like a good phone with a glossy back which might not set well with everyone. It performs well, there's rarely a moment when you are waiting for apps to launch or see a lag while using the interface. But there's nothing extra, there's no incentive to get the XOLO A500L above the Karbonn A12+. Sure, the A12+ has a boring design and exactly the same specs but with a better camera. Still that 5MP camera and lower price point makes you want to get the A12+ more than the XOLO.
XOLO's marketing is literally non-existent, you won't find any ads or even people talking about the phone as nobody ever knows outside the mobile industry that a XOLO phone was launched. XOLO makes good phones, often phones with better build quality than their similarly priced counterparts, but what they lack is marketing and a trust in the brand which comes when people say good things about your brand. That's where the A500L fails, its not noticeable, like many before, it will fade into the sunset. The A500S was a success primarily due to its word-of-mouth publicity, it too was a good phone and so is the A500L. The A12+ got all the attention due to its low price point of about Rs. 5200 at launch, with all the bells and whistles which came with much higher priced smartphones.
Here's where I stand, the XOLO A500L is a good phone if you were using a feature phone before and want to try an Android smartphone. Its a good buy too if you are moving from a single core Android smartphone which probably ran Gingerbread, the performance boost is quite noticeable. If you want a better camera, the XOLO A500L is not where you should be looking at, the camera is simply unusable. There are alternatives out there, the Karbonn A12+ is chief among them which is a better value for money proposition and has a decent camera.