A look at Huawei's high-end Android smartphone

Although the Chinese smartphone maker Huawei didn't make an appearance at Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 global launch, its Ascend D Quad XL smartphones could challenge other Chinese manufacturers, such as Lenovo and Xiaomi.

I recently got my hands on Huawei's latest (and most expensive) Android smartphone, the Ascend D Quad XL, which sells at 2,599 RMB (US$420) and will be available in North America by year-end.

Decent workmanship
The phone has a black plastic body with some texture on the back side to enhance grip. Weighing at 150g and measuring 130mm (h) x 65mm (w) x 11 mm (d), it is easy to handle with just one hand.


The 4.5-inch in-plane switching (IPS) screen with 330 pixels-per-inch (ppi) and 1280x720 pixels in resolution are among one of the best I've seen. The second-generation Corning Gorilla Glass also protects the screen from scratches, and it has great visibility under direct sunlight if the brightness level is turned all the way up.

Here is the display comparison with a Sony PS Vita under normal daylight conditions and in a dark environment, both at their highest level of brightness. (The PS Vita has a much lower display specification--220 ppi at 960x544 resolution--though the actual device performance is better than Ascend.)


Processor and graphics
The Ascend D Quad XL uses Huawei's in-house developed K3V2 1.4 Ghz quad-core processor, and a 16-core graphics processing unit (GPU). In the screenshot below, the CPU in this machine runs at only 1.2GHz, and you can see it fares lower in performance compared to its Samsung smartphone rivals, such as the Galaxy Note 2.


The phone has a 1.3 megapixel (720p) front-facing camera, and an 8 megapixel rear camera capable of taking high-dynamic range (HDR) shots and recording 1080p videos. The rear camera has a fast focus speed and reaction time. You can also experiment with the built-in Instagram-like filters. You can see the following HDR image on the left is set against moderate sunlight, and to the right a close-up shot.


System and compatibility
Ascend D operates on Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' and sports a 3D desktop interface. The switch between interfaces are relatively smooth, but the performance is diminished when the handset is in power-saving mode.

Unfortunately, the phone's compatibility is far from satisfying. It fails to support a range of popular Android games, such as NFS Most Wanted, Asphalt 7, N.O.V.A. 3, Street Fighter 4, and so on--though some games such as Dead Space, Dead Trigger, and VR Tennis are compatible and run well on the device.


If Huawei could improve the phone's compatibility, readers should strongly consider buying the Ascend D Quad XL. The smartphone includes some interesting features, such as a high-resolution IPS display, loud internal speakers, powerful front- and rear-camera, and sports a high specification and powerful chipset. The 2600mAh battery will also keep the smartphone powered most of the day despite heavy usage. But its poor compatibility may prevent potential buyers--certainly at least me-- away.

Both Lenovo's K860 and Xiaomi Mi2, Ascend D's major Chinese competitors, have similar specifications to the Ascend D albeit with lower prices, and because they use the Exynos 4412 and Snapdragon APQ8064 processors, respectively, they support more games and applications.


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