HTC One XL

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/ Updated: 11 September 2012 5:52 pm BST

The HTC One XL is the first phone from HTC to hit our shelves that uses the new 4G network from Everything Everywhere for speedy downloads.

Outwardly, it's the same phone as the HTC One X, but it cuts back on screen resolution and processing power, which hopefully will also lead to a cheaper price, but that will likely be cancelled out by the premium of using 4G.

There's no word on pricing or availability yet, but I expect more information to be available in the next few weeks as the 4G network prepares to go live.

4G network

The flagship feature of the One XL is its ability to connect to the new 4G network currently being rolled out by Everything Everywhere (or EE as it likes to be known). While 4G is commonplace in the US, the UK has had to wait until now to make use of this network, which promises super-fast Internet speeds and a supposedly better signal.

At the moment, it's only EE that provides the 4G network, so if you're thinking of getting a One XL and popping in your O2 SIM card, you'll be out of luck. The other networks are currently embroiled in a bidding war to slice up the 4G spectrum, so it might not be too long before other networks roll out their own 4G services.

HTC One XL back, front and side
The One XL looks the same to the untrained eye, but the screen is a lower resolution than the One X.

Design

From the outside, you probably won't be able to differentiate between the One XL and the standard One X. They share an identical chassis, which is either a good or bad thing, depending on your opinion of the One X.

At only 8.9mm thick, there's no denying it's a slender beast and with a width of 70mm and length of 134mm, it just about fits into your hand -- although if you have tiny little mitts you might struggle. The 130g weight doesn't differ either, nor does the simplistic styling and soft curved back.

We were pretty keen on the look of the One X so it's nice to see HTC hasn't messed with the design and made it monstrously ugly. Hopefully it will also offer similarly decent build quality for a rough life banging about in a pocket.

The screen's where you'll notice the first change though. At 4.7-inches, it's the same size but with a qHD display featuring a resolution of 540x960 pixels, there are considerably fewer dots of light than the 720x1,280-pixel One X. So don't expect high-definition videos or photos to look as pin sharp. Hopefully it will still be bright and colourful, and it would be welcome if a few quid were knocked off the price in recognition of the lower-quality screen.

Android software and processor

Like the standard One X, the One XL will arrive running Android Ice Cream Sandwich , which sadly isn't the latest version of Android -- that honour goes to Jelly Bean. Ice Cream Sandwich is still recent but given the Samsung Galaxy S3 is also being re-released with 4G on board and is packing Jelly Bean, it's a shame HTC hasn't done the same.

HTC does quite a lot of tweaking to the stock Android interface -- a skin it calls Sense. For this reason, the process of bringing Jelly Bean to its handsets is inevitably being delayed. Ice Cream Sandwich is still perfectly good though, and Natasha found it offered a pleasant experience on the One X, so don't be too miffed.

Of course, the One XL can be updated to the latest version of Android, but HTC hasn't been particularly forthcoming about when updates will arrive, so don't get your hopes up about getting Jelly Bean within weeks of buying it. It might not even happen before the end of the year.

The One XL is running on a dual-core 1.5GHz processor. That's a marked step down from the 1.5GHz quad-core variant in the One X. Apparently the reason for this is that the 4G radio won't work properly with the quad-core chip HTC uses. The Galaxy S3, however, still packs a quad-core chip alongside the 4G radio but Samsung uses its own chips rather than another company's, unlike HTC.

Before you start thinking you're being short-changed by only half the cores of the One X, it's important to question whether quad-core chips are even necessary. At the moment, very few apps properly take advantage of four cores, so a nippy dual-core processor can still be as powerful -- if not more so -- than a quad-core variant.

Quad-core chips are also power-hungry so you'll likely find you can get better battery life from a dual-core processor. If you often find yourself losing power in the middle of the day and you're nowhere near a plug, this could be crucial. Although it's likely the 4G connection would be a pretty big battery drain on its own.

With a 1.5GHz clock speed, the dual-core chip inside the One XL would be easily powerful enough to handle the likes of Twitter and Facebook and will easily turn its hand to more demanding applications like 3D gaming and photo editing.

HTC One XL back
It packs a dual-core rather than a quad-core chip, but in some ways this could improve on its beefier predecessor.

Camera

Speaking of photo editing, the One XL packs an 8-megapixel snapper around the back, with an LED flash and a fast f/2.0 lens. It's the same camera packed into the One X that Natasha found to be generally very good.

Photos were pleasantly sharp and bold, although like most camera phones, it struggled to accurately expose for varied lighting conditions and sometimes gave a cool colour cast to pictures. It offers features like HDR to help you get the best from each shot though, so fingers crossed these are all present on the One XL's camera.

Outlook

The HTC One XL appears identical to the One X, but it cuts back on screen resolution and the chip, with the quad-core processor replaced by a dual-core version. Crucially though, it adds the ability to use the new 4G network from Everything Everywhere for super-speedy downloads. Hopefully the lesser screen and processor will result in a cheaper price.

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HTC One XL

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