Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL (unlocked) review: This quad-core phone whimpers instead of roaring

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The Good The Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL's camera is packed with editing features, and its user interface has several customization options.

The Bad The Ascend D1 Quad XL's screen is dim, its photo quality is poor, and it has a hefty build.

The Bottom Line While its processor may sound impressive, the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL is a mediocre phone in a sea of excellent quad-core alternatives.

Visit for details.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

Back in February, when Huawei announced at Mobile World Congress that it would release the world's fastest phone in the form of the Ascend D1 Quad (and its bigger-batteried counterpart, the XL), our interest was piqued. At that time, a quad-core phone was a rarity, and if the Quad XL had come out when it was supposed to in April, it might have lived up to that promise.

Unfortunately, it was delayed until recently, and after a long string of quad-core phones from other companies, there are now a number of these devices to choose from. What's worse is that the Quad XL trails behind its rivals in several areas of performance. I could have forgiven those faults in April, but now it's just too late. Simply put, I can't recommend this $624 phone over its competition.

Though I appreciate some of the Quad XL's design elements, like its red accents and soft-touch back plate, its aesthetic is nothing new.

On the left is a Micro-USB port, up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and power/sleep button, and on the right is a volume rocker. It measures 5.11 inches tall and 2.56 inches wide. Unfortunately, at 0.45 inch thick and 5.11 ounces heavy, the device is hefty. It feels dense and sturdy in the hand, and you definitely feel the weight if you pin it between your face and shoulder during a conversation. It won't fit entirely into small front jeans pockets, and when it's in, expect a bulky fit.

Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL
The Quad XL's thick profile will make for a snug fit in pockets. Josh Miller/CNET

The back plate is textured with a small diamond pattern and its matte coating fends off oily fingerprints. In the middle is an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash; on the bottom left is a small slit for the audio speaker. Using a small indent on the bottom left corner, you can pry the plate off to expose the 2,600mAh battery, microSD card slot, and SIM card slot.

On the front is a 4.5-inch HD IPS plus display, with a 1,280x720-pixel resolution and 330 ppi. Icons and text look crisp, and the touch screen is responsive. However, I could see some noticeable streaks in color gradients and, in general, the display is dim. Even when turned up to maximum brightness, it didn't make whites and other colors look vivid.

Above the display to the right is a 1.3-megapixel camera and below are three hot keys that light up when in use, for back, home, and menu.

Software features and OS
The handset runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and includes Google apps like Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Latitude, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Talk, Search, and YouTube, and portals to the Play Books, Movies and TV, and Music online stores.

Also preloaded are basic apps such as a native browser and e-mail client, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, an FM radio, movie-editing software, a music player, a news and weather app, a memo pad, a sound recorder, and a weather clock.

Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL (unlocked)
The Quad XL's user interface when in 3D Home mode. Josh Miller/CNET

Extra goodies thrown in are a flashlight, an app for managing your security, voice dialing, and DLNA connection capabilities. The phone also has 8GB of internal storage, Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, and Bluetooth 3.0.

Other features include a few customization options. There are two modes for the user interface, called 2D and 3D home. While the 2D option looks like what you'd expect from most skins (the home-screen pages swipe flatly and the icons are simple), the 3D interface gives your UI the appearance of depth. The icons are boxy and look like they could pop, and pages transition in either a panning or spinning mode. When you're in 3D mode, you can also choose between two icon themes, "boxy" and "breeze."

Camera and video
The phone's 8-megapixel camera comes with numerous options like flash, a 4X digital zoom, geotagging, touch and auto focus, eight shooting modes (including HDR, burst, panoramic, and low light), face detection, red-eye reduction, and nine Instagram-esque filters. Also included are seven facial distortions, 11 scene types, five white-balance levels, five ISOs (ranging from 100 to 800), four image adjustment modules (for exposure, saturation, contrast, and brightness), a timer, three picture qualities, five image sizes (from 640x368 to 3,264x1,840 pixels), wide-screen, and compositional lines.

Video options include a continuous flash, geotagging, a stabilizer, the same white balances and facial distortions, a 4X digital zoom, and six video sizes (from 176x144 to full HD 1,920x1088p).

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