Xolo is trying to move into a new premium space with the launch of its Q3000 smartphone. While most of its launches have been products in the range of Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 12,000, this new device is one of the company's most expensive ever, with a launch MRP of Rs. 20,999. To justify that price tag, Xolo is throwing in the kind of banner features that everyone else is advertising in their own flagship phones today: a full-HD 1920x1080-pixel screen, large battery, quad-core processor, and camera that's sensitive in low light.
International brands that sell phones with such specifications ususally price them at Rs. 35,000 or more, so we're curious to see whether Xolo is actually trying to match their performance, or is simply offering something that appears to tick all the right boxes but doesn't perform as well in the real world.
Look and feel
The Q3000 arrived for testing in a very smart-looking white box. The front is mostly unadorned, but the back has a list of features and highlights. The box slides open with a light pull, and the phone itself sits right on top. Beneath it is a compartment that holds the bundled flip case and screen guard, and below that are two more compartments which contain the battery, USB-OTG dongle, charger, headset, and printed quick start booklet. It's all very neatly presented, which made us even more eager to put the phone through its paces.
The Q3000 itself is unmistakably a mass-manufactured Android phone. You definitely wouldn't mistake it for a Samsung or HTC phone. Little things, like the rubberized plastic finish of the rear cover and the plastic assembly around the camera lens and ports, look a bit cheap. Construction quality is fairly solid, though. We had no complaints with the buttons or the way the phone is put together.
The rear cover peels off when you pry it a bit with a fingernail. You have to work your way around the edges of the phone to release five or six clasps before the entire thing pops off. Beneath the cover is a cavernous space for the phone's 4,000mAh battery, in addition to slots for two SIM cards and a micro-SD storage card. Strangely, the primary SIM card slot takes only the older mini-SIM size but the secondary slot needs a micro-SIM.
As with most phones this size, the power/standby button has been moved to the upper right edge, approximately where your thumb would be if you held the phone in your right hand. The volume rocker is exactly opposite it, and there's nothing else on the sides. The headset jack and micro-USB port are on the top, while the bottom is blank. In another strange design decision, the primary microphone for voice calls is on the back. The phone's tapered edge means it's still pointed downwards, but we're going to have to test for ourselves whether or not this is a problem.
Xolo really has tried to pack everything it can into the Q3000. It's billed as a non-stop entertainment device, so the first thing we need to check is the screen. Thankfully, Xolo has used an excellent panel. The full HD resolution of course means that every little detail is crisp and clear. Colours are clean, but a little muted. We were especially pleased with the viewing angles. Of secondary importance is the sound, and it's here that we were disappointed. The phone's speaker is just not powerful enough at all. It's surprisingly soft even at full volume, and we weren't impressed at all with the quality and depth we of what were able to hear.
There isn't much to get excited about with the Q3000's camera. When seen at their full resolution of 4864x2736, photos are grainy and artefacted. Thankfully there's enough headroom to scale them down, which definitely improves their sharpness. There's an HDR mode which works quite well, exposing areas in shadow alongside those in bright light. Nighttime performance, however, is a whole different story. The flash barely made a difference in poorly lit areas, and there wasn't much of the scene we could make out at all.
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Videos are recorded in 3GP format. At 1080p, these were sharp enough for us. Focusing was a bit laggy, but otherwise we had no complaints.
The Q3000 runs Android 4.2.1, which is quite old now. We're not sure that this phone's target audience will care all that much about such details, but it's worth noting for future compatibility issues. There isn't much modification to the basic Android OS, but Xolo has bundled a few apps. Xolo Power is a neat tool for monitoring the health of the battery. It shows how much time you're likely to have left for various tasks such as audio playback and 3G browsing, and also reports whether the general health of the battery has deteriorated. On another tab, you get quick access to battery saving features such as a Night Mode and Sync Frequency. The last mode actually has nothing to do with the battery: it shows you how active each of the four CPU cores is, and shows you which applications have crashed recently.
Xolo Secure is an anti-theft and security app that lets you remotely track your phone, make it sound an alarm, wipe out all personal data, and take photos of anyone who tries to unlock it. If the phone's SIM card is changed, the app will send alerts to up to two preregistered numbers and your email address. The app itself can be locked down with a 6-digit PIN. Finally, while Google automatically backs up contacts, the app promises to also back up your SMS and call history databases.
Another interesting touch is what Xolo calls "one-handed mode". With a long press on the Back button at any point, the entire interface shrinks to about two-thirds its size and appears to run inside a window. You can drag this window around the screen, which remains black. It's designed to help people reach all corners of the screen when holding the device in one hand, which is an admirable thought. However, the windowed mode is extremely sluggish. It feels like we're running a remote-access session to a phone somewhere far away. You really can't get much done in this mode, which makes us question the way in which it has been implemented.
Performance and battery life
The Mediatek MTK6589T that powers the Xolo Q3000 isn't exactly the newest or most powerful piece of silicone available. It was launched in late 2012, and even then, it wasn't at the top of the heap. It's based on ARM's relatively low-powered Cortex A7 processing core, which was specifically designed for low-power, low-intensity applications. Graphics are handled by an integrated PowerVR SGX544 GPU: again, not exactly cutting-edge technology.
As a result, the benchmark scores are not impressive at all. In fact, the performance numbers across most of our tests indicated that this phone performs barely half as well as today's high-end phones from mainstream brands. CPU performance wasn't all that bad: we recorded scores of 15,130 in AnTuTu and 5,832 in Quadrant. Graphics performance, on the other hand, was quite abysmal. The phone managed to push out only 3.4 frames per second in the GFXbench test, and 1,879 in 3DMark's Ice Storm Extreme test.
By now, our expectations had been tempered and so the video playback test results weren't a surprise. The Q3000 was able to handle video files in various formats at resolutions up to 720p, but 1080p was completely unwatchable. Some of our test files didn't play at all, others were completely mangled, and only one played with heavy stuttering. It's a bit jarring for a device to not be able to play video at its own native resolution - and that includes videos recorded with the phone's own camera.
The scores show that the hardware simply isn't up to the task of pushing anything more intensive than simple 2D graphics on the full-HD screen, which is a shame. You won't notice much of a problem if you only run basic apps, but modern games are pretty much out of the question.
Despite the massive 4,000mAh battery, we were surprised that our video loop test ran for only six hours and twenty minutes. We've had phones with similar screens and smaller batteries last for well over 10 hours under exactly the same conditions.
The Q3000's price will attract some of the buyers who were looking at Samsung and HTC's larger offerings but were put off by the high cost. If you only want a big-screened phone for the sake of having a big screen, you'll be happy with this phone. Not only is the size impressive, but the full HD resolution gives it a sharpness that other models with 720p screens can't compare to. However, having an HD screen in this case won't mean you get to enjoy HD content.
With a lower-grade panel, Xolo could have put out a much better balanced phone at a lower price. We won't deny that the screen looks fantastic, so if you want your apps to look good and aren't concerned with movies and games, there's nothing stopping you from buying this phone.