Intel’s first foray into smartphone SoCs debuted with the XOLO X900. This reference phone caused quite a buzz when it launched in India as it delivered an extremely snappy performance for its price. However, heating, battery issues and the questionable build quality kept it from flying off store shelves. During CES this year, Intel announced a couple of new SoCs for smartphones and tablets hinting that it wasn’t done with this segment yet. Amongst them was the Atom Z2420, a budget oriented SoC based on the Lexington platform for emerging markets. The reference handset for Lexington is made by none other than Lava and today; you can find it in the market as the XOLO X500. What really sets this apart from any other phone in this segment is the raw power of the hyper-threaded, single core CPU that’s really hard to beat given the price. Let’s see if Lexington fixes the heating and battery issues that plagued Medfield.

Design and build
We’ve already established that the X500 is Intel’s reference phone used to showcase the capabilities of the Z2420, so in terms of aesthetics, it’s not very exciting. On the plus side, it feels better built than the X900, so it’s a step up. The handset features a simple design and feels sturdy, with no creaking parts or flex in the plastics. On the front, we have a vibrant 3.5-inch IPS display along with a set of four capacitive buttons at the bottom. The glass front tends to attract a lot of fingerprints, which are a pain to get rid of. The rest of the phone is finished in a matte black coating that’s  easy on your skin and also provides decent grip. We didn’t like the feel of the volume and power button, as they are too recessed into the body with poor tactile feedback.

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Humble looks

There’s a bit of branding on the back along with the 5MP shooter and the speaker grille. The speaker is actually really good and produces a loud and crisp sound. The back cover comes off pretty easily, revealing the 1500 mAh battery along with slots for microSD card and the two SIM cards.

Overall, the XOLO X500 offers very excellent build and finish for a budget handset. It feels a lot like the HTC Explorer, only a bit thicker. 

Features
Interface
The XOLO X500 runs on a lightly skinned version of Ice Cream Sandwich, which makes for a very smooth user experience. The Atom Z2420 delivers very snappy performance, which is a rare find in Android smartphones in this price range. Toggle switches in the notification bar make life simple when you need quick access and the IPS display makes colours really pop. The brightness level is adequate and the ambient light sensor handles this well. The resolution is slightly low, which is noticeable as text and icons appear slightly pixelated, although it’s not overly distracting. The power of the Atom CPU reflects in the benchmarks as well; the X500 posted very good scores across the board. Games like Temple Run 2 run very smoothly, albeit on slightly scaled down graphics settings. One feature we really liked is that you get the full version of SwiftKey 3 by default with the X500, which gives it added value.

Quick and snappy UI

Quick and snappy UI

Media
For media playback, we have the stock audio and video player. Audio quality is decent as long as you use a good pair of IEMs. The speaker volume is very loud and has good definition as well. Music sounds very good, which is good for listening in a group. File format support is the same as you would get with stock ICS, so for added support for MKV, AVI etc., you’ll have to turn to third party players. There’s also FM radio. The X500 also features DoubleTwist player for music and videos.

Stock ICS music and video player onboard

Stock ICS music and video player onboard

You get 4GB of onboard memory, out of which 1.62GB is usable. Video playback is very smooth on the stock player even for 1080p files. The format support is still a bit limited, but that can be fixed by installing free players from the Play Store.

Connectivity
The X500 is a quad-band GSM and 3G handset, which means you should be able to use this easily around the globe. You even have the option to use two SIMs with the phone, with dual standby. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB for charging and data transfer. The phone renders web pages pretty quickly; however, the text is not the sharpest to read. You get a bunch of apps like Chrome, Google+ and Quickoffice pre-installed. There’s no NFC present.

XOLO Care is a bit plus of the X500

XOLO Care is a big plus of the X500

Camera
The 5MP sensor fares pretty well for outdoor shots. The tweaking options are rather limited and the options you get are very basic at best. You only get to choose colour effects and toggle geo-tagging on and off. Focusing is quick and there’s even burst mode that captures six images in one second. Indoor shots suffer a bit due to lack of flash. We did have trouble getting the camera to focus on close-up shots, something that XOLO needs to fix.

Basic tweaking options

Basic tweaking options

Not very good for indoor shots

Not very good for indoor shots

Video recording maxes out at 1080p, which again is pretty impressive for a budget phone. The recorded video quality is slightly above average and indoor captures have very little to no noise. 

Battery life
The 1500 mAh battery managed to deliver around 6 hours of battery life in our video drain test. This is not the best and is just about average. We expected a bit more given the resolution and size of the screen, but for an Intel SoC, it’s a tad bit better than what we got from the more powerful Medfield chipset. For normal usage, you should be able to get around 12-13 hours of proper usage.

Verdict and price in India
At a street price of Rs 9,000, the XOLO X500 makes an excellent buy given the features and performance it offers. It’s built well, supports two SIMs, plays back 1080p video, supports OTA updates and offers very snappy performance. Some of the areas which could have been improved is the battery life and macro mode for the camera. Other than these few niggles, the handset is easily one of the best Android phones under Rs 10,000.

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