The front-facing camera has the same zooming, facially distorting, white-balancing, face-detecting, and geotagging options, as well as the same picture quality levels, wide-screen option, and compositional lines. However, there are only three shooting modes and two picture sizes (from 640x368 to 1,280x720).
Its video options are the same as the rear-facing camera's, except there's no continuous flash or stabilizer, and there are only four video sizes (from 176x144 to HD 1,280x720p).
Photo quality was mediocre at best. Bright colors, as in a photo of yellow and purple flowers, came off looking overly saturated and blown-out. And during several attempts to take photos of still objects in ample lighting, the camera had trouble focusing, making edges blurry and ill-defined. Dimmer lighting showed the same poor focus, poor definition in dark hues, and noticeable digital noise.
Video recording quality was much more impressive -- moving objects were sharp, focus was fast, and colors were true to life. Also, there was little to no lag between camera movement and feedback. Audio quality was especially excellent with headphones plugged in; recorded sounds were rich, had depth, and sounded incredibly realistic.
I tested the handset in CNET's San Francisco offices and call quality was good. Though I'd prefer maximum volume to be slightly louder, and I did notice a low and subtle buzzing sound during times of silence, my friends' voices sounded clear and clean. My calls didn't drop, audio didn't clip and out, and there was no extraneous noise during conversation. Likewise, I was told from my friends that they could hear me clearly. The speakerphone audio was also adequate. Though voices did come off slightly tinny, the effect wasn't too harsh or irritating.
Listen now: Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL call quality sample
Because the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL is unlocked, I tested it using AT&T's 4G network. On average, the device loaded CNET's mobile site in 31 seconds and our desktop site in 21 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took about 8 seconds, while its desktop version took 20. ESPN's mobile site took 10 seconds, and its full site loaded in 19 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app could not show me an average up or down speed as it consistently ran into network connection problems. Lastly, the phone took about a minute and 15 seconds to download the 23.32MB game Temple Run.
|Performance||Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL|
|App download (Temple Run)||22MB in 1 minute, 15 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||31 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||21 seconds|
|Power-off and restart time||34 seconds|
|Camera boot time||2.19 seconds|
Powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, the device isn't slow by any means, especially compared with dual-core phones. But it isn't as fast as other quad-core handsets we've handled, like the LG Nexus 4 or the LG Optimus G. While simple tasks could be executed swiftly, such as swiping through the app drawer and transitioning back to home screen, the overall experience seemed to chug more slowly along. Especially in 3G Home mode, getting around didn't seem as zippy. Opening the camera (which took an average of 2.19 seconds) took a few moments longer than usual, and rebooting the phone took 34 seconds. It also took a while to open up and quit graphics-intensive games like Riptide GP, and I didn't see as high a frame rate during gameplay. It also took a few moments to restart the camera's shutter button.
In addition, my overall experience with the phone was riddled with software hiccups. As previously mentioned, the Ookla app couldn't connect to the network at all, there were times when the native browser would simply quit, the calendar widget would often display the wrong month despite my changing the settings, and the weather widget wouldn't match its animations to the corresponding time of day.
The handset's 2,600mAh battery lasted our battery drain tests for video playback for 9.52 hours. Anecdotally, however, it was disappointing. The reserves would drain quickly even on standby, and a 30-minute conversation would drain the battery about 10 percent. It would also need a few charging sessions to make it through the workday.
While I give Huawei points for audacity in claiming that the Ascend D1 Quad XL is the fastest smartphone in the world, the device unfortunately fails to live up to the talk. Not only is its performance subpar, but it faces one huge quad-core competitor: the LG Nexus 4. Just like the Quad XL, the Nexus 4 comes unlocked, but at a significantly more affordable price. The Nexus also has a more recent version of the Android OS and offers smoother performance. Frankly, if you're looking for a quad-core unlocked phone, there's no reason to get the Quad XL when the Nexus 4 is available.