Nokia XL hands-on (MWC 2014)

February 28, 2014
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Earlier today we took a look at the Nokia X, Nokia’s 4-inch Android-powered budget handset. Now we’re going hands-on with the Nokia XL, the 5-inch member of the X family.

Like the Nokia X and Nokia X+, the Nokia XL isn’t your typical Android device. Not only is the UI dramatically different from what you’d expect, Google services have also been swapped out in favor of Nokia and Microsoft services.

So what kind of experience does the Nokia XL bring to the tablet? Let’s jump in and take a first hands-on look.

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Design

Just like the Nokia X and Nokia X+, the Nokia XL follows a design language that is clearly inspired by previous Nokia devices, particularly those in the Lumia line. This means you get a blocky, sturdy design that is also easily held in the hand. Even though the Nokia X family is budget-oriented, we are also happy to report that neither the look or feel of this device necessarily screams “budget handset”.

The Nokia XL’s design is very minimalistic, which is probably a good or bad thing depending your tastes. On the right, there’s a power button and volume rocker, and on the front is a single capacitive key.

Hardware and Performance

The Nokia XL features a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core CPU, but jumps up to 768MB of RAM versus the 512MB found in the Nokia X. There’s also a 5-inch display with an 800 x 480 resolution, 3MP camera and dual-SIM support.

The Nokia XL is not meant to be a high-end device, and the specs clearly show it. That said, the specs are still more than good enough for an entry-level Android experience. It’s also worth mentioning that the UI seems to be responsive and fluid, a sign that Nokia has done its best to optimize the software for the best possible experience.

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Software

Just like the Amazon Kindle Fire series, the Nokia XL’s UI is an Android fork, and that means it lacks Google Play services such as Gmail, Google Maps and the Play Store. We are instead treated to Nokia HERE Maps, Bing search and other changes that push the Microsoft ecosystem.

The look of the UI is also very similar to Windows Phone, with a tiled interface that is clean and well organized. Unlike WP, however, these tiles are static and don’t have live information to enhance them.

For those that don’t necessarily enjoy the Windows Phone “Metro” look, the good news is that Android is still the underlying OS and that means all your favorite Android apps can run on the device. Getting apps can either be done through Nokia’s Store or via third party stores like Amazon AppStore. If you really don’t like the look, you can also change it up through a 3rd party launcher.

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Wrap Up

If you have your heart set on getting a Nokia device that runs Android, the Nokia XL is probably the better choice out of the three newly introduced devices, thanks to a larger display and more RAM than the standard Nokia X model.

Being honest though, the Nokia X series really is aimed more at first time smartphone users and those in emerging markets, and probably won’t be too appealing for existing Android users that are used to Google services and either stock Android or custom interfaces such as Sense or TouchWiz.

The Nokia X is expected to launch later this year to emerging markets first, with no exact plans for the North American market just yet.

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