A new trend in the Indian smartphone market is on the rise lately. The market, which was under heavy dominance of international brands until recently has started witnessing the rise of national brands, especially Micromax and Xolo, who’re pushing solid Android smartphones and phablets with significantly lower price tags.
The A500 is one such smartphone by Xolo. It is an entry level smartphone with a 4 inch screen, 1Ghz dual core Qualcomm snapdragon S4 (Cortex A5) processor and 512 MB of Ram. The phone, like most of the recent budget phones in the Indian market, is a dual SIM (3G+2G). But the best part of the Xolo A500 is its super cheap price — ₹6,999 (or $127) only.
The phone may not be able to compete with the higher end phones of big smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc. but it still packs a super punch. Here’s our detailed review of the Xolo A500.
Starting with the phone’s hardware, the phone is very lightweight at only 122.6gms. The phones is a nice bar shaped one and fits perfectly in your hands. The curved edges look sleek and blends in perfectly with the overall look of the handset.
Similar to other phones, the manufacturers have given the phone two physical buttons, the volume rockers and a lock button along with three touch capacitive buttons for home, back and menu. The touch buttons may be a bit of a bummer for some people although I personally prefer them to the physical ones.
The phones has a 5 megapixel primary camera with LED flash and a secondary VGA camera for video calling. The cameras are discussed in detail in the latter part of this review.
Perhaps the most amazing bit of the phone’s story is its screen. The 4″ LCD is superb in spite of it being a regular LCD and not AMOLED, IPS etc. The Xolo A500’s screen resolution at 800 X 480 is much lower than the current market standard, but is very impressive and gives bright and vivid images. The comparatively smaller screen size of the phone gives the display and added extra layer of sharpness with a pixel density value of 233 PPI. The 4″ screen fits perfectly in your palm and you can easily use the phone with only one hand.
The touch is lovely and the screen is great for watching videos, gaming or even texting, it always feels right. Surprisingly, the screen’s contrast is pretty high and is highly visible even outdoors in sunlight, an amazing feat for such a cheap phone. There is one drawback with the screen though as it supports only two finger multi touch, which can be a bit of a drag in a few games and apps.
The phone ships with vanilla Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich without any manufacturer modifications. The OS works perfectly with the handset and almost all the apps are supported on this handset.
There is a bad news however because XOLO is apparently not going to release Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and future upgrades for the set in the near future.
But given the low price tag of the phone, we cannot complaint much and most of the users would be satisfied by this older but capable version of Android.
Talking about its performance, the A500 has a pretty powerful dual core snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1 GHz. The 512MB of RAM do come up a bit short in some games, but overall the performance is super awesome for an budget phone like this.
However, there’s one thing that has to be properly noted here. Although the specification term ‘dual core CPU’ may sound solid on paper, it is actually a quite old ARM Cortex A5 based processor. On a comparison note, the old Samsung Galaxy S2 had a Cortex A-9 processor. So do not get confused by the number of cores present inside the CPU of Xolo A500 and expect it to compete with other high-end dual core phones since it’s the architecture of the CPU which actually matters at the end.
Moving ahead, the Xolo A500 is powered by Adreno 203 GPU and is a pretty decent gaming set. Most HD games run on the phone pretty well with very less lag. Games like NFS: Most Wanted and Tempe Run 2 looked really good on the phone and played seamlessly. The phone’s performance do take a pretty serious dip when more than a couple of apps are running simultaneously in the background though.
The home screen and the app drawer work smoothly in general cases, but start stuttering as soon as the recent apps list starts piling up. Apps open quick and are easy to work with because of the high resolution 4″ screen. Whether you would want to read a book or play some games, A500 will always do it right.
Being an Android smartphone the set is a multimedia powerhouse with impressive music, video and gaming capabilities for a budget phone. It supports most of the normal media formats natively and for the precious few unsupported formats you can download media players from the Play Store.
HD Videos are unsupported as 720p videos were out of sync with the audio when I used MX player to play them. The phone’s speakers are pretty average and will work all right for the occasional use.
The phone, however, has some compatibility issues with earphones from other manufacturers. A few earphones like those provided with the Samsung Mobiles are not compatible with the A500 and give a much distorted sound when music is played. The headphones provided with the set are not very good but work decently with the phone. My JBL headphones worked flawlessly with the phone giving magnificent music and gorgeous bass.
A 5mp primary camera with 720p HD recording and a VGA front camera may sound pretty good on paper but the A500 fails to deliver one. The camera is a pretty average one with decent photography and videography prowess. The pictures taken look good on the phone’s screen but when zoomed they appear very pixelated and smudgy. The 720p videos taken by the camera are not very sharp but they are still pretty clear and watchable. The front camera being a VGA is of a shoddy quality but it would do for a decent video chat. Following are a few sample photos from the phone’s primary camera:
The power backup of Xolo A500 is unfortunately nothing astounding. The 1500mAh battery fails to give a backup of more than 12 hours of normal usage (occasional gaming and web-surfing over 3G).
For those who’re curious, we found out that the phone can last for only 2.5 hours (maximum) while playing a video with the screen set at medium brightness. Yes it is a budget phone, but Xolo could have surely afforded a better battery.
The battery also has serious issues in charging as it charges very slowly. This is one of the only problems I found with the phone but it’s a pretty serious one because you would have to leave the phone unused for a couple of hours to have the battery charged completely. However once charged the phone can easily last for a day.
The A500 is one of the best phones that you are going to get in less than ₹9,000. The camera is decent while the phone performance and the screen is very impressive. The slow battery charging may be an issue but is one that can easily be neglected when you are looking at the bigger picture.
If you’re looking for smartphones (read: not phablets) under the ₹10,000 range, we recommend you to try out the the Xolo X500, which has a lot better specifications including an Intel processor, if you can increase your budget up to ₹9,000. Otherwise, the Xolo A500 is a definite keeper.