Internally the HTC One XL is actually quite a different phone to the original One X. That's because HTC has swapped out the Tegra 3 quad core processor found in the One X and replaced it with dual core Snapdragon S4, while also adding in a 4G radio. The change from a quad core to a dual core chip sounds like a pretty big downgrade, but it doesn't tell the whole story, as the S4 is a newer generation chip and its cores perform faster than those in the Tegra 3 processor. It certain doesn't feel sluggish in use and its benchmark results bear out the fact that it's a pretty muscular chip.
It had no problems reaching 50 fps in the GLBenchmark Egyptian Standard test and in Lin Pack it clocked 138.251MFlops. In Browser Mark V2 it posted a core of 1225, while it managed to complete Sunspider 1170.6ms. These are all pretty rapid results, but the fact remains that they're slower than those of the SIII LTE: Samsung's handset scored a higher 59fps in GL Benchmark and 1151.5ms in Sunspider (lower is better). Thje One XL is also bested by the SIII LTE in Geekbench 2 (1,758 v 1,536) and CF Bench (13,124 v 9,530). Of course, in real life you're unlikely to notice the difference on a day to day basis, apart from perhaps when you're playing really demanding 3D games. Nevertheless, if you want the fastest LTE handset around, the HTC One XL is not it.
Speaking of speed, we tested the handset on Everything Everywhere in East London near the Olympic Park. EE says that average speed on it's network should be between 8 and 10Mbps, with bursts of up to 40Mbps. Previously we've never been able to get anywhere near those burst speeds, but EE seems to have updated its network recently as the HTC One XL hit over 35Mbps on download on a number of occasions in our speed tests. However, most results tended to vary between 16 and 22Mbps, which is still much, much faster than what we'd typically get in this location on 3G, and faster than many people's home broadband connections.
It is disappointing that the phone runs on Ice Cream Sandwich rather than the Jelly Bean version of Android that the SIII LTE ships with. Jelly Bean really is a vast improvement over Ice Cream Sandwich in terms of the slickness of the user interface as it doesn’t suffer from the random pauses and stutters that are still present in ICS. HTC has indicated that it plans to upgrade the One XL to Jelly Bean, but it's given no firm date for when it will arrive.
Of course, HTC has done a lot of heavy customisation on the phone's user interface, as its added its HTC Sense interface over the top. From the lock screen, for example, you can launch directly into the dialler, email, messaging or camera apps by dragging their shortcuts into the unlock circle that sits at the bottom of the screen. If you tap and hold on the homescreen it calls up a neat editor that show you thumbnails of each page of your homescreen at the top with widgets and shortcuts at the bottom. You can then simply drag widgets onto these thumbnails to quickly set up your phone exactly how you want.
However there are a few annoyances, too. For example, when you swipe down the notifications tab you'll find that there aren’t any quick switches for stuff like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Silent mode. Instead there's just a link to the settings menu.
The HTC One XL's screen is excellent. The 4.8inch display is very roomy, but it's also got a high resolution of 720x1280 pixels. It uses traditional TFT rather than the AMLOLED technology of the Samsung S3 which means black levels aren’t quite as deep as what you get on the S3, but they'll still very impressive and to our eyes the colours on the HTC One XL's screen are more natural and accurate looking.
Call quality was excellent throughout our time with the phone, but sadly we can't say the same about battery life. The One XL really struggles to get through a day without needing to be topped up with juice, in fact with heavy usage of 4G you may find you actually need to charge it at mid-day. All of the current generation of 4G handset are poor when it comes to battery life, but the One XL's lack of a removable battery makes his more troublesome and worrisome than some other phones.
The HTC One XL is on the whole a very good phone. It's got a top notch screen, speedy performance and that all important support for 4G. However, the fact of the matter is that Samsung's S3 LTE is a slightly faster performer, has a better camera and comes loaded with the latest version of Android. Given that it's available for the same price as the HTC One XL, it's difficult to see why you'd choose this phone instead.
Read our review on the latest HTC One