When Xolo first burst on to the Indian scene, it was through a relatively high end device, the Xolo X900, which was the first phone to come with Intel inside. The period since has seen the company come up with a series of devices that have varied from the innovative (Xolo Play, Xolo PlayTegra Note) to the relatively routine. With the Black, a new sub-brand, Xolo however is looking to win back its high-performance-at-an-affordable-price ground which has slipped into the hands of the likes of Xiaomi, Lenovo and Asus in recent times.
The Black, the first device of the series that bears its name, also sees Xolo return to its premium design roots. After a number of relatively run-of-the-mill designs (often with glossy plastic back panels), the Black is easily the best looking phones we have seen from the company. It comes with Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and back and has a metal frame all around it. In fact, were it not for its slightly larger size, we would have called it a dead ringer for the Nubia Z9 Mini, which follows a similar design ethic. Not that it is a bad thing – the Z9 Mini is a sight for sore eyes, and the Black is too.
The phone comes with a 5.5 inch full HD display, with three touch buttons beneath it for navigation. Right above it is a 5.0-megapixel camera with a flash – rather interestingly, we have not seen this much space between a camera and flash, as they are almost at opposite corners.
The left side holds the dual SIM slots, one of which can also be used for a memory card, and the volume and power buttons are on the right – the power button also serves as a notification button, glowing when a notification comes in (a neat touch we think, and once again bringing back memories of the Z9 Mini, which had a glowing Home button). A micro USB port and speaker grilles that are very reminiscent of the iPhone are on the base of the device and right on top is a 3.5 mm audio jack.
The back, however, contains what Xolo thinks could be a killler feature of the device – dual cameras on the lines of what we have seen from HTC. There are two cameras, a 13.0-megapixel one and a 2.0-megapixel one, with a flash bang in between them (odd placement again, we must confess). Xolo claims that the camera has lightning fast autofocus at 0.15 seconds and that the twin cameras allow it to deliver better depth of field, as well as features like UbiFocus, in which you can shift the focus to any part of a photograph, while gently blurring out the rest. Rather curiously, the word ‘Black’ appears nowhere on the device – it has ‘Xolo’ and ‘Hive’ on the back.
And Xolo has pretty much thrown the mid-segment kitchen sink at the Black when it comes to specs – it comes with a second generation 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor (similar to the one seen on the Xiaomi Mi 4i), 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage (expandable), 4G support, those three cameras (two in the back, one in the front, support for OTG, and a rather large 3200 mAh battery. The company insisted that it had worked with Qualcomm to sort out heating issues on the chipset and claimed that the Black would not have the sort of heating problems that other devices did – when pressed about which devices the Black had been compared with in the heating department, the spokesperson conceded “Mi 4i.”
And it is clearly the Mi 4i that the Black has in its sights (although the Phicomm Passion 660 too has largely similar specs, it is not quite on the same page as the Mi 4i in terms of popularity and general awareness). On paper, it seems to have better cameras, expandable memory, and a larger display, albeit of the same resolution, and we can see many preferring its blend of glass and metal to the more plastic Mi 4i.
But what we think could really make or break the Black is Xolo’s native Android UI, Hive. Introduced last year to largely positive reviews, Hive seemed to have run out of steam as it was seen on a limited number of handsets. Well, Xolo says that all Black handsets will run on the UI, with the Black running on its latest version, called Atlas which is built on Android 5.0. It certainly is a brave move. In its current state, Hive is not really in the league of the likes of MIUI in terms of appearance but comes with a number of interesting features such as ‘Underground’ which can be accessed with a three finger swipe downwards from the main screen and can be used to back up data and also keep the phone safe – it can take a picture of a ‘thief’ who steals it and also wipe out data remotely. Xolo clearly is betting heavily on software to see the Black through – the phone comes with a Photo Studio app powered by Adobe and a Comet browser powered by Opera. Just how well Hive runs could determine the success of the Black series.
So what do we think of the Black? Well, based on our initial experience, we must confess to being impressed. This is by far the best device we have seen from Xolo since the Tegra tablet in terms of specs and easily the best ever from the brand in terms of design. Just how well it performs will be seen in our review which should be posted in the coming days. But as of now, we will paraphrase Marlon Brando from On The Waterfront and say “This coulda be a contender!”
Note: Xolo Black is now available for purchase on Flipkart for Rs.12,999. requires no registration and follows an open sale model.