We almost like the HTC Sensation XL. It’s stylish, easy to use, has a great camera, the large screen has some benefits and the Beat Audio headphones we know will appeal to some. However, you pay for the privilege of getting those headphones, and on most other fronts this phone just doesn’t add up. It’s screen is low res, it’s processor is slower than the competition, and all told other handsets simply offer more for the money. If you want a Beats phone then the HTC Sensation XE is a much better bet.
HTC is known for their big phones anyway, and the design of the Sensation XL is very inspired by their previous phones like the Desire HD.
There’s the usual slab like touchscreen design, with an anodized aluminum finish on the back. While this does prevent scratches on the back, it makes things a bit slippery, which coupled with the large chasis means the Sensation XL isnt the grippiest phone out there.
And being able to touch all areas of that huge 4.3 inch screen, or even pressing the power/standby key on top is quite the feat, especially one-handed.
The control layout is basically typical of an Android phone, with four touch sensitive keys under that large screen; home, menu, back and search.
As you’d imagine, the keys are backlit.There’s a volume controller on the right side, and the power/screenlock key on the top.Next to the power key, is a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones.And on the left side, is the microUSB port.At the bottom is tiny button which you push to loose and remove the back panel.
The HTC Sensation XL’s 16GB of onboard storage is slightly unusual for HTC, who’s default is usually to stick in just enough for the operating system and to let you add whatever else you want with a microSD memory card. Except the HTC Sensation XL has no microSD card slot.
Yes, it is. Well, it’s white, and it comes with Android 2.3 and HTC Sense 3.5. But otherwise, yes. Even the dual-LED flash camera is the same, with an eight-megapixel sensor, back-side illumination and 720p video recording.
So where does the Sensation XL sit in the lineup? Above the original Sensation, with its newer Sense interface, larger screen, special audio and XL suffix? Well, we’re not so sure, since the processor is less powerful overall and it’s got a lower screen resolution.
Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread is the order of the day here, though with HTC’s usual UI revamp. HTC Sense 3.5 is carried across from the Rhyme, with its lockscreen shortcuts, colorful widgets that look good on the sizable display, and exclusive apps like HTC Watch along with social networking integration in FriendStream. By now it’s all very familiar, though HTC is careful to buff up the visual gloss every so often.
Contacts in the HTC Sensation XL are stored in the People app, and they’re a lot like what you’d expect from a smartphone these days. You’ve got social network integration, including Facebook and Twitter, and you can bring in your contacts from Google or HTCSense.com, if you’re an HTC regular.
Open an images and all media is displayed, though the way it reflows the message to fit the screen might mean that some images are slightly cut off. There are clear buttons from there to reply, forward and so on.
The sheer size of the HTC Sensations XL means there’s lots of space for the keyboard – in fact, HTC has added on a set of curser arrow keys to the keyboard used on the HTC Sensation XE.
Performance from the single-core processor is satisfactory, and we experienced no real slow-down during use. The browser is particularly solid, with smooth pinch-zooming and panning. With no HDMI output option, wasting the Sensation XL’s limited internal storage for 720p or higher resolution video didn’t seem sensible, but clips played smoothly nonetheless. YouTube HD footage was judder-free, and all that display space did at least allow the on-screen keyboard plenty of room for even the thick-fingered to use easily.
The Sensation XL brings an 8-megapixel camera to the table, with an f2.2 lens and backside-illuminated sensor for improved
low-light performance. There’s a dual-LED flash but only 720p HD video recording, not 1080p like its Sensation siblings, thanks to the limits of the processor. A 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera does video call duty.
Stills are good if you feed them with plenty of light, and the shutter release – despite the absence of a dedicated camera shortcut – is speedy. Touch-focus is supported (in both stills and video) and there are the usual bevy of effects and exposure/contrast tweaks in the settings. Noise is the inevitable companion of darker shots, with the dual-LED flash proving powerful but also prone to washing out closer subjects.
Of course, what this handset is really all about is its music playback, and aside from the mediocre music app, the experience is rather good. As well as the aforementioned music player in the notifications drop down, you can also access the player from the lock screen, so it’s easy to pause your music or skip a track.
Part of the reason this phone makes a good audiological impression is the included Dr Dre Beats Audio earphones, which are branded urBeats. Now these aren’t to our tastes at all as they blast out far too much bass, making everything sound a bit muffled, but if you’re a fan of big booming bass – or more specifically the Beats Audio sound – then you’ll love them.
When you plug in the Beats, or any other, headphones, the Beats audio mode is activated. This applies an EQ setting that boosts the high-end and mid-range to get the best out of the Beats earphones and give the audio a more dynamic sound, which it indeed does.
The 1600mAh battery is perfect capable of surviving a couple of days of very light use, though hammering the social network updates will mean it drops a lot quicker. It’s not hard to chew through a good 50% of the battery in a few hours if you start up on the Flash videos and constant browsing of photos on Facebook, but but we think most users will find that it lasts the day, but needs charging most nights – same as pretty much every smartphone we see these days.
You can also use the HTC Sync software to sync contacts and calendars with Outlook on a PC, and it can also be used to import photos and video, sync bookmarks and even install apps.
Bluetooth 3.0 is included in the Sensation XL, complete with A2DP for audio connectivity. There 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi in there too. The 3.5mm headphone jack is just as you’d expect to be: normal.
The locations services use the built-in GPS antenna, while 3G connectivity is handled by the quad-band HSPA antenna.
HTC Sensation XL Specification
|GENERAL||2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|3G Network||HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100|
|Status||Available. Released 2011, November|
|BODY||Dimensions||132.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm|
|- Touch-sensitive controls|
|DISPLAY||Type||S-LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||480 x 800 pixels, 4.7 inches (~199 ppi pixel density)|
|- HTC Sense UI 3.5|
|SOUND||Alert types||Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones|
|Internal||16 GB storage, 768 MB RAM|
|DATA||GPRS||Class 12 (4+1/3+2/2+3/1+4 slots), 32 – 48 kbps|
|Speed||HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|Bluetooth||Yes, v3.0 with A2DP|
|USB||Yes, microUSB v2.0|
|CAMERA||Primary||8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash,check quality|
|Features||Geo-tagging, face detection, touch focus, HDR, auto-upload|
|Video||Yes, 720p, slo-mo video recording (2x @ WVGA), check quality|
|Secondary||Yes, 1.3 MP|
|FEATURES||OS||Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread), planned upgrade to v4.x|
|CPU||1.5 GHz Scorpion|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email|
|Browser||WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML, Adobe Flash|
|Radio||Stereo FM radio with RDS|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support|
|Java||Yes, via Java MIDP emulator|
|- Beats Audio
- Beats headset
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk
- Facebook and Twitter integration
- Document viewer/editor
- Voice memo/dial/commands
- Predictive text input
|BATTERY||Standard battery, Li-Ion 1600 mAh|
|Stand-by||Up to 360 h (2G) / Up to 460 h (3G)|
|Talk time||Up to 11 h 50 min (2G) / Up to 6 h 50 min (3G)|
There’s a lot that I like about the HTC Sensation XL. I’m a big fan of good audio so listening to music was a pleasure on it. I’m a big fan of large screens, so watching videos and browsing the internet, or even playing a game of Angry Birds or checking my Twitter.
Unfortunately though there are key elements that prevent this good phone, from being an exceptionally good phone. The specs list means this high-price-tag Android smartphone is already outdated by today’s standard of the platform, and is definitely not as future proof as other premium Android phones in it’s price range.
- Bright, clear screen
- Good stills camera
- HTC Sense 3.5
- Great audio quality with Beats
- Comfortable to use despite its size
- Some performance issues
- Lower-specced than its brothers
- More expensive than its brothers
- No microSD card slot
- Terrible video quality