Still I expect devices like the Sensation XL to find a nice niche among people who requires a display this size. After all having used the Galaxy S II for six months myself, it took some getting used to with the XL. But first let's have a look at what's underneath this beast.
- Qualcomm MSM8255 SoC with 1.5GHz ARM8 Scorpion CPU
- Adreno 205 GPU
- 768MB RAM
- 4.7” S-LCD 480 x 800 display with multi-touch
- 8MP AF camera with dual-LED flash with 720p video recording
- 1.3MP front camera
- Quad-band GSM with EDGE
- Tri-band 3G with HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
- A-GPS, WLAN 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 3.0
|HTC Sensation XL comes with Beats, but is it any good?|
HTC has always been rather fond of using metallic materials on their phones, and the Sensation XL is no different. The XL's unibody battery cover is clad almost entirely in metal, with only the bottom bit covered in plastic - no doubt to help improve the reception. A dual antenna design resides on the bottom of the phone. The rest of the body is made of tough plastic, with the front covered entirely in false. The built quality of the XL is solid and at no time did I experience any creaking. My only complaint was the decision to use a metallic back, or at least the smooth finish - the phone was much too slippery to hold.
|The solid unibody battery cover. Notice the dual antenna design on the bottom|
Below the screen you will find all four standard Android keys - menu, search, back and home. All four buttons are touch sensitive. Just above the display resides the earpiece speaker, a front camera for video calls, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. A 3.5mm audio jack sits on the very top of the phone right next to the secondary microphone and power on/off button. The volume rocker can be found on the left side of the device.
|The 8MP back-illuminated camera sensor takes decent pictures in low-light conditions|
The Sensation XL runs on Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, the latest OS available from Google when the XL was released (Google traditionally only release their latest OS – in this case Android 4, to their Google Nexus hardware partner, hardly an ideal solution for an ‘open source’ OS). The standard Android UI has been ageing badly for some time in comparison to the fresh Windows Phone 7 Metro interface and even iOS. HTC has promised that the Sensation XL will eventually receive ICS, but it is not known when the update will roll out.
|The Sensation XL is large, but not quite as large as the Galaxy Note|
As this is an Android device, you will need a Google account to make the best use out of the device. Access to the Google Market, as well as backing up your details onto one of Google's cloud servers is highly guarded by said Google account. Contacts can also be downloaded from various sources, including Facebook, and then paired together in the phone book. It isn't as elegant as Windows Phone, but it works just as well.
|The Sim card slot isn't how-swappable|
The Sensation XL is a Monster Beats-branded device. This doesn’t mean much, and I implore anyone reading this not to judge a device’s audio quality based on a simple logo and treat it as simply a marketing gimmick. Having said that, the Sensation XL is good enough to replace your portable audio player. While the sonic fidelity that comes out of the 3.5mm headphone jack and its bundled urBeats in-ear headphones aren’t mind-blowing or clean to be something that will get readers of Head-Fi rushing over.
Sennheiser IE 8 in. If you are serious about your music, there are far better none-Beats smartphones out there worthy of your consideration. The iPhone 4S is one of them.
HTC has come a long way in improving the quality of images captured from its camera. While in the past, HTC devices has always been known to offer some of the worst in imaging, the Sensation XL, I am happy to report, is actually rather good. The 8MP wide angle camera with autofocus works well in both bright and low-light conditions. In fact, of all the modern smartphones with 8MP camera modules I have tried, the Sensation XL is only beaten by the Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S. Despite the improvements, the camera still suffers from poor dynamic range - but that is expected from such a small sensor.
Here are a couple of unedited samples (resized due to blogger restriction):
Lumia 800. Here’s a video sample I recorded at a recent event:
So the big question remains, is the HTC Sensation XL good enough? Yes it is - but you can do so much better. At £430 sim-free, the Sensation XL is rather expensive and you do not get a lot for your money. Some would argue that the urBeats IEM is worth £50 alone - I disagree here. Even then you are looking at £370 for what is essentially a giant smartphone that barely runs Android well.
With the XL, one would even expect to get excited by the number of tech improvements that HTC would be able to cram into the larger body. The Sensation XL costs £40 a month on the Three UK network, and for the same tariff you can easily get the Galaxy Nexus - a far superior smartphone with an amazing 4.7" Super AMOLED HD display and comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to boot.
Great build quality
Better than normal bundled headphones
No microSD expansion slot
HTC Sense UI a poor user experience
Better alternatives out there
Many thanks to Three UK for loaning the HTC Sensation XL. Go follow their amazing social media team here.