HTC Sensation XL Review, HTC’s best camera phone
They say bigger is better, that is why HTC is throwing another device under the Sensation family to cater to the large-screen lovers of the smart phone world with the Sensation XL. Aside from having a remarkably large screen, this is also one of HTC’s Beats branded phone to cater to the audiophile in you.
Many dubbed the XL as the WP7 HTC Titan for Android, and indeed it is for they are almost identical in terms of hardware design. It comes in a fresh white and silver finish that would appeal to a lot of people but also to a lot of dirt and smudge in the future.
The front of the phone houses the 4.7-inch SLCD screen. Unfortunately, the XL only has a screen resolution of 480X800, as opposed to the XE or the original Sensation’s 540 x 960 qHD resolution. Despite this, the XL’s screen is great, colors are vibrant with on par viewing angles. We noticed that the screen is brighter than that of the original Sensation and the whites are whiter than Samsung’s AMOLED devices (S2, Note, Nexus).
Below the huge screen are your standard capacitive Android buttons – Home, menu, back, and search, lying on top of an ivory white bezel. Above the screen you will find the 1.3 MP front-facing camera, the proximity and light sensor as well as the earpiece grill which is devoid of the usual red tone exhibited in the Sensation XE also carrying the Beats moniker.
On the left side, you will find the micro-USB port for charging while the volume rocker is on the right. At the top side, you will find the 3.55mm audio jack and the uncomfortably depressed lock/power button which we will chalk to this review unit only. We saw others not exhibiting the same issue.
The XL’s back cover is comprised mostly of brushed aluminum including the slightly protruded provision for the 8MP camera with the dual LED flash on its left and the speaker grill on the right. This is merged with a white rubberized plastic at the bottom where the red Beats logo is positioned. Unlike its other Sensation siblings, the XL’s back cover only encloses the bottom and the sides for its ‘unibody’ scheme while the top lip is merged with the front of the device and overflows smoothly by a few millimeters to the back.
An issue related to the depressed lock/power button is the visible gap where the back panel and the top lip fasten. It’s as if the whole thing does not fit together and it is prone to dust getting inside the device’s internals. Again, we only notice it on our review unit but it doesn’t hurt to check your purchase before leaving the store.
The insides of the XL can be accessed by pressing the cover latch situated at the bottom. Inside you will find the 1600mAh battery powering the device as well as the SIM card slot. Unfortunately, there is no microSD slot for the XL to expand your memory, which I actually find to be unreasonable for a phone marketed for music consumption. The provided internal memory of 8GB or even 16GB would probably be barely enough to contain most of your music collection.
Form-wise, the XL is without a doubt a big phone, but it actually feels nice holding it in your hand thanks to its curvaceous and slim design. The minimal side bezel of the screen also made it possible for HTC to push the XL’s 4.7 inch screen without adding too much girth to the device.
Specs, Performance and Features
It seems like the XL has many deviations from its other Sensation siblings and it also shows in its internals. The XL ticks using a single core 1.5 GHz Scorpion Qualcomm MSM8255 CPU and 768 MB of RAM to support its Sense 3.5 UI running on top of Android’s Gingerbread build.
Despite being a single-core device, animations and transitions in the XL are quite smooth and I have not experienced any frame drops in the period I tested it. Touch response is very good and reacts as it should without any hint of stuttering. To be fair though, the XL is not pushing as much pixel as the XE or the original Sensation so it is expected for the XL to fare pretty well.
Here’s the Quadrant score (1904) of the HTC Sensation XL:
The score still hovers around that of other 1GHz single-core Android phones out there like the original Sensation.
There are a few minor differences between the 3.0 and 3.5 build of HTC’s famous Sense UI. For starters you will still get a maximum of 7 home screens to place your widgets on, however, the new Sense allows you to have less by going into leap view and removing any extraneous home screen panels that you desire. You will also have the very functional ring-based lock screen from the previous Sensations where you can directly go to particular applications from your lock screen. Another neat addition is the carousel animation that happens when you flick through your home screens.
The built in keyboard is also noteworthy for including dedicated arrow-keys to easily navigate inputted text if you are still not comfortable typing without hardware buttons. Aside from these changes, there’s really not much difference from its siblings UI.
Media and Games
With its huge screen real-estate, the Sensation XL is ideal for watching your favorite videos, reading e-books and browsing web sites.
Despite the resolution, viewing experience for in the XL is pleasant and enjoyable. The XL claims to support all common video formats, however, some of the .mkv files I loaded in to the device simply failed to play. Of course it can be remedied by third party video players, but I figured HTC should’ve figured this out by this time.
Playing HD games on the device is quite smooth without any noticeable lag. On the other hand, non-HD games tend to have their graphics blown up to the point where you can see their aliasing – an effect of having a low-resolution on a huge screen.
The XL sports an 8MP camera that can take pictures of up to 3264×2448 pixels and it is one of the best I have seen. The camera has face detection and tap to focus features as well as a plethora of effects that you can apply to your pictures.
The XL takes pretty nice pictures with very minimal noise thanks to its f2.2 lens and the details are quite sharp for a camera phone. Here are a few samples:
Here’s a sample video taken with the HTC Sensation XL under low-light:
The Beats Experience
The Sensation XL comes with a pair of Monster urBeats earphones with matching white and red colors and built-in inline controls. It takes advantage of the Beats Audio Sound enhancer on the handset that claims to give you a better music experience.
I have to admit that I am not really an avid music lover but plugging in these Monster headphones really does something different to the device’s audio output. There’s good noise isolation but tunes are more bass-heavy which Beats is known for.
I’ve tried using the same earphones in a different Android device and there really is a noticeable difference between the sounds produced from the Beats enhanced XL and the other Android device so it’s not just the earphones that make this a great music device.
The Sensation XL comes with a 1600mAh battery that would last about more than a day of normal use that includes a couple of calls, text messages and Wi-Fi browsing as well as minimal gaming. Having to power a huge screen however, the XL would barely last a day if used liberally, which a normal person would considering how striking this device is.
The Sensation XL may be the black sheep compared to its other Sensation siblings with its low-res screen and no microSD but it doesn’t mean it is not as capable. With its other unique offerings such as a bigger screen and one of the best mobile camera HTC has to offer, the Sensation XL no doubt holds its own against the competition. Coupled with the infamous Monster Beats headset, the HTC Sensation XL gives you something extra that no other handset can offer.
|HTC Sensation XL Specs:|
|1.5GHz single-core Scorpion processor|
|Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset|
|Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread|
|4.7-inch S-LCD WVGA display (480×800 pixels)|
|HTC Sensation UI 3.5|
|16 GB storage|
|3G / HSDPA 14.4Mbps|
|WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA|
|8MP autofocus camera with dual-LED flash (f2.2)|
|720p video recording|
|1.3MP front-facing camera|
|Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP|
|Beats Audio with iBeats in-ear earphones|
|Li-Ion 1600mAh battery|
|SRP: Php32,500 (should be cheaper in stores)|