HTC Sensation XL review
Chunkier than the best top-end handsets, but the camera is reasonable, battery life is good, the headphones are great and the screen is glorious
Review Date: 24 Feb 2012
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: Free, on a £21.00 per month, 24 months contract.
Features & Design
Value for Money
With so many handsets in its range, HTC seems to have given up rebranding each new release, instead tacking on suffixes to indicate subtle updates. Thus, we have the HTC Sensation XL, which is just like the original Sensation but bigger.
And it really is a monster of a phone. Not quite on the scale as the Samsung Galaxy Note, maybe, but it still feels a bit of a lump. The screen measures 4.7in across the diagonal, with a resolution of 480 x 800, and in comparison to the Motorola Razr and Samsung Galaxy S II it's rather chubby, measuring 10.3mm from front to back.
Oddly, that screen resolution is lower than on the smaller, original Sensation, but image quality is a huge improvement. Maximum brightness is an eye-searing 455cd/m2, and contrast is also good at 875:1. Colours are well defined and punchy, and compare well even with the AMOLED screens on those Motorola and Samsung phones.
Another unusual feature is the Beats Audio branding. The phone comes with a pair of in-ear or over-the-ear Beats headphones, depending on the model you choose, and software in the phone detects which type you have connected and optimises the sound output accordingly. Audio quality is very good, although to our ears the in-ear phones sound a touch too bassy. They're great for gaming, though.
Elsewhere, build quality is excellent, with a metal battery cover at the rear and white plastic bumpers above and below. Adding to the overall sense of slickness, HTC's Sense skin — overlaid onto Android 2.3 — makes it a joy to use; turn off the weather and stocks synchronisation, though, if you want decent battery life.
The phone uses a single-core processor, but its high clock speed of 1.5GHz helps offset that, and in use you won't notice the difference. There isn't a hint of lag in the OS or when zooming and panning around web pages. It dispatched most games without a hint of a dropped frame, from classics such as Angry Birds to more demanding 3D titles such as Shadowgun.
Benchmarks reveal it isn't a speed demon, with its Quadrant score of only 1,465 a long way behind the 3,460 of the Galaxy S II, but browser and web pages load at comparable speeds. Battery life is good for such a large smartphone, with 60% remaining on the gauge after our 24-hour test.
The 8-megapixel camera has a powerful twin-LED flash and is full of features, from excellent macro and panorama modes to slow-motion video. There are a few disappointments: the video is only 720p and there's no image stabilisation, but overall the camera is a match for the Galaxy SII's.
The big weakness of this phone is the lack of a microSD slot. Although there's a healthy 3.9GB set aside for apps, you get only 8.9GB for music, pictures and video, which may prove limiting.
Overall, though, the Sensation XL is a cracking smartphone and is available on some very reasonable tariffs. We don't like the lack of expandable memory, but that's about its only weakness.
Author: Jonathan Bray
How can you possibly recommend this when it lags so far behind the SGS2?
I equipped my SGS2 with a 64Gb MiSDHC card to complement the 16Gb of on board memory and I'm now at 50% capacity.
I think without the capability to add a MiSDHC card this phones lifespan & use will be very short indeed.
By SKINHEAD1967 on 24 Feb 2012
The original Sensation has 1GB internal memory and mine came with an 8GB card. So far, it is half full...
By big_D on 24 Feb 2012
When I said I'm on 50% capacity I've got 3000 tracks of music, 120 video clips, 200 photos & numerous documents on board the memory card.
Got around 50 photos & 25 ringtones on the internal memory.
The XL couldn't even handle that sort of amount of data.
I can't wait to see what the SGS3 comes up with.
I think Nokia better just shut up shop now & HTC better start thinking hard PDQ.
By SKINHEAD1967 on 24 Feb 2012
1: It's so late, the phone's been out for ages.
2: You've still never reviewed the Sensation XE
In my opinion a much better phone without the SDCard issues?
By stewarta13wsb on 24 Feb 2012
I was just pointing out, your requirements aren't everybodies' requirements.
I get by by having half a dozen Audible audio books and the current episode of each podcast installed... I don't need thousands of tracks, therefore the built in memory is more than adequate.
Oh, and 0 music tracks, 0 photos (I use my Canon EOS, when I want to take photos) and 0 ringtones.
This isn't supposed to be a high end phone, it isn't trying to compete against the SGSII, let alone a 3. This is a mid-range phone and as such, it isn't that bad.
By big_D on 25 Feb 2012
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