Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/04/review_htc_sensation_xl_android_smartphone/

HTC Sensation XL

Beats drums up another Android

By Dave Oliver

Posted in Phones, 4th January 2012 07:00 GMT

Review Following on the Sensation XE, HTC’s other Beats Audio-enabled handset is certainly bigger, but it comes out looking the weaker of the two in almost every criteria except size.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Beat dis: HTC's Sensation XL Android smartphone

With a 4.7in display, the Sensation XL is the last stop before Samsung’s mammoth 5.3in Galaxy Note which sits just outside the city limits of tablet-ville. The display has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, which isn’t bad, but it’s the kind of spec that’s already proved itself more impressive on smaller screens.

Indeed, the XE’s 4.3in screen has a superior resolution of 960 x 540 pixels, giving it a significantly sharper look and even that’s outdone by the high-end eye massagers of the Galaxy Note or the iPhone 4S. Even so, the sheer size of the XL’s screen gives it an immersive effect, and movies, some of them perhaps downloaded from HTC’s Watch service, still manage to look pretty impressive.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Single core CPU, but still fairly snappy

The single core 1.5GHz processor is a step down from the XE’s dual core version, and responded accordingly in our benchmark test, delivering an AnTuTu score of 3784 (behind the XE’s 4241). It’s certainly no slouch though, and showed little sign of lag when changing between apps.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Slim and stylish

The Sensation XL runs Android 2.3.5, Gingerbread, so just one behind the very latest, and on top of it is the rather gorgeous 3.5 version of HTC Sense, with its swishy 3D-style graphics and genuinely useful widgets.

Sound thinking?

The Beats Audio technology is integrated in the same way as the XE, with a pair of good quality metal-cased earphones at the end of their distinctive red cable. The noise-isolating grommets allow for a comfy fit when pressed into the ear.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

The 8Mp snapper is among the better Android offerings from HTC

The overall sound is crisp, clear and full of detail. Unsurprisingly for the Beats brand, the output does lean heavily on the bass. I wouldn't say that it sounds muddy, but it does tend to favour low-end heavy dance music, giving the rhythm plenty of punch.

Orchestral and acoustic music, by contrast, lacks some of the wide-spanning definition you’ll get from other quality headphones. That said, they still do a better all-round job than any other headphones you’ll find supplied with a handset.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphoneHTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Meagre EQ options and e-reader

But while the sound’s certainly good, it’s a shame that HTC’s equaliser has been replaced with a simple on or off control for Beats – it would have been nice to have bit more control in the audio playback.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Snappy Beats

The 8Mp camera is similar to the one on the XE and one of HTC’s best. As well as autofocus (which is a little unreliable and slow) and a dual LED flash, this one includes a BSI sensor to help improve shots in low light, though it’s effect was negligible in practise.

Sample Shots

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Click for a full-resolution image

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Click for a full-resolution image

There’s a basic editing suite on board and it has 720p HD video recording rather than the XE’s 1080p. The front camera for video calling offers a step up though, from VGA to 1.3Mp. Unlike the XE, there’s no microSD card slot, so you’re limited to the 16GB it comes with, so don't get too carried away with the video recording. The 1600mAh battery is big, but doesn’t deliver a better than average performance – you’ll get about a day’s worth of heavy use out of it.

HTC Sensation XL Android smartphone

Thinks big, but

Verdict

The HTC Sensation XL has a mammoth screen, and it has the best of Android and HTC’s Sense UI, but in terms of display resolution, processing speed, video recording and memory expansion, its Beats-packing cousin the XE is the better handset. ®

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