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HTC Sensation XL review

 Review: November 2011  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: With an incredible 4.7 inch screen, a super fast 1.5GHz processor, an 8 megapixel camera and awesome sound quality from Beats Audio headphones, the Sensation XL could be a must-have for music and media lovers.



Size matters. And when it comes to screen size, they don't get larger than the 4.7 inch display of the HTC Sensation XL. At least, not until the Samsung Galaxy Note launches later this year. So if you're looking for a superphone with an incredible display and a superfast processor, the XL looks like it could fit the bill.

Strangely though, HTC are pushing the XL as a music phone. They talk about the Beats Audio feature, and the in-box customised Beats headset. And it's true that the Beats Audio software produces great results and that the headphones are high quality. So if you're buying the XL expecting high quality audio you won't be disappointed. But it's a bit like Ferrari advertising its cars on the quality of their in-car audio systems, high quality though they may be.

For the truth is that there are plenty of good music phones, many of them cheaper than the XL. We think you're reading this review because you want to hear about the 4.7 inch display. How good is it? Does it make the phone too large? So let's get on with the review, because the good news is that the screen isn't too large, and it's well worth having. In fact, once you've got used to a screen this big you'll be shocked at how small the display on your old phone was. You might even start craving a bigger screen, because although 4.7 inches sounds absolutely enormous (it's almost twice the surface area of the iPhone 4S's display), the phone works because it's so thin and carefully designed. Measuring only 9.9mm thick, the XL is a superskinny phone, feeling significantly thinner than the Sensation XE, despite having a larger screen. So the design succeeds. And even though it's heavy at 162.5g, it feels the right weight for a device of this size. The resolution of 480 x 800 pixels isn't wildly impressive, but it's adequate. Could we see the dots? No, we could not. And the benefits of having so much screen size available are too many to list. From making the UI easier to use, to better views of emails, texts and menus, to better Google Maps, facebook and web browsing, the list goes on and on.

Now the XL isn't just big. It's fast too. The single-core processor speeds along at 1.5GHz, making it one of the fastest machines in town, and with 768MB of RAM, apps can run freely as nature intended. And we're delighted to see that finally HTC has addressed one of the design flaws of the Sensation series and equipped the XL with a full 16GB of built-in memory. There's no microSD card lot however. Grrr.

Connectivity is all present and correct, from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 on the wireless front, to USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack for plugging things in. DLNA is supported and HSDPA gives 3G speeds up to 14.4Mbps download. There's quadband GSM support too, so you can confidently take your phone wherever you travel. Provided you have a separate suitcase in which to carry it. No! That was a joke.

The camera is one of the best we've seen on a HTC. With an 8 megapixel BSI sensor (for better low-light captures) it has a wide f2.2 lens for capturing as much light as possible, as well as a dual LED flash and autofocus. Video capture is 720p HD, which is puzzling when you consider that the Sensation XE offers full 1080p HD video recording, but we can live with it. There's also a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera that can record video.

The 1600mAh battery is much larger than most smartphones, but of course this is a phone that demands far more from its battery. On balance, we think most users will be charging daily, in common with many smartphones. Some may not even make it through the day.

Tempted though we were to award the Sensation XL 5 stars, we've settled for 4 instead. It was a hard decision. There are so many things to like here: from the ferociously fast processor to the delicious Gingerbread operating system with HTC Sense; from the enormous 4.7 inch display to the Beats Audio enhancements and headset; from the outstanding camera to the slimline looks. But there were things we couldn't ignore too. The weight of the device; the lack of a memory card; the poor battery life; the relatively low screen resolution and the difficulty in viewing the screen in sunlight; the lack of full HD video recording. It's a great phone for the media-hungry with £30 per month to spend on a phone, but for mainstream users it's not really suitable. In any case, we feel that the Samsung Galaxy Nexus launching on 17 November 2011 is going to shove the XL to one side.

HTC Sensation XL features include:

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HTC Sensation XL user reviews

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Average rating from 4 reviews:

Reviewed by Gaunty from UK on 26th Jan 2012
I have had my Sensation XL for a week now and absolutely love it. I had an HTC Desire HD last year and it was ok but the battery life was ridiculous. My Sensation XL lasts for 2 days no problem. I am in sales and do loads of telephone calls! Wifi in airports and blutooth in my car no problem. The Bluetooth connectivity is fast. For example last year my Desire HD would not even connect to my tom-tom live 1005. The Sensation XL connects in seconds to the Tom Tom or to my Audi built in system. Voice quality is excellent. Photos are great and videos really good. The screen is superb and not as bad in sunlight as the desire hd which was very difficult to see. I have the White sensationXL and love it. The Beats audio with Beats headphones produces the clearest sound and deepest bass of any phone I have ever owned. The phone fits into my suit pocket or jeans pocket no problem, despite being quite a big phone, you will get used to it quickly as the screen allows you to browse websites with no problem whatsoever. I absolutely love it :-)

Reviewed by tim from london on 24th Jan 2012
I've had my sensation xl for a little over three weeks and was reluctent to spend the cash on this phone because of the reviews about battery life and screen clarity compared to an I phone. I am soo glad I ignored them this phone is brillant I love the fact the screen is huge that's what I baught it for I was gonna buy the samsung galaxy note but I would have looked like a wolly talking on it anyway the screen on this phone is brill maybe not as bright as others but the colours look natural and that's what I like the Samsung phones tend to have yellow or green tinge to thier screens. The beats headphones are brill they come with the phone even more of a plus right now my biggest disappointment in the phone is memory you get 16gb but 4gb are for the software on the phone so you litrally get about 10gb of storage such is nowhere near enough memory for a music phone but you have to make sacrafices some times. My battery on this phone lasts around half a day some times more soo I don't understand why a lot of people are complaining about it I this it could that thier phones have network software on thier phones that ruins ya phone get it sim free and you get a clean phone.

Reviewed by slebech from uk on 16th Jan 2012
Great phone but the battery only lasts3-4 hours that's with medium use I thought it was a fault sent phone back got another but just does the same,so unless you got spare 65 pound for a 3600 extended battery its nor worth the hastle and its such a shame as its such a good looking great phone. But I've sent it back and 02 told me they are getting loads sent back so not just me, but I've opted for the closest I could find that has great reviews, Samsung's galaxy s2 in white, yes there is a xe but the screen just not as nice and I wanted a white phone.

Reviewed by saeed from uk on 9th Dec 2011
wonderfull phone that all i can say, nice screen, very bright.

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