HTC Sensation XL review

Barry de la Rosa
19 Dec 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

We like the Sensation XL, but there are better phones available for the same price and we missed having a microSDHC card slot



Android 2.3, 4.7in 480x800 display

It may share a name with the HTC Sensation but with a different display and processor this isn't a simple update. Screen size is up from 4.3in to 4.7in and instead of a dual-core 1.2GHz processor the XL uses a single-core 1.5GHz chip. It's also marketed as having Beats Audio, and it comes with a pair of in-ear Beats headphones.

HTC Sensation XL beats headphones

The 'urBeats' headphones are a cut above the usual plastic headphones you get with a new handset, but they aren't anything special. Strangely, they aren't a standard part of the Beats range - with no listing on its website or availability at retail. The phone itself doesn't have any options for Beats - when you play music, a Beats icon appears in the notification bar, allowing you to either enable or disable it. You get far more bass when you enable Beats, and music sounds flat and lifeless without it.

The XL doesn't run the latest version of Android - 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - but at the moment only Samsung's Galaxy Nexus has the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. The XL does have HTC's Sense interface, which improves on many Android functions, and HTC has promised an upgrade to Android 4.0 for the XL in early 2012.

HTC Sensation XL

Leaving aside Beats audio, the phone has plenty to offer. The 4.7in screen only has a 480x800 resolution, but it's amazingly bright and colourful, and we didn't notice any rough edges or pixellation even when reading small text. In side-by-side tests with the Galaxy Nexus, the XL's bigger and brighter screen practically matched the Nexus's 720x1,280 resolution for readability, making us wonder if the Nexus's high pixel density isn't overkill.

HTC Sensation XL Back

An 8-megapixel main camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera provide good all-round imaging. The main camera takes crisp, colourful shots with low noise, and in video mode it can shoot at 720p. As well as exposure and white balance settings, there's a good choice of effects you can add, and we liked the fact that you can turn on the flash while shooting video to provide extra light for dark scenes. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera is compatible with Skype for video calls.

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