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HTC Sensation XL review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £400
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 480×800 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 480×800 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 720×1,280 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.

Performance was excellent, despite the lack of a dual-core processor – the main user interface stayed smooth at all times, with little of the jerkiness we often see from Android. In the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, the XL scored a respectable 2435. We noticed no slowdowns, even with multiple apps open.

The XL lasted for just shy of seven hours in our new video test, which is similar to the Galaxy Nexus and about average for an Android smartphone, but nothing compared to the iPhone 4’s amazing 12 hours of video. It’s still good, and if you use a battery-saving app such as Juice Defender you can probably get a couple of days’ use out of the XL, depending on how much you use 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

HTC Sensation XL Side

The XL’s advertised 16GB of internal storage and lack of a memory card slot could be a problem for some people. For a start, there isn’t 16GB available to the user – after the operating system has taken up its share, there’s a generous 4GB for app storage and about 8GB for user files, which isn’t a lot of music and even less movies, so instead of having the flexibility of memory cards, you’ll have to connect to your PC to change which files you carry around with you.

Another problem is price: for the same money, there are a number of technically superior phones available, such as the Motorola RAZR or the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It seems that you’re paying a premium for the Beats headphones, but we’d rather have one of the models above and spend a little extra on some decent third-party headphones.


Price £400
Rating ****


Main display size 4.7in
Native resolution 480×800
CCD effective megapixels 8-megapixel
Flash Dual LED
Video recording format MP4, 3GP
Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB
GPS yes
Internal memory 16384MB
Memory card support none
Memory card included 0MB
Operating frequencies GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/2100
Wireless data EDGE, HSPA, WCDMA
Size 133x71x10mm
Weight 163g


Operating system Android 2.3
Microsoft Office compatibility Word/Excel/PowerPoint editors, PDF viewer
Email client POP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format support M4A, MP3, MID, OGG, WAV, WMA
Video playback formats 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4V, WMV
FM Radio yes
Web Browser Webkit
Accessories headphones, data cable, charger
Talk time 6.8 hours
Standby time 15 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price £400
Price on contract £31-per-month, 18-month contract
SIM-free supplier
Contract/prepay supplier

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