HTC created a lot of noise in the tech world after announcing that it had bought a chunk of Beats Electronics, leaving many within the industry eagerly anticipating just how the Taiwanese mobile giants would incorporate their newly acquired technology into forthcoming devices.
Now though, merely a few weeks after we were acquainted with the Beats Audio-infused HTC Sensation XE, bigger brother the HTC Sensation XL has appeared on the scene. After marvelling at its 4.7-inch display for a little while, we set out to discover what makes the XL different from its Sensational sibling. Does size really matter or has HTC made a song and dance about nothing? The answer’s coming right up…
Whilst the Sensation XL sports the same aluminium unibody design like the original HTC Sensation, the handset is markedly different externally to the two Sensation devices that preceded it, most notably via the expansive screen in situ and the back casing which dispenses with the striped panelling found on the Sensation and Sensation XE. The one-piece brushed aluminium chassis certainly makes for a robust piece of kit although the XL pays the price for its sturdy assets, tipping the scales at 162 grams.
More likely to divide opinion than its weight is the sheer girth of the device because as the name suggests, it’s quite a hefty unit with its 4.7-inch display pushing it incredibly close to tablet territory. Don’t be fooled by its giant screen though, as the XL’s thin 9.9mm frame means that it’s not overly cumbersome and most should be able to use it one-handed fairly easily.
The display itself is a Super LCD number with a resolution of 800 x 480, and although the previous two Sensations have a higher ppi, we struggled to detect any difference in image reproduction when comparing the trio.
Power and Operating System
The HTC Sensation XL ships with Android 2.3.5 and as well as the latest version of HTC Sense, 3.5. A 1.5GHz single-core processor and 786MB of RAM keep everything ticking over, although we were quite surprised to find a single-core CPU on board, especially considering that most high-end smartphones now come with dual-core chipsets, including the Sensation XE.
That said, the XL still gave us a smooth ride through Gingerbread and Sense and transitions between apps and menus were swift. Not much has changed with regards to the software itself; the 3D carousel, customisable lock screen and animated weather forecasts remain, although the homescreen clock has been made smaller, presumably to free up more space for apps and widgets. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the big screen via the HTC Watch video rental service which comes pre-loaded on the XL.
Beats Audio Technology
Let’s turn our attention to the headline act, the Beats audio technology that lurks underneath the Sensation XL’s hood. Considering that HTC spent around $300 million aquiring a controlling stake in Beats Audio, we hoped for the manufacturer’s sake that the XL’s musical assets would live up to expectations and thankfully, they didn’t disappoint.
You’ll get a pair of Beats by Dr Dre in-ear buds as standard with the Sensation XL although limited edition versions of the handset come with a pair of Beats Solo headphones. The XL instantly recognises the Beats headphones once plugged into the handset and fires up the Beats audio software which manifests itself via a specially optimised Beats profile designed to improve the quality of sound reproduction from the device.
Once in full flow, the audio enhancements are clear for all to hear with deeper bass, crystalline vocals and a generally richer, more defined sound. The bundled in-ear headphones combined with an activated Beats Audio profile certainly make for an improved audio experience but even this is bettered when using the Beats Solo over-the-ear headphones.
Internet: The Sensation XL has 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity and comes with an Android WebKit browser with full Flash-support. The 4.7-inch display is undoubtedly a great platform for surfing the web as most pages load in full on the screen so you won’t need to scroll or zoom to view them in their entirety.
Camera: The Sensation XL packs an 8 megapixel wide-angle lens rear camera complete with dual LED flash. Pictures are crisp and defined when viewed back on the display and you’ll also have 720p video to play with, although we would’ve liked to have seen full HD recording on offer here. There’s also a front-facing 1.3 megapixel snapper onboard which can be used for video calling.
Other tech specs:
- Music player – Supports MP3, eAAC+, WMA and WAV files.
- Video player – Supports MP4, H.263, H.264 ands WMV files.
- 16GB internal memory
- microUSB port
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Facebook and Twitter integration
- Up to 11 hours 50 minutes talk time (2G)
Although the HTC Sensation XL gave a decent performance, we were quite surprised that this device didn’t feature a dual-core processor as the Sensation XE. Also, the Sensation XL doesn’t come with any sort of expandable memory which is strange for a high-end Android handset. Considering that this is primarily a multimedia device, it doesn’t offer a huge amount of storage space for users who you’d expect would want to fill it full of digital content.
The HTC Sensation XL has all the necessary ingredients to make a great multimedia handset and its large display is likely to be a big hit with those who enjoy watching films and heavy web users. Whilst it’d be fair to say that some of the specs are perhaps not befitting of a multimedia-focused handset, the whole package still comes together nicely and the Beats audio technology really gives it an edge over similarly positioned handsets.