Sunday, 13 November 2011

HTC Sensation XL Early Review

This is my early review of the new HTC Sensation XL, which came out just a few days ago here in the UK. This is an Early Review, as I'm still waiting for Orange to activate my SIM. I cannot comment on stuff like mobile internet, calls etc until then. Im just reviewing the most important parts of the phone for now.

Whats in the box:

The phone comes in a simple white box. The packaging is quite minimalistic and very clean, which makes the phone's screen look really impressive from the moment you open the box. Also in the box is a pair of Dr. Dre Beats in-ear headphones with a small black pouch, a usb cable, a plug socket. a set of earbuds and holder clip for the headphones, and instruction manuals/warranties.


The phone is curved round the sides, which makes it easy to hold (unlike many modern phones with straight sides). It is big, but then if you want a small phone you can't get a 4.7 Inch screen.

In terms of weight, which is 162.5 grams, its not light, but the weight is nicely distributed, and makes the phone feel very solid and well made (especially as you can feel the metal back).

The front of the phone is very nicely designed, with no signs of any physical buttons here. It has a speaker, a 1.3 MPX camera, light sensor, a notification light (which you wouldn't know was there until its on), and 4 touch buttons: quit to home screen, menu, back, and search.

Flip the phone around and you get the speaker, the 8MPX camera with dual LED flash, HTC and beats logos. The main part of the back is made out of aluminium, and has a solid feel to it. I don't like the white 'lip' below it with the beats logo, as it slightly sticks out, and the paint isn't shiny, which makes it feel somehow cheap.

There is nothing on the left side of the phone, apart from a usb port for charging/USB transfers. On the Right side you'll find the volume adjustment, which comes in the from of a one-piece button. On the top you get the power button and a headphone jack. On the bottom you get a mic and a button for opening the battery cover.

Design score - 4/5 - the front is stunning, but the finish on the back with the bottom lip lets it down. 


The screen is a Super-LCD 4.7 inch monster touch screen, protected by Gorilla glass. Although its got a pretty standard resolution of 480 by 800, it is VERY impressive.

The colours are very bright and clean, and the contrasts are excellent. Turn up the brightness, and it can seriously compete with Samsung's super AMOLED display on the galaxy s2.

The screen feels very nice too. It might sound silly, but the size combined with the smoothness of the glass makes it incredibly easy to slide, zoom etc.

Another great thing is the touch screen's precision - when typing its rare for me to mis-type anything. This is party down to the excellent design of HTC's keyboard on this phone, which I'll come onto later.

Screen Score: 5/5 - the screen is stunning, both in terms of size and brightness. The resolution could be better, but for everyday use it seriously does not matter. 


The camera is a very impressive 8MPX camera with a F2.2 28mm lens. The pictures are very good, and this thing can handle macro shots really well. It also springs into action nearly instantly which is very useful. It comes with more effects than you would ever need, and has several modes like auto, portrait, landscape, action burst, panorama, closeup, lowlight and even whiteboard.

The gallery can be accessed directly from the photo App, and loads up instantly, which isn't the case with all android phones. You can enhance all the photos with a simple photo editor as well.

I will do a detailed post about the camera with sample snaps later.

Camera Score - 5/5 - easy to use, quick and comes with tonnes of modes and features. 


The USP of this phone aside from its screen size is the integrated beats audio software, which adjusts the songs so they sound better through the included headphones which have been specifically tuned for this phone.

Whilst this sounds like its partly made up, the beats software really does make a difference. Songs are clearer, the base is deeper but still clear and I find it genuinely improves the listening experience.

The headphones included are the in ear model. They come with a wide selection of earbuds, so you can find the perfect fit. Oh, and they're very, very, very loud. Turn the volume up to max and try to keep them in. Whats more, even though they are so loud, the bass is never tinny or muddled, and the audio retains its clarity even at full volume.

Annoyingly, the phone only comes with 16GB storage with no memory slot. Whilst this is annoying, its not something that's unbearable, it just means I have to think which songs I really want there.

Audio Score - 5/5 - very clear, and can go louder then you'll probably ever need. 

Usability, Speed, notable features.

The phone has a 1.5 GHz Processor with 768MB of Ram. Although it isn't dual core like most of its competitors, it is by no means slower. In fact, for things like photo albums and taking picture, I have found it to be notably quicker than the 1.2GHz dual Core Galaxy S2.

The interface if very intuitive and easy to use. HTC has adapted Android Gingerbread to make it useful without overcomplicating things. You can fully customise the phones menus by adding App shortcuts, widgets etc. There are tonnes to choose from, and you can pick different sizes so you can fit several of them on one screen. You get the standard home screen (which you can also edit), and 6 screens where you can decide what they do. Just swipe from left to right to change between the screens. You can have widgets like the weather, clock, mp3 player, email, Facebook chat, twitter, twitter trends, sky news, stock markets and tonnes of others.

I also like the USB connectivity, which is simple and does not require any software to be installed - just plug in the USB cable and drag and drop the files you need into the right folders, which are clearly labelled.

Typing on the phone is a joy, as its very accurate thanks to the design of the onscreen keyboard. And if you do make a mistake, the auto-correction feature is there to help, and it honestly feels like the first one I won't be turning off - it actually helps and isn't annoying.

Summary - Pros and Cons


- Huge 4.7 inch Screen
- HTC's version of android
- Really Good Audio
- Great Camera


- No expandable memory slot

More Photos:

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