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HTC Sensation XL Review
HTC has launched their new Sensation XE, which was soon followed by the pricier HTC Sensation XL. Considering that there is no dearth of high-end smartphones, these days, HTC will have to try hard to impress people with the new XL model, which rivals the iPhone 4S in terms of pricing. With a price of nearly Rs. 40,000, there are a lot of expectations to be met.
The HTC Sensation with its 4.7-inch screen is larger than the XE, by quite a bit. It is also larger than the iPhones, by far. The Sensation XL uses S-LCD, 480x800 resolution screen, which is smaller than the XE’s 540x960. This is obviously a little odd, considering you are paying a lot more for the Sensation XL. The density of the screen is a bit less than the Sensation XE. The screen is bright and vibrant and the viewing angles are great, too. Even though the display has a slightly denser screen, it is still very detailed.
Clean, smooth surface - maybe a little too slippery
The look and the feel of the phone is very sleek. The front of the phone has a bright white panel, while the back has a light grey, almost silver panel with a large HTC logo blended into it. The rear panel, like some of the recent HTC phones looks like two separate pieces but in fact, is just one piece. It has two elements in it - one plastic and the larger piece that feels like metal. The panel fits in neatly and is released by pressing a slim button positioned at the base of the phone. On the inside, the battery sits beside the SIM card and there’s no way to pull out the SIM without removing the battery. There’s no sign of a memory card slot, either.
On the outside, the phone feels great but the rear panel makes it a little slippery, so if you have to be extra-grippy while holding the phone in your hand. The larger screen makes it heavier than the XE with a weight of 162g as compared to the XE’s 151g.
Features and Performance
The Sensation XL runs Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) and features HTC’s own custom Sense UI 3.5 interface. ICS should be hitting the phone as well. Development on ROMs and rooting apps have already begun over at XDA Developers. The phone runs a 1.5GHz processor with 768 MB of RAM. Now, the Sensation XE, the cheaper of the two runs a 1.5GHz processor as well, but that’s a dual-core. When you use the interface, there are no signs of slowdown and it runs perfectly fine. Let’s keep in mind that the majority of Android phones running Gingerbread still run hardware, which is slower than 1GHz. Animations and the transition effects are smooth. File transfer rates to the phone are decent at around 8 MB/s - this was using a simple file copy operation. AnTuTu recorded a write speed of 7.1 MB/s. Read speeds are way more impressive reaching 34.5 MB/s - reaching the peak performance limit of USB 2.0.
Benchmark scores - Antutu and Linpack
The main apps menu shifts in pages, instead of a non-stop flowing interface. Press the back key and you’re back to the app menu, instead of the home menu.
Media playback is fine. Use a third-party media player and you’ll face no problems playing back HD content on it. Switch to the default player and you’re bound to run into issues playing some formats. HTC bundles a pair of Beats Audio earphones with the phone. This is the same one that we used on the Sensation XE. The quality of these earphones is decent, but it’s not worth the premium HTC charges for the phone.The earphones emphasize the bass a bit and the highs aren’t too bright at the same time. The beats audio enhances the bass, the moment you plug-in the earphone. Personally, I’m not very impressed by the detail or the sound signature. FM radio is also present on the phone.
In terms of connectivity, the Sensation XL is similar to the XE - a quad-band phone with 3G support. The usual Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11n standards are also supported. The Sensation XL has no memory card slot, which is unfortunate, since you won’t be able to upgrade to a larger 32GB storage space using a memory card.
Quick access to the task manager and primary controls
A little more than 12GB of memory is available to the user, but the entire device has 16GB of memory, which is shared with the operating system. This kind of space should be enough to install a whole bunch of apps and store media.
The usual set of apps are bundled with the phone. HTC’s set of customized apps that come bundled with the HTC Sense UI are all present. The notifications bar acts as a task manger and lets you quickly switch between apps. Switch to the Quick Settings pane and you get the menu to quickly switch key components of the phone on or off - Mobile Network, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, etc. There’s even a small mention of how much free memory space is available on the phone.
Easily accessible customization options
Customizing the interface and look of the phone is also easy. The customization feature allows users to quickly add widgets, apps, shortcuts and folders through a single app. There are even tabs for the display style and also sound themes, something like you would on a desktop OS. There’s a flashlight app that lets you use choose from different levels of intensity for the rear flash. Polaris Office - an office suite and Reader - an eBook reader are just some of the apps bundled along with a game or two. Personally, we’d recommend going all out and installing a whole bunch of third-party Android apps from the market.
The camera on the HTC Sensation XL is a large 8MP one. There are two LEDs at the rear that act as the flash. The camera outputs images with resolution spanning 3264x1952. The quality of the images is good in outdoor conditions - Despite, some visible noise, there was a good bit of detail.
Decent image quality from the 8MP camera
This is due to use of smaller sensors on mobile phone cameras. Overall, the quality of the camera isn’t mindblowing, but it is good. Exposure metering is a little off and images with bright and dark regions can appear very contrasting. Colours are fairly natural. The forward facing 1.3MP camera produces average quality images, especially in low light areas.
Evenly lit scenes look just fine
There are a whole bunch of tweaks that can be done as well. The interface of the camera makes it very easy to make these adjustments quickly.
The battery on the Sensation XL is a 1600mAh one. The XE in comparison comes with a larger, 1730 mAh battery. We ran our usual battery drain tests. We started by first running a movie clip non-stop, till the battery had no juice left. The battery lasted 6 hours and 6 minutes. The second battery test that includes running the phone for an hour and a half on a voice, then playing music for two hours, then streaming music over Wi-Fi for two hours, finally followed by playing two and a half hours of video. Under this test scenario, the battery gave up after around 8 hours of usage, which is pretty good. Under everyday use conditions, this phone will last you for roughly a day, before you’ll need to recharge it.
The HTC Sensation XL is both good, yet disappointing. On one hand, it’s a great looking device, which does everything you want it to. The issue is with its price and what it offers for that price. HTC sells the Sensation XL in the market for around Rs.38,799 (MRP of Rs. 39,990).
The massive 4.7-inch screen on the Sensation XL
The cheaper Sensation XE offers a smaller screen, but it’s denser - which means more workspace, it has a memory card slot, which means one can upgrade the storage capacity by a lot and it has a lot more power - a dual-core processor. You get all for roughly Rs.5,000 less. If you’re looking for a large screen device, we’d recommend the Samsung Note. If you’re looking for something smaller and affordable, the Sensation XE is an excellent buy.