The Sensation XL has some sizable heft to it, making it yet another handset pushing the boundaries of how much touchscreen we can fit into our collective pockets.
The HTC Sensation XL bears a more than passing resemblance to its Windows Phone cousin, the Titan. In fact, most of the technical specifications are identical, with matching 4.7-inch screens, identical camera specifications and and generally the same look and feel
. There are some differences; the XL is another Beats-branded handset, and arrives with a pair of Dre-endorsed in-ear buds, and there are subtle differences to the shaping of the handset. The Sensation XL has some sizable heft to it, making it yet another handset pushing the boundaries of how much touchscreen we can fit into our collective pockets. Hardware-wise, much of what we've already said about the Titan holds true here. In fact, it measures up identically to its Windows Phone doppelganger, squeezing all that screen and a 1,600mAh battery to within 10mm (0.39 inches), making it thinner than its smaller-screened Sensation
sisters. Those XL credentials also betray its weight; at 5.73 ounces (162g) it's lighter than both the original and XE versions. The build quality is another success story from HTC and the single-piece backing feels solid in the hand. While the Titan's cover wraps around the whole screen, the Android version doesn't extend over the front lip. The Sensation XL's upper bezel is thinner than the Titan, but this is simply a trade-off for a bigger chin at the bottom. The phone's edges are also more curved, and we found the back cover slightly more tricky to wrench off, though it's certainly easier than a certain similarly styled HTC tablet.
The XL arrives in the same white-metallic stylings seen on the HTC Flyer
, with a dash of Beats-inspired red accents livening up the back. Unlike the HTC Sensation XE
or HTC's forthcoming Rezound
, you won't find any such touches around the front of the phone, which is a bit of a shame, as we found that splash of scarlet helped add some visual spice to the otherwise slightly muted design. You will find, however, HTC's stock Android button quartet: Home, menu, back and search. They're lit up by a gentle glow, slightly more subtle than other phones from its back catalog, though we'd welcome a return of those prismatic, rotating beauties found on the Incredible S
. Above the WVGA screen, you'll find the ear piece, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera.
You won't find the curved Gorilla Glass display seen on other Sensations -- the screen looks to be identical to the Super LCD we already stroked on the HTC Titan; that 4.7-inch WVGA screen remains the same, as does its color reproduction and viewing angles. Already the software differences do come into play, if only due to involuntary comparisons with other Android phones. We've already seen qHD and even higher resolutions running Google's OS. Does it matter? Well, it depends. This, like the Titan is a lovely screen, despite the mid-table dots-per-inch ranking. Colors aren't washed-out, and this model of Super LCD beats out the smaller -- but sharper -- Sensation screen with impressive viewing angles and color production. No, it's not Super AMOLED
, but that doesn't mean it can't impress. In daily use, in this size, it's a revelation to use -- like the Galaxy Note, we found ourselves drawing the phone away from our eyes, as we could see everything we needed to from a distance -- you can glance at the phone, and read any information you've setup on the customizable lock-screen.
Sound-wise, our review model arrived with another pair of urBeats in-ear headphones, with several pairs of buds, hoping to fit all sorts of ears. As we investigated extensively in our Sensation XE review
, the built-in Beats audio remains mostly bluster, the headphones themselves remain stylish and of far higher quality than your typical in-the-box in-ear offerings, which sound cheap and weedy in comparison.
However, despite the push to sell the XL as the go-to music and entertainment smartphone, it's utterly hobbled by non-expandable memory. This would've been fine if built-in storage amounted to top-end iPhone levels
, but the built-in storage amounts to just under 13GB. Anyone with an extensive range of music tastes will be forced to pick and choose what they sync with the phone -- or pick an alternative (presumably cloud-based) option like Spotify and miss out on the built-in Beats equalizer. A major problem for this audio-branded
We feel like we're retreading old ground again, but (again) the Sensation XL has the same camera as the Titan. In that respect, it's another zippy eight megapixel number: responsive, but also missing the kind of two-stage trigger found on its WinPho alter ego. Nonetheless, the f/2.2 lens does its job managing the light admirably, with a particularly strong macro performance. Compression on pictures was similar to the Titan; expect a reduction on full-sized eight megapixel stills to between 1 and 1.5MB.