HTC Sensation XL first look

The HTC Sensation XL is one of the largest screened phones we've seen to date.
Learn more



HTC Sensation XL

Price:  Vodaphone, various plans.

3 stars out of 5

If you’re after a large-screen phone and prefer over-ear headphones, the HTC Sensation XL may be the phone for you.

Normally a phone just comes in one box, but the HTC Sensation XL comes bundled with a set of over-ear headphones. HTC has an agreement with an audio supplier, Beats by Dr Dre, to supply these headphones made by Monster.

The XL has an effects-like equaliser that automatically starts when you trigger the music app to enhance the music using the Beats Audio effects system. 

The XL is currently available via Vodafone if you want to buy it on a contract.

For more information about Mobile phones, see Phones and mobile devices.

HTC Sensation XL vs HTC Sensation

  • It’s bigger than the Sensation, the previous iteration of this model, and has one of the largest screens on the market. Putting the two next to each other, the XL is noticeably larger but also two millimetres thinner. 
  • The XL’s screen is brighter (set to auto brightness) and seems clearer, though this may just be an effect of a larger screen as the XL has lower resolution. 
  • The XL is supplied with Android version 2.3.5 (codename Gingerbread) and comes with a little more than 12GB of storage. A lack of a micro-SD card may disturb music enthusiasts with a large library.
  • At 1.5GHz the XL’s single CPU seems weak compared with the dual core 1.2GHz that powers the Sensation, but the XL is still smooth and seamless. 
  • The camera specs are similar between the two, but results for the XL are better at low light than the Sensation. 
  • Video has lower specs for the XL – high definition recording at 720p; the Sensation at 1080p.There is a noticeable improvement in video from the XL over the Sensation when both are set to 720p, with the Sensation struggling to capture video without the shimmering effect of fluorescents, despite correction.

Sound quality

The foldable Beats by Dr Dre solo headphones supplied free with the XL fit snugly and are comfortable; they’re also solid with aluminium sliders that adjust well. 

Given their claimed RRP of $299, these are a great freebie if over-ear headphones are your preference. We ran a test using both these and the ubiquitous white-corded ear buds and found that with both the Beats Audio system does make the music clearer on the XL, though it tends to play down the bass compared with having it deactivated. 

The sounds are comparable between the XL and Sensation when you turn off Beats Audio and listen via regular ear buds. The effects don’t work without some type of headset plugged in, so the external speaker is as ordinary as most phone speakers.

Using the Dr Dre headphones doesn’t make a lot of difference. In fact, you have to turn up the volume a little compared with the ear buds. We were unable to source Beats Audio via the Android market, so it wasn’t possible to use it on the Sensation. 

You can’t adjust the Beats Audio effects as you can with other supplied equaliser effects, which is disappointing. However, the capacity to synchronise iTunes playlists and songs on your PC is useful.

Battery life

HTC claims a good deal of life out of the battery, with more than 10 hours of GSM talk time. It was certainly drained a lot slower than the Sensation, which claims just over eight hours of talk time. Snapping the cover off the rear to remove the battery is simple and identical with both phones.

CHOICE verdict

The HTC Sensation XL is a good phone if you want a large-screen and prefers over-ear headphones - however, don't base your choice purely on the headphones. CHOICE is looking forward to getting this model into our test labs for a proper run-through.



Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments