HTC Sensation XL – Initial Impressions Review

As usual, there is a lot of hype surrounding the Sensation XL. Just a few minutes spent looking at retailer polls and pre-orders should tell you that this is one the most desirable handsets at the moment. We all wonder what exactly stimulates this desire, after initially looking at the specifications for the device – we still have plenty of questions left unanswered.

The Sensation XL has no microSD card slot. It seems strange to have a phone that is built for playing music and other media is so constrained by its internal memory. The device is most certainly XL, in fact it is one of the biggest we’ve ever seen. The full name of the device, ‘Sensation XL with beats audio’ suggests a clear selling point. We know that the Dr. Dre headphones are included in the package when you buy the phone, but unfortunately, we were not able to test these.

From the outset, the music quality is impressive, and the ‘beats with audio’ codec seems to provide a distinct clarity when processing the sound. There’s also plenty of loudness in the volume setting, but nothing more than a standard Sony Ericsson Xperia device can provide. We were surprised to see that there is no equaliser settings. There is a menu item in the music section called ‘Sound enhancer’, but this only allows you to switch between the ‘beats audio’ enhancer and the ‘HTC enhancer’.

All this really does is show up the ‘muddiness’ of the HTC’s standard sound, where all the elements seem to converge with no sense of weight or balance. The overall sound is flat and poorly defined on the mobile phone, there also seems to be some unwanted reverb within the mid-range frequencies.

When switching back to the ‘beats audio’ sound enhancer you get a really natural sounding boost in the low end of the sound, making the bass thicker and kick drum more pronounced and weighty. This is whilst leaving the higher frequencies, like the high hats and shakers, sounding crisp and tight as they should.

This works particularly well with music that uses large amounts of compression, and really helps to separate the low and high frequencies in much the same way as an internal crossover does in a satellite speaker system. If you do listen to dance music, as an example, you are guaranteed to notice these attributes to the sound.

We were much more impressed by the XL’s sound than an iPod’s, and the music is obviously a lot easier to transfer. We are still not sure whether the ‘beats audio’ codec is a good enough reason to buy the XL and certainly not because of Dre’s endorsement.

Like the Galaxy Nexus, the Sensation XL is another ‘big’ Android phone, as it also accommodates a large screen. Unfortunately, the screen does not exude a similar colour depth, quality or resolution as the Nexus and the phone feels heavier and bulkier.

The XL can be quite awkward to hold without accidentally touching the screen, when you don’t want to, which seems to slightly spoil the user experience. The phone itself is evenly balanced, with weight distribution clearly being taken into account. The aluminium back cover doesn’t help the phone from sliding around on a flat surface, although it feels very much like plastic, it does at least give the phone a consistent finish to match the rest of the casing and metallic side buttons.

Overall, the HTC Sensation XL exhibits a very striking design, as slim and attractive as any HTC phone. The design, camera and sound quality are very good but the 480×800 resolution means some of the text will appear jagged, which is less than you would expect from a top-end device these days.

– review courtesy of LucidCX