The HTC Sensation XL phone is here, and it’s the HTC Titan with Android we’ve been expecting for a few weeks now. It’s HTC’s big gamble against the iPhone 4S and whatever Samsung has up its sleeves for next week, and we got some hands on time with it earlier this week. Read on for our photos and thoughts: it’s not quite what you’d expect.
First things first, those specs: the HTC Sensation XL sports a aluminium unibody design similar to that of the HTC Sensation, but on a much larger scale. Its display stretches a huge 4.7-inches across (the body itself is 9.9mm thick), and houses a 1600mAh battery on the inside, but for man hands, feels just the right size.
HTC is bogging up the eight megapixel camera on the back with an f.2.2 aperture, claiming it’s the best it’s ever come up with – it certainly snapped and processed shots quickly, but we’ll save the verdict on that for review time. Unike the Sensation, the HTC Sensation XL can only record in 720p HD resolution, rather than full 1080p HD for video.
Spec heads take note: the HTC Sensation XL is not the very latest in hardware. It packs in just 16GB of internal storage with no microSD slot, and instead of going dual-core, the processor is a single 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 chip, which won’t win any benchmark scores.
The screen too, while bright and vivid, is a bit off the pace: it’s palatial, giving you lots of space for your thumbs to roam, but the resolution is 480×800. On the HTC Titan that’s expected – Windows Phone only supports this resolution for now – but on Android, when Samsung and LG are moving to 1280×720 resolution screens, it’s only average. Stretched over such a large screen, it also produces visible grain if you look closely, something that may come as a shock to iPhone 4 owners used to “Retina” displays.
Like the HTC Sensation XE, the larger Sensation XL features Beats audio integration, right down to the logo on the back. In the box, you get a pair of in-ear Beats headphones with an in-line track remote, or, if you go for the limited edition model, a pair of Solo over ears with the same track controls – you can’t buy these anywhere else right now.
Plugging these in triggers a Beats audio sound profile that can be turned on and off from the drop down notification menu, although we weren’t able to test the quality of this in a quiet environment.
Otherwise software itself holds few surprises: the test model we tried out ran Android 2.3.5, and came with all HTC’s latest cloud services, including Location and movie rental app Watch. If you like HTC Sense on Android, you’ll love this, but if you’ve not been interested before, this is unlikely to sway you.
Frankly speaking, we’re genuinely starting to think that if you want user friendly software, HTC’s Windows Phones really might be the way to go: we love Android but there’s no denying it can be complicated to use.
The only thing of note: this version of HTC Sense (3.5) is missing the massive new People widget included on the HTC Rhyme and HTC Explorer. That gives you more screen space to play with, but we did rather like it: it gets rid of the boring dock at the bottom in favour of two simple phone and contacts buttons.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about the HTC Sensation XL is HTC taking a step back from the cutting edge when it comes to specs. Clearly aware that it can’t compete with Samsung on this front, it’s hoping style, design, awesome sound and intuitive software will help win new customers over, not raw power. If you want that, try the HTC Sensation XE or Samsung Galaxy S 2.
It’s a smart move given few will ever notice the difference in speed, and puts HTC ever closer to Apple as its main competitor. If you can overlook the screen issues, it’s shaping up to be a winner.
The HTC Sensation XL is out from November, only in white. We’ve confirmed with Vodafone that it will stock it from launch.