Review HTC Sensation XL by kafaakBlog
Steve Jobs claimed that 3.5-inch screen is the best-fit for anyone hands. That’s the main reason why iPhone always has that screen size. However, Android smartphone makers think differently (and I do agree with them in my blog: When Size Does Matter). When it comes to screen size, Android smartphones come with choices. Lately, we can see the trend that high-end Android smartphone tends to have large screen size ranged from 4 inches to 5.3 inches. HTC is the first to jump into this large-screen trend and its latest product, HTC Sensation XL, is going to get my review.
Unboxing HTC Sensation XL and my first impression
Smartphones nowadays are more than just phones. In addition to using them to make phone calls, they are game console, e-book reader, Internet surfing machine and multimedia player. HTC responses to this trend and that results in teaming up with Beats by Dr. Dre.
HTC Sensation XL is another model that comes with Beats by Dr. Dre headset. (Don’t be so haste, @mrkui, my brother … a musician, will be the one who give the review later.)
First, let’s have a look at what we have here…
Sensation XL comes with 4.7-inch, capacitive, multitouch-enabled touchscreen. The screen is capable of being touched 5 points simultaneously. The resolution is 480×800 pixels.
There is also a 1.3 Mpixels front camera for making a video call. Yet, no 3G video call support. *sigh*
*Personal thought here*
I am fond with large screen smartphones. I have LG Optimus 3D, HTC EVO 3D and Dell Streak 5. And I think that they really fit my hands. So, I really like HTC Sensation XL 4.7-inch screen. However, I think the screen resolution doesn’t suit the size. But others may find it a merit because low resolution in a big screen mean larger icons and texts. They will love it at least until Ice Cream Sandwich (which allow users to adjust font size) goes mainstream.
- 3.5mm jack, microphone (for stereo sound recording) and on/off switch at the top.
- Microphone (for stereo sound recording and making phone call) and switch to unlock the cover at the bottom.
- Micro USB port for charging and connecting to PC at the left-hand side.
- Volume up/down at the righ-hand side.
Oh! I almost forget to mention the dimension of the device. It’s 132.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm. It weighs 162.5 grams. A little bit heavy comparing to Samsung Galaxy Nexus which is about the same screen size. (Samsung Galaxy Nexus is 135 grams.)
Specification and Performance: Facts and numbers
Let’s have a look at the specification. HTC Sensation XL doesn’t have a decent CPU/GPU. It comes with 1.5GHz dual-core CPU (Qualcomm MSM8255 with Adreno 205 as a GPU). It has 768MB of RAM and 16GB for internal storage. (9GB for phone storage and 4GB serves as internal storage. So, 3GB is used to hold the operating system and built-in apps.)
1,600mAh batter powers the device. It can last 6 hours on 3G and about 8 hours on 2G network. What I really love about this beauty is that it support all 3G frequencies used in my home country, Thailand (850/900/2100MHz).
HTC Sensation XL is the 3rd genration of Sensation family, yet the first to have single-core CPU. I think HTC wants to save the power to make battery last long (and that could be a reason why it has 480×800 resolution instead of qHD even when the screen size is 4.7 inches).
I ran several benchmarking softwares to test many aspects of the device.
- Quadrant Advanced and AnTuTu Benchmark for measuring overall performance.
- Linpack for Android for measuring computational performance.
- Nenamark 1 and Nenamark 2 for measuring 3D graphics performance.
- Vellamo for measuring Internet browser performance.
Here is the result.
Overall I’d say that HTC Sensation XL is very impressive for a device with single-core CPU. However, Nenamark 2, which is a benchmark software for high-end device, proves that single-core CPU is now far from being high-end as the result shows pretty low framerate.
Here Comes the Software Part.
HTC Sense 3.5 is the UI behind HTC Sensation XL. What I like about it is the lockscreen that not just a lockscreen. It is designed to show more information while the device is locked. You can set it to show weather report, social media update (you need to link your Twitter/Facebook accounts to Friend Stream first), photo gallery, or stock report.
Compare to old HTC models with HTC Sense 2.0, this is much faster (but consume a lot more resource, too).
HTC Hub and HTC Likes
You need to have HTC Sense account before you can use HTC Hub and HTC likes. Don’t worry, you can sign up for HTC Sense account if you don’t have one. Along with HTC Hub and HTC Likes, you can turn Device Finder function (similar to Find my iPhone on iOS) on as well.
HTC Hub is a collection of sounds, ringtones, skins, wallpers, scenes and plug-ins for HTC device. There are not many of them, but you may find ones that you like.
HTC Likes is a collection of Android Apps recommended by HTC. HTC users will come, download and like them. The point is, if HTC users like it, it must be nice to have one in your device.
HTC Likes is good for HTC newbies. You can see a list of nice-to-have apps here and determine which one you want to install by looking at how many likes it receive from another HTC users.
There is one limitation. You can only tie one HTC Sense account to one device. If you sign in to HTC Sense account to another device, it will automatically unlink your existing one. So, if you have more than one HTC device, you will need multiple HTC Sense accounts.
Bloatwares bloatwares bloatwares…
It’s normal for phone makers to pre-install apps into the device. HTC Sensation XL is no execption. You can find Reader (an e-book reader), Sky.fm Radio (online radio app), Tango (Video Call app just like FaceTime on iOS), ebuddy xms (Instant Messenger).
This is personal stuff. Some people may like all the pre-installed apps while many others despise them. Although I call them bloatwares, they are not useless apps. However, defining useless is very tricky. Most of the time we find any apps that we can’t use (no matter how useful they are for others) useless.)
Multimedia and Beats by Dr. Dre
Although the file format is MP4, the codec required to decode the file may be different. Good news is most Android devices have all the codecs needed, but not HTC Sensation XL. *sigh*
I tested the video playback using my tweet it 1080p clip and found that it could be played with default codec provided by the device. I had to download MX Video Player from Android Market (and it seems to be the only one I can find so far) in order to play the clip.
Not sure if it’s because of single-core CPU is not powerful enough or the codec that comes with MX Video Player is not good enough, the playback is not smooth. The video and the sound is not synchronized. So, I’d say that if you want to watch 1080p video on HTC Sensation XL, forget it.
Now comes the hard part. Sound quality of Beats by Dr. Dre. I gave this task to my musician brother, @mrkui. Here is his opinion:"
[Sorry for my bad English. I don’t know much about music and my brother gave a review in Thai, which I find it difficult to translate all into english.]
The part by Dr. Dre implies that this is a headset for those who love hiptop style. The engineered by Moster also guarantee this. However, when I tried to check for the model in beatsbydre.com, no such model is in the database. So, I think this is exclusive to HTC.
I suspect that its specification is no different from iBeats which the maker claim that it’s for iPod/iPad/iPhone.
I tested it with TuneIn Radio, an online radio app. Then, I used Westone UM2 to find channels streaming with good sound quality. I tested it with hiphop music as I think this is what the headset is designed for. I also tested it with jazz for the overall quality.
The result? A little disappointing. Although it focuses on bass, the sound is not quite strong. Nothing is outstanding about it. But if you consider it as a bundled accessories, it okay.
Time for Some Games!
Despite being a single-core CPU, HTC Sensation XL is powerful enough to run newly-released games like Shadowgun or Blood and Glory smoothly.
The strong point is the screen size. Larger screen size means better gaming experience. If you don’t believe me, try to play the same game on 3.5- or 4-inch screen.
More of my thought is on the video review below.
What about Camera?
HTC is one among not many brands that has very good camera app for Android. Its Tap-to-Focus function is the best in all Android devices. You can tap on the screen to let it adjust the brightness of the picture according to the area you touch. (Other brands that offer this kind of function only do a focus, but not brightness adjustment.)
What about the quality? Not as good. All the photos I took are a little blueish. Well, you should see it for yourselves below.
Now, the video recordng. Although the image sensor is 8 megapixels but it is powered by only a single-core CPU. So, HTC Sensation XL only record up to 720p (1280×720 pixels) resolution. The quality of the video is good. (If I were to give a score for quality of photo and video, I’d give 6/10 for photo but 8.5/10 for video.)
See the sample video below.
I love this device. Although not having state-of-the-art hardware, HTC Sensation XL can do everything I expect good smartphones do. And I love large screen. The sound quality for Beats by Dr. Dre headset is a little disappointing, but still acceptable. (One thing I want to point out is that the controller built-in with the headset looks very cheap.)
Battery life is very impressive. 6 hours (or even more) on 3G and 8 hours (or more) on 2G networks. The price (20,500 baht in Thailand. Approximately, $645) will be the deciding factor for most users, especially in Thailand as carrier will not offer subsidized with contract.