By ZAM KARIMbytz@thestar.com.my
The HTC Sensation XL with Beats Audio is one powerful multimedia device and is a good smartphone too.
THE Android smartphone market is getting crowded with each passing month as many manufacturers keep introducing new models at breakneck speed.
Many boast similar specs like an up-to-date operating system, faster processor and bigger storage space - all of which are wrapped in a stylish, premium casing.
To stand out from the busy crowd, manufacturers now have to come up with additional attributes that offer features beyond those mentioned.
In the case of the new HTC Sensation XL, you will not only get a huge 4.7in S-LCD screen in an ultraslim 9.9mm unibody design but also a built-in Beats by Dr Dre audio system.
Yup, HTC has got our attention and now it's time to see whether this Sensation XL has what it takes to stand out in such a crowded space.
The big white
Our review unit had a white front with a combination of white and metallic silver back. Also visible is the red Beats logo near the bottom on the back.
At 132.5 x 70.7 x 9.9mm in dimension, it is definitely bigger than most Android smartphones we have tested before but we had no problems handling it comfortably.
Sometimes looking big does not equate to being heavy, which is the case for the Sensation XL. The smartphone can be considered lightweight as it tips the scale at just 162g.
The right hand side of the device is reserved for the volume rocker while the microUSB port is located on the left. On top, you will find the lock/power key as well as a 3.5mm jack.
Underneath the display are the Home, Menu, Back and Search soft buttons.
The screen is not Super AMOLED but the S-LCD technology that it employs still produced impressive viewing angles and colours.
Take note, however, that despite its huge screen size, the resolution is the same as other Android smartphones at 480 x 800-pixels.
The bigger screen does mean a bigger virtual keyboard, which in turn means it's easier for users to type. As a matter of fact, with plenty of screen real estate, HTC was also able to cram in four cursor keys to make it easier to navigate.
Powered by 1.5GHz processor, the Sensation XL was more than capable of running pretty much any applications that we threw at it.
The Gingerbread OS-based smartphone also uses HTC's latest Sense 3.5 user interface. The most noticeable enhancement is the quick access to certain functions directly from the lock screen. Simply drag the ring-like icon on the lock screen to the Phone, Mail, Camera and Messages icons to activate the respective function.
In what is considered a surprise move by HTC, the Sensation XL doesn't have any built-in microSD slots like its predecessors - instead users have to rely solely on the internal 16GB storage.
Move to the beat
As mentioned earlier, the Sensation XL's main selling point has to be the incorporation of the Beats audio system.
In this instance Beats is basically an audio enhancement software that processes sound output to make music sound better.
To complement the built-in system, HTC has also included a pair of Beats in-ear buds. Together, the audio system and earphones produce music with slightly more detail and deeper bass that you just don't get from a standard smartphone audio player.
We did, however, find that the effect was drastically reduced if you use other types of earbuds or headphones.
Also, there is an option to turn the Beats audio processing off, which resulted in the music instantly becoming flat. Suffice to say, that's something you don't want to do.
In the camera department, the function is noticeably fast to start.
There are all sorts of settings, including face detection, picture effects, white balance presets, geotagging and more.
The picture quality is much better than most smartphones that we've tested before, offering plenty of detail, good colour saturation especially when taken in bright environments.
Also, there are various scene modes that you can use to enhance your shots. We like the HDR mode the best because the picture looks exceptionally brighter with stronger colours than your average fare.
Video shooting is also good though we didn't notice anything special to highlight. Additionally there is also an option to shoot slow-motion video (at half speed) at a resolution of 800 x 480-pixels.
We had no problem with the playback of 720p MPEG4 videos on the smartphone. It also supports various multimedia formats such as H.263, H.264, WMV, MP3, eAAC+, WMA and WAV.
Surprisingly the phone's 1,600mAH battery lasted more than a day of regular use, which included some web browsing, camera use and multimedia playback.
Overall, we found the Sensation XL to be a solid offering by HTC. What can we say, we are a sucker for stylish white smartphones and the Sensation XL earned one brownie point from us in that department alone.
The rest come from the big, bright display and Beats audio system.
The only drawback is the absence of a memory slot to expand the internal storage. But, hey, if iPhone users can live with that limitation, we don't see why Sensation XL users can't do the same.
This smartphone is also a little on the pricey side with its RM2,099 price tag so you would have to dig deep into your pockets.
Pros: Stylish, white design; large screen; Beats audio system with bundled Beats earphone; good camera.
Cons: No memory card slot; slightly priendscey.
SENSATION XL WITH BEATS AUDIO
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 900/2100
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 2.3.5 with HTC Sense 3.5
DISPLAY: 4.7in S-LCD TFT capacitive touchscreen (480 x 800-pixels)
CAMERA: 8-megapixel rear, autofocus, dual-LED flash, 720p video recording; 1.3-megapixel front
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, WiFi, microUSB 2.0
MEMORY: 16GB storage, 768MB RAM
EXPANSION SLOT: none
BATTERY: 1,600mAH lithium-ion
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 460 hours/7 hours
OTHER FEATURES: Beats Audio system with Beats earphone, geotagging, face detection, touch focus, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor and compass
DIMENSIONS (W X D X H): 132.5 x 70.7 x 9.9mm
RATING: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of HTC Malaysia Sdn Bhd, (03) 6201-6433.