HTC Sensation XL review: Music and the beast
Excellent browser limited by the hardware
The HTC Sensation XL has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser with Sense UI 3.5 polish.
The browser goes into full-screen when the web page finishes loading and has very minimalistic UI, which leaves almost all of the large 4.7" screen to the page's content.
There's an URL bar at the top of the screen flanked by a back and refresh keys. Once you zoom in and pan around the page, even that bar disappears. Still, there are plenty of options - you have to press the menu key to reveal them.
There are home and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out even more options – stuff like find on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).
The Sensation XL's browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes even longer texts extremely easy to read on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then the low pixel density makes it illegible) or scroll sideways to read each line.
Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.
The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. You can tag bookmarks which is a great way to organize them.
Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.
The HTC Sensation XL has full Flash support and YouTube videos up to 480p played smoothly. HD videos however prove too much for the CPU and the videos get extremely choppy.
You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard.
We tried out a few Flash games and they worked fine as well. You can play the Flash content in full screen and landscape mode, which makes the most out of the display.
Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag which is the way of the future, now that Adobe have given up on mobile Flash.
Great organizer with Office document editing
The usual set of organizer apps are aboard the HTC Sensation XL, with a mobile Office app to boot that can both view and edit documents.
The Polaris app has support for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, including the Office 2007 versions and it can create Office 2003 Word and Excel documents but not 2007 docs or any presentations. Oddly, you can edit existing PowerPoint presentations and Office 2007 docs.
There is also a PDF viewer to handle PDF files. The on-screen keyboard does cut down the available space in half but if you zoom out you can still fit a reasonable amount of text.
This version of Polaris gives less editing options than we're used to - you can do copy, cut and paste, then apply bold, italic and underline styles and highlight text and that's it. There used to be font style options here but now they're inexplicably gone.
While you can edit formulas in Excel spreadsheets, you have to type them in manually (there's no wizard or even a list of functions here) and selecting cells happens one by one - you can't just tap and drag.
The doc viewer integrates with the Gmail app, which makes viewing attachments a cinch. You can download them into the internal memory too if you like.
The calendar has four different types of view: daily, monthly, agenda and invitation. The day view showing the weather forecast at the top of the screen is a nice touch.
The Agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. Invitation only lists events with invitation info attached to them.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized with huge, easy to hit buttons. Flipping it horizontally enables some more advanced functions like logarithms.
The HTC Sensation XL features an alarm clock application, which can handle multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Desk clock app turns your Sensation XL into a… well, Desk clock. The option to switch off the display backlighting to save battery power or not disturb at night is gone.
The World clock app lets you quickly check the time in different time zones, while the stopwatch and timer apps might come in handy if you plan to take the phone with you when doing sports.
The Stocks application gives you quotes from Yahoo finance. You can use the Stocks lockscreen too. The Voice recorder might be quite useful for making audio notes and the weather app brings Yahoo’s weather forecast for your area a click away.
There’s an HTC-branded flashlight app too – it uses the LED flash and you can set it to 3 levels of intensity. Nice and all, but the Android Market is full of this kind of apps already.
Quick lookup is a handy app that lets you enter a query and view the Wikipedia article (formatted for easy reading), search Google, YouTube, use Google Translate or look it up in Google Dictionary.
Facebook and Twitter
Facebook and Twitter fans will appreciate the preinstalled Facebook and Peep apps, which let you post on the world’s largest social networks.
The latest Facebook app is available, which enables things like Facebook Chat (there's a separate app for that too) and Facebook Places (which lets you to check into the likes of Foursquare).
The official Twitter app for Android also comes preinstalled – some might prefer it over Peep (they both integrate with the phonebook so you don’t have to actually start the app).
The official Twitter app is the latest version too – tweets can be geo-tagged, you can snap a photo to include in the tweet straight in the app (uploaded automatically to yfrog or TwitPic) and there are handy buttons to reply to or retweet a message.