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October 7, 2011

HTC Sensation XL vs Samsung Galaxy S II

by John_A

The HTC Sensation XL now makes that three flagship Android handsets from the Taiwanese mobile makers. Peter Chou and his team have also once again team up with Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine to bring Beats Audio software and headphones to an HTC smartphone and that gives this package one hell of an extra shine, but is it quite shiny enough?

Lurking in the wings, as ever, is the current King of the Androids in the shape of the Samsung Galaxy S II begging the big question for any wouldbe buyer – just which one is the better phone? So, we’ve lined up these two smartphones’ spec sheets and worked it out on paper at least. It’s the HTC Sensation XL vs Samsung Galaxy S II.

Form Factor

TIE: GALAXY S2 : 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, 117g
TIE: SENSATION XL :132.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm, 163g

In terms of pure measurements, it’s the first round to the Samsung Galaxy S II. As ever, it’s all about how thin and how light a mobile phone is when it comes to something that’s going to be sitting in your pocket, weighing you down and interrupting the carefully tailored lines of your clothing. The SGS2 is a touch thinner and considerably lighter. The other possible disadvantage to the Sensation XL is that it’s physically bigger on the other dimensions as well, but that has its plus points later on, as we’ll see.

However, that said, we’re going to call the round a tie because, as far physical design goes, it’ll be the machined aluminium block of the Sensation XL that has the edge over the more plastic look and feel of the Galaxy S II for aesthetics and ergonomic pleasure. To be fair to the Samsung, though, that doesn’t mean that it comes across as low rent. It’s still a nice piece of kit to own. Just not as satisfying as all-metal handsets.


1ST: GALAXY S2 : 4.27-inch, 800x480px, 218ppi, Super AMOLED Plus
2ND: SENSATION XL : 4.7-inch, 800x480px, 199ppi, LCD

It’s a very close run thing in the display category. Yes, the HTC Sensation XL screen offers a bigger viewing platform than that of the SGS2 but, sadly, at the same resolution. So, it’s one thing to lose that sharpness as a result of a lower pixel density but what it is that tips the balance is down to the screen technology itself. HTC has gone for a straight LCD but Samsung has all that panel innovation to lean back on when it comes to its Super AMOLED Plus. Without experiencing both for ourselves, we’d normally call this one a draw but word from our man on the ground who’s had some review time with the HTC Sensation XL is as follows:

That the resolution is comparatively low isn’t great, the sharpness isn’t really there, but it looks fine. The colours are good and vibrant and the viewing angles are fine from what I saw. The SGS2 probably has the better display though.

And there you have it.

Engine Room

1ST: GALAXY S2: Samsung Exynos 4210
2ND: SENSATION XL : Snapdragon MSM8255

The systems-on-chip in both phones offer plenty to be happy about but it’s the lack of a dual core CPU on the Sensation XL that will draw the criticism. It’s arguable as to whether a dual-core CPU is really needed on a smartphone at the moment anyway, but there we go.

The Samsung Exynos 4210 consists of a 1.2/1.5GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU running the show compared to the 1.5GHz ARMv7 Scorpion on the Sensation XL. In the graphics department, it’s Samsung’s Mali-400 vs the HTC’s Adreno 205 in a battle where the former out-benchs the latter. And the final mini-round of the catgegory is for memory, again, where the Samsung wins with 1GB of RAM plays 768MB on the Sensation XL. So, dual-core or not, it’s another victory for the Samsung Galaxy S II.


1ST: GALAXY S2 : 8MP rear, 2MP front, 1080p video capture
2ND: SENSATION XL : 8MP rear, 1.3MP front, 720p video

Sadly, the headline specs – namely the missing 1080p video capture from the HTC Sensation XL camera – is what tells the story here. HTC has gone to great lengths to describe a wide aperture snapper that shoots open to f/2.2 backed up by a dual LED flash when you need it but it’s all for nought because the fact is that people want Full HD recording. The slight dip on the resolution of the front-facing webcam doesn’t really help much either. As it goes, the XL might shoot better quality images but we simply won’t know that until the HTC Sensation XL review is in.

Until then, we will leave this category with one interesting caveat from the Samsung Galaxy S II review and that’s that the autofocus does tend hunt around a bit during video capture and that can ruin your clips as they drift in and out of sharpness on occasions. You have been warned.



1ST: GALAXY S2 : Wi-Fi, NFC, 4G, BT 3.0, DLNA, Wi-Fi tethering

2ND: SENSATION XL : Wi-Fi, BT 3.0, DLNA, Wi-Fi tethering
The SGS2’s constant pipping of the XL to the post is making the HTC look like a bad handset which it certainly isn’t. It might not be a big deal in the UK that there’s no 4G radio or NFC technology included but in countries where both infrastructures exist, that could be quite a let down. As we say, both phones here have got the basics, as well as tethering potential and the luxury of streaming your bits and pieces without the need of cables, but it’s the Samsung Galaxy S II that can claim the advantage on paper.

Battery Life

1ST: SENSATION XL : 1600mAh, up to 11 hours talk time
2ND: GALAXY S2 : 1650mAh, up to 8 hours talk time

Despite the larger battery unit, the quoted life of the Samsung Galaxy S II is smaller than that of the Sensation XL. Now, it’s quite possible that Samsung has stated 3G talk time whereas HTC’s refers to 2G talk time but, since Samsung has said no more on the matter, then that’s what we have to believe – that you can get up to 8 hours of talk time on the SGS2 after a single charge.

That may be because it’s running a dual core processor or more RAM or a different screen technology. Or it may be inaccurate. Either way, both phones will probably make it from dawn till dusk on a single charge and that’s about it.


1ST: SENSATION XL :Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread + HTC Sense 3.5
2ND: GALAXY S2 : Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread + TouchWiz 4.0

We can sit and argue about tiny decimal places of updates on Gingerbread but what separates the sheep from the goats in this software match-up is the custom user-interfaces each compay has placed on top of Google’s mobile platform. TouchWiz 4.0 is ok. It neither gets in the way nor adds anything really significant to the equation apart from All Share and the wireless syncing tool that is Kies Air both of which you can find replacements for on the Android Market anyway. As it goes, the only unique piece of software is the Swype keyboardwhich is actually rather good.

The Sensation XL, on the other hand, gets the benefit of HTC Sense 3.5 UI which is known for its neat integration of your contacts and their details, as well as an excellent graphical look and feel. On top of that, the XL also comes with the Beats by Dr Dre audio circuitry inside to improve the quality of your digital music.


TIE: GALAXY S II : 16/32GB + microSD

Bit of an odd one this but the HTC Sensation XL comes in just one memory size and with no expandable storage options. 16GB isn’t titchy and will probably do you fine but in the face of anywhere between 16-64GB on the Samsung Galaxy S II, it’s really no competition. The question is just how much data are you looking to carry around at any one time?



GALAXY S2 : £410 (16GB)

SENSATION XL : unknown (16GB)
No prices just yet for the HTC Sensation XL, so not a lot we can say about this round for the time being. However, since the SGS2 has been around for a while and the XL is fresh out of the blocks, we’re willing to bet that’s the latter that comes out more expensive.




Apart from a dubious call on the battery and a good win on the software front, the HTC Sensation XL doesn’t come out too well on paper against the current king of the Androids. All the same, to warn you off the Sensation XL would be a mistake. It’s a good looking device with a good looking UI and some great sounding audio. It even comes packaged with some decent Beats By Dr Dre headphones too. For pure grunt though, it can’t quite match the Samsung Galaxy S II which will run games better and is probably the superior device to use as a video player too.

That said, if you’re all about look and feel, playing music, browsing the web and taking cracking stills, then you may find that the HTC Sensation XL is actually more suited to your needs.

Read more from Comparison

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