Take the original HTC Sensation, add a splash of black and red paint and a Beats Audio logo and you end up with the HTC Sensation XE. Best described as a minor upgrade to its predecessor, the HTC Sensation XE represents decent value for money but doesn't manage to blow away the original model.
HTC Sensation XE: Design and display
The HTC Sensation XE is a near identical phone to the original Sensation. It has the same unibody chassis, an identical 4.3in qHD display and the same 8-megapixel camera. However, the HTC Sensation XE is black instead of silver and the touch-sensitive Android buttons now light up red instead of white. The Sensation XE has a Beats Audio logo emblazoned on the rear, while the edge of the camera lens and the grille covering the earpiece also get a splash of red paint.
The HTC Sensation XE's unibody casing is constructed from a single piece of aluminium. Though it feels well built, the rear battery case does creak when pressed towards the edges of the phone. The Sensation XE has a slightly thicker design than many of its competitors, but the extra girth is a trade-off we think many users would be willing to make for the added durability of an aluminium frame.
The HTC Sensation XE's 4.3in super LCD screen displays crisper text, and more natural looking colours than the However, the screen simply can't match the vibrancy, brightness and viewing angles of the Galaxy S II's Super AMOLED Plus display. The Sensation is also hard to see in direct sunlight and the extra glossy surface doesn't feel as smooth as we'd like.
We do like how the edges of the glass curve upward toward the edge of the screen. This means the screen doesn't actually come into contact with surfaces when the phone is placed face down on a desk or table, preventing everyday scratches and marks.
HTC Sensation XE: Beats Audio
The HTC Sensation XE is one of the first smartphones to feature Beats Audio qualities. It's a direct result of HTC's "strategic partnership" with the Beats By Dr. Dre audio company. When used with the included Beats headphones, HTC claims the Sensation XE uses a personalised sound profile that results in exceptional audio quality. The real value add here though isn't the Beats Audio profile: its the fact that the Sensation XE comes bundled with a version of the in-ear, urBeats headphones. These premium headphones match the black and red colour of the Sensation XE handset and are valued at $149 if they were purchased separately.
When combined with the Beats Audio sound profile, which does make a noticeable different on bass-heavy tracks, the Sensation XE is a good option for anyone who regularly listens to music on a mobile phone. Though not all music genres benefit from Beats Audio, we certainly noticed a big difference in music like rap, hip-hop and R&B.
There are two notable issues that detract from the Sensation XE's audio capabilities, though. The Beats Audio profile only works via the headphone jack and not the speakerphone, so the latter offers comparatively poor sound quality. Of more concern is that the Beats Audio sound profile can't be edited or adjusted in the form of EQ customisation. As an example, you can't adjust the bass or treble when listening with the Beats Audio profile: as the profile is bass-heavy, it sometimes sounds like overkill on various genres of music.
HTC Sensation XE: Software and performance
The HTC Sensation XE runs the 2.3 or "Gingerbread" version of Google's Android operating system, with the company's Sense UI overlay sits on top. Sense 3.0 gives the Sensation XE a new lock screen, which comes with four customisable shortcuts that can be dragged into the 'unlock ring' to unlock straight into an assigned app. The lock screen can also display photo albums, a friend stream, weather, stocks or the clock, along with missed call, e-mail, and SMS notifications (and album art when you are playing music). Annoyingly, you can't directly unlock straight into these apps unless you have them set as a lock screen shortcut. It's also rather off that the Sensation XE doesn't come with the latest 3.5 version of Sense.
With that being said, Sense UI's slick animations and flashy menus do give the Sensation XE an edge over other Android phones. We think Sense is particularly good for first-time Android users or people who haven't used a smartphone before. More advanced users, however, may find the eye candy a bit over-the-top and unneccessary.
The HTC Sensation has the same dual-core processor as the original Sensation but it's been overclocked to 1.5GHz (up from 1.2GHz). This results in slightly faster performance during day to day use, but there are still times when the Sense software seems like a resource hog. The Sensation XE is not a slow phone by any means, but it occasionally stutters when swiping through home screens or swiping to unlock the lock screen. Thankfully, the camera app now opens noticeably faster than the original Sensation — it takes just two seconds to start-up from the lock screen.
HTC Sensation XE: Battery life and availability
The HTC Sensation XE has a bigger battery than the original Sensation — 1730mAh compared with the 1520mAh. However, we didn't notice too much of a difference: the Sensation XE should get you through a full day with moderate use, but may drain before the end of the day if you use it excessively. The Sensation XE has 4GB of internal memory compared to the original's 1GB — however, only 1GB of it is user accessible.
The HTC Sensation XE is sold in Australia exclusively through Vodafone. It is available for $0 on Vodafone's $59 cap over 24 months.