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HTC Sensation XE review - Beats Audio and speed

Review by Russell Jefferies on Tuesday November 22, 2011.

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HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio
HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio

Apps / App Store apps: 4 of 5 score

As with any Android handset, the HTC Sensation XE currently has access to hundreds of thousands of apps and games via the Android Market. The Market application is easy to use and navigate, and now offers books and films to download. It has also recently undergone an overhaul, and now is much more attractive and fun to navigate and browse content with, which is nice.

The Sensation XE comes pre-loaded with the usual Android/HTC suite of apps, including a calendar, calculator, voice recorder, and alarm. The usual Teeter game is also still present as is the SoundHound music recognition app, a flashlight, a book reader, a copy of Polaris Office file viewer, and a mirror app that uses the forward facing camera to produce a reflection of the user on-screen.

On top of all this, you also get HTC's "Locations" offline mapping app and Google Maps Navigation, with the latter offering turn-by-turn navigation for free and the former demanding a subscription. HTC Watch is present as well, and offers the purchasing/renting of movies and TV shows directly on the handset. Users can watch trailers for many of the offerings, but the amount of content currently available in the UK leaves much to be desired.

Browser browser: 5 of 5 score

The HTC Sensation XE features the usual Android WebKit(INFO) browser, which offers very snappy performance when coupled with the XE's 1.5GHz dual-core processor. A big benefit of this browser is its ability to display flash content, and the Sensation XE does so with aplomb, loading flash ads and videos in mere seconds. YouTube videos play directly in the browser and, for the most part, everything looks as you'd expect it to on a regular PC.

It's possible to have up to four windows open at once, and both pinch and double tap zooming are present. Text is automatically re-flowed when zooming and pages can be viewed in either portrait or landscape orientation by simply tilting the phone. In the fully zoomed out view, text is just about readable, thanks to the new higher resolution qHD display.

Camera camera: 4 of 5 score

The Sensation XE's 8 megapixel autofocus camera bears the same specs as the original Sensation, with autofocus and a dual LED flash. Photos taken with the XE's camera were generally decent, but could often come out blurry if the camera wasn't kept perfectly still. I also found the dynamic range to be a bit of a let down, with blown out highlights in many pictures. Still, the image quality is pretty good for a phone, though you can judge the results for yourself by checking out the sample images at the end of this review.

Settings like white balance, exposure, and ISO were all still present, plus some neat extras like geo-tagging, self timer, and face detection. Once you're done snapping, photos can be found in the Gallery, which can be quickly accessed from a button in the bottom left corner of the viewfinder. From here it's possible to share photos via Bluetooth, email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, or MMS, or show them off on a DLNA certified TV.

The Sensation XE's camera can also record HD video in 1080p resolution at 30fps. The recordings were not bad for a phone, but the audio quality on our review unit was absolutely abysmal and the microphone was also hugely susceptible to wind noise, unfortunately.

HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio
HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio

Music music: 4 of 5 score

Perhaps disappointingly, the Sensation XE comes with the standard music player that we've seen many times before on HTC's handsets. Whilst it functions perfectly well, I'd have expected some jazzed-up version sporting Beats Audio credentials, to help boost the handset's music appeal. Instead, you just get the option to enable Beats Audio sound enhancement, which replaces the SRS enhancement found on the regular Sensation, and also does away with all the other equalizer presets, annoyingly.

The player displays album art as usual, and playlists can be created directly on the handset. Music can be filtered by artist, album, playlist, song, genre, or composer, and shuffle and repeat settings are available, too. When the music player is active, album art and basic music controls are also available from the lock screen, which is a nice touch, but not one unique to the XE.

The sound quality from the Sensation XE was pretty good with the included in-ear headphones, and they even feature a microphone and basic in-line remote. However, they weren't as warm sounding as I had expected, and my relatively inexpensive Sennheiser earbuds produced a more powerful sound when used with the XE. Still, the included headphones have the advantage of acting as a hands-free kit and also looking the part, with matching red cables and a neat pouch to keep them in when you aren't using them.

Battery battery: 3 of 5 score

The HTC Sensation XE has a 1730mAh battery that is rated for almost 7.5 hours of 3G talk time or 22.5 days of 3G standby time. In real-world use I found myself charging it daily, as I did with the original Sensation, although it could probably last up to two days with more conservative use.

HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio
HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio

Reviewer Spin spin: 5 of 5 score

The HTC Sensation XE is certainly a great handset, and one that I'd happily use myself on a daily basis. Whilst I don't personally place much value on the Beats Audio aspect of the XE, I do appreciate the slightly larger battery and slightly faster processor.

However, if you're a bit of a music buff, and like the sound and styling of Beats Audio headphones, then this handset could be right up your street. Don't expect too much in the way of Beats Audio customization in the Sensation XE, though, as there's only a light smattering of things to be found in this device, with the biggest difference probably being the subtle red accents dotted about its exterior.

That said, as an all round package the Sensation XE is a really nice handset, and the processor and battery upgrades make it worth a look over the standard Sensation. However, it's probably also worth taking a look at the Sensation XL, which has a larger screen and newer camera, as well as offering the Beats Audio bells and whistles.

You'll find a gallery of photos shot with the HTC Sensation XE's 8 megapixel camera on the following pages.

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About the author

Russell Jefferies
Russell Jefferies reviews mobile phones for MobileBurn from his home located in Bristol in the United Kingdom.

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