HTC Sensation XE review

30 Mar 2013

The XE is the second Beats Audio-branded smartphone we've seen, after the HTC Sensation XL. The HTC Sensation XE is a far more powerful beast, though, with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor rather than the XL's single-core chip. It's also a Beats-branded handset, and so has a stylish black and red colour scheme and comes with a pair of Beats-branded in-ear headphones.



When we plugged in a different set of headphones we had the choice of enabling Beats Audio or using HTC enhancer. Beats Audio gave us a very bright sound as before, but HTC enhancer just had loads of bass, which rather overwhelmed the rest of the sound. We got the best sound from both sets of headphones just by using the Android version of Winamp, which made our music sound less processed overall.


They have a built-in microphone and inline remote control, and while they no doubt sound better than the headphones you normally get with a phone, they're not brilliant. When the Beats headphones are plugged in, by default HTC's music player gives you the option of having Beats Audio switched on or off. With Beats turned on, music has bass and treble turned up to the max, and while this works reasonably well with most tracks, it drowns out the midrange and can be tiring to listen to. We preferred the warmer sound we got when we turned Beats of



The screen is also impressive. Its high 540x960 (qHD) resolution makes text and images sharp, and there's plenty of contrast. The screen is also so bright that we found the middle brightness setting more than adequate for general use.


As a phone rather than a music player, the Sensation XE is great. The fast dual-core processor helps it speed along, and battery life is a reasonable seven hours and 20 minutes, which compares well with other Android smartphones but isn't a patch on the iPhone 4S's 12-hour life.


There are no surprises with the software - the phone runs Android 2.3 with HTC's Sense 3.0 interface. Sense adds a lot of useful features, and if you're into social networking you can add your friends from a wide variety of sources such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It can be a bit overwhelming, however, plastering your home screens with large widgets. Sense also brings a number of bundled apps, and while some of these are useful you can't uninstall the ones you don’t use.



HTC's Sensation XE is a fast smartphone with a great screen, which is currently fairly good value for such a powerful phone. Its Beats headphones, while not the best we've ever heard, sound better than the headphones bundled with most smartphones and don’t seem to add to the cost. Also, according to HTC's Twitter feed, the phone is also set to be getting an upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich this year, so you don’t have to worry about falling behind the times.


Mind you, with a gigabyte of app storage space, as well as a microSD card slot for expansion, you're unlikely to ever run out of space. The camera takes shots with vibrant colours, but those taken indoors under fluorescent lighting are noisy. The phone can shoot video at 1080p and there's a video recording light, but this is disabled automatically when the phone is low on battery.


It's a good choice if the bundled headphones are more attractive to you than say the more-striking looks of the Motorola RAZR or the superb OLED screen on the still-excellent Samsung Galaxy S2.


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