HTC Sensation XE review

We review the Android-based HTC Sensation XE, the world’s first Beats Audio-branded smartphone that certainly packs a punch in the music department

iBeats headphones are great, Beats Audio makes a BIG difference, powerful processor, classic design, durable, premium-looking
It's heavy, Android Ice Cream Sandwich will out-date its software soon, expensive, limited internal storage
If you’re in the market for a music-oriented smartphone that bundles in some excellent audio technology and a decent set of headphones, look no further — the HTC Sensation XE is the one for you

HTC is now the majority stakeholder in Monster Cable – the parent company of Beats Audio. Beats Audio make headphones (expensive headphones) that are worn by everyone from that guy sat next to you on the tube to the England football squad.

Dr. Dre is the face of Beats Audio and has been championing the cause for the best part of a year now. The results of this campaign speak for themselves – Beats headphones are everywhere.

So when HTC confirmed that it was launching a smartphone that would come bundled with a free pair of iBeats headphones worth £80, many people – including us – got rather excited. Just imagine: a flagship HTC handset complimented by Beats Audio technology and a set of banging headphones. What more could a user want?

For starters we’d have quite liked a new design. That would have been nice. But instead HTC has opted to keep the design language more-or-less identical to that of the original Sensation device. There are changes, though, such as the red grill (present on the speaker and around the camera), the red navigation keys and the Beats Audio logo on the bottom of the device’s back panel, but they look more like touch-ups than full-blown design amendments.

The Sensation XE’s proportions are exactly the same as its predecessor’s (126.1x65.4x11.3mm) as is its design, chassis and build quality. What we don’t get, however, is where an additional 2g in weight came from? At 151g the Sensation XE is not only heavier than its predecessor but it is also bulkier than most of the competition as well.

Samsung’s 116g Galaxy S2 makes the Sensation XE look practically obese in comparison. And while Motorola’s newly announced RAZR comes in slightly heavier at 127g it’s still significantly lighter than HTC’s latest offering, despite being a larger handset itself.

Not that any of this bothers HTC one bit. It’s interested in making premium-looking handsets with slab-like proportions that are jam-packed full of the latest technology and applications. The recently inked deal with Dropbox, which secures HTC users 5GB of free cloud storage, illustrates this point perfectly.

It’s also another example of how HTC is diversifying its Android handsets with value-added content. Unfortunately the Sensation XE doesn’t feature native Dropbox support, as that particular deal was cut after the handset’s official launch, which is slightly disappointing – especially given the handset's awful internal storage (more on that later).

On the whole, we do like the way the Sensation XE looks. It’s a classic design and the red-finish on the grill, camera and nav-keys does add a depth to the handset’s aesthetics that just wasn’t present on the original.

However when you do see the XE side-by-side with some of the competition (the Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus or Motorola RAZR) it does start to show its age. And in a world dominated by two-year-long contracts, this isn’t a good sign.

So what was HTC’s thinking with the Sensation XE? We think it goes a little something like this: take a classic design (the HTC Sensation), add some new features (faster processor) then chuck in something to seal the deal (iBeats headphones) and you should have a successful release on your hands.

Like its predecessor, the Sensation XE is a dual-core Android 2.3.4-powered handset. The only difference between the two device’s Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon chipset is that the Sensation XE’s processor is clocked at 1.5GHz – up from 1.2GHz. RAM is the same at 768 MB RAM and both devices support microSD card slots that can handle up to 32GB.

In our Quadrant benchmark test the Sensation XE scored a rather respectable 2258. This translates into smooth transitions between homescreens, speedy execution of tasks and great multitasking.

We did, however, encounter more than a fair amount of lag and stutter during testing but this is something we’ve come to expect from all devices that use Google’s mobile operating system, regardless of specification.

We don’t think HTC’s Sense UI, with all its graphics and moving components, does anything to remedy this issue either. Our advice to anyone that experiences lag or stutter issues with a HTC handset would be to download Launcher Pro and use that instead of Sense – you’ll be surprised by the difference it makes.


Typical Price £455
UK Launch October 2011
Network HTC Sensation XE Deals
Frequency Quad
Phone Style Slab
Thickness 11.3 mm
Length 126.1
Width 65.4
Weight 151g
Built-in Memory 1GB
Additional Memory 32GB via microSD
High-speed Data GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n) HSDPA (HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps)
Connectivity Bluetooth, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Screen Size 4.3-inchs
Screen Colours 16M
Camera Yes
Designer Lens No
Camera Resolution 8-megapixel
Zoom Yes
Flash Yes (Dual LED flash)
Video Resolution 1080p
Ringtones Yes
Music Player Yes
Music Formats MP3/AAC+/WAV/WMA player
Song Storage microSD
Radio Yes
Speaker Yes
Video Calling Yes
Internet Yes
Browser HTML5

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