HTC Sensation XE review

Essentially an upgrade of the original Sensation with added Beats Audio sound Tested at £0

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Good but not great, this is a decent package let down by its bottom end


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  • +

    smart branding

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    inclusion of iBeats buds

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    fast and intuitive

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    clean, clever interface


  • -

    Video struggles with dark scenes

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    over-cooked bass

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    battery life isn’t great

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Earlier in 2011 HTC bought a controlling stake in Beats Electronics, the company best known for its Beats by Dr. Dre range of headphones, one of the most successful brands in recent tech history.

As a result, we can expect to see Beats' technology and branding across a range of HTC products. Like the Sensation XE with Beats Audio.

This smartphone, therefore, is essentially a Beats Audio upgrade to the original Sensation. The updated design adds some red flecks to the case, while you also get a pair of £70 iBeats in-ear headphones.

This new model has an improved – and class-leading – 1.5Ghz, dual-core processor inside, too.

Nice solid build quality
The form factor – pocketable but with a solid feel – and screen, 4.3in, 960 x 540 Super LCD, remain the same. There's an 8MP rear-facing camera, capable of 1080p video (and decent still pictures), and the standard, lower-quality front-facing camera.

As with the original model, you're reliant on an SD card (included) for most of your memory requirements – there's only 1GB of internal storage. There's Bluetooth and DLNA, too.

Inside is Android's 2.3 OS with HTC adding its own flourishes, such as the super-fast sweep through all your available screens, coming via HTC Sense 3.0.

You can access apps from the Android Market and other Android regulars, while there's also HTC Watch, a video rental service with a decent selection of films, and Friend Stream, which tries (with varying degrees of success) to be the hub for your social media apps. The HTC-meets-Android interface is a smart, clean OS.

Flash-enabled browsing
Internet browsing is good, with the HTC, fully Flash-enabled of course, giving over the whole screen to the web, and loading pages rapidly.

The screen is fine for browsing, but switch to video and it lacks a little sparkle.

Black levels aren't great, so it's hard to make out any great detail in dark scenes, while colours lack punch.

It's a similar story for sound, but that's more of a let-down. The earphones are great, but the Beats Audio sound from the 'phone proves woolly and lacking in clarity thanks to an abundance of low-quality bass.

Extended use finds the battery struggling to last out the day.

There's much to like here, from the smart interface, iBeats buds and impressive browsing, but the HTC's AV performance can be beaten elsewhere.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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