The HTC Sensation XE is a powerful phone with a powerful brand attached to it. However, for the most part it’s just like the original Sensation. It has a faster processor, but this isn’t hugely apparent in normal usage. Build quality is great, it’s fast and has a large, sharp screen, but the quality of the S-LCD panel isn’t great and the Beats red bits don’t mesh entirely well with the design. It’s certainly a decent phone that can more-than do justice to Android, but when the original Sensation is now available for about £100 less, a user can get better audio quality by spending the difference on a great pair of earphones, instead of the just-good Beats bundled pair here
The HTC Sensation XE is the first Beats-branded phone. In case a user has no interest in headphones and don’t watch TV – Beats is the Dr. Dre-endorsed range of audio products from Monster. Beats was once the preserve of headphone buyers, but has recently spread out, stamping its red logo onto some of HP’s laptops. And infecting our tellyboxes with its advertising.
Aside from the hints of red, spread over the HTC Sensation XE’s body, the design of this Android Gingerbread phone is mostly identical to the original Sensation. The screen is 4.3in across, it has an 8-megapixel main camera and a fast dual-core processor. It has the same 11.3mm-thick aluminium unibody frame too, but this time it’s finished in brushed black to supply a moody look. The metal exoskeleton dominates the phone less than several of HTC’s top-end phones, including the Titan and Desire S. Most of the front is given over to the glass screen top layer, which is slightly curved at the edges, and on the back the metal strip cuts a modest diagonal path through the mostly soft-touch black plastic backplate. The three-part look of the back seems to suggest the bottom bit might pop off to reveal the microSD and SIM slot, but the whole of the back is one single slab.
It’s a blueprint those who are familiar with HTC’s phone line-up may have seen before, and it means that this phone doesn’t really have its own personality – beyond the flecks of red. The speaker grill of the earpiece, the touch sensitive nav buttons and the ring around the camera lens all bear the signature red of Beats. They look rather tacked-on because, well, they are.
This is essentially a Beats signature edition of the Sensation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some worthwhile changes. Unlike the original model, the XE has a super-fast dual-core 1.5GHz processor and Beats audio processing inside. We’ll examine whether these make much difference later. Perhaps the most obvious addition to this model, though, is the pair of iBeats (rebranded as UrBeats, but not conspicuously so in the sample we received) headphones that come in the box.