HTC Sensation XE review
Android 2.3, 4.3in 540x960 display
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.
The headphones are the Monster iBeats model, which would be £64 from www.currys.co.uk if you bought them separately. 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 off.
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.
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.
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.