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HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio

The latest HTC handset to make its way into our hands is the Android Gingerbread-powered HTC Sensation XE – amplified with Beats Audio and dressed to perfection with little pops of red details. Announced to be a powerful, multimedia smartphone, we take it into the lab and get into the nitty gritty to see if it’s as good as advertised and a worthy upgrade to the original Sensation.

Looks and Feel

At first glance the Sensation XE is thin and sturdy while allowing a great grip thanks to the diagonal alternating rubber design on the back. While the phone boasts of an aluminum unibody construction, it remains loyal to the ergonomic design by the inclusion of curved corners (excuse the oxymoron) and back, making sure it fits perfectly in your hand.

Unless you’re exceptionally clumsy or careless, it would be difficult for this to just slip from your hand. It sports a minimal look when it comes to the physical buttons with only four alloted up front for Search, Back, Menu and Home; one Power button up top and volume controls on the left. The mini-USB port is also housed on the left and the earphone jack shares a space with the Power button without one crowding the other. The Beats Audio speaker is on the backside next to the 8-MP camera and dual LED flash.

We noticed a bizarre detail in the Sensation XE, the unibody casing doesn’t have glass or clear plastic to cover the camera lens. In its place, HTC opted to design it where the lens is lower than the rest of the case, thereby protecting it. If you’re bothered by the sudden appearance of pesky scratches in or around the lens of your smartphone, this new design should make you happy.


Off the bat the Sensation XE shows utter vibrancy in images on its 4.3-inch LED screen even when seen under the sunlight where you’d normally expect glare to get in the way. We were pleased at the experience the 540 x 960 resolution gave us, maximizing the large screen display. Unlocking is through dragging/pulling a ring to the center of the screen which is a pretty clever (and convenient!) lockscreen setting in the long run. More on that later.

Upon unlocking, widgets turn in a whirl seemingly to welcome you to its usage and finally settles on the home screen where the main functions of Apps, Phone and (we think is the most important) Personalize are available.

Admittedly, one of the strengths that Android has continued to bank on is its ability to customize according to preferences and personality of the user. The HTC Sensation XE does exactly that, with ample choices in Scenes, which are preset settings configured with widgets and wallpaper to match with different moments in a user’s life be it work or play; Skins, which are used to change the look of onscreen buttons and menus; Wallpaper, which is basically just the image in the background of your home screens.

In keeping with other HTC Android devices, there’s also an option to change the lockscreen wallpaper on the Sensation XE. Change it to a photo of your finger so you can put a ring on it. Har har. Okay, bad joke. Don’t stop reading now.

Speed and apps

The 1.5GHz dual-core CPU does the handset justice as there is little to no lag time from the moment you select an app and navigating through the homescreen is seamless.  Now for the insides, clutter haters might balk at the number of apps that the Sensation XE has, currently numbered at 55 (by default) and for sure soon to increase once you get on the Android Market but for a powerful device like this you can’t expect it not to do a lot of work. There’s no option to group them while viewing the All Apps screen, although you can group them into renamable folders on home screens.

Another ingenious feature of the Sensation XE is this fancy thing called Internet pass-through. No fancy names here, it just means you can connect to the Internet through a USB connection with the PC. This means less usage of your data plan while saving juice at the same time.

Now for an explanation on that ring lockscreen. If you recall in other phones with physical keypads unlocking it would entail you pressing the Menu then asterisk key, and in more recent phones a single physical button on the side but the Sensation XE was built to have an active lockscreen, meaning you could just drag one of the four main icons into the ring on the lockscreen to instantly use that feature –  cutting out the middleman which in this case is the extra selection of the icon. Quick, easy and efficient.

When on Messages, the onscreen keyboard auto-rotates quickly when turned to make way for a more spacious QWERTY keyboard, and text messages that at first seem tiny and unreadable (we estimate the smallest type size is about 5pt) can easily be enlarged by pinching-and-zooming to a retina-friendly size of 12pt. Text messages are in conversation view, so it should be easy to track responses and topics. Pressing and holding a particular text bubble will bring up a menu of Copy, Quick Lookup and Share – no more retyping needed.

Check out the gallery below for photos

Click here to view the HTC Sensation XE in the Buyer’s Guide

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