HTC Sensation XE

The Sensation XE delivers as many other HTC handsets have this year, and is made cooler by its Beats Audio colours and the great headphones bundled with the handset.

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HTC has had a huge year, releasing eight new smartphones in Australia and up to 30 devices globally. With a range as large as this, it's likely you'll find duplication of designs and ideas amongst its ranks. The Sensation XE is, as its name suggests, a version of the HTC Sensation launched in July, but with the promise of something extra.


HTC hasn't tweaked its Sensation design too much in creating the XE; while its colour palette is darker, and it bears red highlights signifying its Beats Audio compatibility, the XE is otherwise identical. The curved, segmented battery cover shares the former's design, although HTC uses soft-touch plastic on the XE, and it feels better in our hands than the fully metal back of the original.

The Super LCD display is pleasantly sharp, thanks to its qHD resolution (960x540 pixels), but the colours and contrast could be deeper and richer, especially next to a Samsung or Nokia AMOLED display. The screen is also noticeably less bright, so that while we typically recommend that people set their phones to about 20 per cent or 30 per cent brightness to preserve battery life, we found that we needed to set the XE to 50 per cent or 60 per cent as a minimum to maintain a clear picture onscreen.

HTC positions the headphone socket on the top of the handset, with its micro-USB port on the bottom left. It also includes a microSD card slot for storing media, and includes an 8GB card with the phone, complementing the handset's 1GB of internal memory. This will be sufficient for a user with a small to medium music and image library, but it will fall short for a true music lover or a film buff hoping to fill up their handset with videos to watch on the go.

Unlike our experience with most of HTC's range this year, the Sensation XE tends to get a little warm in the hand, at the base of the phone, after extended use. Lifting the battery cover reveals that this is the position of the phone's CPU, suggesting that the new dual 1.5GHz processor might not be getting the airflow it needs to stay cool.

User experience and performance

A lot has been said already about the Sensation XE being the world's fastest phone at this time, with its dual 1.5GHz processor, but it is very hard to see this performance in the end-user experience. Compared with the Sensation XL, which HTC has released simultaneously in Australia, the XE has a slightly older version of both Android and the HTC Sense UI, and although this doesn't seem to hold the handset back, it might also be the reason why we don't see it streaking ahead, either.

Examples of HTC's uniquely designed widgets.
(Credit: screenshots by CBSi)

All of this is to say that the Sensation XE works well; it's just hard to see how it's better. HTC Sense is as smooth and as slick as ever on this device, with practically the same build on this phone as we saw on the Sensation a few months ago, but with far fewer bugs and hiccups than we saw with the first Sensation. Where animations stuttered, and lists took a while to load back in July, the Sensation XE handles all of these elements flawlessly.

HTC Sense features a sexy 3D carousel-like appearance, and great-looking icons and widgets, all of which are more eye-catching than the screens you'll see from HTC's nearest competitors in this space. The UI offers the user seven customisable home screens, and over 80 unique, HTC-designed widgets to position on these screens. Using HTC's Personalisation menu makes adding and editing widgets, wallpapers, ringtones and themes extremely easy — helping to lower the Android learning curve somewhat.

Camera and video

The Sensation takes reasonably good photos; however, as with many phone cameras, the XE does struggle in low light. Photos we took on bright sunny days are stunning, with nice, warm-looking colours and sharp focus. Like night and day itself, our images were polar opposites after dark, with visible noise, soft focus and washed-out colours and contrast.

Photography on a sunny day produces outstanding results.
(Credit: CBSi)

This shot, taken at night, shows the camera struggling under less-than-perfect lighting.
(Credit: )

Battery life

With a dual-core processor and a rich, visual user interface, you might not expect much from the battery in the Sensation XE. We've had no trouble, however, with the XE comfortably making it through a business day, and through two full days with light use of internet services.

What sets its battery life apart from other Android devices is the low power use in standby. In other Androids, and previous HTCs, we've seen considerable battery drain with the screen turned off, with up to 5 or 10 per cent of the remaining charge being used up over an hour when it was just sitting in our pockets. In the graph below, you can see a period of up to an hour and a half when almost no battery is used at all.

This graph gives an example of a typical day's battery drain during our tests.
(Credit: CBSi)

Beats Audio, HTC Watch

As you'll also find on the Sensation XL, the Sensation XE comes with two unique HTC multimedia offerings. Firstly, as a result of HTC becoming a major shareholder of the Beats Audio hardware brand, the new Sensations both ship with brand-spanking new Beats Audio headphones. The XL comes with over-the-ear Beats Solo cans, while the XE has a pair of in-ear UrBeats phones in the box.

The Solo headphones are the more expensive of the two, but we actually found that we preferred the UrBeats for comfort. Both headphones deliver excellent sound when the Beats Audio software profile is engaged on the handset, which kicks in automatically when you launch the music player or video player via the Gallery. Strangely, Beats does not activate when other apps relying on audio launch, like third-party music apps, and the sound quality is noticeably poorer for this.

HTC Watch is HTC's video-on-demand movie-streaming service, offering a range of digital video to buy and download, and a far smaller selection for rental. On one hand, it's great to have a service like this on a smartphone, but the range and the navigation of the app is far from inspiring for a movie buff. Also, the fact that the Sensation XE requires you to buy an AU$50 Mobile HD Link (MHL) adapter cable (and a separate micro HDMI to HDMI cable) before you can connect the handset to your TV is also a spanner in the works. When you add the cost of the cables to the price of the movies, the thought of watching Weekend at Bernie's doesn't seem so appealing.

Compared to

Apple iPhone 4S HTC Sensation XL Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S Samsung Galaxy S II
Apple iOS 5 Android 2.3.5 with HTC Sense Android 2.3.5 Android 2.3 with TouchWiz
3.5-inch screen
640x960 pixels
4.7-inch screen
480x800 pixels
4.2-inch screen
480x800 pixels
4.3-inch screen
480x800 pixels
Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm 1.5GHz Qualcomm 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos dual-core 1.2GHz
16GB/32GB/64GB storage 16GB storage 9GB storage (with card) 8GB/16GB storage

Should you buy it?

The Sensation XE is another great example of HTC's ever-improving product design and features, even if this handset's design and features are very similar to the majority of other HTC handsets released in Australia this year. HTC's Sense helps out users new to Android with clear menus for personalising the phones and its range of excellent widgets. If you're looking for a good smartphone with great headphones, we recommend the XE.

Seasoned Android owners may be disappointed that the dual-core 1.5GHz processor fails to blow past the competition, although the power on hand should future proof the XE for a while, and keep it humming with the next generation of applications. The handset's comparatively low user-accessible memory, and the cost of sharing media with a TV, might also turn those looking for a rich multimedia-capable phone to handsets like the Motorola Razr or the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc — which has everything you need to use your phone like a portable media player out of the box.

Between the XE and the XL?

In many ways, this is a question of personal taste. Do you want a bigger screen? Do you prefer over-the-ear headphones or in-ear buds? It's hard to distinguish the better phone between the two, with features and performance being so similar, and with the phones mostly sharing the same weaknesses. For us, the big screen has won us over, so we'd choose the XL, but it's a very close call.

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ShayneW1 Facebook

"XE features all the latest lust-worthy pieces that fit together"

ShayneW1 posted a review   

The Good:An amazing HD display, Beats audio and extremely fast performance

The Bad:Video sharing, unable to resize video to bring it under MMS size, it's a blip on an almost unblemished app

The red and black color scheme, an amazing HD display, Beats audio and extremely fast performance (the fastest phone thus far) come together in an ergonomic design to create a fantastic finished product. While almost comical at this point, the HTC Sensation XE is now my favorite Android device in the world. XE features all the latest lust-worthy pieces that fit together to make up any smartphone-lover%u2019s ideal puzzle


mayur_ue2 posted a comment   

Great handset. No issues what so ever. The web browsing is super fast. The beats Audio can't be beaten. excellent handset.


kenjidragon posted a comment   

sense uses most of the memory in the phone , 16gb plus should be the min internal memory . also a good phone should not become warm etc quickly etc


Will1505 posted a reply   

sense uses the ram not the internal memory. The average person would never use over a 1gb of the internal memory on apps anyway.
Any phone will warm up using the 3G or wifi heavily or using apps that use the cpu a lot. Also aluminium holds heat, were plastic disperses it more. (thus why the macbooks heat up like crazy).

On a side note, really good to see that android makes are seeing battery saving is important. I know the original desire was terrible.


cvindura posted a comment   

I upgraded to a sensation and received an XE instead (by mistake possibly)...
Great phone... the issue re beats audio is annoying although you can activate beats audio by running htc music app first then the third party app.... alternatively, a third party app with good EQ settings can overcome this issue...

Another problem is the phone doesn't have voice dialling via bluetooth... you can get apps to overcome this... but it's annoying that it is not a standard feature as with most phones.


heyhowie posted a comment   

I almost got excited for this, then i saw the RAM. I want a htc that rivals the galaxy s2. Fingers crossed the 1.5 GHz processor can prove me wrong.


ChristopherC1 posted a comment   

i know their isn't a official date of release, but approximately when will the phone be release in Australia


JulieG1 posted a reply   

click on where to buy above. bought mine via only took two days to deliver via fedex


". . ."

EdipB posted a comment   

But I don't know about the screen size. I know it says it's 4.3 inches, which is supposedly the same as my phone, the HTC Desire HD, but when I put my phone side by side with a Sensation, it had the same height, but the width was a lot narrower on the sensation, as compared to the HTC Desire HD. Is this diagonally measured? because it's not looking that way with what I'm seeing.


LukeS2 posted a comment   

why didn't they just release the first one with these features....


Maverick_John posted a comment   

Problem - 900mhz frequency band... no 850... that is not looking very good.


Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   

I wouldn't rule out an 850MHz version in Australia just yet. If Telstra or Voda pick it up its likely they will order an 850 variant.


kshitijdesai posted a comment   

I think, 'XE' sounds like "SEXY" ... as it looks really really SEXY


Seamus Byrne posted a reply   

I'm wondering if XE is meant to mean 'eXtreme Edition'... though that kind of flouncery is usually reserved for the PC components world.


bucketface posted a reply   

or it could just mean XE because they liked the sound "ecssee"
i think this could be my next phone if the sensation's stuttering problem is resolved with the increased cpu speed.


ronCYA posted a reply   

I'd put good money (figuratively) on it meaning "extended edition". Makes a lot of sense considering the proximity to the Sensation's release and specs.

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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Sensation XE

  • ShayneW1



    "The red and black color scheme, an amazing HD display, Beats audio and extremely fast performance (the fastest phone thus far) come together in an ergonomic design to create a fantastic finished pr..."

  • mayur_ue2


    "Great handset. No issues what so ever. The web browsing is super fast. The beats Audio can't be beaten. excellent handset."

  • kenjidragon


    "sense uses most of the memory in the phone , 16gb plus should be the min internal memory . also a good phone should not become warm etc quickly etc"

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