When HTC made a “substantial investment” in Beats, we knew that the Taiwanese firm wanted a piece of the music phone pie. Unsurprisingly, their first Beats Audio branded device is a remake of one of their best selling units, the HTC Sensation. We loved the original when it came out, but does a speed bump and branded audio warrant a re-issue along with a premium price tag?
The Sensation XE is a virtual twin of the original. If you’re not familiar with the external specs, let us remind you – 4.3-inch capacitive S-LCD screen (540 x 960 pixel resolution), unibody aluminum construction, 8 megapixel camera. The only thing that’s changed externally is the red accents on the front of the device (along with the red LED backlight on the touch sensitive buttons along the bottom of screen) and the Beats logo on the back. The unchanged externals aren’t a bad thing mind – the Sensation got it right the first time, so why mess with a proven formula?
Internally, the XE gets a bit of a speed bump, and gets a slight increase of 300 MHz from the original’s 1.2 GHz to the XE’s 1.5 GHz. The XE still uses the same processor and GPU as the original (Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon) so we assume that HTC has either overclocked the processor to reach 1.5 GHz or the original Sensation was slightly underclocked to conserve battery life. Speaking of battery, the XE gets a slightly higher rated battery (1730 mAh compared to the original’s 1520 mAh) to deal with the increased processor speed.
What really sets the Sensation XE apart from its older sibling and all other smartphones is the Beats Audio that comes with it. It’s implemented via two components – one is the Beats Audio enhancement software that’s in the phone itself, and the other is via the bundled Beats branded in-ear headphones that come with the device.
Beats Audio, for the uninitiated, is a line of audio speakers and headphones created by Dr. Dre and a former Geffen records executive. HTC promises that Beats Audio delivers the music “the way the artist intended” and to be honest, we agree with them. The sound quality is just so much better with the included software and the headphones that come with it. Some may find that the whole Beats Audio experience is a bit too bassy for their tastes but considering the quality of the sound, it’s a minor complaint.
The headphones themselves are pretty nice too, and are constructed out of aluminum. These are basically rebranded iBeats cans with in-line controls, which when bought seperately, are about Php 7000. There are also a couple of different sized earbuds when you buy the Sensation XE, so you’ll definitely get the best fit for your ear.
As with all hi-end HTC devices, the Sensation XE comes with its own Sense UI 3.0 overlay. There’s a bunch of things that Sense 3.0 brings to the table from widgets to additional functionality and the ability to remotely ring and lock your phone (as long as it’s connected to the internet via a data connection).
We were curious to see how the Sensation XE stacked up against its competitors when it came to benchmarks, as the original Sensation had trouble stacking up against the de facto king of dual-core smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S II. This time round the Sensation XE managed to at least make it close to the S II’s score in AnTuTu, nabbing 5558 points, about a thousand points higher than the original did.
Of course synthetic benchmarks will also be a rough indicator of true performance, and in this case the score the XE got was well deserved. The device never slowed down during its time with us, and was always able to handle everything we threw at it. Even with multiple apps open, the XE powered through them like a champ, and we never experienced it crash even once.
With the increased clock speed of the device, we naturally wondered how long the XE would last on a single charge. Unsurprisingly, the XE’s battery endurance is similar to the original Sensation, in that a day’s worth of moderate use (internet, music, calls and messaging) drains the battery to almost nil at the end of the day.
Probably the only nitpick I have is with the included Beats Audio cans, or rather, the finish on them. After a few days of use, there was already serious wear and tear on the anodized finish which isn’t something you’d expect from a pair of headphones that demands a hefty premium.
The question is, should you buy the Sensation XE? Well, it depends entirely on you. Some have said that the Sensation XE’s included headphones and Beats Audio software is merely a marketing gimmick to get you to drop cash on it, and claim they can get the same experience by buying a decent pair of cans and downloading good EQ software for their smartphone. While that’s totally possible, if you’re just a regular Joe that wants a good music playing smartphone with a decent set of cans (and don’t already own the original Sensation) then buying the Sensation XE might seem like a good idea. The Sensation XE retails for Php 31,500.
Faster processor than the original
Included Beats Audio cans
Anodized finish on the headphones wears out easily
The HTC Sensation XE is a good choice for people who like musicphones and don’t already own the original Sensation.
- Operating System: Android 2.3 with HTC Sense 3.0
- CPU: 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon
- LCD size: 4.3 inch S-LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 540 x 960 pixels
- Physical Dimensions :126.1×65.4×11.3mm
- Weight : 148 g
- Band : GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 900 / 2100