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HTC Sensation XE Review – Plagued by Death Grip, but Still With Decent Bass (Video)

We’ve reviewed the HTC Sensation this summer and now we’re dealing with its music-oriented sequel, the Sensation XE, that aims at correcting everything that the predecessor did wrong. For one thing, this is the fruit of HTC’s acquisition of the Beats by Dr. Dre company and with it came the Beats Audio technology and the kickass Monster headphones.

Said headphones are present in the video review below and they look and sound hot. What I didn’t like is that their shiny remote doesn’t allow you to tweak the volume, only to play/pause and switch to the next or previous song, so that’s a big minus. The handset didn’t change much of the measurements of the original Sensation, so it’s a 11.3mm thick device, weihging 151 grams and packing a 4.3 inch S-LCD capacitive touchscreen. This displays supports a 540 x 960 pixel resolution and looks great, even in full sunlight.

Also on board we find 4GB of internal memory, of which 1GB of user available, plus 768MB of RAM, that you’ll run out of quite fast and a microSD card slot with support for up to 32GB of extra storage. On the connectivity side, we have 3G (HSDPA, up to 14.4MBps downloads), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and microUSB 2.0. The brain of this smartphone is a dual core 1.5GHz processor of the Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon kind, that’s actually an improvement over the 1.2GHz processor of the original model. The Adreno 220 GPU is also potent enough to run some decent games on this hardware platform.

And now we’ve reach the part where it gets nasty… Everything you’ve heard about this phone is real: it suffer from serious death grip, so if you grab its lower side, it might lose 2G/3G signal totally and if grab the upper side it tends to lose WiFi signal. Also, if you remove the case to access the battery, you’ll lose any kind of signal, but the death grip is what really worries me. Didn’t HTC learn anything from Apple?!

The OS of choice here is Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread with HTC Sense 3.0 on top, although I’m still waiting on that Sense 3.5 upgrade promise. At the back of the handset we find an 8 megapixel camera with autofocus, dual LED flash, geotagging, touch focus, image stabilization, face detection and support for stereo sound capture and 1080p video recording at 30 fps. It might be just me, but the camera from the original Sensation seems to have been improved a bit, although when you change lighting during video capture, the handset doesn’t quite take it well. Also, the audio capture isn’t that impressive…

Design tweaks are to be found on this model, that received a touch of red, on the upper speakers, around the camera sensor and also the touch Android buttons below the display are lit red. There’s also a pretty big Beats Audio red/gray logo on the back of the smartphone, in the lower side. And then there’s the bass… When you connect the Monster headphones to the handset you’ll have the option to activate the Beats Audio experience, that gives you a deeper bass and makes you feel you’re in the same room with the artist that’s singing. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but if you listen to hip hop or rock you’ll know what I’m talking about. The feeling is a bit weird when you try an acoustic guitar, that will be crippled by the huge amount of bass…

The downside here is that this is where the audio customization starts and ends, since there’s no other tweak and not even a special Beats Audio app, as some of us hope. On the battery side, we get a Li-Ion 1730 mAh unit, with enough juice for 7 hours of 3G talk time and about a day or two normal use of the device. Overall, this handset doesn’t seem like a huge improvement from the HTC Sensation, but it’s still a change, especially for audiophiles, that will feel right at home with the Monster headphones. Considering their price if bought separately, you’re better off with this deal actually.

The thing here is that if you own a Samsung Galaxy S II, a new generation Motorola Droid or the Sensation, there’s absolutely no reason to get the XE, frankly speaking. However, if you want a cool music phone, that’s nice looking and has a decent set of headphones, than you can buy the Sensation XE… or the iPhone 4S, that doesn’t have death grip any more. Let’s just pray that Sony Ericsson will launch a high end Walkman some day to keep up the rivalry and fame of the brand…