The Sensation XE is rather an easy device to define. It is, as the name suggests, just another Sensation, albeit with a faster-clocked 1.5GHz dual-core processor and a larger battery to handle the extra power consumption. Those improvements are hard to identify immediately. I set the new Sensation XE up against the original 1.2GHz model and responsiveness felt utterly identical between the two devices. More intensive tasks (and benchmarks, naturally) may exhibit the beneficence of the faster clock speed, but regular use seems unlikely to be affected. In terms of both build materials and Sense UI, the Sensation XE is an identical match for its elder brother. The only difference is in color scheme, with a number of red accents highlighting the new phone's body and a red filter put in front of the Android keys' backlight, making them appear unfortunately pink most of the time.
The true highlight for the XE is, of course, its inclusion of a pair of Monster iBeats headphones and a matching software sound profile, tailored specifically for that model of in-ear buds. That marks it out as the first device to benefit from HTC's investment in and partnership with Beats Audio. I spent some time comparing sound output between the iBeats and a common pair of cheap headphones -- representative of slightly higher audio quality than you'd get inside most smartphone boxes -- and the iBeats showed themselves clearly superior. They exhibited no tangible distortion at max volume and maintained the Beats By Dre hallmark of strong bass response. Having never previously heard the music HTC had preloaded on the Sensation XE, I can't comment on how faithful the handset's earphones were to the original, but what I did hear was very much pleasing. The Beats Audio sound profile also makes a telling difference, making the sound feel closer and clearer than when it's disabled. Taken as a whole package, the Sensation XE is a definite improvement over its namesake, though we won't know whether its new additions make financial sense until its final pricing is revealed. The Sensation XE is expected to show up on shelves in the UK and across the rest of Europe early next month -- North American availability remains, for now at least, a mystery.