HTC Sensation XE review: The eXtended Edition
The web browser we like a lot
The HTC Sensation XE has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser, plenty of processing power and a large, high-res screen.
The user interface keeps mostly out of sight, which leaves the entire screen to the web page. The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up.
There are back and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out even more options – stuff like find on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).
The Sensation XE's browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes even longer texts extremely easy to read on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.
Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.
The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.
The HTC Sensation XE has full Flash support and YouTube videos up to 720p played quite smoothly. 1080p however proves too much for the browser and the video gets extremely choppy.
We even decided to try out a few Flash games and they worked fine as well. You can play the Flash content in full screen and landscape mode, which makes the most out of the display.
You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard.
Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag but that is a few years (at best) away from becoming the norm.
The usual set of organizer apps are aboard the HTC Sensation XE, with a mobile Office app to boot that can both view and edit documents.
The Polaris app has support for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, including the Office 2007 versions and it can create Office 2003 Word and Excel documents but not 2007 docs or presentations. Oddly, you can edit existing Power Pint Presentations and Office 2007 docs.
There is also a PDF viewer to handle PDF files. The on-screen keyboard does cut down the available space in half but if you zoom out you can still fit a reasonable amount of text.
This version of Polaris gives less editing options than we're used to - you can do copy, cut and paste, then apply bold, italic and underline styles and highlight text and that's it. There used to be font style options here but now they're inexplicably gone. You can't edit formulas in Excel spreadsheets either, which is a major stumbling block for doing Office document editing on the go.
The doc viewer integrates with the Gmail app, which makes viewing attachments a cinch. You can’t download them to the phone’s internal memory however. Attaching saved files (and we mean all kind of files) is possible though.
The calendar has five different types of view: daily, weekly, monthly, agenda and invitation. Adding a new event is quite straightforward and you can also set an alarm to serve as a reminder.
The Agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. Invitation only lists events with invitation info attached to them. The day view showing the weather forecast at the top of the screen is a nice touch.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized with big, easy to hit buttons. Flipping it horizontally enables some more advanced functions like logarithms.
The HTC Sensation XE features an alarm clock application, which can handle multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Desk clock app turns your Sensation XE into a… well, Desk clock. It displays the current time and date and allows you to switch off the display backlighting to save battery power or not disturb at night.
The World clock app lets you quickly check the time in different time zones, while the stopwatch and timer apps might come in handy if you plan to take the phone with you when doing sports.
The Stocks application gives you quotes from Yahoo finance. You can use the Stocks lockscreen too. The Voice recorder might be quite useful for making audio notes and the weather app brings Yahoo’s weather forecast for your area a click away.
There’s an HTC-branded flashlight app too – it uses the LED flash and you can set it to 3 levels of intensity. Nice and all, but the Android Market is full of this kind of apps already.
There are two handy search apps: Quick lookup and Search Anywhere. Quick lookup lets you enter a query and view the Wikipedia article (formatter for easy reading), search Google, YouTube, use Google Translate or look it up in Google Dictionary.
Facebook and Twitter
Facebook and Twitter fans will appreciate the preinstalled Facebook and Peep apps, which let you post on the world’s largest social networks.
The latest Facebook app is available, which enables things like Facebook Chat (yet another way to talk to your friends) and Facebook Places (which lets you to check into the likes of Foursquare).
The official Twitter app for Android also comes preinstalled – some might prefer it over Peep (they both integrate with the phonebook so you don’t have to actually start the app).
The official Twitter app is the latest version too – tweets can be geotagged, you can snap a photo to include in the tweet straight in the app (uploaded automatically to yfrog or TwitPic) and there are handy buttons to reply to or retweet a message.