The original HTC Sensation surfaced earlier this year, and has proven so popular that HTC has decided to keep and nurture it as the music-skewed HTC Sensation XE.
HTC sold 13.2 million mobile phones in the third quarter of this year. Considering that's a 93% increase on last year, it means the company must be doing something right.
Some technologies in smartphones change the way we live our lives and become a uniform part of the experience (we're thinking about GPS – first seen on the Nokia N95) while others are touted as the future and then disappear without a trace (anyone remember iMode? Nope. Thought not).
HTC is putting its cash on Beats Audio – the musical experience given to the world by Dr Dre – and is heavily marketing both the HTC Sensation XE and HTC Sensation XL as Beats Audio handsets.
As far as the HTC Sensation XE's looks go, you'd quite happily think you were looking at a bog standard HTC Sensation at first glance. The dimensions haven't changed. Not a single bit. It's still 126.1mm x 65.4mm x 11.3mm in the hand, but ever so slightly heavier at 151g compared to the original Sensation's 148g weight.
The camera (8MP), dual flash, front-facing snapper, buttons and sockets are all in the same place, and the only visible difference is the presence of splashes of red around the earpiece, buttons and camera lens. Plus, you get a Beats Audio logo round the back.
Like the original HTC Sensation, it's a unibody design so you actually pull the HTC Sensation XE into two pieces to open it, which is also how you access the slot to pop the memory card in.
The big differences are inside now. Apart from the superior audio quality (providing you're using a Beats Audio headset, that is), there's a 1.5GHz dual-core processor to replace the 1.2GHz job on the Sensation, the battery has been boosted from 1520mAh to 1730mAh and there's a couple of other small tweaks in the software.
The screen remains the same, as a 4.3-inch, HD (540 x 960) although it does seem a lot more vivid and brighter than the Sensation we previously used. Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread is installed out of the box along with Sense 3.0 – HTC's own skin on the Android design.
It's a solid design, and feels like it means business. And with a great foundation to build on in the original Sensation, one we can see being a big seller for HTC as the lucrative Christmas shopping period arrives.
In terms of competitors, we'd pitch it against the original HTC Sensation, with the only real benefit of the original being that it must now be cheaper. HTC will also be hoping to steal business away from Samsung and its flagship Galaxy S2, which is of a comparable size and provides similar specs - something it failed to do with the original Sensation.
And of course, there's Apple and its iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, which come with more internal storage (the HTC Sensation XE only really gives you 1GB out of the box, which you have to expand yourself), but are comparable to (and even beaten by) the XE in so many other ways.
At the time of writing, the HTC Sensation XE is priced at around £450 for a SIM-free model, which is cheaper than the £499 of the Sensation XL but more expensive than the £399 of the original Sensation. You can get it free on a contract, but it's a premium handset and thus, you'll have to sign away two years of your life on a £35+ per month deal to walk away with one of these in your pocket for free.
We've always been massive fans of HTC Sense interface ever since the days of the HTC Hero. HTC has a brilliant ability to pull together all aspects of your social life and contacts and stitch them as one. It's an example other manufacturers have tried to emulate with varying levels of success.
The HTC Sensation brought us a newer Sense iteration, and version 3.0 is present on the Sensation XE. It's very similar in look to the previous iteration of Sense, with the same icons - and of course, the large flip clock with weather, which has become iconic of HTC.
Even the default wallpaper is similar in colour, albeit with an updated pattern. It runs atop Gingerbread 2.3.4, although HTC has now committed to offering Ice Cream Sandwich at some point, so the HTC Sensation XE should be pretty future-proof.
HTC Sensation XE owners are given seven home screens out of the box, and this doesn't appear to be something you can expand on. We'd have liked to have seen more for those Android users who love to use a multitude of widgets.
You no longer swipe back and forth along a seemingly straight line – now, the Sense 3.0 interface spins around like a virtual wheel. You can even spin it fast and let go and watch how your home screens whizz by in front of your eyes, stopping as though by natural force.
By default, widgets for your contacts, Google search, music, weather, Friend Stream (a social feeds aggregator) and HTC Watch (HTC's online media store) are loaded up for you. These can be moved/deleted at will, and HTC also provides a large number of additional widgets for you to install. It's really well thought out and generous.
The Android notification bar (so popular that Apple 'emulated' it in iOS 5) has been given an HTC makeover too, as you'd expect. Your notifications are displayed beneath a scrollable list of your recently opened apps.
We'd have preferred to have quick shortcut toggles here like you get on the Samsung Galaxy S2 (instead of having to go to a tab at the bottom of the bar, which adds an extra tap) but this isn't a massive deal, since you can install toggle widgets directly on your home screen, should you wish.
The lock screen is updated from previous Sense iterations in that you now have to lift a ring into the middle of the screen to unlock it. Cosmetically it's pretty, and it's also functional, because you have four shortcuts (by default: phone, mail, camera and messages – although these can be changed) that you can drag into the ring to unlock the screen and take you straight into that application.
You can also change it all so you get your photos on your lock screen in a slideshow, with the weather, market updates, social networking updates and so on instead. There really is a lot of choice.
HTC's personalisation menu (at the bottom right on the dock) gives a plethora of customisation options, with everything from Skins and Scenes to Widgets, Shortcuts and HTC's own sounds. Getting this bit right has been given lots of attention, and it works brilliantly.
We changed virtually every one of our settings, added widgets galore and really tried to slow this smartphone down, but with that 1.5GHz dual-core processor grunting away underneath, nothing seemed to be able to faze the HTC Sensation XE.
The app drawer is also well set out, with the options to view all apps, your most frequently used ones or just those that have been download. HTC has also included the ability to delete apps from within the app drawer itself.
Some manufacturers either forget or decide not to include this and leave you to go via the Settings>Manage Applications menus, which is a right faff.
Ultimately, we can't think of any reason why users wouldn't like the interface of the HTC Sensation XE. If coming from a previous HTC phone, the jump to Sense 3.0 is enough to make you realise you have gone up a notch. And if coming from another operating system, it's so easy to learn that you'll be an accomplished user within days, if not hours.
Contacts and Calling
The HTC Sensation XE contacts section is one area where the operating system shines, due to the way Sense integrates all of your contacts. Facebook and Twitter statuses are pulled in so that when you view a friend's contact entry, you see so much more than just their phone number.
You'll also have access to their public albums, plus various tabs detailing your messaging history with them, call history with them, emails and so on. It's all so well integrated and saves those who want to do a bit of Facebook stalking the palaver of having to fire up individual apps. Profile pictures are also pulled in from your social networks, and HTC Sense is constantly checking that they all match up.
Getting into contacts can be done in a number of ways. Hitting the phone icon on the dock at the bottom of the screen brings up a list of the most recently used contacts and a number pad. Just start typing the contact's name on the number pad to bring up their field.
Or you can use the widget on your home screen to access your favourites. If that's no good, you can even add a shortcut on the home screen. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can give the voice dialling options a go, although they're not brilliant and you'll save yourself time doing it the good old-fashioned way.
Adding a contact is as simple as typing their number in and then hitting 'Save To People' when the option presents itself. And should you be dodging the calls of a loved one (if so, why?), you can even add selected contacts to a block list. How wonderfully anti-social.
We would like to have seen full-screen caller ID here, which is one of our gripes when we encounter a phone with a nice big vivid screen and witness all that wasted real estate. It's a minor point, but a shame (especially if you see the state of some of our mates) that we can't witness people calling us in full glory. But at least the images provided on incoming calls are larger than those on the Touch Wiz flavour of the Samsung Galaxy S2.
Calling people was a pleasure on the HTC Sensation XE. It managed to keep hold of a signal really well as we moved in a car on the motorway, and didn't drop a single conversation in a 15 minute call. Earpiece volume is absolutely fine, and if you whack the speakerphone on during a meeting, prepare to be deafened.
Early Sensation models had some issues with users reporting bad quality, but this appears to have been sorted for the HTC Sensation XE's arrival. We were also pleasantly surprised by the volume of ringtones on maximum setting, which hasn't been massively overwhelming on some of HTC's past efforts.
HTC's Android phones running the Sense interface really do define the meaning of 'messaging powerhouse.' Not only are the obvious options on the HTC Sensation XE - such as texting and MMS - but various email options are there too.
You can use the excellent Gmail app if you're a Google user, but also the separate mail app if you want to take advantage of POP3, IMAP or Exchange. All of them work well and do the job.
While the Gmail app is stock Android that you'll get on any Google OS device, the HTC Mail app offers a further taste of the Sense experience, giving you various tabs at the bottom offering you conversations, unread messages and messages with attachments.
As mentioned earlier, social networking is heavily integrated on the HTC Sensation XE, with the obvious suspects being visible through their own dedicated apps. There are also third-party alternatives that you can download from the Android Market, and HTC's own Friend Stream app, which is built into the HTC interface. There's no unified inbox because the whole Sense skin is like one big unified provision.
Although we're big fans of the way that Friend Stream links into the whole experience, one thing we're not too keen on is the lack of a media viewer within the app. If you click on a tweet with a twitpic link, for example, the app opens the web browser and you have to view it there and go back into the Friend Stream app afterwards.
Also, the basics of @ replies and DMs are notable by their absence. Friend Stream definitely needs some work, and it's one blot on an otherwise almost perfect copybook. We hope HTC sorts this out for the next iteration of Sense – which presumably will come with Ice Cream Sandwich.
As the HTC Sensation XE is an Android smartphone, you can easily add additional software for social networking (such as LinkedIn, Ping, WhatsApp and so on) and they'll all be available as options when you decide who it is you're going to get in touch with.
And when you do begin a conversation, you'll find that typing is a pleasure. We'll make no bones about this: we think that HTC's Android smartphones have the best keyboards, bar none. In fact, we even downloaded a third-party copy of the HTC keyboard when using the Samsung Galaxy S2.
The input is spot on, the predictive text seems almost eerie in its ability to know what you're thinking as you type and the only real obstacle we've ever experienced is various devices having screens that are too small. But having said that, the screen size on the HTC Sensation XE is just perfect. We can't praise this bit enough.
Internet is one of the HTC Sensation XE's real selling points. It's excellent. The browser is stock Android but with the HTC skin over it, which gives it a sleeker look.
Loading pages is fast. And we mean really fast. The entire TechRadar front page loaded in under seven seconds over Wi-Fi. The actual page was ready after three seconds, but it took an extra four to render the Flash elements, with that dual-core processor really earning its supper here.
Which brings us on to something else here that we want to shout from the rooftops: The HTC Sensation XE has full Flash internet! And it works. Brilliantly. Apple may claim it's buggy, but we found it to be anything but. It's not just an HTC selling point, since Flash is found on the majority of devices (post the Froyo operating system update last year).
The browsing experience is up there with the Samsung Galaxy S2 in that it really is the internet as it was meant to be seen.
Loading pages over 3G was a slower affair but it was, by no means, a slouch. The TechRadar site took a little longer here (which isn't surprising), taking almost 18 seconds to fully load (although, again, it was ready after seven and we just hung about waiting for the animated sections to kick in).
Web pages look great zoomed out in full when you first arrive, and although the text is illegible, once you zoom in, it's anything but. Pinch to zoom works well, and if you pinch out too far you'll also get an option to open multiple pages. If you tap text, it reflows automatically with no issue.
Bookmarks are displayed as page impressions of the actual sites, and you can view by tags or even the ones you've visited most. And if you fancy taking a shortcut, you don't even need to go into the menus – just install a widget on your home screen.
There've been a couple of other changes that have come about with HTC's skinning of the app. By default, the browser is now full screen, so it obscures even the normally ever-present notifications bar. Also, when you type web search terms or addresses into the address bar, Google's guessing doesn't kick in like it does on other Android handsets.
Of course, the beauty of this being an Android phone is that if you don't like what you're given here, you can replace the browser within seconds. The excellent Dolphin HD or Firefox are both credible alternatives.
The camera on the HTC Sensation XE is an 8MP job, and echoes what we saw on the original Sensation. It's a competent shooter that was future-proof in the early summer, and still sits at the top end of what's available on premium handsets. HTC makes some of the best cameras on smartphones, and it hasn't dropped the proverbial ball here.
Next to the lens is a flash. And it's bright. Really bright. In fact, we stupidly pointed it at our face to take a photo and see how bright it was. We wouldn't recommend doing that. Just use the front-facing camera, which clocks in at VGA resolution. It's not amazing, but it does the job well enough.
EFFECTS:Within the camera app, there are lots of effects to pick from.
Within the camera app, you'll find a multitude of effects to choose from, including the pointless ones such as Negative to the really cool ones such as Posterise and Vignette. There's a handful here that recreate those you'd find on apps such as iPhone behemoth Instagram, and you can always download further camera apps from the Android Market if playing with pictures is your game.
Unfortunately, you can only add these effects as you take the photo – there is no way to apply them through the gallery afterwards, which limits your abilities somewhat.
Delve further into the options and you'll find tonnes more that replicate what you'd see on a compact pocket camera, from self timers and scenes to being able to change the ISO balance, autofocus and face detection options. You do have to go into the menus to do all of this, so it can be fiddly.
There's loads to play with, but remember it all takes its toll on the battery, so if you're taking the HTC Sensation XE on a night out and plan to snap lots, give it a charge first.
FOCUS:Low light conditions achieve a focus fairly easily.
The autofocus kicks in as you start to take a photo and it's effective - but only if you play dead. The slightest move will make photos go a little blurry. It's not enough to ruin pictures, but is enough to be irritating.
In low light conditions, it manages to fix on what it's looking for, and then the superb flash kicks in and bathes images in a great light. There's also a very effective tap-to-focus that gives you a convincing fake camera sound like a pap's camera as you do it. Unfortunately the zoom is digital, not optical, so it only pretends to zoom in by enlarging the pixels. This, however, is the norm on cameraphones.
COLD: Pictures taken in daylight are good but can look a little cold.
One thing that's missing is a camera shutter button on the side of the phone. We recently reviewed both the HTC Titan and HTC Radar (which run Windows Phone 7) and noticed just what a difference that makes when holding the phone and taking a snap.
HTC Sensation XE owners are promised HD video recording, and the 1080 resolution gives some great results. By default, the HTC Sensation XE is set to take video at QHD resolution (960 x 540), but you can always change this to full HD in the settings menu and it will remember your selection for the next time you fire up the video camera.
Accessing it is done one of two ways (remember, there's no shutter button on the side): you can either swap into video using a shortcut in the stills camera app, or you can access it through its own app icon in the drawer.
Once in, you have the option of selecting an effect as you can with the camera (only a handful of those effects are carried over into the video app, though) and delving further into the menus offers you even more to play with, including scene modes, stereo recording and various image adjustment tweaks.
If you decide you want to use one of these effects, you have to make your choice before you start shooting, because this can't be changed once you're engaged in the act.
However, one thing we noticed is you can turn the LED light on and off during shooting, which is a real plus compared to other handsets we have reviewed. Moving the camera from pitch black to bright light is something that the HTC Sensation XE copes with extremely well. Videos are recorded in the older 3GPP format.
Unfortunately, the HTC Sensation XE lets itself down when it comes to sharing video. It's not that you can't send footage to others because you can using a variety of methods (including third party apps.)
But if you want to send your beautiful HD video as an MMS, forget it. Yes, we know you can only send up to 300KB in an MMS message and HD is in the megabytes territory, but the iPhone manages to resize video to bring it under that size. Again, it's a blip on an almost unblemished app, and one that many first-time users of an Android or HTC device may be likely to rue.
There can be no mistake that HTC is pushing the Sensation XE as a media smartphone. The inclusion of the Beats Audio earphones and the fact that Beats Audio is branded on everything to do with the smartphone gives that away.
If you're not familiar with Beats Audio, it's a breed of headphones and speakers developed by Dr Dre and a former Geffen records executive.
The original headphones (the massive white ones) have become really fashionable, thanks to their use in various music videos and movies, but the ones that come with the HTC Sensation XE are more subtle black and red earphones. You also get five pairs of in-ear buds to make sure the right size is fitted for maximum audio pleasure.
HTC claims that Beats Audio delivers the music "the way the artist intended" and we agree that the sound quality is infinitely superior. It's more apparent on some songs than others, though. For example, 'Hallelujah' by Alexandra Burke sounded pleasant enough but not incredible, while both 'Just The Way You Are' by Bruno Mars and 'Bright Lights Bigger City' by Cee Lo Green sounded, frankly, phenomenal.
What Beats Audio appears to do is up the bass level and enhance sounds. During that Cee Lo Green song in particular, sounds were heard prominently that we wouldn't normally have noticed. So much so that we thought someone was talking to us, and kept taking the buds out to ask "What did you say?", much to the amusement of our friends.
To see the difference, you can easily turn the Beats Audio software off by pulling down the notification bar and tapping 'Disable' when playing.
To take advantage of the quality, you have to use the BA branded headphones or you just get standard quality audio. They're not the cheapest, with the ones you get included in the box selling for around £60 a pop, and the full-on headphones nearer the £250 a pair mark. So if you lose them, you may end up in tears. HTC also includes a pouch for keeping them safe.
The technology has been implemented incredibly well. There is a danger that this could have been a fad that was included half-heartedly, but that hasn't happened, and HTC's collaboration with Dr Dre really pays dividends here.
The actual music player is standard Android, but it has that HTC Sense skin on top, with added options. We're really pleased with the ability to update album art or find a YouTube video of a song while it's playing from within the music app.
Browsing photos on the device is a pleasure because of that vivid screen. Colours look rich and vibrant. HTC Sync will help you to get photos and the like across from a PC, but for Mac users it's a case of using drag and drop.
We'd have really liked to have seen iTunes and iPhoto gallery syncing here, but no Android phone we've used has managed to ship with this, resulting in users having to go down third-party routes with the likes of iSyncr or DoubleTwist.
Watching videos is a great experience too. This is for three reasons. Firstly, the screen is - as we've said several times - a beauty. Secondly, the form of the HTC Sensation XE means it's actually not too bad to hold for prolonged periods. And thirdly (something we weren't expecting) because the Beats Audio software has been extended to watching videos as well. So even movies sound fantastic.
It doesn't work on the FM radio, but we're not surprised, since quality on an FM radio can be questionable. Most video formats that we threw at the Sensation XE played without issue – the only ones we struggled with were of the .MOV format.
Battery Life and Connectivity
While HTC has a record for making great smartphones with great cameras, it also, sadly, has a record for not so great battery life. The HTC Desire and Desire HD were two handsets that many found to be crippled by a thirst for juice to rival that of Dracula at Halloween.
When we first reviewed the HTC Sensation, we made no bones about how disappointed we were with the battery life. The 1520mAh may have sounded pretty reasonable for a smartphone like this, but the problem was that it just couldn't cope with any heavy tasks and struggled to get through a full day of moderately heavy use.
So there's good and bad news here. The good is that HTC has upped that battery to a 1730mAh unit for the Sensation XE. The bad news, however, is that it only makes a marginal difference.
It could be the enhanced grunt of the new processor or the way that the batteries are engineered, but we couldn't relax fully with the HTC Sensation XE, and found ourselves constantly checking how much power was left, which ruined the experience somewhat. It's not woeful. But it's just not brilliant either.
The first day we had the HTC Sensation XE, we took it off charge at 8am and then left it all day without touching it. It was linked up to Gmail, and Friend Stream was signed into Twitter and Facebook, but that was all. When we picked the handset up at 4pm, we were slightly shocked to see it down by around 40%. Shocked because our Samsung Galaxy S2 goes down only around 1% an hour if left unused.
The following day, we took it off charge at 6am and then spent about 40 minutes browsing the web over 3G and catching up on Tweets and Facebook messages. At 9am, we made a 20 minute phonecall, then went on a 10 mile run using the Runkeeper app and listening to the FM radio.
When we arrived home, we spent about an hour flicking between the browser and email apps. By 4pm, the battery was in the orange zone, and when we then decided to take some photos, that orange turned to red. The phone gave up the ghost and said goodnight at just before 7pm.
The irony here is that although the GPS was active for more than an hour as we ran, it wasn't really that much of a power hog. What guzzles power on the HTC Sensation XE is, unsurprisingly, the display.
If you're an average user, you'll probably find that you get from morning to night with little issue. But power users will probably want to keep a charger handy.
HTC quotes up to 445 minutes of talk time and 540 hours of standby on the Sensation XE. It's always difficult to replicate these goals, because individual users will have their own needs, but with 3 Mobile revealing recently that 97% of its usage comes from data rather than voice calls, it's probably irrelevant anyway.
We'd say from our experience that even with the best will in the world, you'll be unlikely to eek 540 hours of standby out of the HTC Sensation XE.
Connectivity-wise, there are more options than you could shake a proverbial stick at. Wi-Fi, HSDPA, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth are all accounted for. The only omission here is an NFC chip, although most manufacturers appear to be foregoing them until the technology catches on properly.
You can, since this is an Android device, use your handset as a Wi-Fi hotspot and use it to connect to your computer. Remember though that the networks may charge extra for this luxury.
DLNA is accommodated via the Connected Devices app, so you can stream to various household items such as your computer, TV or PS3.
HTC Sync also enables you to connect to a PC to transfer content, although it's just as easy to connect using the HTC Sensation XE as a drag-and-drop drive and let the handset work out what files go where. It's very clever at doing that. You may have to do this if running a Mac anyway, because HTC Sync appears to only work on PCs.
Maps and apps
One thing Android handsets are not short of is apps. HTC smartphones come chock-a-block with both their own and the standard Android offerings. And the Android Market is expanding daily, with hundreds of thousands of apps there already - many of them free.
You'll find your standard Google stuff on the HTC Sensation XE, such as Calendar, Talk, YouTube, Latitude and so on. On top of that there's the excellent Google Maps, which links in to the free - and brilliant - Google Navigation BETA.
What you get here is a full sat nav solution, with turn-by-turn directions, included as standard for nothing. There's no charge (other than the data costs) and this could be a real selling point to some users. Of course, you can also download full paid-for software from the Android Market too if you don't like Google Navigation, such is the beauty of a smartphone.
GPS was quick to get a lock on and we didn't have any problems in the car. Our fix was found in about 10 seconds from a cold start. Using the RunKeeper software took a few seconds longer because we were walking as we fired it up, but once the lock was on, the HTC Sensation XE clung to it for dear life.
HTC has also included its own little surprises such as a flashlight app (which uses the LED light to turn your Sensation XE into a torch) as well as its rather pretty weather app, stocks, Teeter (a ball game), Soundhound (think Shazam) and even Polaris Office. You can only create Microsoft Word documents up to Word 2003 on this, but it's free and better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick.
HTC also includes its Watch service, which enables you to download movies to the Sensation XE to watch on your travels. It's not iTunes, but to be fair, it has only been going since the launch of the original Sensation earlier this year, so will need time to grow. Having said that, there's already a fairly broad selection there.
When we reviewed the Windows-powered HTC Titan and Radar recently, all that was on offer was a few trailers, but on the HTC Sensation XE we have the full catalogue. Prices are on a par with other services (£9.99 for a download and £3.49 for a rental) and all in all, it's a good service.
There's also an HTC dock mode (the dock is sold separately), which displays a clock and the weather, along with Tweets for your delectation. And the Android Market is accompanied by an HTC Likes app that strips out the apps it thinks you're going to prefer to download. You do have to sign up for an HTC Sense account to use this, on top of signing up for a Google account to use many of the HTC Sensation XE's functions.
Hands on gallery
If you've read this review from start to finish, you'll probably be in little doubt that we think the HTC Sensation XE is a fantastic device. What HTC has done here is build on an already successful and popular Android smartphone and kitted the handset out with top-end specs. There's very little that it can't do, and even looking for negatives is not as easy as it is on other similar handsets.
The HTC Sensation XE has a vibrant display and is a solid-looking and feeling handset. The Beats Audio implementation is a real bonus, and we found little to criticise in the recently refreshed Sense 3.0 skin that sits atop the Android operating system.
The camera takes great snaps and HD videos, and the internet browsing experience is second to none.
Battery life could be a lot better, and is the one Achilles' heel here. Getting from morning to night won't be too much of a problem if you sit still all day connected to Wi-Fi and barely touch it, but that ruins the spontaneity of using a handset that can do so much.
We'd also like to see Friend Stream updated, because we found it a little cumbersome to use. And the ability to resize HD videos for MMS is a gripe we think should have long ago been addressed.
The HTC Sensation XE comes extremely close to getting five out of five, but is docked half a star because of the battery that we feel spoils the experience somewhat. But other than that, we really can't recommend this handset highly enough. It's future-proof, sleek and has some amazing additions such as Beats Audio, which really push it into the premier league and beyond.
In fact, it leaves us wondering if HTC will now discontinue the HTC Sensation itself, because the XE really puts it in its place and - aside from price - we really can't see any reason why you'd now go for the original over this.
Competition will come in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S2 primarily, if we're looking outside HTC's camp, but we really think they're on a par. Although the S2 has better battery life, the Beats Audio of the Sensation XE counteracts that advantage.
Ultimately, it'll come down to price and personal preference, but if we were to find one of these under the tree come Christmas morning (and we have been good this year), we'd feel very happy indeed.