The HTC Sensation XE's large screen should make it a great portable video playback buddy. And while it benefits from the improved codec support of HTC's high-end late 2010 and 2011 models, it's still not perfect.
It will play the standards of MP4 and H.264 without problems, and supports the popular DivX and Xvid formats too. However, MKV support is still missing, along with other slightly more obscure formats. MKV may be most popular among the pirate crowd, but when it's a crowd that supports whole sections of the electronics market - external hard drives, media players that plug into TVs and so on - this omission seems a bit silly. Samsung's top-end Android phones still win out here, with more impressive codec libraries.
There's also no proper video player app, which seems bizarre when HTC covers more bases with its custom apps than most manufacturers. HTC Watch lets you watch trailers and download paid-for movies, but it won't let you watch your video files. Instead, you watch them through the gallery, where your pics are held.
We imagine this is, in part, to give HTC Watch a greater chance of success, but when there's even a DLNA interface built-in, not having a proper video player feels odd. Plenty of interfaces are available from the Android Market, though. Although the built-in player struggled with some HD content, videos look great on the screen, and we believe 4.3in is just about large enough to comfortably watch a 40-minute TV episode on.
There are thankfully no missing bits in the camera line-up. The Sensation XE has two sensors, a basic VGA user-facing one for video calls and an 8-megapixel main sensor. It has a fairly powerful dual-LED flash and autofocus, with touch focusing also an option.
We found the autofocus a bit on the slow side and occasionally unreliable, more so than with the recent HTC Titan, resulting in more slightly out-of-focus pics than we had hoped to see. Given good lighting conditions, it's capable of replacing a compact for casual use - but nothing too serious.
Manual control is decent, though. There are settings for ISO, face detection, white balance, and the usual scene and exposure/contras/saturation/sharpness controls. What's missing is a panorama mode, which strikes a good balance been fun and usefulness. A trip to the Android Market is required to fill this gap.
Performance predictably falls apart as light levels drop, but in good sunlight images are sharp
The 8-megapixel sensor can also capture video at full 1080p resolution, and with touch focus throughout shooting supported, it's a pretty versatile portable video device. It can record stereo audio alongside, and there are options for white balance, sharpness, colour saturation, contrast and exposure. There are scene modes too, for beginners or the less technically confident.
Autofocus enabled good close-ups, but getting a perfect focus is tricky here
Detail captured in video in decent, but motion isn't completely smooth and re-focusing can look a bit awkward. And while sound is in stereo, the oddly high level the mic is set at, tends to make it sound harsh and ugly. Much like its stills skills, it can replace a pocket camcorder, but only for fairly casual shoots.