HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

It will come as no surprise that the interface on the HTC Sensation XE is where the bulk of the changes have occurred post-Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Not only does the Sensation XE bring the latest version of Android to your fingertips, it also delivers HTC's new Sense 3.6 overlay. Now, you may well be asking where Sense 4.0 is, but this version is only available on 2012 handsets such as the HTC One range - as it's not compatible with older devices.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Ice Cream Sandwich brings in a raft on new features and improvements to the Android operating system, but don't panic if you're a loyal HTC user as the Sense 3.6 overly ties it all together nicely in a familiar skin.

What we notice straight away is the Sensation XE feels more fluid. It seems faster than pre-Ice Cream Sandwich - not to say it was slow while running Gingerbread - but it looks like the addition of Android 4.0.3 has managed to streamline the user experience.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Fire up the Sensation XE and you'll be greeted by that iconic HTC clock and weather combo on the first home screen. Phew, so far, so good. But wait; scan your eyes down and the HTC dock as been replaced by a more conventional app tray. No need to panic though, it's all very straight forward.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Yes, you've lost the Personalise option, but just hold down on a blank space on any of the seven home screens and the menu will appear allowing you to tinker to your hearts content.

The menu has been divided up into three tabs; Add to home, Display and Sound. This makes for a less cluttered view of options and shows HTC's commitment to stripping Sense down and making it simpler – without losing functionality.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Under the Add to home tab you can select widgets, apps and shortcuts to place on the home screens. There are a generous amount of Android and HTC widgets to choose from and we found the various toggles - for settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS - really useful, allowing us to turn functions on/off with one tap.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

The Display tab allows you to tailor the handset to suit your needs, with options to change the scene, skin, wallpaper and lock screen style of the Sensation XE.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

In the Sound tab are options to change ringtones, notifications sounds and set up alarms.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Slide down from the top of the screen to open the notification bar which provides you with message, email and social media summaries. Above the notifications is a list of recently opened apps and if you hit the Quick Settings tab at the bottom you can toggle key features such as mobile network and Bluetooth,

Although the Quick Settings tab is useful, we found it far quicker to add the corresponding toggle widgets to a home screen.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

Hold down the home button under the screen and you will bring up the new Ice Cream Sandwich multi-tasking screen, which displays all currently opened apps in a nice thumbnail design.

It's easy to close any app on the list, just sweep horizontally across the thumbnail and it will be removed from the list and closed.

There's a new way to create folders on the Sensation XE thanks to its software update and if you're familiar with Apple's iOS you may get a feeling of déjà vu. Creating folders is now a doddle – just drag and drop one app onto another and pop, both are in a folder… now where have we heard that before?

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

If you're someone who loves a good bit of innovation, or just likes showing off to your mates the Sensation XE supports the Ice Cream Sandwich face unlock feature. It does what it says on the tin, uses your face to unlock the handset.

Although an impressive display of facial recognition it only works in good lighting conditions, it's slower than sliding in a pattern and we looked pretty odd as we longingly staring at our phone, waiting for it to let us in.

HTC sensation xe ice cream sandwich review

The Ice Cream Sandwich and Sense 3.6 update has made for an impressive upgrade on the HTC Sensation XE. We are surprised to find a speed improvement on an already quick device which has not received any new hardware.

The Sensation XE still has that HTC feel and usability about it and Sense 3.6 pulls Ice Cream Sandwich into a package which will please both first time and stalwart HTC users.