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Home / Reviews / Cell Phones

HTC Sensation 4G Review

By Mike Perlman, Tuesday 7 June 2011
 
Is HTC's latest Super Phone a real sensation? Read our complete review of the HTC Sensation 4G here.

HTC Sensation 4G Report

The evolution of the Super Phone has been morphing since the introduction of Sprint's EVO 4G, but no model has reached the spec heights that T-Mobile's new HTC Sensation 4G has currently reached. With a 3rd generation 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 768MB of RAM, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, HTC Sense 3.0, and 1080p HD video recording, it is obvious that the bar will continuously be raised within the smartphone league. And with talk of quad-core giants looming in the near future, phone technology is only accelerating. The Sensation 4G was the quickest phone we've had in the labs to date, and its interface was second to none. With T-Mobile's HSPA+ speeds, the phone flew, and we can only imagine how much more powerful the Sensation 4G (specs) would be if AT&T sealed the deal. But for now, T-Mobile customers are the luckiest bunch.



Design

HTC Sensation 4G It's always a delight to see innovation in the design realm, and the HTC Sensation 4G flaunts an unconventional back panel that sets the phone apart from the monotonous sea of black Android phones currently wading within the market. Three separate asymmetrical panels compose the back of the phone, including two textured strips and an aluminum center panel, reminding us of a MOMA sculpture. The entire back panel could also be removed, cradling the phone components and screen. Even the in-ear speaker is part of the back shell, and it lead to a seamless appearance.

Then there was the 4.3-inch qHD capacitive touchscreen with sloped borders for a sunken-in effect ultimately translating to more style. The science behind the contoured screen came down to ergonomics, whereas the finger did not feel the abrupt edge of the screen, but rather a friendly slope. The 960 x 540 screen resolution was beyond top-notch, proving itself perfect for gaming and movies, especially thanks to the 16 million-color spectrum. The Home, Menu, Back, and Search haptic feedback buttons were just as sensitive as the screen, which was whisper-responsive.

Despite the fancy screen and advanced aesthetics, the Sensation 4G only has 9GB of storage out of the box. That's an 8GB MicroSD card and 1GB of user-accessible internal memory. For the multimedia freak, the need to upgrade to a higher capacity card will be necessary. The Sensation 4G has an 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video recording and auto/touch focus, as well as a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone's battery pack is a 1520mAh type, and that just about rounds out HTC's top powerhouse. Take every advanced feature found on the top phones today, multiply them, and you have the Sensation 4G.

Software and Interface

Lurking inside the HTC Sensation 4G is a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor (1.2GHz at each core) with Adreno 220 GPU technology. The phone also has 768MB of RAM. In plain terms, the Sensation 4G is the most powerful production phone to date. It screamed through all of our tasks, especially coupled with T-Mobile's HSPA+ speeds. Bluetooth is 3.0, we get DLNA/UPnP, and an accelerometer for advanced gaming and graphics. Top that off with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and HTC's latest Sense 3.0 user interface, and the Sensation 4G was, in fact, truly sensational.

The combination of Gingerbread and HTC Sense 3.0 was beyond awesome, and certainly the greatest Android experience we've had on a phone. We're taking the software upgrades found on the Nexus S 4G and adding the interface enhancements showcased on the HTC Flyer€”both were devices that fared quite well in our labs. So, beginning with Android upgrades, we got a quicker overall browsing experience and heightened text highlight system that utilized a magnification box and bounding tabs.

But the HTC Sense upgrades stole the show. We've seen this on the HTC Flyer, but it was great to see it migrate to a phone. The HTC Sensation 4G's Lock screen had four customizable shortcuts that could be dragged into a "ring" for immediate access. If we want to unlock the phone normally, we just tossed the ring up into space and were greeted to a shiny new HTC Sense. The 7 Home pages rotated like a rolodex wheel€”widgets consuming entire pages. It was obvious that widget refinement was a key element of 3.0's blueprints. Leap allowed us to pinch any Home screen down to a minimized view of all 7 Home screens for easy access. What made our experience even sweeter was the fact that the HTC Sensation was able to fly through actions and animations with ease. This truly is a Super Phone.

Internet

Aside from being beautiful, the Sensation 4G's Internet browser was not all that advanced. Sure, we could pinch and zoom a page down to view it in a scroll bar filled with icons that represented other windows we had open€”kind of like the Leap of the Internet persuasion. We also had a rapid double-tap-to-zoom capability and lightning quick Flash play. However, the browser only had an address bar and Refresh button while we were used to the Bookmarks button in its place. That's okay, because the phone's overall speed really made it fly above the rest.

Multimedia and Productivity

With its shiny new interface, HTC decided to show its widgets off. We'll start with the Watch widget, which took us to HTC's new Blockbuster-like movie streaming store that offered the ability to buy and download movies straight to the phone. Then we had the People widget, which displayed our favorite contacts for quick access. Add on the in-depth Calendar and Email widgets, and the Sensation modeled the Flyer without question. Oh, and the Gallery widget was super cool, but you'll just have to wait until the camera section. With its stellar qHD screen and lighting quick processing guts, it was no question that the Sensation 4G handled gaming with ease. Nova came preloaded, but it was only a demo, which was sad because T-Mobile is usually on top of their free preloaded content. One other gripe we had was the Sensation 4G's keyboard. We expected it to be like the Nexus S keyboard with character menus and a more intuitive layout, but it was just as plain as any other Android keyboard. Prettiness and graphics are the centerpieces on this table.

Call Quality/Battery Life

T-Mobile phones tend to be a crapshoot when it comes to call quality, but our HTC Sensation review unit managed talk time quite well. We didn't experience any major sound flaws, but certain calls exhibited a blanketed sound, almost as if the other party was talking behind a napkin. Regardless, our calling experience with the Sensation 4G was one of the better shows we've seen.

The phone's 1520mAh battery pack managed to offer an impressive standby endurance, especially after a few charge cycles. The Sensation still could not match the Nexus S 4G, Motorola Atrix 4G, or Samsung Infuse 4G when it came to overall longevity, but the phone held its own, ranking just behind them. We also got an advanced Task Manager and Power Saver options that limited Wi-Fi, background data, Bluetooth, and screen brightness settings.

Camera

Yes, we're beginning to see 1080p become the standard for more powerful phones, and the HTC Sensation 4G's 8-megapixel camera gave us Full HD recording. This phone goes head-to-head with the T-Mobile G2x by LG, but in all honesty, the G2x won by a landslide. That's not to say that the Sensation 4G's 1080p video quality was terrible, but it was mediocre. The same went for the phone's still images, which exhibited a fair amount of pixel smearing and noise (check out photo and video samples). So, unfortunately, if you're looking for the best camera phone, the Sensation 4G is not so sensational.

The good news is that the Sensation had one of the best camera interfaces on the market, giving us a robust Filters menu and decent spread of manual controls. The phone also offered Touch Auto Focus that could be deployed while recording videos, in addition to toggling the video light. Also, the phone's Gallery widget was sleek, flaunting checker transitions and an interactive icon spread with the ability to add filters after the fact. We could also view pictures in a slideshow format with transitions on the phone, though the lack of an HDMI terminal limited our connectivity to DLNA.

HTC Sensation 4G €“ infoSync Diagnosis

The Sensation 4G is, in fact, a sensational phone for a few reasons. First off, it's a speed demon, thanks to its advanced processing guts. It also rocks one of the sexiest screens on the market, and its unconventional style is unmatched by any other model out there. Let's not forget about the award-winning HTC Sense and Android 2.3 Gingerbread tag-team of awesomeness.

But the Sensation 4G also has a few more hurdles to jump if it wants to claim the World Super Phone Champion belt. We could have used a kickstand for watching movies, an HDMI terminal for viewing our content on an HD monitor, and a keyboard that was modeled after the Nexus S and Nexus S 4G. Also, the Sensation 4G needs a higher quality camera to touch the T-Mobile G2x and iPhone 4. And lastly, how about battery life that matches phones like the Motorola Atrix 4G and Samsung Infuse 4G?

Yes, the Sensation might have the hardware, but the rest of the phone is trumped by its competitors. We can only imagine how it will do after the release of the highly anticipated HTC EVO 3D and quad€“core phones of the near future. But, if you want the speed, style, and latest Sense interface, then the HTC Sensation 4G will be a sensational choice for you.
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