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HTC Sensation review

The best HTC yet and a worthy competitor to the Iphone
Fri Jun 17 2011, 10:11

Product HTC Sensation
Specifications 1.2Ghz dual core Snapdragon MSM 8260, Adreno 220 GPU, 4.3in S-LCD screen with 540x960 qHD resolution, 768MB RAM, 1GB storage with 8GB SD card included, 8MP camera, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, 126x65.4x11.3mm, 148g.
Price £500 SIM free

AS WITH MOST HTC phones, the Sensation is a handset that has got people talking about an Iphone beater. The fact is, the Iphone was beaten a long time ago by powerful Android devices that offer flexibility and personalisation.

The Sensation is powerful and beautifully designed with a useful and attractive user interface to guide users around HTCs 'Sense' interface. From the specifications and our initial hands-on with the device at the launch event, we certainly started to believe that HTC was on to a winner.

But can HTC's flagship live up to the hype? We set sail in a two week effort to find out of this is the phone of our dreams or if it should be cast into the depths of the ocean.

When you hold the Sensation, you realise that this isn't an especially lightweight device. If you're looking for a featherweight phone, you might want to glance in the direction of the implausibly light Samsung Galaxy S II. But at no point in our testing did we ever feel that the Sensation is too heavy. It's nice to hold, and its size is practical too, especially when it comes to that lovely 4.3in S-LCD screen.

htc-sensationThe next cause for concern is the price. At £500 (SIM only), it's not cheap. And what's more, it's not, as we write this, available SIM free, or on any mobile network without Voda in its name. This will change soon though, so if you're a customer elsewhere then you shouldn't have too long to wait to get your hands on one.

As with all Android phones, the front has touch-sensitive keys. These give you home, back and search buttons as well as a context sensitive menu control. There are hardware controls for the volume and phone lock too, and these are found on the left-hand side and top of the phone.

A front facing camera is present for video calls, and there's an 8 megapixel rear camera for photo and video. We think the rear camera is good, but it's not on a par with the Nokia N8. On the plus side, the phone is actually usable, so that's a clear advantage over Nokia's camera with a phone bolted-on. But the Sensation camera doesn't perform well in low-light, and the flash seems too bright and overwhelms shots quite a bit.

The Lock Screen
At the launch of the Sensation, much was made about its new lock screen. With it you have the option to keep up-to-date with various news, weather or social feeds. It's possible to have your contracts status updates swirl around the home screen, or you can opt for a glorious weather application or even see stock updates from Yahoo finance.


HTC also provides a series of icons for popular applications. These allow you to launch the application by dragging them into a ring that rises from the bottom of the screen. This is designed to speed up getting into your text messages, email or even the phone's camera. It's not that much use though, and we didn't use it very much.

Pretty User Interface
There's little argument that HTC's Sense is king of the Android user interface (UI). It provides both useful and stylish adjustments to the UI that make using HTC phones a little nicer than most.

What we have noticed is that when we are using a non-HTC hanbdset, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to emulate the Sense interface. The customisations offered by firms like Motorola and Samsung are poor in comparison to HTCs and seem to over-complicate the phones or slow down the user interface.

Even though we like Sense, there's still an argument for just using the stock Android style. Initially, overlays like this were used to improve the areas where Android was weak. Now, with the OS being quite feature-rich, the overlays often just slow the speed of updates and in some cases, with HTC, make it impossible to update a phone to the latest Android version. Of course, this is down to HTC being a little mean in its phone specifications, too. For example, the Sensation has only 768MB of RAM, which is not as much as other premium Android handsets.

Although RAM is an issue, the dual core, 1.2Ghz Snapdragon processor with a dedicated GPU means that this phone remains responsive even with less RAM than most high-end handsets.

HD Screen
Like the Motrola Atrix, the Sensation features an S-LCD screen with a quarter HD resolution, 540x960 pixels. This makes text, images and video look very crisp. We have to commend the Sensation for the quality of its web browsing experience, which is partially thanks to this excellent screen.

We like the decision to use an LCD panel too, as the OLED screens on Samsung's Galaxy S phones and the Google Nexus S all look very blue, which can be outputting, especially for web browsing where many pages have white backgrounds. It's certainly fair to say that the LCD is smoother, sharper and more accurate than the OLED screens.


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