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REVIEW: HTC Sensation (4G) Android 2.3/Gingerbread Dual-Core Smartphone [with Video]
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 14.06.11 - 17:48:27 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 30050x
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Not announced during the Mobile World Congress in February but unveiled during its very own event in April, the HTC Sensation is HTC's first smartphone which features a Qualcomm dual-core MSM8260 Snapdragon CPU at 1.2 GHz. Running on Android 2.3.3/Gingerbread and featuring HTC's brand new HTC Sense 3.0 user interface, the Sensation supports quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE, triband UMTS/HSDPA (up to 14.4 Mbps)/HSUPA (up to 5.76 Mbps) at 900/1700/2100 MHz as well as Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi b/g/n, and aGPS. The HTC Sensation also features a gyroscope as well as an accelerometer-, proximity- and ambient light sensor plus the Android typical digital compass.

The massive 4.3" contoured Super-LCD touchscreen supports qHD at 540 x 960 pixel and the Gorilla Glass protected touchscreen surface feels more natural as a finger is glided across it. The 8 megapixel autofocus camera on the back comes with a dual LED flash and is capable to record full 1080p stereo videos up to 30 fps. In addition to the main camera, the Sensation features a second front facing camera which supports VGA only but is mainly used for video telephony or chat only, even if HTC has added an application which allows to snap self-portrait photos.

Like all the other recent smartphones, the HTC Sensation is also sporting the typical 3.5 mm stereo audio jack as well as a micro USB 2.0 port. However, together with HTC's separately sold MHL Cable (mobile high-definition video link), the Sensation can be also connected through the micro USB port to HDMI TVs to mirror the touchscreen on HDTV-sets. Like all other latest HTC Android smartphones, the HTC Sensation is also featuring backlight illuminated touch sensitive menu keys under the screen.

The HTC Sensation comes with 768 MB of RAM and 1 GB of ROM which can be expanded through microSD memory cards. Not being an aluminum unibody smartphone like the HTC Legend or the HTC Desire S, the Sensation features an aluminum unibody constructed housing which pick-up's HTC's 2011 design-language. The device measures 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm and weights 148 grams, including the 1520 mAh battery which is said to be good for a stand-by time of up to 400 hours or a talk time of up to 495 minutes.

As always, HTC has added a good amount of its very own application to the Android platform which for sure also features all Google Mobile and Android apps and services like Search, Maps, Gmail, Marketplace, etc. However, not only the hardware itself is brand new but also the used HTC Sense version. To take benefit of the Sensation's horse power, HTC has introduced HTC Sense 3.0 which builds on top the previous HTC Sense versions. But HTC Sense 3.0 introduces a customizable active lockscreen that transforms the lockscreen into a real-time window to the most important information and content. It now allows to display social network updates from Twitter and Facebook, photos, weather or stock updates that can be viewed by simply waking up the display.

In addition, the new active lockscreen becomes a customizable gateway that lets people quickly jump to the most used features, like making a phone call, sending an E-Mail, taking a picture or anything else with the same quick gesture usually used to unlock the screen. For instance, the camera can be launched right from the lock screen with a single motion, saving precious seconds. Taking benefit of the new qHD screen, Sense 3.0 also introduces sharper graphics, vibrant animations and new widgets which make Sense look better than ever.

Some of HTC's own app-highlights includes the cinematic and immersive weather experience with stunning imagery and audible weather effects. Furthermore, HTC has added a new new Video Trimmer tool which allows users to crop their recorded video clips to the perfect size for easier sharing with friends and social networks like Facebook or YouTube.

However, some of the HTC Sense apps are also replacing some of the original Google Android apps. For instance is the contacts app replaced with HTC's People app as well as HTC is using its own E-Mail client. Furthermore has HTC added a couple of apps, like Twitter and Facebook and for sure is the Sensation featuring HTC's Wi-Fi Hotspot app to tether the device to Notebooks and tablets.

Also the original and much improved Android 2.3 camera UI was replaced with HTC's very own camera user interface which offers a lot more features than the original Android 2.3 UI.

Final Conclusion

It's no question that the HTC Sensation is the best you can get from HTC at the moment and the device is indeed a sensation! The dual-core CPU makes it as snappy and responsive like no other HTC smartphone before and Sense 3.0 adds its very own value to the device. On the other hand it's questionable how many customers are seriously in need for a dual-core CPU? But hey, if it's available - why not!? It can't hurt at all, especially because it's a trend for the premium manufactures to have at least one dual-core device in the portfolio. Thankfully the dual-core CPU isn't sucking the device's battery at all and you can easily manage to use the device a whole day, as long as you are not abusing its multimedia capabilities or use it as a surf-pad. But in this case it's not the processor which consumes all the battery but the display; which is quite typical for all of today's smartphones.

Even if the 4.3" screen makes the device somewhat huge on the first sight, it's not as huge as expected. HTC reduced the bezel as much as possible and this contributes to the overall size of the Sensation. Also the rounded edges make it a very pleasant looking device which feels rocking solid in the palm. There's no cracking noise and the clearance is very exact. I would even say that the Sensation comes close to the quality of German cars - if you know what I mean!

In terms of the specifications, there's virtually not a single disappointment except the screen - maybe. And this disappointment is on a very high level. HTC is using Super-LCD displays for its smartphones and two years ago I would have said that this is the best money can buy. However, after I've seen Samsung's Super AMOLED and especially Super AMOLED Plus displays, I now have to admit that Super-LCD is the second best only, even if others see it a little bit different and still prefer Super-LCD over Super AMOLED. So it's definitely a question of taste and yes, that's the only major drawback for me. Otherwise, the qHD display is gorgeous and takes as much benefit from the display resolution as possible. However, since the display resolution provides plenty of room, I which HTC has added a second line of quick-launch apps to the newly customizable lockscreen and I think some space was unnecessarily wasted.
And while the Sensation's 8 megapixel camera has still some minor room for improvements, it's anyway great enough for snapshots which can be shared online as well as standard-sized prints are looking pretty good. However, I wish HTC would finally use hardware shutters again. I definitely love the camera user interface, I appreciate that the camera can be directly launched from the lockscreen but nothing compares to a shutter button!

Apart from that, I totally felt in love with HTC's new Sense 3.0. I already liked the previous versions but HTC improved it in so many ways - way too much to list everything in a single review - that it's a pure pleasure to use it as an every day smartphone. Doesn't matter if it is for creating appointments, reading and replying E-Mails, following friends on their social networks or watching videos. HTC Sense has virtually for everything the appropriate app.

Sure, the HTC Sensation is neither the cheapest Android phone on the market nor HTC's cheapest smartphone but it's more like the company's Mercedes Benz S-Class: It might not be a smartphone for everyone but an available showcase of what is already possible. Like in the car industry, I'm quite sure that we'll see many of these enhancements in upcoming HTC phones but if you can't wait any longer, to get these features in your hands, the Sensation is already available today or soon on your network.

The device was exclusively launched with Vodafone across Europe but should be soon available on other networks as well. Furthermore, T-Mobile U.S. is goind to launch it on June 15 as the HTC Sensation 4G. The suggested retail price in Europe is 599 Euro, in the U.S it will be available for US$ 199 after a US$ 50 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement.

Cheers ~ Arne

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