We've been lucky enough to get hold of the hotly-anticipated HTC Sensation Android phone well before its official release in Australia (which is still yet to be confirmed by HTC). Joining the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Motorola Atrix and the LG Optimus 2X as dual-core powered Android smartphones, the HTC Sensation boasts a 4.3in qHD-resolution display, and is wrapped in an aluminium unibody casing. It also features the latest version of HTC's Sense user interface, which promises a heap of new features and improvements.
With all this in mind, can HTC's newest flagship smartphone make a positive first impression?
HTC Sensation: Display
The HTC Sensation has a number of attractive features, but one of the best is its large 4.3in super LCD (SLCD) display. The big draw card here is the resolution — the Sensation's 540x960-pixel resolution makes it a quarter HD (qHD) screen. In general, the higher the resolution the better, as it increases the pixels per inch on the display. The Sensation's qHD screen means you see more of a website at once, and will particularly benefit video playback and mobile gaming.
In a side-by-side comparison, we immediately noticed that the HTC Sensation displays crisper text than the Samsung Galaxy S II. The Sensation also seems to display more natural colours than the Galaxy S II. The crisper text is most evident when zoomed out in a web page; it's here that the HTC Sensation really shines. However, its SLCD screen simply can't match the true vibrancy, brightness and viewing angles of the Galaxy S II's super AMOLED Plus display.
The glossy surface of the HTC Sensation's display is also something we don't like. The surface seems extra glossy and doesn't feel as smooth to slide your finger across as most other Android phones we've tested. On a positive note, we do like how the edges of the glass curve upward toward the edge of the screen — this means the screen doesn't actually come into contact with surfaces when the phone is placed face down on a desk or table.
HTC Sensation: Design
One of the most lauded features of the Sensation is HTC's unibody aluminium design, which has also been used on a number of HTC's other Android phones including the original Desire, the Desire HD, the Legend and the recently launched Incredible S and Desire S phones. The HTC Sensation's unibody casing is constructed from a single piece of aluminium and it does feel pretty well built.
However, like the Samsung Galaxy S II, the HTC Sensation's battery cover feels a little awkward to remove. Taking it off feels as though you are snapping the phone into two separate pieces: the battery cover consists of almost the entire shell of the handset, with the screen and the body of the phone completing the shell. The actual phone and screen part itself is quite thin — it's almost exactly the same thickness as the Samsung Galaxy S II. Could HTC have made the Sensation a little thinner? We aren't engineers but it would be nice to think it could have been possible. That being said, the Sensation does have a relatively small footprint given its large display.
The HTC Sensation includes four touch-sensitive shortcut buttons below the display (home, menu, back, and search) and the keys are backlit and responsive. It's a shame there is no physical shutter button, as it's hard to keep the Sensation still when taking a photo with the on-screen shutter key.
Overall, the HTC's aluminium unibody design definitely feels sturdier than plastic alternatives like the Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy S II. It's thicker than most of its competitors, but the extra girth is a trade-off we think many users would be willing to make for the added durability of the unibody design.
HTC Sensation: Performance and software
The HTC Sensation is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, so it is predictably fast during general use. However, the Sensation feels a little slower than some of its competitors due to the graphically intense Sense UI. The HTC Sensation is not a slow smartphone by any means, but simple processes like swiping between home screens, zooming out to display a 'helicopter view' of current home screens, or even swiping to open the lock screen aren't as quick as we'd like.
On one hand, the Sense UI's slick animations and flashy menus do give it a unique edge when comparing it to other Android phones, but on the other hand, the user experience does not feel as blazingly fast as other dual-core phones. On a positive note, the HTC Sensation feels like a finished product, and not like a half-baked phone that was rushed to release — we haven't yet experienced any glaring bugs or noticeable lag during testing.
Speaking of HTC Sense, it's been updated on the Sensation and from what we've seen so far the changes are mostly aesthetic. The best feature is the new lock screen, which now comes with four customisable shortcuts that can be dragged into the unlock ring to unlock straight into an assigned app. In addition to custom wallpaper, the HTC Sensation also allows you to display photo albums, a friend stream, weather, stocks or the clock on the lock screen; all come complete with fantastic visual animations that we've come to expect from HTC. Sense 3.0 also includes a 3D rotating effect when scrolling between home screens, and an updated weather app with new animations and sounds.
Keep in mind that our early review unit is an overseas import of the HTC Sensation available though online store MobiCity, and not the final Australian model that is likely to be released toward the end of the year. The Australian model of the HTC Sensation is likely to feature various bundled telco apps, and may include extra, local software that is not pre-loaded on our imported review unit.
We'll bring you a full, comprehensive review of the HTC Sensation in the coming days. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Sensation that you'd like us to answer, please leave us a comment below!