HTC Sensation Android phone

HTC Sensation review: A powerful beast wrapped in a sturdy, aluminium shell

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HTC Sensation
  • HTC Sensation
  • HTC Sensation
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Premium unibody design
  • qHD display
  • Slick Android and Sense software

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Doesn't feel as snappy as other dual-core phones
  • Slow camera

Bottom Line

The HTC Sensation combines a large, qHD display with an excellent unibody aluminium design. It may not feel as snappy as other dual-core Android phones, nor offer anything hugely new or innovative over previous HTC models, but it remains a great smartphone.

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HTC Sensation: Performance and software

The HTC Sensation is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and runs the latest version of Google's Android operating system, 2.3 or "Gingerbread." HTC's Sense UI overlay sits on top of the standard Android interface, and although the changes in version 3.0 are mostly aesthetic, it adds polish to what already is a tidy UI.

The best feature of Sense 3.0 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, and all come complete with the fantastic animations we've come to expect from HTC. The lock screen will also display missed call, e-mail, and SMS notifications (and album art when you are playing music), but you annoyingly can't directly unlock straight into these apps unless you have them set as a lock screen shortcut. Sense 3.0 also includes a 3D rotating effect when scrolling between home screens, and an updated weather app with new animations and sounds, which can thankfully be turned off. We love the fact that HTC Sense displays your eight most recently opened applications at the top of the notifications panel in a horizontal scroll bar, along with quick setting toggles including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspot, GPS, mobile network and a link to all phone settings.

The Sense UI's slick animations and flashy menus do give the Sensation an edge over other Android phones, and we think Sense is particularly good for first-time Android users or people who haven't used a smartphone before.

Further, the HTC Sensation feels like a finished product, and not like a half-baked phone that was rushed to release — we did not experience any glaring bugs or noticeable lag during testing. However, the Sensation feels a little slower than some of its competitors due to the graphically intense UI. The HTC Sensation is not a sluggish 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 instant as other dual-core phones we’ve tested.

The Sensation works with HTCSense.com, a set of desktop-based services largely centred on backup and security. Once you've created a HTC account and logged in, you can locate your phone on a map if it is stolen, remotely lock or wipe the handset, redirect calls and messages to an alternative phone number and archive contacts, text messages and call history — all through your PC.

The HTC Sensation has an excellent Web browser. It supports Flash video and multitouch zooming, and it loads and renders pages quickly and smoothly. The Sensation also handles media efficiently; we loaded a 720p HD AVI file onto our microSD card, and played back the file without any issues.

HTC Sensation: Camera, battery life and other features

The HTC Sensation has an 8-megapixel camera with a dual LED flash, and a front-facing VGA camera for video calling. The rear camera also doubles as a full 1080p HD video recorder. The flash works reasonably well in dim lighting, and video recording is of an excellent quality. The camera has a wealth of settings including the ability to adjust ISO, sharpness, saturation, contrast and exposure. We also loved the fact you can use the external volume controls as zoom keys, though the lack of physical camera shutter key is an annoyance, and the shutter is slower than we'd have liked.

The HTC Sensation doesn't come with an HDMI-out port but includes a new connection technology called Mobile High-definition Link (MHL). The on-board MHL technology uses the standard micro-USB port on the Sensation for outputting 1080p HD video and audio via HDMI. You'll need a micro-USB to HDMI MHL connector to enable this feature (this is not included in the box), but the beauty of MHL means it can also be used with a USB adapter. This means the HTC Sensation can utilise USB on-the-go functionality like the Nokia N8.

Battery life on the HTC Sensation is much improved compared to the Desire HD, but users will still need to charge the phone every night on most occasions. We managed around 12 hours during moderate use, though we recommend turning off e-mail, Facebook and Twitter updates to significantly boost this result.

Keep in mind that this review unit was an overseas import of the HTC Sensation available though online store MobiCity, and not the final Australian model that is now available through Telstra. We will update this review with any necessary changes when we get our hands on an Australian model of the Sensation.

Telstra sells the HTC Sensation for $0 upfront on its $79 freedom connect plan over 24 months. The plan includes $800 worth of calls, unlimited SMS and MessageBank, and 2GB of data per month. The HTC Sensation is also available on Telstra's $59 business mobile maximiser Plan and will be sold outright for $792.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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