Review: HTC Sensation

Late in June, HTC entered the New Zealand Android market with the compact Wildfire S and high-powered Sensation.

NameSmartphone: HTC Sensation
At a glance:4.3-inch, 540 x 960-pixel display,Dual-core 1.2GHz CPU,Android 2.3 with HTC Sense,Includes 8GB microSD card (1GB onboard storage)
Summary:HTC took a bet on the name 'Sensation', but it sure paid off.

Late in June, HTC entered the New Zealand Android market with the compact Wildfire S and high-powered Sensation.

As smartphones go, the Sensation is one of the larger models out there. Though just 11mm thick, it has a 126 x 65mm body and generous 4.3-inch screen. Owing to its very solid construction, it’s also heavier than many competitors at 148 grams with battery.

That large screen runs at 540 x 960 pixels, which gives it a dot pitch of 256ppi. Compare that to the iPhone 4’s ‘Retina Display’, with a larger area of 640 x 960 pixels and much sharper dot pitch of 326ppi. The result? The Sensation gives you a larger screen to look at, but less real-estate and not as sharp an image as Apple’s current iPhone.

Behind the screen is a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU with 768MB of RAM; comparable to other top-end smartphones in the Sensation’s price bracket. In fact, the specs blow away many of the tablet devices we’ve seen this year.

Connectivity is via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 3.0 and a standard Micro USB port. A VGA (640 x 480) front-facing camera handles video calling, while a rear-facing camera captures still images at 8MP and records video in Full HD (1080p).

If there’s one area where the Sensation disappoints, it’s the meagre 1GB of onboard storage. However, a microSD card slot allows expansion up to 32GB. An 8GB card is included in the box, which should prove sufficient for users that don’t want to carry around their video or music collection.

The phone runs Android 2.3, with HTC’s ‘Sense’ overlay. I’ve never been a fan of vendor overlays: I find there’s no quicker way to ruin a smartphone’s user interface than layering on heavy-handed and wholly unnecessary functionality. Imagine my surprise when the Sensation turned out to be the first Android phone I’ve ever got along with.

HTC Sense brings a slick, intuitive and easily customisable face to Android 2.3, while adding a variety of home screen widgets and apps that truly complement the existing Android platform – not just awkwardly duplicate parts of it.

I found social media widget Friend Stream particularly useful, pulling together updates from multiple social networks in one easily-skimmed panel. When it comes to checking direct messages and making updates, HTC’s ‘Peep’ is one of the best Twitter clients I’ve used on a phone. Also notable is HTC’s iconic home screen weather widget, which is both gorgeous and functional.

The dual-core processor keeps apps and games running smoothly, and Sense doesn’t seem to weigh things down. Without a doubt, the HTC Sensation provided the most reliable, cleanest and least angst-ridden Android experience I’ve ever had.

The downside of that processing power is the battery life. Though advertised at 500 minutes talk time and 285 hours standby on GSM networks, I managed to run the battery flat every day through a combination of YouTube streaming and online game Words with Friends. This is average in smartphone terms – I can’t fault the Sensation on displaying the same battery life as its direct competitors, but it’s worth noting that it has no particular advantage in that category.

Altogether, I would happily use the HTC Sensation as my own smartphone. It’s heavier than average, lacks onboard storage (which it makes up for with a memory card in the box), and suffers from the normal smartphone limitations on battery life. None of these problems detracted from the experience enough to subtract even a half-point from its score. PC World Platinum, and I’ve found a new smartphone.

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Tags smartphonehtc sensationhtcAndroid 2.3Android

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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