The Sensation is, quite simply, the most complete mobile phone I have ever used. It does not put a foot out of step. This makes reviewing it rather difficult, as there is nothing to get pissy about! HTC put a loto of thought into The Sensation, and it shows.
There really isn’t much room to innovate when it comes to touch screen phones. There needs to be a screen, some buttons and well, that’s about it.
That said, the boys at HTC have ticked off these basics and gone one step further. The back cover acts as a shell that the entire phone sits in. Like a turtle! This makes the Sensation rather durable; taking drops and scrapes like a boss. Unless, as I learned, you drop it flat on the glass touch-screen… that ends, well, badly.
The screen has a wonderful feel to it; the glass is smooth and slightly tapered upwards towards the sides, allowing you to feel where the screen ends. The tactile quality of the screen is complemented by the touch sensitivity being extremely accurate and responsive. This makes typing natural and navigating the menus speedy. Personally, I think this is the best touchscreen on the market. Yes, better than the iPhone 4 – it had to happen.
Rocking a full 960×540 resolution the quality of the screen is superb. One of the biggest tells for me is when browsing the net how sharp is the text. The iPhone 4/4S sets the bar but the Sensation comes so close that even side by side I would have trouble differentiating in quality.
A phenomenal camera compliments the screen. Rocking a full 8 megapixels, autofocus and other photographer jargon I don’t understand, nor care for. The fact is it takes great pictures, in any light and in any conditions. It is quick off the draw and if you have the Google+ application installed your photo will automatically be uploaded and saved to the web. Pretty smart!
[In the gallery is a picture I took from the rooftop of a bar in Johannesburg using the Sensation. This should give some sort of idea of the quality of this camera.]
The speed of this thing needs to be mentioned. Compared to an iPhone 4, Motorola Atrix, BlackBerry Torch 2… basically every other phone feels rather remedial compared to the lighting speed of the Sensation. Everything from unlocking the screen to opening applications happens at an unbelievable rate. That millisecond pause that normally accompanies opening apps on a phone is just not there…
The downside to this unbelievable speed is the battery life, which is okay. Not brilliant, but okay. Unplugging it at 6am it will get you through to 5pm using it heavily (as you should). I just left a charger in my car and connected it to my laptop at varsity and it was perfect. This is not ideal but it is a worthwhile compromise.
The Sensation has all the other good stuff you expect on a high-end smartphone, Wifi, 3G HSPA+, A-GPS,
The Operating System
The Sensation runs Google’s Android 3.3.5, which is a brilliant operating system. It is smooth, stable and very fast.
HTC customize Android, with their Sense Interface, to such an extent that it is not recognizable from the basic OS.
This is a risky move as it can overcomplicate the interface. That said, HTC have done a pretty good job. The customizations are so complete that they extend throughout the device. From the messaging app, to the contact manager, to the social applications to pretty much every other place you’d interact with the device.
HTC have made Android better, Sense did not compromise the stability of the OS, in fact it was smoother than some stock builds of Android 3.3.5.
Sense is so complete and well thought out it makes the interface on the Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy S II, look archaic and well, lame.
If there is one criticism to be made is that the stock social applications, Peep (Twitter) and Facebook for Sense, do need a little work. They’re good enough but there are better apps that can be downloaded off the Android Market.
HTC’s Sense Interface
The Sense homescreen is clean and well organized, with a plethora of (useful) widgets provided. The contacts application syncs constantly with Twitter and Facebook to give you an overview of what that contact has been up to, all from their contact profile. There are seven Sense themes available for the Sensation, all of which look professional and operate smoothly.
The downside to all this coolness is that Sense is constantly pulling data off the web, using WiFi and 3G. Wifi isn’t a problem but when you’re at varsity, or out of the office the whole day you’d better have a serious data bundle. I mean 1gig or so per month.
A notable point has to be made about the lock screen, on which you can place four shortcuts, that, when dragged into the unlock box open that application straight from the lock screen.
This is a high-end smartphone, it is well designed in terms of both software and hardware and it in my opinion it places itself firmly in the lead of the smartphone race.
(Images via HTC)