HTC Sensation 4G Review

The HTC Sensation 4G is T-Mobile’s version of the phone known internationally as simply the HTC Sensation. 4G marketing aside, the handset brings the same powerful hardware and fluid software that make it the manufacturer’s latest flagship device. The Sensation 4G has been dubbed a superphone, and earns the title easily with its combination of devilishly good looks and killer user experience. We could cut to the chase and tell you the HTC Sensation is hands-down among the top of the Android crop, but what would the fun in that be? Read on for our full take on this dual-core beauty.

Hardware Review

The top-notch hardware offered  by the HTC Sensation 4G makes using the phone effortless. HTC has hit the right note on almost every factor, from the dual-core chipset to the crisp and clear qHD display. All of this is bundled in a sleek unibody design that feels about as solid as a handset can.

A huge part of what makes the Sensation such a treat to use is the dual-core Snapdragon CPU clocked at 1.2GHz. The processor provides plenty of pep there is hardly a task (or multi-task) the chip isn’t up for. It helps that the CPU is backed by 768MB of RAM to insure no bottlenecking of resources. Moving through the HTC Sense user interface is smooth and responsive and nary a snag is to be found. Gaming is fluid and rendered easily.

It’s also rendered beautifully on the 4.3-inch qHD display. This the same qHD display tech that seems to be making its way into every high-end Android smartphone, so we won’t spend too much time praising it, but it looks just as good as ever. In a world where you’d be hard-pressed to find a device with less than a 4-inch screen, the 4.3-inch size feels comfortable and provides plenty of screen real estate.

An 8MP camera is coupled with a dual-LED flash and is capable of recording 1080p video. A front-facing camera is present for video calling and plenty of opportunities for glamor shots without the use of a mirror. Battery life was a bit surprising in a good way. Heavy use is sure to drain your juice quickly, but keeping to tasks such as calling and texting provides oodles of standby time.

Software Review

The HTC Sensation 4G features Android 2.3.3 with HTC Sense 3.0 on top. Sense has always ranked as one of our favorite custom Android UIs, and here it is implemented to perfection. The latest version of Sense features key enhancements while maintaining much of what made Sense good to begin with.

You will notice as soon as you boot up the phone the new active lock screen. By dragging application icons into the unlock ring the phone will launch directly into services such as the phone dialer, email, and camera. It takes a few steps out of the process, and comes in real handy when you want to quickly snap off a picture without navigating through the UI to jump to the camera.

HTC has implemented a “3D” homescreen system which provides a rotatable carousel of content. Flicking from screen to screen is accompanied by a pretty animation and you won’t hit a dead end — screens cycle back around, a small change that is much appreciated.

The notification dropdown now features two tabs. The first is exactly what you’d expect, all of your notifications in one area, but the second provides quick access to toggling services such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Being able to access these toggles from any screen gives you quick and seamless control over power-hungry services, a necessary feature for aiding in lower battery consumption.

Gaming, Media, and Web Browing

The great thing about the Sensation 4G is that its powerful hardware and customizable software allow the phone to be a jack of all trades. Power users will be right at home with this handset, and gamers will be equally as pleased. The same goes for those who use their handsets as media machines.

It all works pretty flawlessly. The Sensation makes short work of 3D rendering for games and doesn’t skip a beat in the process. The same goes for pulling down webpages and streaming videos from the internet. And watching those videos on the Sensation’s qHD display doesn’t disappoint.

The real key to the whole experience is HSPA+ support over T-Mobile’s network. We haven’t always been the biggest fans of the 4G name being thrown on this 3.5G technology, but we simply can’t deny the speeds it provides. Downloads and uploads are quick and painless. Uploads to YouTube took mere minutes (though the phone won’t push large files to the web unless you are on a WiFi connection), and browsing even the bulkiest of webpages comes with hardly a hiccup.

Camera

The Sensation 4G doesn’t let us down with its 8MP camera capable of 1080p video capture. Images retain great color and the camera fares well in low-light situations. Of course, a dual-led flash means you won’t have to worry too much about that. At its full 8MP resolution, images look gorgeous to say the least. The Sensation may offer one of the best cameras we have seen in an Android phone, but we’ll let the results speak for themselves.

We would have liked a bit more out of the actual video recording, but for a smartphone we get what we’d expect and a bit more. Quality is good, though the result is a bit washed out. Video also plays a bit jittery beyond the unsteady hands of this reviewer. Again, we will let the final product do the talking here.

In Conclusion

The HTC Sensation 4G is the complete package: powerful hardware, stylish design, and a solid user experience. The phone doesn’t feel like too much for the average user but its ability to serve the power user is endless. We could even go so far as to say the Sensation might just be the best handset in T-Mobile’s entire Android lineup. HTC really has knocked one out of the park with this one, you will want to check it out for yourself.

 

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  • NoBug

    This or SGS II…I’m torn!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Uehlinger/641910520 Robert Uehlinger

      I feel the same way. i dont want to use the excuse about samsung sucking
      on their updates but i have seen it first hand because i have the
      vibrant. i am leaning more towards the sensation because of this. i know
      kind of biased but i think that HTC will get updates out quicker.

      • Lcg1519

        If u truly and honestly care about updates…just root your phone. Its really not hard. You will wish you had a long time ago.

        • Gtporschecarrera1

          I know you feel that rooting is the best option, but depending on which device you have trust me it can be difficult especially when you are not 100% on what your doing and the risk level is as high as it is… take it from me rooting is awesome but it is not for everyone…

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1787373408 Austin Nichols

            its almost 100% impossible to brick a galaxy S

          • guest

            Unless you get an OTA from Bell.  They bricked my neighbour’s phone and quite a few others.

        • Smoknjo

          I believe it is time for me to root my HTC Incredible – but having never done anything like that before, I’m worried – I have links saved on how to do it … would love to have my hand held (I know, sounds gay, but once I see it, I’ll never fear it)

    • Jmaxku

      It’s a hard one.  I’d pick the SGS2 for hardware/Super Amoled Plus, and I’d pick the Sensation for form factor and UI experience–maybe even battery life considering the new Snapdragon has asynchronous control for each core.  You really can’t go wrong.

      • jaylanPHNX

        If someone shoehorns a Sense ROM onto the SGS II, then you have the best of both worlds.

    • Pip73

      One good thing for me is that I’m 10 months away from an upgrade – so don’t have to make the choice just now. I think these two manufacturers are so close though, they are going to spur each other on to produce something really special for thier next flagships.

    • phoenix

      go with the nexus 3

      • gohaus

        I would but I’m currently rocking no phone. So Sensation will be mine shortly :)

  • OMFCody

    Can’t wait for a Canadian version!

    • Burko

      Racist

  • http://www.gadginator.com Dunnion

    Such a good looking phone.

  • durangojim

    Pentile?

    • simp1istic

      Why will no reviewer answer this question?

      • Jmaxku

        They prob don’t know.  It’s a good question though.  Hasn’t the pentile pixelation prob been fixed by the Super Amoled Plus?  I don’t know about qHD.

        • EarlyMon

          SAMOLED+ is RGB, not PenTile, so that fixes any PenTile issues.

          qHD is just a number of dots spec – expect to see it on future SAMOLED-type displays.

      • EarlyMon

        NOT PenTile. Anandtech noted this in their review, as well as some of the European sites that got this phone earlier to review than the US.

        • jroc74

          That sucks vs. other phones with qHD that do have it…

          When are all the manufactures gonna be on somewhat of the same page? There are 2 different types of qHD screens out?

          • dazweeja

            You actually want PenTile? I want a sharper image.

            Of course, there’s a number of qHD screens out. Just like there’s a million WVGA screens.

          • jroc74

            Maybe you didnt understand my post…

            I’m saying it sucks the other phones have Pentile while the EVO 3D and this dont.

            The last part of your comment…..sigh….

          • dazweeja

            What I meant by the last part of my comment was that any manufacturer, using any technology (AMOLED, LCD, etc), can create a screen that’s 960×540 and that screen will be qHD. Just like any screen that is 800×480 is WVGA. I didn’t literally mean there was a million different types of WVGA screens but there’s plenty from plenty of different manufacturers just like there will be for qHD screens. I don’t understand why you’d be surprised that multiple manufacturers are making 960×540 screens. And yes, your use of ‘vs’ in that sentence translates as ‘the Evo 3D/Sensation not having PenTile sucks *compared to* other phone that do have it’, hence my confusion.

          • jroc74

            lol….ok, gotcha. Its all good.

  • Jmaxku

    “Moving through the HTC Sense user interface is smooth and responsive and nary a snag is to be found.”
    I hope so.  It’s all iOS has over Android these days.  ICS and accelerated hardware can’t come soon enough.

    • Gtporschecarrera1

      Amen bro! couldnt have said it better myself… I <3 ICS ;)

    • sQueezedhe

      ICS? /ignorant.

      • smartypants4

        Ice Cream Sandwich.

        The next version of Android, which will finally bring improvements from Honeycomb (notably hardware-accelerated graphics) to phones.

        • sQueezedhe

          Cheers.

  • Jmaxku

    I can’t believe the rotating desktop/home screen took this long to come to fruition.  It really should have been common sense.  I love it!

    • eclipsenyou

      GoLauncher has had this option on both the homescreens and within the app drawer for months now.  I mean really, who users the stock launcher on any android anymore?  (I guess the same people too scared to root their phones in lieu of complaining about updates.  *cough*Samsung haters*cough*)

      • xmichaelx

        This brings up a question I have: Do you have to root to replace the launcher on some phones? I have a Droid running LauncherPro. Could I still use that with other non-rooted phones?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lucas-LeCompte/47912789 Lucas LeCompte

          you dont have to root to change the launcher.  You can do it on any phone.

          • xmichaelx

            Thanks!

  • David Nguyen

    Interesting review. 

    All other reviews I’ve read from other site are on par with this but for a couple exceptions. There seems to be a discrepancy on the camera, sound quality(tinny), and overall performance of this phone. In benchmarks the SGS 2 phone was blazing fast as expected for a 1.2 dual core but the Sensation came out a bit lack luster. It also lagged slightly when opening apps or removing icons for instance. SGS 2 as 10 point multi-touch whereas Sensation as 5 point. Sense seems to be a memory hog and graphics hog at the same time and battery life is atrocious lately…Thunderbolt, Incredible, Evo…on and on. While I love HTC phones, I stick to the stock like my Nexus which is fast and lean. I feel unlike other OEMs where they have backed off on heavily skinning Android, HTC has gone in reverse. I’m not sure if it is a bad or good thing. Like the lock screen while interesting, who uses it? Unless you want everyone to be able to access your phone.  I use a pin or pattern for security. The spinning home screen while visual eye candy as with the weather is just that eye candy.I feel Sense has become bloated in lieu for aesthetics. Now if Samsung made their phone with the same build quality and less use of plastics it would knock their phones out of the ballpark. 

    I guess in the end I’m going to have to physically test this phone to make the final judgement.

    • Guest

      Ugh… thanks for your view on that.

    • dazweeja

      Turn off all the Sense eye candy and the Sensation is just as fast as the SGSII. It beats out SGSII on Linpack (raw processing power) and GL Benchmark 2.0. Read what you like into other benchmarking software but obviously many don’t push the CPU’s asynchronous cores hard enough to gauge real performance. Battery life on the Sensation is better than any of the other HTC phones you mention. Camera and speaker are also better but speaker is always weak on HTC phones. If the bootloader was confirmed to be unlocked through a future software update, Sense wouldn’t matter but until then, I agree that it’s a big factor.

    • http://twitter.com/SParKlngCyaNide SparklingCyanide

      you’re crazy Battery life is Phenomenal on the Sensation plus its fast and the touch screen has absolutely no problems what-so-ever.  The only things I don’t like about it is the power lock button can be a little tough to press and the speaker could be a little bit louder.  But other than that I’m very glad I’ve picked up the Sensation, absolute BEST build quality in a phone ever it reminds me a lot of my Nexus One which is definitely a good thing.  : )

  • http://profiles.google.com/dnoggle Derek Noggle

    Did nobody else notice he kept talking about how fast HSPA+ was when he’s connected to WIFI the entire time?

    • 3rd_input

      He talks too much about T-Mobile and their speeds He is a T-Mo hater, which is why he can’t resist throwing digs and comments in every time he posts.

      • HalfwayCrook

        Yea he is the biggest dick ever. 
        Message to kevin: Your wifi sucks ass, test real hspa+

      • Hgdt12345

        then why do you waste your time watching and commenting in this review!

        • Renter

          Stop fuckin calling this a REVIEW! These asshole SELL PHONES but want to try and claim they, “review” phones? 
          I love all these bloggers who pop up selling phones and acting like they are unbiased. 
          Fuckin deceptive. 

          • Renter

            Its good to see though that they have lovely flowers in Compton. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Xing-Guo/100001595075284 Xing Guo

            i have got it from amazon  if anybody want to buy it I suggest you go

            http://www.2011bestphone.com/?p=70 to know more information about it

            !!! i think it can help you very  much

    • Guest

      Caught that right away. He better get a thicker pair of glasses. This clown is just another apple fanboy who takes constant digs. T-Mobile HSPA+ is giving me 12.5 MB download during the day with 1.7 MB upload. Not too shabby. 

  • Apple Drone

    iPhone 5

    • Guest

      What a troll

  • Elmano68

    I have had one for about 4 days, and I love it. The screen is a beauty and I push it to the limit everyday and it keeps up. The phone goes from off to fully booted in seconds. It has had its hick ups though. But all phones do, a review does it no justice, you have to hold it and see it for your self.

  • Mobileguy

    I gotta tell ya guys, you will not be disappointed with this phone! I picked mine up from Walmart yesterday, and I could not be happier. I have had the Vibrant since it’s debut, and the Sensation absolutely blows it away. While I had considered waiting for the GS2, I had to go with this purely for the issues I had getting updates from Samsung. Now that I have it, I realize this thing is truly a beast! Get it from walmart if you have an upgrade people! Only $148! Save $50!

  • Jeff72

    Couple questions for you:

    Does the Netflix application work on the HTC Sensation 4G?
    Do they have a 4G toggle option for the drop down toggle menu?
    Do they have a data toggle option for the drop down toggle menu?
    Does HTC Sensation 4G come with free WiFi calling?
    How is the screen in direct sunlight?  Usable?

    I’m tempted on this phone, very much so.  Would help to know the above.  I’m also waiting to see if T-Mobile has a Father’s day deal on it this weekend.

    My other option is the Samsung Galaxy S 2 if/when it arrives.  Some of the top tech sites seemed to like the Samsung better.

    • mike

      Netflix isn’t out for the sensation yet.
      There’s a toggle to turn off cellular network in the drop down menu 
      There is wifi calling but it still uses your plan minutes 
      The screen looks good outside but in direct bright sunlight it gets a little tough to see.

      Hope it helps

      • Jeff72

        Thanks, it does help.

        Have you tried searching the market on the Sensation for Netflix recently?  I know they updated it and opened it up to more phones in the last couple weeks.I was hoping you could disable 4G and then just use Edge or 3G.  So they do not allow you to disable 4G only?The reason I ask is I have bad 3G signal here and miss calls using 3G so I tend to disable 3G on my current phone and use Edge since I get great phone reception on Edge.  I then just use WiFi at home and 3G on the road when I need it.  Saves on battery too.  So was hoping I could do the same if my 4G signal here was poor.I’m wondering if the Samsung Galaxy S 2 screens are better to see in sunlight compared to the Sensation?  Anyone compare them in sunlight?

        • Gtporschecarrera1

          If I can control whether on 3G or edge on my moto cliq, Im sure there will be a place in the settings to do it on the sensation :) haha

        • mike

          Well there still isn’t any netflix in the market on my sensation. And to my understanding Tmobile’s 4g is HSPA+ and their 3G is simply HSPA. (Not totally sure). HSPA+ is technically a third generation technology so im not sure if you can turn off “4G”. So far after looking through some settings I haven’t found anything of the sorts but maybe I just missed it.

          As far as the screen in sunlight, the qhd display is ok in the sun. I haven’t tested against the S2 in person, but the many reviews I’ve read and seeing the S1′s AMOLED screen I’d say the S2 has a nicer screen. Still the Sensation isn’t to far off.

          • jaylanPHNX

            Netflix took the device check out of the app, but the market is still preventing unsupported phones from getting it. You have to find the latest APK from somewhere like XDA and install it to see if it runs. I have it working on my MT4G (with Royal Panache ROM).
            As for 3G/4G, since HSPA+ is just modified 3G, I don’t think there’s any extra batter drain involved, so there’s no reason to toggle.

      • Guest

        According to tmobile, wifi calling NO LONGERA uses your minutes.

    • gohaus

      You don’t need a toggle 4G option on a phone like this because HSPA+ is just the upgrade to the old HSPA 3G networks. Unlike WiMax and LTE, which use a totally different radio for their 4G service, the HSPA+ radio takes advantage of the service provided up to it’s limit (in this case 14 mbps). This helps with the severe battery drain people experience once their 3g and 4g radios are active on other devices.

  • edaddy

    I’ve read about touchscreen problems and lousy speakerphone. Makes me nervous. Will most likely wait for Nexus 3.  Having a Nexus One and stock android, I’m spoiled and can’t go to a skinned version.  http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/06/06/is-your-htc-sensation-having-touchscreen-problems/

  • Tangent

    Wait a sec, in the video he says it has 4GB internal storage. Everything else I’ve read lists 1GB internal storage. Either way I still want it, but it would be nice if it really had 4GB internal… 

    • mike

      It has 4GB internal storage, but only 1GB is user accesible.

      • Jay Ryan

        The other three is app storage

        • Guest

          No, 3GB is for android + sense. 1GB is for apps

          • dbcad7

            As you say, the 3GB is for Android, Sense and preinstalled apps.. The 1GB is for user installed apps, and then you have the memory card of up  to 32 GB in which to intall apps, music, pics, movies or whatever.. you also have an additional 768 MB of Ram which is used to run the OS and apps.. I went to Market and looked at the top five paid apps..  Beautiful Widgets, Rom Manager, Fruit Ninja, WeatherBug, and Root Explorer.. The total for these five apps is 16.8 MB.. So you could install all 5 of these apps 61 times before using up the 1GB of ram.. which equals to 305 apps of similar size, before you needed to use SD card…. So, although everyone would like more I don’t think memory is really a problem. I think it would be difficult even for “power users” to provide a list of 40 apps they have installed “that didn’t come with their phone” that they use at least once a month.. and probably 20 apps is tough to come up with for the average working person.

  • Guest

    One of the FEW REVIEWS to fail to mention how sluggish sense 3.0 is.
    Actually nothing negative is a red flag.

    • dbcad7

       Or maybe it’s a good phone.

  • Guest

    Almost every review notes sluggish performance from sense 3.0.
    Also htc raved about hi fi sound but reviews of audio performance have been lackluster.

    • HalfwayCrook

      We read it the first time.

    • jaylanPHNX

      In the time I messed with one at the store, I noticed no lag. It probably depends on what apps and such people have running in the background.

      As for hi fi audio, I think they meant sound output via headphones and bluetooth. HTC always has crappy external speakers, which is part of why I’m leaning toward the SGS2.

  • Jon Grimstad

    Hopefully you don’t mind we used this review for our website. Credits have been given to Phandroid.com and Kevin Krause.

    http://sense-devs.texity.net/?page_id=39

    • Jon Grimstad

      I will of course remove the review if you wish this :)

    • HalfwayCrook

      Remove this review because it is terrible. Go on android Central for a proper review.

  • rayevo3dfamily

    No doubt that this device is a great addition to tmobile in my eyes this beats the Gx2 hands down. Myself well it 10days till the very close cousin launches my beloved Evo 3d the KING OF ANDROID…

    • squiddy20

      Correction you dolt: The E3D CANNOT be “king of Android” if it’s only being released to Sprint here in the US and a few European countries. Maybe, just maybe, if it were released to ALL US carriers and a lot more overseas carriers, your comment might have some merit. As it stands now, it doesn’t. Also, considering not even 1 device is in the hands of ANY users, it can’t possibly be “king” of anything at this point. What you’re doing is synonymous to calling Prince Charles the King of England when he is not, in fact, the KING of England. Try again.

    • gohaus

      you managed to find another way back onto phandroid? Also take your own advice and don’t comment on the story if you’ve got nothing to say about it. Stick to the Evo 3D stories and stay off tmonews.com 

    • Meach

      I see the greasy bear has tried to change his online identity while off on the troll. The topic of conversation is the Sensation. Take your EVO 3D talk back into your cave.

  • rhunting

    Vodafone UK exclusive on HTC Sensation is over after 4 weeks. Mobilife compare 619 deals from £25pm, find a sensational deal @ bit.ly/ms8Qpl

  • http://twitter.com/SParKlngCyaNide SparklingCyanide

    I absolutely love my Sensation 4G. its build is phenomenal and reminds me a lot of my Nexus One materials which is a very good thing. The battery life is really great and also barely uses any battery life when not using it also so its very efficient. The screen is crisp, clear, and bright also is not Pentile. I am also so impressed by the camera, best ever on any cell I’ve had definitely lives up to its 8megapixel namesake. The only think I don’t like about it is the power lock button is a little tough to press at times and the speaker could be more powerful otherwise it’s a Fantastic experience and the new unlock screen is simply Brilliant even tho I didn’t think a big deal about it before I actually used it but boy is it handy you’ll use it a lot.

  • mcc13

    Nobody talking about the WiFi drops when you hold the phone. I can’t even use WiFi on the sensationin my living room because the signal drops do badly when I grab too much of the top half of the phone. Both speakers stink and the death grip WiFi issues may have me returning this phone.

  • Arun Kumar

    Hi, I’ve been waiting for the launch of the HTC Sensation in India for
    quite a while now. And am really looking forward to acquiring one, but
    I’ve been reading about the Sensation possessing death grip issues. Is
    this true? I just cant wait to get my hands on this phone for I’ve
    waited so long.

  • Luktry_26

    lo consegui a un precio unico
    pueden verlo en este link
    http://www.celutronic.com/product_info_products_id-430.html

  • Heinelarsen

    I really like my new HTC Sensation – best smartphone ive ever had!

  • Jim H

    This phone really has some deal breaking issues. There are definately issues with the wifi and with the bluetooth.

    Phone #1:

    random reboots, Super short battery life, would not stay connected to wifi reliably, poor batter life and it died in less than 24 hours and could not be turned on again. The battery meter just kept dropping even though it was plugged in and the charger and cable were good.

    Phone #2:

    WIFI: While NOT holding the Sensation in my hnad….The signal is always about 10dBm below my laptop and iPhone when in the same location. Installing a wifi finder reveals that access points are present one moment and gone the next unless they have the strongest signal. The iPhone and the PC see 10+ access points and the Sensation can only see two of the three in my house. If you install a signal analyzer it reveals that the Sensation shows the signal varying wildly while the PC and iPhone show a steady signal.

    BLUETOOTH: While playing audio the signal fades and the music skips unless the Sensation is within 2 feet of my Motorol S9 headset. if I put it in a sweathshirt pocket I get skips. If I put the sensation on my pants pocket the audio cuts out 50% of the time.

    Other issues: short battery life, stalls, browser hangs, phone search results put web results at the top of the list and contacts and music at the bottom of the list off of the screen making the user think that it is not searching contacts (what happened to ranking the results and displaying the highest ranked and closest matched?), song somtimes changes when unlocking phone, VM notification still displayed when there are no messages, hard to sync music automatically and most third party sync software doesn’t sync play counts or ratings, bluethooth integration with built in music player is poor, you have to tell the music player to use bluetooth each time… even if the bluetooth headset isn’t already connected. Compared to the iPhone, the navigation is inconsistent. Sometimes you navigate back with the back button, sometimes it’s in the software.

    I think I’ll go back to the iPhone, it is not as flexible as the Android OS, but it executes it’s core functions flawlessy. The Android OS, or maybe the Sense overlay doesn’t seem ready for prime time.