HTC Sensation Review

Since everyone uses their phones differently, allow me to list down how I used the HTC Sensation in my everyday life in order to arrive at several points that I will bring up below. I rely on 3G connectivity whenever I am outside of the house, and switch over to Wi-Fi back in the comfort of my abode. I handle around 10 minutes’ worth of calls each day, send a couple of text messages, and reply less than 10 emails on average. MP3 playback is kept to a minimum (on occasions, really), and the only time I used the GPS chipset was to test out Route66.

HTC Sensation Review

Physical Design
As mentioned earlier, the HTC Sensation is definite a sold phone to hold in your hand, and when you slip it into your pocket, you can be quite sure the feeling of weight allows you to be aware of its presence at all times, unless, of course, you indulge yourself in some really vigorous activity and wear an extremely loose pair of shorts. The back cover will open up easily enough for you to access the battery, microSD memory card slot and SIM card slot, although as with all phones, dust tends to gather within the handset itself after a while, so regularly opening it to clean the insides might be a good idea to keep it in pristine condition. The volume rocker is located on the left side of the phone, while the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack remains at the optimal position as tradition dictates – which is right on top. You will also find the four buttons that most, if not all, Android smartphones have at the bottom of the generous 4.5″ display for quick and easy access.

If you live or work at places that have a Wi-Fi network for you to use, then its Wi-Fi capability would come in handy, not to mention helping you save battery life as well as money in the long run. Not only that, you can turn the HTC Sensation into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot by sharing its 3G connection with up to five different compatible devices simultaneously.

Oh yeah, just in case the built-in 8GB memory is not enough for you, there is always the microSD memory card slot that allows you to expand the storage capabilities of this puppy. Of course, when maxed out, you would have 40GB of space on paper, but that is still some ways off the 64GB iPhone 4S in terms of net storage space. Unless you are one who stores plenty of video and data on your handset, 40GB should be more than enough for most users, but hopefully those won’t be my famous last words.

The 8-megapixel camera sensor inside gets the job done, and it is certainly a vast improvement over previous HTC smartphones. Quick and nimble, it will focus far faster than its spiritual predecessors, and you can even take a quick snapshot on-the-go with decent results as long as you’re in a well lighted environment. Of course, the lack of a physical camera shutter button clearly has its disadvantages, especially when you want to shoot a self-portrait and find yourself second guessing just where your finger should tap. There is also a front-facing camera that doubles up as a “mirror” whenever you are not holding a video call, but I don’t think many people would make use of it regularly.

Apart from shooting stills, you can also record HD videos with the HTC Sensation – there won’t be any Full HD videos for you to stash away for posterity, but the 720p recordings are good enough at the moment where smartphones are concerned.

Multimedia capability
The 4.5″ display is definitely gorgeous to look at – but just like all phones with large screens, this one is also its Achilles’ Heel, since it sucks up more juice than a smaller display. Capable of playing MPEG4 videos in 720p resolution for up to 4 hours plus during my test run with the phone, this is decent enough for a short road trip, but if you are going to make that trans-continental flight and do not want to rely on in-flight entertainment to stave boredom away, I would suggest you get a tablet for your portable video needs as it has a considerably larger screen real estate, not to mention a superior battery life. Holding the phone in your hand does get tiring after a while as well, so this is something that you might want to take note of.

While Adobe might have killed off Flash for the mobile platform, Flash Player is still alive and kicking in the Android environment, and looks set to do so for quite some time to come. You won’t find any issues with most Flash-intensive sites (so far, I did not run into any, but I dare not issue a blanket statement just in case some site out there proves me wrong), and the processor is beefy enough to ensure there is no slowdown when Flash is running.

I would ditch the use of its internal speaker though if I were to watch a movie or listen to MP3s in this, as is the case with most smartphones. After all, that is what a good pair of headphones are for, and it is nice to see HTC roll out a Beats Audio-capable Sensation as well to cater for those who love their music on-the-go.

For those of you who want to watch your videos over on a big screen TV, bear in mind that there is no HDMI port to hook it up to, which could prove to be another reasons for multimedia intensive folks to not purchase this. Casual users won’t really care for this function though.

The HTC Sensation will be powered by Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, and you might want to get down and comfortable with this for some time to come since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich does not look as though it is going to make its way over to the HTC Sensation in the immediate future. Still, I am sure that when Android 4.0 is released across the board, the HTC Sensation does have what it takes underneath the hood to be able to handle Ice Cream Sandwich in all its saccharine sweet goodness.

With HTC Sense 3.0, it is clearly a departure from HTC Sense 2.0 – as you now have a “ring” concept to toy around with. In fact, you can access four different apps immediately without having to unlock the handset by pulling the icon of the app into the ring below, while to unlock the handset, you will need to pull the ring upwards at a certain length. The keyboard also has a function that is similar to that of Swype so that you need not let your fingers perform an awkward dance all over the virtual keyboard just to send out a text message or an email, but I found it not as accurate nor as smooth as Swype in its operation. Definitely room for improvement here. Seven home screens ought to provide you with more than enough space to arrange all those icons properly, but without any folder function like Apple iOS, it might get messy after you’ve gone on an Android Market downloading binge.

As with most Android-powered phones out there, the HTC Sensation is also closely linked to Facebook, letting you check out the status updates of your mates from time to time as long as there is an Internet connection, and you can reply or post your own updates via the pre-loaded Facebook app as well if you so desire.

Route66 recently offered a free download on the Android Market, and I must say, it worked perfectly albeit with a few niggles that I will touch on in a bit. It took less than a minute to determine my co-ordinates, and once it locked on to my position, it was smooth sailing from there. The map that depicted the area where I lived and worked was up-to-date, although certain naming conventions on buildings and locations were off the mark – can you imagine it listed “Mines Wonderland” right beside IKEA? Overall, there are no complaints from my side for its navigational capability, but be forewarned – if you are going to use GPS on your HTC Sensation frequently, make sure you have an in-car charging kit as GPS is one major battery killer. Overall, there is nothing wrong with the GPS chipset itself – just make sure you have the right software to go along with it.

Battery Life
Battery life could make do with some improvement, as is the case with most of the other modern smartphones. I could never get to the next day whenever I have 3G turned on, but relying on Wi-Fi alone allowed me to eke out a day and a half of juice. Of course, this was achieved without playing any games at all during the test period, and neither did I fire up any MP3s or videos in the process. You would also do slightly better with a Task Killer installed, not to mention lowering the screen brightness to a level your eyes are comfortable with without having to rely on the automatic brightness setting.

HTC has recently dropped the price of the Sensation to USD 500 a pop from its USD 600 price point just a few months after making an appearance on the market. I suppose this was done to make it more competitive with the newer handsets that rolled out recently, as those are clearly on par, if not better than the HTC Sensation in terms of paper specifications, without breaking the USD 650 mark. It does feel a little bit dated, and the lack of HDMI connectivity will not sit well with multimedia loving folks. Get this if you are an Android fan who wants a fairly powerful device to get the enterprise side of your life done with ruthless efficiency, but as a portable entertainment device, you might want to check out other newer handsets from HTC as well as their rivals.