Review: HTC Sensation
Can a mobile device ever be too fast? That's what our tech expert Leo Stiles discovered when he got his hands on the HTC Sensation.
By Leo Stiles
The HTC Sensation is a giant of a phone and when holding it for the first time it does leave quite an impression. It’s weighty like you would expect but instead of this being a negative, it cements the first impression that this is a phone to be reckoned with.
The aluminum casing and curved shape are ergonomically pleasing and even with the gargantuan screen, we never felt that it was cumbersome or in need of two hands to operate it. There is no doubt that this is an imposing phone but its physical endowments are nothing to the ferocious components inside
Just like the rest of the pack leaders, the Sensation is equipped with the latest in dual-core silicon, with the CPU at the heart of the phone beating to the tune of 1.2GHZ. This raw power is augmented with 768MB of RAM and even under the heaviest workload we could come up with, the Sensation didn’t pause for breath once.
Many of the phones we have reviewed lately are fast but the Sensation is positively supersonic. In fact, it’s almost a little too fast, as interaction feels almost jerky and we don’t mean in a laggy slow way - just that your eyes don’t seem to be able to catch up with the sheer speed of the transitions.
That said, complaining about a phone for being too fast is a little bit hypocritical after the strong words we’ve had in the past with handsets that have less than optimal interfaces.You do get used to it after a while and we’re sure that HTC will address this issue with some animation smoothing of transitions that make thing easier on the eye.
When you have the equivalent an F1 engine inside it make sense to show it off and the Sensation does this with a one of the biggest screens we have seen on a phone. Coming in at 4.3 inches, HTC really are testing the boundaries of what constitutes a pocket device and while it isn’t quite up to the iPhone retina display, you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference without detailed analysis.
Elsewhere, the phone's screen has a 16:9 ratio so watching HD movies on the phone is a wholly enjoyable experience with excellent contrast and colour reproduction that would give even the Galaxy 2 a run for its money.
The sensation also has media playback taken care of and video and photos were also excellent, with the ability to record in 1080p HD and the 8 megapixel camera on the rear doing well, even in the dreaded low light conditions.
There is a familiarity of all HTC handsets comes courtesy of the company's custom implementation of Android. To some this makes them hard to differentiate but we think that the Sense interface is the smartest implementation of Google’s OS available and the Sensation ups HTCs game even further in this regard.
Widgets are where it's at with the Sensation and the crop that come with Sense 3.0 are flashy, usable and in some cases just plain cool. Once again, the sheer horsepower of the phone is harnessed with all the standard widgets having swish animations and effects and responding with a speed that makes multitasking a cinch perfect for power users. A special mention has to go to the animated weather widget with its realistic animations telling you at a glance what sort of conditions are on the horizon.
Sadly, all this style and fireworks come at a price with the battery performance really taking a hit. Turn the live wallpapers off and scale back your widget use and the phone does ok; certainly not any worse that its nearest competitors. Turn everything on and the phone can run dry in half a day.
Now you might say that all smartphones have this problem but the Sensation is sold on all the bells and whistles, and if that makes the phone a power-hungry monster then give it a battery to match. This oversight really does take the shine off the Sensation and we cant give it a pass any more than we could give the iPhone 4 a pass for its antennae issues.
The Sensation is a mixture of power and beauty and is a phone that leverages the Andorid OS better than almost any other phone. It is a joy to use and looks and feels luxurious. However, battery life is definitely below par and this is serious enough to give us second thoughts about giving the two thumbs up.
If you can deal with a more regular charging cycle then by all means, go grab it; we, on the other hand, will be holding out for the Sensation 2 and its more suitable battery life.