HTC Sensation 4G Review - A Sensational Smartphoneby Brian Klug on July 1, 2011 12:38 AM EST
I generally end up putting battery life details at the end, but to be honest it’s probably one of the most important things on a smartphone, and one of the more important points to explore when talking about the Sensation. This is the second dual core SoC we’ve looked at, and thus the results are even more interesting. Qualcomm’s MSM8260 also differs from NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 in how the SoC scales voltage and frequency. On MSM8x60, each core has its own voltage and frequency plane, meaning that when we’re dealing with a heavy single-threaded workload, the second core can slow down and lower voltage. On Tegra 2, there’s a single voltage and frequency plane across both cores. The latter makes a lot of sense for primarily multi-threaded workloads, since they can be divided across both cores, and voltage is lowered accordingly. Voltage scaling generally wins out in the long run, but right now things in Android have a single-threaded bias.
First up is our cellular web browsing test, where we load a few dozen pages endlessly with the display set to 200 nits until the phone dies. The Sensation posts a very impressive result here scoring a spot at the top of the Android charts.
Next up is WiFi, which is essentially the same thing as our cellular test but connected to an 802.11n AP until the phone dies. Here things strangely aren’t all that great. The Sensation posts a number similar to the cellular test, but compared to other devices doesn’t see a big jump in battery life on WiFi.
Third is the call test, which is pretty self explanatory. We have the phone in test call another device, and play music at both ends to simulate a typical voice call. That runs until the phone dies, and the display is off.
Finally is our newest test, in which we make the smartphone a hotspot, connect up an 802.11n client, and load four tabs of our page load suite alongside a nonstop 128 Kbps audio stream. This simulates a number of people using the hotspot pretty aggressively and doesn’t let the baseband suspend itself. The display is also off.
Here again we see the Sensation take an impressive top position. The comparison I’m looking at is between the Optimus 2X, G2x, and Sensation. As a reminder, the Optimus 2X/G2x both have a 5.6 Whr battery, and the Sensation has a 5.62 Whr battery. The sensation blows away Android competition in the cellular web browsing test and hotspot test, and delivers middling performance in the WiFi web browsing and call test suite.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
I’m pretty impressed with the Sensation. In most ways, it sets a baseline for what we should expect for this upcoming generation of devices - a dual core SoC, fast connectivity, some sort of specialty display (either high PPI or AMOLED), and unique industrial design that makes the device stand out.
I feel like HTC always is sure to save its best execution for the international version of its handsets, and in this case T-Mobile did the right thing by not messing with it. Beyond the branding on the front and a couple instances of T-Mo purple in the applications list, it really is an international device. Even the band support is the same as the international edition.
The Sensation impresses all around, and has very few shortcomings. First on that list is the absolutely horrendous speakerphone, which seems to either have something broken or the gain set really low in software, and a much more minor second is the small gap at the top which lets pocket lint intrude. Other than that, the only thing I’d seriously change about the Sensation would be to add penta-band WCDMA support so I could buy one and use it in the USA on AT&T for my personal device.
If you’re on T-Mobile, the obvious phone to compare with is the LG G2x, which performs very close to the Sensation and has similar overall size. Where the G2x gets edged out is display size plus resolution, and battery life in some areas. There’s also the fact that the Sensation is shipping with Android 2.3, and the G2x still is officially 2.2, though that’s going to change soon.
Internationally, things get a bit more complicated, since the Sensation is up against the Samsung Galaxy S 2, which we still haven’t taken a formal look at. The competition is fierce, and I'm eager to find out (and maybe even settle) the matter of which one is better.