I like what HTC has been up to lately. Rather than fighting a race to the bottom with endless soulless variants of the same piece of hardware in a crowded (and fiercely competitive) Android handset market, it’s trying to grow beyond just being a handset manufacturer. 

I hate starting reviews with history lessons, but in this case we really do need to step back to see where HTC is coming from. In the beginning, HTC was a nameless OEM for other more famous brands. Its clients were smartphone and Pocket PC names like Palm with its Treo, Compaq with its iPaq, Dell with a number of the Axim PDAs, and UTStarcomm. As Windows Mobile aged and showed little signs of improving, HTC took its first step outside the bounds of being just a hardware assembler by taking on an ambitious project to revitalize Windows Mobile with a software skin. The fruits of this effort were TouchFlo, and later TouchFlo 3D UIs - which eventually would become HTC Sense. Somewhere between the release of the HTC Mogul and HTC Touch Pro, HTC realized that its future wasn’t purely in manufacturing devices for other handset vendors, but in leveraging its own brand. The combination of continually improving industrial design, software, and its own direction have turned HTC into the device manufacturer it is today. 

Things have come a long, long way since the HTC Dream, and today we’re looking at HTC’s latest and greatest with the HTC Sensation. 

I get a bit excited every time I look at the HTC Sensation. It’s a device with perhaps the strongest and most bold design language of any HTC phone to date. You can pretty much chart HTC’s design language by looking at each generation of its international handsets.

The HTC Desire was essentially an international version of the Nexus One, with hardware buttons but the same 65nm single core Snapdragon QSD8250 SoC. The second generation was the HTC Desire HD, which brought a larger 4.3” screen and 45nm Snapdragon MSM8255 SoC. The third step is the HTC Sensation, which ups resolution from WVGA 800x480 to qHD 960x540 and brings a 45nm dual core Snapdragon MSM8260 SoC. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 HTC Thunderbolt LG Optimus 2X/G2x HTC Sensation
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 122 mm (4.8") 123.9 mm (4.87") 126.3 mm (4.97")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 67 mm (2.63") 63.2 mm (2.48") 65.5 mm (2.58")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 13.2 mm (0.52") 10.9 mm (0.43") 11.6 mm (0.46")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 139.0 g (4.90 oz) 148 g (5.22 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H 1.2 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon MSM8260
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 Adreno 205 ULP GeForce Adreno 220
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 768 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 768 MB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 8 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 4 GB NAND with 8 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p24 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP AF/Dual LED flash, VGA front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 960 x 540 S-LCD
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.6 Whr Removable 5.62 Whr

Physically it’s obvious that each successive device builds on the former. They’re all backed with HTC’s trademark purple-grey metal and have similar in-hand feel as a result. When I look at the Sensation, I see the Desire crossed with the Desire HD. When I actually hold the Sensation, I feel like I’m holding a grown-up Nexus One.

The two share that trademark combination of slightly rubbery plastic and metal, and as a result the device feels grippy, solid, and confident. What the Sensation also really continues from the other devices is the lack of a hard lip of any kind at the edge, instead every corner rolls off giving the phone a smooth feeling. The sensation of holding something rigid and expensive is communicated by that combination of materials, rather than the cheap plasticky feel conveyed by a number of other handsets. 

The Sensation comes in the same style of packaging that we've seen other T-Mobile phones arrive in. It's a two-part box with a thin middle strip. The top lifts off revealing the phone, and underneath that is the usual paperwork, HTC AC adapter and microUSB cable, and earbuds. 

I started off making one monolithic video for the Sensation, but that ended up being unwieldy, so I split it into multiple parts. The first one is simply a look at the hardware from all angles, torn down, and how it compares to both HTC's legacy devices and some of its modern contenders. 

Physical Overview Continued
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  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    We're still waiting for an SGS2, hopefully we will get one soon from Samsung USA and be able to compare it in its final form.

    Take care,
    Brian
    Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    brian,
    this is one of the few reviews which have praised sensation.but in my view your review is the best.
    i am saying this because i believe that unlike other reviewers you not only test mobile phones in your lab but also use them as in daytoday life as a normal user.this gives a better impression of the devices which you review.
    many reviewers have given more praises to sgs2 than sensation.they have based their views with the limited time which they had with the devices that too in their testing labs.but i believe that in real world usage sensation makes more sense than sgs2.and this has happened before with their older brothers that is desire and sgs.the reviewers had given more praises to the sgs but the actual users prefered desire over sgs.
    though samsung devices looks great on paper,users get frustated with their handsets.
    apart from htc in my view hp makes better handsets.lately they are catching up with the hardware but their design sucks.for example take pre3,may be its design makes more sense while handling and using it,but its looks are not good enough to make a good impression.now that they are putting single core1.4ghz processor in pre3,but still they are behind the competition of dualcores.but i do believe that pre3 will give a tough competition to all the dual core phones in terms of speed and performance because of a very light os that is the webos. webos is unarguably the best os out there which is slick and fast,easy to use interface,better management of memory,provides true multitasking,provides a great
    feature like just type, and a best notification system.webos is very very light when compare to ios and android,so i think it doesnt need a dual core processor and 1gb of ram.it can perform better than ios and android even with a single core processor and 512mb ram.but hp needs to work on better designs to give a better impression of their devices.

    by the way,congratulations brian for this great article.pls tell me what do you think of the observations i made above.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    You need to be specific: what hidden drawbacks do Samsung's phones have ? and what hidden qualities, HTC's ?

    Disclaimer: my current HTC HD2 is the first phone I'm happy with in ages. I had junk from Motorola, LG, and Nokia before that had serious design flaws, plenty of bugs, bad support... or rather, all of the above. My HTC just worked from day one, now it's started a second life under CM7, and I'm very happy with it 2 yrs on.

    I was looking foward to buying a Sensation. But the lighter weight, on the whole, better screen, and better moddability f the GS2 are on the verge of convincing me to buy that, instead.
    Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Read the review of droid charge by brian klug.He clearly mentioned that samoled+ has some serious problems such as overheating,yellowish tint and oversaturated colours.It is the slimmest smartphone in the world,but according to many users sensation is better to handle.Due to its wait and built quality it feels solid in the hand.And also remember that sgs2 is made of plastic.

    To know what drawbacks samsung phones have you need to do some googling.Just search for
    defects of sgs and sgs2.
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Please capitalize your sentences. It was quite the chore trying to read your post. If you want to be taken seriously you need to remember to correctly use those writing rules you learned in school. Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    sorry,i am from a non english speaking country.despite that i can write pretty good english,isn't it? Reply
  • SimKill - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    Do you still not capitalize stuff in your language? I'm a non-native English speaker too, and my language doesn't even have capital and small letters. I still make an effort to write well so that I can convey my message as clearly as possible. Reply
  • sam46 - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    I will :) Reply
  • Speed3mon - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    bigboxes... gAy Reply
  • Visual - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Wait, what? Having white appear as red is accurate color now?
    BTW the Galaxy S II gives users a few choices of color calibration even with stock FW. And just wait and see what the hacked ones do...
    Reply

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