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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  • iwod - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    It looks like in Browser Benchmark, iPhone 4 with iOS 5.0 will properly rise to the top. And it is great to see after a year of its introduction, iPhone 4 is still playing very well with it competitors.

    About Screen Size, Brian would you and Anand makes notes which size of screen you prefer.

    For iPhone 3.5", I think a lot of us want a bigger screen. But what size? 4", 4.3" or even larger?

    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I think 4.3" is really the upper limit for smartphone displays. I've got the Infuse 4G here beside me, which is 4.5", and that already is almost challenging to hold sometimes, and occasionally awkward to type on. Factor in the fact that it has just a WVGA display, and those pixels are positively gigantic.

    Personally, I prefer 4 or 4.3". Anything above that is starting to just get excessive. I can only imagine what that rumored 4.7" HTC WP7 device is going to look like.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Chaser - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    After an iPhone 3G, Droid, Evo, Galaxy S and G2x this phone finally gets it right in so many ways, It never ceases to impress me.

    Sense 3.0 with Gingerbread makes it perfect!

    Reply
  • dtomilson - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Being a tech blog I have always found Anandtech to publish articles on the same phone is the same phone is the same phone (Android). Any updates coming on the beta of Mango that has been released? How smooth it is and how much better it performs given the lower specced hardware the current-gen devices use.. Reply
  • karnovaran - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Brian, there has been much debate on XDA about screen quality differences resulting from the Sensation panels being manufactured by two different companies: Sharp and AUO (Acer). I'd love to know which panel you were reviewing.

    Can you tell us which panel you have? The way to check is by downloading terminal emulator from the market and running the following command: dmesg That will spit out a bunch of information, just hit menu and email it to yourself then search for "panel". Thanks.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I always run dmesg on devices just so I can see a bunch of different things/hardware ;)

    Just grepped out panel and found the type:

    <6>[ 1.603759] mipi_novatek_panel_type_detect: panel_type=PANEL_ID_PYD_SHARP

    -Brian
    Reply
  • quiksilvr - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Ahh T-Mobile. It's almost tragic. They have awesome phones but...what's the point? Once the merger happens you have to change the phones and there isn't a full guarantee that our prices will remain the same for monthly bills. Reply
  • Conficio - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    So apparently the T-Mobile phone does not yet have the boot lock removed and knowbody knows if that will be some software update.

    Hence question what are then the "unlocked" HTC sensation phones that float around in on EBay etc.?

    I ask, because I'm about to get an HTC Sensation (buying it outright) but I want to be able to operate the phone with other carriers SIMs (internationally). So is the T-Mobile phone locked to their network?
    Reply
  • Conficio - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    How much of the htcsense.com features work over Wifi. Does remote Wipe or location tracking work?

    In other words, does the location get determined by the phone and sent back to htcsense.org or is it determined by the carrier?
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I don't know about location, but I'm assuming that if it uses the Android location framework, it will work. Remote wipe and lock does indeed work over just WiFi, in addition to just cellular.

    -Brian
    Reply

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