HTC Sensation vs Samsung Galaxy S II
“Pick and choose, people, pick and choose!”, screamed the jester, while juggling with the HTC Sensation, and the Samsung Galaxy S II in front of the crowd about to buy the hottest smartphone of the season.
If there has ever been a tough call between two top-shelf Android handsets, this must be it. Even a glimpse through the spec sheet can’t tell you which one to snag - they are both powered by 1.2GHz dual-core chipsets, allowing them to record Full HD 1080p video at 30fps with their 8MP cameras, have 4.3” displays, and are both running the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread with the respective homebrew interface overlays – Sense and TouchWiz.
And yet, when you dig deeper, the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S II are rather different - the design philosophy is polarizing, screen technology and resolution don't match, the dual-core chipsets are not from the same mother, and the user interface concepts are opposites. Which one will be right for you? Read on, while we jump in to solve this dilemma...
Despite being thicker and heavier that the Samsung Galaxy S II, the HTC Sensation actually feels more ergonomic in the hand. The two handsets have almost the same width and length, but the Galaxy S II comes in a bit edgy, being the anorexic rectangular slab it is, while the added thickness and heft of the HTC Sensation make it feel more solid, and the curvy corners with tapered edges make it palm-friendly. This feeling is then reinforced by the choice of materials for the chassis - aluminum and soft-touch plastic are more pleasant to handle and show-off than black plastic.
However, these are deliberate design approaches - since the first Galaxy S, Samsung prefers to hit where it would count in marketing materials, and it made the Galaxy S II the thinnest and lightest handset with a 4.3” screen, hence the all-plastic design. HTC prefers more sophisticated design materials, and yet it currently strives to achieve a fairly uniform appearance across its Android portfolio, which makes the phones of this brand immediately recognizable, regardless of the market niche they are heading to, and yet a bit unsurprising because of the similar looks.
So which one should you pick based on design and looks alone is entirely subjective - personally we prefer phones with a big screen to be as thin and light as possible, but many others would go for the more sophisticated and distinctive design paradigm of HTC. If you are paying that much money for a phone, you might as well get some aluminum around it, right?
Moreover, it might be the different display technology that has allowed Samsung to make the Galaxy S II so thin - the Super AMOLED Plus screen needs less layers than the Super-LCD in the HTC Sensation. It has other virtues, too, like almost infinite contrast, wide viewing angles, and saturated, vivid colors. The display on the HTC Sensation is able to exhibit lively colors as well, but in a more limited gamut, and when you are halfway through tilting the phone to determine the viewing angles, the colors and brightness start to fade significantly.
The LCD screen on the HTC Sensation appears a tad brighter indoors, but outside under direct sunlight the very low reflectance of the Galaxy S II coating makes the image slightly easier to see. There is one area where the HTC Sensation is ahead, though, the 540x960 qHD resolution, compared to 480x800 pixels in the Galaxy S II's 4.3-incher. Since the Super AMOLED Plus technology gets rid of the PenTile RGBG matrix pixel arrangement, the individual pixels are not distinct as on the Galaxy S, for example, when you bring the phone close to your eyes.
Unlike the Motorola ATRIX 4G, however, with its PenTile qHD screen with RGBW pixel arrangment, the HTC Sensation uses a normal RGB matrix for its qHD resolution. Thus, given the same 4.3” screen sizes, we give the resolution round to HTC’s handset, which has higher pixel density than the Samsung Galaxy S II, making it a tad easier on the eyes when reading smaller text. So, if you do a lot of reading on your smartphone, and a lot of people do nowadays, the HTC Sensation might be a safer bet, but if you watch a lot of movies, the Super AMOLED Plus is better with its jolly colors, and the ability to set the color tone individually. The colors still appear slightly colder, though, like on the first Super AMOLED display.
Looking around the sides, we find the right-mounted power/lock key on the Galaxy S II more suitably placed than the one on the top in the HTC Sensation, which you struggle to reach on such a large handset. We often pressed the side key on the Galaxy S II accidentally, though, which locked the screen mid-flight, so it’s a trade-off.
The glass on top of the HTC Sensation’s display is slightly curved inwards at the edges, recessing the screen in a shallow pit, which is supposedly better to protect it when the phone is placed face-down. The bezel on the Samsung Galaxy S II also sticks out above the display a little, though, which means it never touches a flat surface in that position either. Still, HTC’s solution looks cooler, adding to the overall curvy shape impression of the phone. The capacitive buttons underneath the screen are a bit narrower on the HTC Sensation, and a tad harder to reach and operate with one hand than on the Galaxy S II.
Both phones sport the newfangled MHL port, which combines charging, microUSB and HDMI-out capabilities in one place, but you need a separate cable, which both companies sell as an accessory, to mirror your phone’s screen on your HDTV. We like the MHL port placed at the bottom better on the Samsung Galaxy S II, instead of on the left like on the HTC Sensation - it’s a bit less meddling to operate the phone, while plugged-in, but more so when watching movies, so pick your poison.
To wrap up the design portion, we’d say once again that the phones go around housing their big 4.3” screens in a different way. The Galaxy S II is the slimmest and lightest phone with such a display out there, which, combined with the unpretentious black plastic shell, makes it easier to carry around. The HTC Sensation’s more sophisticated shape and solid build with soft-touch plastic and aluminum elements, on the other hand, is more ergonomic to operate, and a pleasure to handle. The choice here will be entirely determined by your personal preferences.
1. kae (unregistered)
Both of them are very good phones but what about the SAR levels. Which one is lower?
2. Cyborg (unregistered)
alas! no mention of iPhone 4. lol
6. Sevule (unregistered)
Alas Cyborg you are wrong.
"and you can swipe to the respective app in charge directly from the lock screen itself, similar to what Apple will offer in its fall iOS 5 collection." Now I see why there are allegations that Phonearena is paid by Apple to promote their products. Pray tell what the relationship is between a feature available now in android and what would be available in ios 4/5 months from now? And what is the relevance of mentioning this unavailable ios feature in an article comparing the 2 top android phones(that have the feature)???
7. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)
LOL i know its like they cant write an article without the word apple in it...they will mention apple regardless if its relevant in which this case its not. also iphonearena did not make a big fuss about accessing notifications such as messages and miss calls directly from the lockscreen on the galaxy s2 but now that iphone will get it in like 4/5 months time its all of a sudden a big deal..would not be surprised if there job is to promote apple and its products.
17. medalaster1 (unregistered)
Guys guys know something the original apple iphone in 2007 was a revolution that everyone on earth wanted to get their hands on, back then android didn't even exist,its a legend and phone arena is really fans of what had happened in 2007 and android only matches ios from froyo or eclair may be, before that android had no chance and hundreds of android devices come out every year both Samsung, htc and others release hundreds of android mobiles before you are proud of your android device their will be an another android device with better specs and great benchmark scores, but iphone comes only onse a year and still the comparators try to keep up with hundreds of models
41. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)
yes it was revolution back in 2007 and cant argue with you there and yes android probz would not exist in the way it is now but would have existed in some form but this is 2011 and apple is no longer and has not been for a while ''revolutionary'' as you like to say. have you seen ios5 lol you call the a revolution or is it kust catching up to android who has had most of those features for a AGES. yes android has plenty of hardware, it gives people CHOICE. with apple you have no choice, if you want ios and the latest hardware you have to get iphone 4 whether you like the design or not. but to be honest the iphone is one of the best looking handset if not the best lol thats why i got the iphone 4 for its look. you cannot say giving consumers a choice is a negative.
38. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
and just for reference, there has been an app on the market for months now that adds shortcuts to your lock screen.
Also, beautiful widgets has had the weather changing background for like what.. a year or 2 now.
give me power, battery life, viewing beauty, and extra connectivity over some use of tin and a highly animated overlay.
3. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)
glad to see this kinds of comparisons between phones, its really nice for a change... keep it up :D
4. Winny (unregistered)
Amazing comparison... Really cool..
Thanks to phonearena !!!
5. uzair (unregistered)
hey i wanted to ask you guys that if i download some other offline maps on galaxy s 2 would i be able to use as we can use it on sensation
8. AndroidTroll (Posts: 359; Member since: 05 Mar 2011)
Great article that will be very helpful for many. I wish writers would pay more attention to storage read/write speeds. I want to know what class microsd card the Sensation ships with? I would imagine it would have to have a 6 in order to do 1080p video.
9. WirelessCon (Posts: 309; Member since: 11 May 2010)
Phonearena needs more of these Arena Versus comparisons.
10. Johnabis (Posts: 57; Member since: 17 Feb 2011)
where is your Evo 3D review? about 6 other sites has there review up already.
11. RushFan2112 (unregistered)
Will both phones have Swype capability? The current Galaxy S does and I imagine the Galaxy S II also does (can you confirm?)
15. ph00ny (Posts: 1224; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I can confirm that swype is included in GS II
12. MIP (unregistered)
This comparison, though extensive, overcomplicates the matter; I think the choice is easier than that:
13. Piotrek007 (Posts: 112; Member since: 07 Dec 2010)
GSM Arena also put new comparing between those two ! Its awesome !
14. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
2 days of light use is nice for the Sensation.....it will get overshadowed by the 62 hours of light use in the GS2 tho.
16. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Like I mentioned in another article, the rated talk times give a good indication of overall battery life.
The Sensation having 2 hours less talk time than the GS2...for some reason battery life isnt one of HTC's strong points.
And I'm a function over form guy.....thats why I would pick Android again any day over other phones in the market...
18. GALAXY-S (Posts: 701; Member since: 07 Jun 2011)
Nice comparison i like!! i may get the sensation for a bit untill the sgs2 comes out then move up!!
19. anirudhshirsat97 (Posts: 408; Member since: 24 May 2011)
i cudnt choose the winner until he said hat galaxy s2 was like a bmw z4 and sensation was more of merc e-class......im going for the sportier one..
20. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 3107; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)
I can see phonearena start having to do what phonedog does in all their videos. Instead of promoting best buy phonearena will promote apple.
21. T-imm (unregistered)
The text reflow can be adjusted in the browser's settings...
31. Junior in Jamaica (unregistered)
I wondered because the text on the Samsung looked way too small to be useful.
But it is worth noting the Sensation does it out the box without need for tweaking so it still has the upper hand there. But good to note.
39. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)
well i would not call it tweaking if its part of the phone. its the same as changing screen brightness but i know what you mean, that not everyone will know but once you go in the setting you cannot miss it to be honest. hopefully they bring automatic text reflow in an update.
22. luis_lopez_351 (Posts: 951; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)
Give it time and Motorola photon will slam the sgs2
24. Allday28 (Posts: 283; Member since: 19 Nov 2010)
Motorola phones are s**tty and laggy. Trust me i know I have one.
27. GALAXY-S (Posts: 701; Member since: 07 Jun 2011)
yea the best android phones i have used are htc and samsung.. motorolas tend to be slow and glichy alot
28. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Change the launcher and lock screen and my Droid X before GB would disagree. My Droid X with GB definitely disagrees, even with stock launcher and lock screen.
My Droid 1 with Froyo would disagree also, also after changing the stock launcher.
That said, I think the GS2 will be the phone to beat. With some Motorola phone being a close 2nd, just like last year.
30. luis_lopez_351 (Posts: 951; Member since: 18 Nov 2010)
None of you havent even tried its new and improved UI so why all the hate and Bull sh_t
40. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)
@luis_lopez_351 agree with you but thats the idea motorola have given people with motoblur., you cant really fault there hardware. its the same with samsung and how people say they never update there when infact they release update quicker than others in the UK. galaxy s or already has gingerbread where as phones such as desire still dont. they have already released 3 updates for the s2 but just like moto have given the impression of being laggy, samsung have the same problem with people thinking they dont support new updates. i think its a problem with the US carriers to be honest.
45. bucky (Posts: 2491; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)
I sold my atrix and it wasnt that bad if you are coming from an iphone. I come from nexus 1/desire/desire z/hd2 and the locked bootloader coupled with motoblur brutal. Its almost like they want it suck.
Using the GS2 now and it has no faults-not even battery.
25. sgogeta4 (Posts: 394; Member since: 02 Feb 2011)
If you're going to make such a useless comment, at least post your reasoning so that you don't look like a complete tool.
26. root (unregistered)
Been owning both,sgs2 is the one to get.
I cashed the sensation though so in 6 months time its bye bye and hello new nexus ( I hope) . And 6 months after that time to chose from sgs3 and newest HTC hehe.
The cycle of androids continues ;)
29. LXH (unregistered)
the biggest difference between sensation and galaxySII is the resolution
qHD vs WVGA :D
46. bucky (Posts: 2491; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)
qhd isnt that great...super amoled is a definite improvement.
47. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Even tho I do like Moto phones the best and all the new ones seem to have qHD...if I had to choose a screen right now it would be Super Amoled +.
Samsung learned from complaints last year about their Amoled screens and made adjustments to the new ones this year.
32. ahmedra2ol (Posts: 27; Member since: 01 Mar 2011)
Sure SGS2 yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh :D :D
33. don (unregistered)
i know that the OS can be upgraded in htc & samsung phones. BUt can the UI also be upgraded? is it usually free?
34. pranavmrane (Posts: 1; Member since: 16 Jun 2011)
i know that OS is upgradeable on Samsung & HTC phones. is UI also upgradeable? does it cost some amount?
36. oddmanout (Posts: 442; Member since: 22 May 2009)
Don't worry bro. Updates never cost money. Aside from android being free and open source, the main reason for updates is to improve the functionality/performance of a phone. A good carrier and manufacturer will do there best to keep their products up to date with the latest version of software to please there buyers and attract more customers.
35. oddmanout (Posts: 442; Member since: 22 May 2009)
You mentioned in the video that HTC Sense couldn't aggregate facebook functions without jumping in the map but you can. All you had to do was scroll to the different icons on the bottom of the contacts page and you can see wall posts, pictures, and other information just as you can on the SGS II.
37. Funmap (unregistered)
I was always wondering where you are best, and now are finally know it :-)
43. TyDeL (unregistered)
I've been beating myself up over this decision for weeks now. This comparison hasn't helped much. ;)
I much rather prefer the heavier, aluminum form factor and higher res screen of the Sensation. HTC also has a better track record as a cell phone company. But seems like the SGS2 is better where it really counts with faster download speeds, faster processor, noise canceling microphone and better battery life.
If HTC doesn't hurry up with an unlocking bootloader solution, this will make my decision really easy though.
44. Pissed (unregistered)
Why the HELL did t-mobile have to go and put the crappiest software! TELENAV on a phone that was coming with TOM TOM enabled HTC Locations! I wonder what other sense 3.0 goodies we wont get because t-mobile is to dense to realize which phones are their best....see article on "exibit" being the marketing focus for summer! Redicuous
49. tmcr (unregistered)
Aluminum would make the phone heavier, and would therefore generate more impact upon dropping it to the ground. The result would be a broken phone in just a number of drops. Aside from that, the extraction of aluminum as raw materials creates more negative impacts to the environment. Is it worth destroying mountains of ecological areas for aluminum just to produce a so-called premium build material phone that easily breaks?
And one more thing: Death grip. HTC and iPhone4 has it. Both use aluminum.
50. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 3107; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)
I'm amazed by how narrow the EVO 3D and Sensation are. The EVO, Thunderbolt, Desire HD, Inspire are all much wider screens. I wonder if it is because of the qhd pixels or a new trend for HTC. HTC has always been known for their large and wide displays. The SGS2 looks much larger as far as screen size goes.
Still, this could make the phone easier to handle.
51. HTC needs displays (unregistered)
I'm almost certain that if HTC could come out with better displays, they would kill the other android devices. The only clear advantage Samsung has here is its display. Granted it's a big one. I just don't understand how one can compare Sense UI to TouchWiz....
52. guest89 (unregistered)
htc build quality and sense software with samsungs SAMOLED+ screen, innards such as camera and speaker would be the perfect device for me.
53. bucky (Posts: 2491; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)
that soft finish htc have on their phones actually comes off with the slightest knick. I have the sgs2 and the plastic holds off scratches better than my old desire z
54. DG (unregistered)
The GS2 can reflow text if zoomed in then you double tap the text I wonder if iphonearena even know how to use the phones they review :-(
55. 3RingBinder (unregistered)
Great comparison and just in time. Thanks,
56. still confused (unregistered)
Which phone would be hands down to buy
58. Apple (unregistered)
What the f**k android ? it willnot lasts
59. lubbalots (unregistered)
Comparing the same OS with the same OS but different skin. Pathetic!
60. calleighL (Posts: 1; Member since: 27 Aug 2011)
gyro bowl in stores
thanks for the comments, i'm also in the midst of getting either of these phones.
61. bob (unregistered)
What's an iPhone?