HTC Sensation 4G Review

Introduction and Design
Since the HTC Sensation 4G is an almost exact copy of its European version, we've mostly used the same review we did for the Sensation.


The era of the dual-core handset is in full swing, especially now more than ever seeing that an abundant amount of devices have come out to showcase their stuff, but the offerings will continue to only build up momentum at this point. Call them reserved or relaxed, but HTC is officially in the game within the US market where smartphones like the Motorola ATRIX 4G and T-Mobile G2x have stood atop the ladder. Inexplicably being unveiled almost out of nowhere, the HTC Sensation is already being adorned overseas as it showcases the strength, ingenuity, and innovative qualities established by the Taiwanese company.

Thankfully though, the HTC Sensation 4G is aiming to arrive stateside through T-Mobile starting June 15th, where it plans to usher in the next generation of HTC devices this year with a banging start. Naturally, there is a lot to like about this sensational handset, even more when it features things like a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, 4.3” qHD Super LCD display, 1080p video capture, and the latest version of Sense running on top of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but will it execute admirably in all aspects to keep it in contention amongst the alternative offerings out there? More importantly, will it be able to differentiate itself enough from the pack to establish an unprecedented new chapter for the venerable company? Let’s dive right in and find out!


Premium. This would be our word of choice to sum up the HTC Sensation 4G’s design. From the bevelled glass display through to the aluminium construction, the word is metaphorically lathered all over this phone. While the Samsung Galaxy S II scored across the board in our review, except for its uninspiring design, off the bat, we're smitten with the HTC Sensation 4G’s look and feel.

You can compare the HTC Sensation 4G with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The display on the HTC Sensation 4G is a qHD (540x960) Super LCD with a Gorilla Glass fascia, measuring in at 4.3". It offers greater pixel density than WVGA screens of the same size such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and a longer 16:9 aspect ratio. The glass fascia is also bevelled, with a smooth raise towards the edges. We definitely appreciate the HTC Sensation 4G's aspect ratio when viewing movie content or using the phone one handed in portrait orientation thanks to it being narrower. The pixel density is also noticeably better when web browsing which is another plus. So while Super AMOLED Plus screens are generally more desirable, the HTC Sensation 4G still looks immense, especially head on offering great brightness with good colour and contrast levels. Unfortunately, viewing angles can be likened to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, with colours tending to look a bit washed out when tilting the phone to the side, despite a great head on experience.

The inclusion of the bevelled glass around the edges of the screen provides multiple benefits. Most noticeably, acting as a protector for your screen when face down, preventing the main display from scratching against surfaces. The bevelling also cups your thumb when operating the capacitive buttons and serves as a tactile indicator when swiping, letting you know that you have reached the edge of the screen. While Samsung wins in terms of display technology, these subtle elements of design consideration give HTC the edge when it comes to interacting with the device and screen.

Going beyond and HTC just keeps on giving. The handset itself is predictably solid being partially made of aluminum, sitting comfortably in the hand with good weighting and an attractive design. The four capacitive buttons below the screen are nuzzled towards the fascia’s lower end against the bevelled glass, while the front-facing camera, light sensor and in-call speaker lie above the screen along with an HTC insignia. To the left side is a volume rocker and microUSB port, up top lies the power button and audio jack and below is the battery cover release button. The 8MP camera, dual LED flash, loud speaker and 2nd microphone all decorate the HTC Sensation 4G's reverse which is styled with a trademark three shade soft touch backing.  

The battery cover is like a suit of armour, encasing everything other than the glass facia. When we think about the fear we experience when taking off the fragile yet super-slim Samsung Galaxy S II battery cover, this is the total opposite, delivering a cohesive styling, secure backing and an even more solid feel to the HTC Sensation 4G. Another plus point of the all encasing back cover is scratches. A scratch anywhere other than the Gorilla Glass fascia and you can simply purchase a new back cover.

As we said very early on, we’re smitten with the look and feel of the HTC Sensation 4G. Its design is interesting yet accessible, its feel is solid yet manageable, and while its screen is good, if not great, the little touches such as the bevelled Gorilla Glass and longer aspect ratio separate it from the crowd in a good way. It’s definitely sporting more character than the Samsung competition, but carries more bulk. Which is the better choice? While the screen quality may not be as good and it isn't anywhere near as thin or light, when it comes to design, the HTC Sensation 4G definitely has more flare and feels more solid.

HTC Sensation 4G 360-degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

HTC Sense 3.0 isn’t anything revolutionary, instead offering multiple improvements, not least of all in the form of an entirely redrawn UI and an intelligent lock screen. We have to hand it to HTC: it’s only been a few months since its last UI update, and already we’re seeing another. This approach of incrementally updating coupled with HTC’s recent announcement that it will unlock its bootloaders in response to pressure from users has left their brand image looking pretty fantastic right about now.

The redrawn UI sits on top of Gingerbread and carries the premium feel from the construction across to the interface. From a design perspective, HTC Sense 3.0 is so considered, elegant and cohesive, that it’s on another level to any custom UI we’ve seen. Each widget now has a silky smooth 3D transition when swiping the homescreen, so the layers of the widget subtly separate. Widgets are pin sharp and there are some really attractive new ones, such as the photo grid (gallery) widget, a huge improvement over the static photo-frame. If you're liking the idea of renting movies on the fly, the Watch widget, gives you quick access to HTC’s movie rental service. The 7 homescreens are also now on a revolving carousel system, so the last leads straight back to the first, and all with some rather slick SPB like carousel visuals in the process.

The lock screen is also a definite improvement, with a ring in the bottom of the screen and four application icons just above. Drag a shortcut down into the ring and you will unlock your phone straight in that application, or just drag the ring up to unlock where you left off. There are also personalization’s you can apply to your lock screen, the most obvious being selecting your shortcut applications, or going further and selecting your lock screen background. Your options are:

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  • standard wallpaper
  • photo album
  • friend stream (in which you can drag an update into the ring to open that up)
  • weather
  • stocks
  • clock

Suffice to say, similar lock screens can be installed by 3rd party means, but that’s the beauty of HTC Sense, as it matures it aggregates a number of awesome features into one complete experience, fresh out of the box.

Aspects that were overhauled in HTC Sense 2.1 haven’t seen any real changes, but suffice to say, operate smoothly with a staggered app drawer and quick settings and recent application shortcuts in the pull-down notifications tab.

The overall impression is one of seamless fluidity. Thanks to the 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon chipset, there isn’t slowdown or lag, and while loading times are occasionally found when widgets need to refresh, even these are minimal. The interface of the HTC Sensation 4G therefore offers more than just Android, expanding functionality and ease of use out of the box thanks to Sense 3.0.

Camera and Multimedia:

An 8MP camera with dual LED flash sits pretty on the rear side of the HTC Sensation 4G. The interface of the camera is HTC’s standard, with a few more special effects and tweaks under the hood.

Photos exhibit a good amount of detail in well-lit conditions, with quick touch to focus and very speedy picture taking. While not the best in terms of picture quality, it is one of the fastest, if not the fastest autofocus snappers to shoot. Both landscapes and macro shots deliver good detail, colors are well reproduced and photos taken on the device are comfortably printable at 6” x 4” or 7” x 5”. For occasions when the camera struggles with high contrast backlit shots, the ‘backlight’ scene mode is fantastic at evening out exposure, while the ability to switch off auto-focus enables easy re-framing of shots once focus is set by touch; great for macro shooting. Indoor shots naturally suffer from more noise, though the dual LED flash does a good job of countering this. You can also set exposure, contrast and saturation amongst other things, and there are a host of HTC's trademark special effects. A point to note, the default capture mode is 8MP wide, for pictures you will want to print, uncheck the "wide" toggle in settings to provide a more standard aspect ratio.

The video camera records 1080p video and output sits among the top end of HD capture from a phone, especially outdoors. Unfortunately, there's no auto-focus once recording has started though. Sadly though, we’re not all too thrilled by the handset’s production since it’s littered with some muddy looking visuals that wash out any hint of fine detail. Moreover, it suffers from an extravagant amount of artifacting with low lighting recordings, which decreases the overall look even further. Luckily, we find audio recording to be pleasant since voices are more than audible and natural sounding. As with photos, the LEDs can be used to illuminate indoor scenarios and tend to do the job pretty well. Frame rates being for the most part smooth.

HTC Sensation 4G Sample Video:

playback is through HTC's music app which delivers a very standard UI , though the overall music experience is great. The audio jack is in a convenient location and the microSD card slot gives you up to 32GB storage, with an 8GB card in the box. Sound quality though, is rather weak in tone and on the reserved side – but at least it doesn’t sound strained or distorted. There is an option that enables SRS enhancement, which produces slightly deeper tones with its output, but it’s still not powerful enough to echo through an entire room.

As for video playback, with the 16:9 aspect ratio, video fits very well on the screen and HD video plays back without a hitch. It needs to be encoded in MP4 format to play on the native player, though 3rd party apps such as Rockplayer play back other formats smoothly. The device is also comfortable to hold in landscape for extended periods, so is easy to recommend as a PMP.

The gallery is HTC's standard gridded system, with some cool perks such as wireless network printing as well. Interaction with images is very predictable with pinch to zoom being silky smooth and images rendering instantly while looking great on the screen.

Internet, Connectivity and Software:

Web browsing on the HTC Sensation 4G is superb. Thanks to the screen resolution, text is legible and crisp from the page overview, and pinching to zoom is quick and smooth. Pages load up very fast thanks to T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, while its Flash support offers a resounding desktop like experience that’s quite satisfactory on so many levels. Text reflows to fit the display, which does stagger the process of zooming slightly. That said, it makes the reading experience more enjoyable.

As far as connectivity goes, it’s obviously graced with the same 4G moniker in use by many of T-Mobile’s recent smartphones, which offers peppy speeds via its HSPA+ network. Although it’s able to theoretically get 14.4 Mbps download and 5.76 Mbps upload speeds, we’re still nonetheless satisfied by the real world maximum 3.78 Mbps download and 1.29 Mbps upload speeds we obtained in the greater Philadelphia region. Additionally, it comes along with Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, DLNA functionality as well as an FM radio. Lastly, the handset supports mobile hotspot functionality which allows it to share its data connection with up to 5 Wi-Fi devices.

The GPS was extremely quick, finding our location almost instantaneously on first boot.

HDMI connectivity comes in the form of the MHL port, enabling HD content to be outputted via the microUSB port to a compatible HD TV. With compatible devices, this will simultaneously export visuals and charge your handset, while non-compatible devices will only export visuals.

HTC offers a mix of new and old applications in its Sensation, including:

  • Connected Media (DLNA)
  • Flashlight
  • Friend Stream (Aggregates Twitter and Facebook updates)
  • HTC Hub (Downloadable personalizations)
  • HTC Likes (Suggested applications)
  • Mirror
  • Music
  • News (RSS)
  • Peep (Twitter)
  • Polaris Office (free version)
  • Stocks
  • Teeter (game)
  • Watch
  • Weather

The latest noteworthy addition to the HTC Sense app arsenal is Watch. This is a streaming video service that enables buying and renting of movies and episodes of your favourite TV shows. In general, movies cost $3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy, while episodes are bought at $1.99 each.


Without question, the HTC Sensation 4G supplants the T-Mobile G2 as being the best HTC branded Android smartphone on the carrier’s lineup. Sure it’s not something drastically revolutionary, but the evolutionary improvements are remarkably warranted to make it compete healthily alongside some of the greats out there right now. In addition, HTC continues to set the mark in terms of customized Android experiences thanks to their always evolving and snazzy looking Sense UI.

Blending a good balance between performance and design, the HTC Sensation 4G manages to even stand out more with its drooling hardware, but considering that we’re just at the tip of the scorching hot summer season, it’s only going to get more interesting. Right now, the smartphone can definitely box in the same class as the T-Mobile G2x – though, we have to hand it to the Sensation 4G with its good looks and awesome UI. In all honestly, seeing that it’s priced accordingly at $199.99 on-contract, there’s no arguing that it’s a worthy selection that will wow just about anyone, making the competition feel somewhat out of place. We’re sure you’ll be content with it no matter what.

Software version of the reviewed unit:
Android version: 2.3.3
HTC Sense version: 3.0
Software number: 1.29.531.2
Kernel version:
Build number: 1.29.531.2 CL70849 release-keys

HTC Sensation 4G Review:


  • Great aluminium construction
  • qHD Screen is very sharp
  • Sense 3.0 looks great


  • Could be bulky for some
  • Viewing angles could be better
  • Battery life could be longer

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