HTC Sensation 4G for T-Mobile reviewed – Does this Android smartphone live up to its name?

HTC-Sensation_1

The HTC Sensation 4G is another smartphone in the long series of Android handsets being churned out these days, but does that make it just another run-of-the-mill Google smartphone? It has a vivid 4.3-inch qHD touchscreen display, runs on the latest version of Android – 2.3 Gingerbread – and utilizes HTC’s Sense UI 3.0. Armed with a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, an 8MP camera and T-Mobile’s fast data speeds, the HTC Sensation just might be my favorite Android handset yet.

It is a little slippery, and the screen might be a bit long for smaller hands (thanks mostly to the qHD resolution), but overall the pros outweigh the cons and it’s a fine choice for T-Mobile customers who want the latest and most advanced Android handsets.

The HTC Sensation 4G for T-Mobile is available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract or qualifying upgrade.

The Good
  • Rich and vivid display has excellent response and sharpness.
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor gives great performance to the Android system
The Bad
  • Speakerphone sounds like an old tin can with a wet rag over it. Call quality leaves a bit to be desired.
  • HTC Sense UI will be hit or miss with some Android fans and can be a bit much.

The Good

  • 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540) display is sharp and vivid, good colors and contrast, responsive
  • Overall performance is peppy, largely due to 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor
  • 1520mAh battery lasts an entire day even with heavy use, almost two days with moderate use

The Bad

  • Call quality is decent, but not great - speakerphone seemed even worse
  • Its heft, at 5.2 ounces, might be a little much for some - can definitely feel it in the pocket
  • Sense UI can be a little intrusive or unattractive in some apps (e.g. phone app and browser)

Hardware

The HTC Sensation 4G is unmistakably HTC by design, although it does venture off into some artsy and interesting features. At the face, you have the standard home, menu, back and search Android buttons underneath a 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540) display. There is a lengthy earpiece that also houses a notification light, and it's flanked by an ambient light sensor and a front-facing VGA camera. On the left there is a volume rocker and mini-USB port, and on top there is a 3.5mm headset jack and the sleep/wake/power button.

At the back of the phone there is an 8MP camera with dual-LED flash, and the speakerphone is located right next to it. The back case has an interesting three-tone design, and it comes off entirely along with the phone's earpiece grill. When you remove the battery cover, you're effectively removing the entire phone's casing.

The Sensation 4G feels great in the hand thanks to the casing's contours, and the front glass is also curved a little which gives it a nice touch. It's like the Nexus S, but much more subtle. When you're holding the device, you can tell that you're handling a quality piece of hardware. There are no hard edges on the phone, and its subtle curves and contours almost give it an organic in-hand feel. In terms of pure hardware and build quality, the soft-touch casing, scratch-resistant glass and metal hardware accents make this one of the nicest Android handsets on T-Mobile's line-up.

While the Sensation doesn't support T-Mobile's HSPA+ 21Mbps network, I was still able to get very fast speeds in my speed tests. The device itself is a 14.4Mbps handset, but I managed to average 6Mbps down with peaks of up to 9Mbps, and 1-2.5Mbps upload.

Software

You'll find Android 2.3 Gingerbread running on this device along with the latest version of HTC Sense. The inclusion of Sense UI might not be for everyone, but I find that it gives a little more usability and style compared to vanilla Android. The first thing you'll notice is the carousel effect when swiping between screens: instead of a complete lateral motion between screens, the window panes tilt away from you making room for the next window when you scroll through. You can also see the great detail that HTC added, such as the analog clock when you rotate it away from you slowly - it looks like the clock is actually affixed to a hinge.

Another great feature is the multitasking pane or the task bar. When you pull it down, you see your five most recently used apps, and you're also able to toggle to quick settings where you can quickly turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and more. Even the lock screen now includes quick shortcuts, and they're customizable, too. The default applications on the lock screen are the phone, mail, camera and messages.

The application screen is a little different with the latest version of HTC Sense, too. Instead of an infinite scroll, you scroll up and down by pages now. You also have the option to see your most frequently used apps, or downloaded apps via a toolbar at the bottom of the screen.

And of course, you'll have access to HTC Hub where you can create an account and sync and backup your device with HTC's cloud service. You'll also be able to remotely locate and wipe your device if it ever gets lost, too. If customization is your thing, HTC Hub lets you download additional wallpapers, scenes and ringtones, too.

Since the Sensation 4G is a high-end T-Mobile device, you'll also be able to make calls over Wi-Fi when available, or when regular coverage is poor. But be aware that it will eat into your regular minutes as well.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

Here we have the standard Android browser skinned with HTC Sense. While I'm not a fan of the skin on the browser, it's not very intrusive and it works just fine. Web pages rendered just fine and scrolling up and down a page was very smooth. Over T-Mobile's HSPA network, IntoMobile.com took 11 seconds to load, ESPN.com took 6 seconds to load and Slate.com took just 4 seconds for its mobile page to load up. Adobe Flash is also supported but I found that playing videos or Flash content within the browser drained the battery significantly, and while the Sensation 4G packs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, there was still a bit of lag and choppiness with Flash content enabled.

Multimedia

The Sensation 4G is pretty decent in the multimedia department. Its camera and gallery are your typical Android versions with some very minor tweaks, and from the gallery you can share images via e-mail, MMS and a number of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. The music player is also pretty good, and the Sense UI skin makes it look pretty nice. You can do everything you'd expect from a music player - play, pause, stop, skip, rewind, shuffle, loop and more. The music app even has a widget that you can add to one of your homescreens, so you can quickly get to your playlists and hear what you want right away.

Camera

The 8MP camera on the device is paired with a dual-LED flash, which is incredible in low-light or no-light performance up to about 12 feet away. In extremely dim light, the flash was able to detail everything within a 10 to 12 foot radius without drowning out color or casting harsh shadows. It's impressive for a camera phone. Standard image quality itself, however, is OK. Colors and contrast are good, but the picture details can get a little muddy. For sharing on the phone or on the web (like blogs and social networks), the quality is just fine. But if you get anywhere over 50% scale, you'll begin to see degradation in sharpness and quality. At the full 8MP, any sharpness is almost entirely lost, making 100% crops not ideal for most use. Video recording is pretty good, however, and records at 1080p HD. Video is crips and smooth, and sound is recorded very well, too.

Call Quality And Battery Life

In my experience, call quality wasn't decent but not spectacular. Callers sounded a little heavy on the treble side and not much on the low-end, but I could certainly hold a conversation without any real issues. Callers said I sounded just fine, so it just might be an issue with the earpiece of the phone. Speakerphone wasn't too great, and it was very difficult to hear my callers even with the phone held away from a table at full volume. Wi-Fi calls generally had the same quality, so it certainly didn't suffer, but Wi-Fi calling didn't improve the quality much.

Battery life on the Sensation 4G was excellent. Most Android devices seem to hold a good charge for about 10 hours before you start to worry about how much longer your phone will last, but the Sensation 4G would be unplugged and on its own from 8 a.m. until about 10 p.m. at night before it hit the 20-30% range with moderate to heavy use. If there was any worry that a 1520mAh battery wouldn't last with a 1.2GHz Android smartphone, just a single day with the Sensation 4G will put those worries to rest.

The Final Take

The HTC Sensation 4G is a fine Android device. It is running the latest version of the Google mobile platform, 2.3 Gingerbread, and has a very useful and nicely design user interface - HTC Sense 3.0. The perks that come along with HTC Hub are also a nice bonus. The smartphone is definitely future proof with its 8MP camera and 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, so you won't feel left behind when the next great Android handset comes out in just a few weeks, as they so often do.

Overall performance and battery life are admirable, with my only gripes being the image quality from the camera. But even then, it wasn't all that bad. Perhaps the Sensation 4G could shave off a few tenths of an ounce, but some might feel that the heft adds to that svelte feeling when holding the device.

With the LG G2x sharing shelf space with the Sensation 4G, the decision to buy a high-end Android handset from T-Mobile just got that much harder.

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  • Sweetdarby

    Thanks for a great article.

  • RockinRhino

    Awesome, now I really want to get this Sensation 4G. 

  • Tony

    Whats the battery size in the Galaxy SII?

    Isnt it better than the Sensation…

    I think I am still worried about the Sensations battery…

    • http://www.saholic.com/ Tarita k

      Battery of Samsung galaxy S II is better than HTC Sensation. S II battery is 1650mAh and Sensation has 1520 mAh battery…..

      You should not worry about as it will give you good back-up….any phone with more than 1200 mAh gives good back-up…..you can take either of them……

  • Jeff D.

    Thumbs up! Got one last night… First 24 hours have been amazing! G2x I had was defective (unheard of, right? ), so exchanged for HTC Sensation! No remorse!

    • Joe

      How did you talk Tmobile into that? I have been trying

    • Joe

      How did you talk Tmobile into that? I have been trying

      • M.J.

        Within two week period, (not usually enough time for everything to go wrong) tmobile will allow you to exchange your phone for any other model with a $50 restocking fee. After that…good luck!

      • M.J.

        Within two week period, (not usually enough time for everything to go wrong) tmobile will allow you to exchange your phone for any other model with a $50 restocking fee. After that…good luck!

    • Brandymorrow

      Good luck it looks great for two day after that is has all kind issues

  • Arii_s

    Anyone know if Netflix playback works on this device?

  • Anita Hibbler

    I have the Sensation an awesome phone, however, this phone does not support bluetooth voice commands, hard to not have that feature when driving… have to pull over to place a bluetooth call, not good for me!

  • Ckeepers

    I have read great reviews on this phone but I find it AMAZING that all of you techies missed this – I got the phone and have tried three different blue tooths with it – none of which worked worth a carp so I did a little more digging. Well come to find out this phone has the exact same problem the IPONE 4 had

    What they call the death grip. The antenna is in the back of the phone so it has trouble connecting with Blue Tooth and WiFI. Could also account for the lousy sound quality – how did you all miss this in your reviews????? All the bells and whistles are great but if you can not use it as a basic phone with good sound quality what good is it really. It is going right back to t-mobile.

  • M.J.

    CONS, CONS AND MORE CONS…..Not so sure about these other reviews on the htc sensation…its the worst phone i have ever had. i would go back to my blackberry. Between my friend and I, we have exchanged our sensation twice (4 brand new phones). They have all gotten incredibly hot with simple texting, speaker quality horrible…in a busy room, I cannot hear my voicemails, or sound simply does not work. It constantly freezes up or ring will not move to unlock. Had to remove the battery to reboot it because the screen was half gone and frozen. mms videos will not download. Media transfers unsuccessfully download or take about 5 minutes for one file. Internet connection very poor. (this is with and Without apps downloaded to the phone). Was told by my carrier that after 2 week period I cannot exchange for a different phone only exhange for a refurbished one….after 4 brand new ones….I THINK NOT! Cannot run my business with this phone when the accuweather app burns it up within a few hours!  PROS… the weather wallpaper is nice!

    • Brandymorrow

      I so total agree with u M.J this phone is CRAP THE WORST PHONE..he doesn’t even run a bussiness but when it power cycle right in the middle of talking to someone for no reason there is some serious issues

    • Tmmatby

      Again, you obviously got a lemon, which is not uncommon when a new device comes out. My internet connection on the Sensation is stellar. I guess it depends where you live.

  • Brandymorrow

    OMG THIS PHONE IS A HORRABLE PHONE.. MY BOYFRIEND GOT IT AND IT HAS POWER CYCLED IT SELF AT LEAST 15 TIME IN A 24 HR PERIOD.. THEN IT ASK U IF U WANT TO SEND THE ERR MESSAGE TO HTC AND HE SAYS YES EVER TIME.. YOU WOULD LINK THEY WOULD CALL U OR LET U KNOW WHY IT KEEP DOING THIS BUT NOOOOO.. IT IS WORSE THE THE GARMIN PHONE HE HAD UGHHH

    • M.J.

      Happens with ours also. Cant even list all the glitches

    • Tmmatby

      Maybe he got a defective one? I have one as well as many others who have never had the problem that you’re describing.

    • Bob

      Learn to spell please. :)

  • Mcs Mccone

    This phone has heat issues.  It can get too hot during normal to light use which causes it to reboot (several times a day).  The battery life is ok to poor, with average usage.  I swapped out the first phone with the second one I have.  Do not use a cover on this phone as it traps in the heat.  The phone is slick, so not having a cover is a bit dangerous and awkward to carry without one.  So chose to have a cover or holster and accept the reboots or don’t use one and get by without a daily or hourly reboot.

  • Ap0c

    thats expensive i get it for free. :)

  • Maureen

    pls how do i set my htc sense so i would be able to connect to internet.

  • Samsung Galaxy

    Why HTC is still costlier in my regions. 4g $ is a cool and fast network. Now I am connecting my device with my laptop and it is great.

  • Samsung Galaxy

    Why HTC is still costlier in my regions. 4g $ is a cool and fast network. Now I am connecting my device with my laptop and it is great.

  • Rogermursick

    Good job on your review. Is there anything that I can do to improve the phone quality of my sensation? People are constantly telling me that they can not hear me or that I sound garbled or muffled.
    Thanks,
    Roger

  • Fergal

    You must be joking about the battery. I thought my iphone battery was poor with the HTC sensation is a disgrace. You will get 2 hours surfing the net MAX. Even a 10 minute phone call takes a significant % off the battery’s life. Outside of this it is a decent phone (although again the touchscreen gui is inferior to the iphone) but if it cant last for a day then whats the point of it?? 

  • Coach_wade

    The review of the battery is a flat out LIE. An eight minute phone call will kill 7% of the stock battery. Driving with the phone PLUGGED INTO A 1AMP CHARGER will kill 22% of the battery in 48 minutes. The web is covered with complaints about the Sensation battery life (Google the phrase.) This reviewer is lying through his teeth.

    • Coach_wade

      Edit: Driving with the NAVIGATOR ON and the phone plugged into the charger will kill the battery because the GPS uses so much juice it actually drains FASTER than the charger can recharge it.

  • Captain Jimmy

    I thought Motorola backflip was the worst phone I have ever owned but HTC Sensation about to top that. It crashes for no reason, sense keeps rebooting, freezes up, touch screen becomes unresponsive and worst of  all I can not get data connection indoors it falls to 2G and this is not a coverage issue because I have tested side by side with Amaze and difference is like day and night. I had Galaxy S and HTC inspire before and inspire is 10 times better than this phone. Stay away from sensation get the Amaze or GalaxyS 2. This phone is a failure. Shame on HTC. 

  • Peter Griffin

    This is by far and away the worst phone I have ever owned.  Riddled with bugs and shocking battery life.  Don’t go anywhere near it.

    • http://www.pricereverse.com/ Price

       Maybe you hit the defective unit…this phone has lots of fans out there.

  • doug

    Wow I must have got the only 3 good ones in the world.  I am a heavy user and always hooked up with bluetooth, my daughter sends about 16000 texts a month, and is constantly on social network.  My battery will last all day long with no issues and I run my company on this thing.  Internet is super fast.  I have one complaint, when on network and phone does wifi calling if you walk out the door a lot of times you loose the call.  Battery far outlast’s my motorola photon, and its a lot lighter.  Can never figure out the weight thing, phones are light, a couple of grams difference hardly worth getting upset about.  I Love my phone.

  • doug

    Oh wanted to add, bluetooth is fantastic, walked into store a couple of days ago, was a good 35 feet from phone, did not realize it was sitting on the seat of my truck outside until I got back in truck, great reception, no loss of signal and like I said never realized I had it on seat

  • doug

    Oh wanted to add, bluetooth is fantastic, walked into store a couple of days ago, was a good 35 feet from phone, did not realize it was sitting on the seat of my truck outside until I got back in truck, great reception, no loss of signal and like I said never realized I had it on seat

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