Next up in the mobile phone big league is the HTC Sensation. Making its debut into the Indian market only very recently, it’s the latest edition to the Dual Core enabled smartphones and is out to give LG’s Optimus 2X and the Galaxy S II a run for their Rupee. It hit our labs and after putting it through the wringer, here’s what I can tell you.
Like most HTC handsets, save the Incredible S, the Sensation is designed to be slick and the curved edges and dark tones make for an elegant device. It features HTC’s four touch-sensitive Android keys below the 4.3-inch display that sports the second highest resolution in mobiledom – 540 x 960 pixels with 16 million colors. Just a few pixels shy of the Retina Display. Encased in Gorilla glass, while fingerprints might be a slight issue, scratches won’t be. The handset had a few hard knocks and came out unscathed. A 3.5mm handsfree socket with the power/screen-lock button are located at the top and volume/zoom keys with the micro USB port that for charging, as well as MHL (Media Hi-Def Linking) and PC connectivity is on the left side.
I’ve always liked the idea of the LED indicator being cleverly hidden behind the earpiece grill above the display and the Sensation also pulls it off quite well. The phone also has a secondary VGA camera in front which is a big step down considering the Galaxy S II has a 2MP front facing camera.
The entire rear panel of the handset long with the top portion that contains the grill and front facing camera lens case is removable leaving the Sensation a little ‘naked’ for want of a better term. A micro SD hot swap slot is located under here and the Sensation supports up to 32GB which enhances the existing 1GB of internal storage. This entire casing is designed to protect the handset and does so quite well, but at a total weight of 148g, the Sensation is a bit on the heavy side.
Respectible dimensions but it's still a bit heavy
Features and Performance
This is the first handset to hit the Indian shelves to feature HTC’s Sense UI version 3.0. Although, it doesn’t really bring too much to the table in terms of functionality, it does add quite a bit of cosmetic appeal to the already well designed UI. For starters, the Lock screen is all new with a circle-drag-to-open feature and an option to have four quick access shortcuts, as well. It’s very handy and you can choose what shortcuts to add. There are also a few theme options to choose for the lock-screen that include a feed option for HTC’s Friend Stream social networking platform or stock market updates or even a photos stream from the gallery and more. A 3D-ish scrolling setting has also been thrown in to make the UI a little more attractive.
Plenty of lock screens to choose from
While that’s all good what I found was a bit of a considerable amount of lag with various widgets each time I locked the handset for awhile and then switched it back on. A few of my Favorites in the phonebook widget would always be missing and appear only after about 4 seconds. The Friend Stream widget would always be blank and refresh after about the same amount of time and that was the same with the music player widget. Sense UI was a bit of a mess with this device, although I could attribute it to being an issue with just this test device as this is not the kind of sluggishness one expects from a Gingerbread (Android 2.3) device running on a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor with an Adreno 220 GPU.
Other than the issue with speed, HTC Sense UI is still the most competent interfaces to come preloaded onto a handset. It offers a very user friendly and poised system for almost all features including caching your user names and email address to offer drop down selections when required, a more intuitive social networking and phonebook integration and more. Sense UI also offers quite a bit of customization for the handset with Skins and HTC Scenes pre-designed for various uses.
The touch keys don't rotate
What is rather odd is the lock screen widgets includes a bunch of superbly designed watches but whichever you select, the digital clock will still remain just above it along with the clock already displayed in the notification bar. It’s ridiculous that you’ll see three watches on a single screen. Secondly, the UI is not subject to the auto rotation system and finally, the Sensation, although a higher-end device compared to the Incredible S, does not support the auto-rotation of the touch-sensitive keys below the display. The display itself, in all it’s hi-res S-LCD capacity was not as vibrant as Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc that’s powered by their Bravia Mobile engine, or the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Galaxy S II. However, in terms of image sharpness and color saturation, the S-LCD is what I personally prefer and believe to be a brighter richer option even if it’s a little harder to see in bright sunlight.
On the whole, while Sense UI 3.0 is a little funkier, it would have been just plain kick-ass on the Incredible S, as is on the Sensation, didn’t really thrill me all things considered.
Another bit of a let down was the media functionality. The Incredible S was capable of DivX and XviD codec support which meant almost zero conversion and simple drag and drop video playback. With the Sensation none of my AVI files coded with DivX worked, so I was forced to download a third party player, which is really no big deal but again, once expects these things from a handset in this price range. Like the Galaxy S II, although the Sensation has no HDMI out support it does support TV Out via MHL as well as DLNA for streaming.
No DivX support, bummer!
Audio playback was a non issue, though. Tones were crisp and clear at a high enough decibel level to drown out the obnoxious sounds that are emitted from a Mumbai Local. With the added bonus of EQ presets and SRS enhancement I thoroughly enjoyed the Sensation’s music prowess. The FM radio also proved to be quite an asset while commuting bringing in a decent amount of reception even while on the move.
HTC’s built in Reader app for eBooks was, although sluggish when it came to flipping pages, still a handy feature to have.