Product Type: HTC Smartphone
Newest Review: ... but the main ones that come with the phone make life so much easier. Thanks to HTC Sense built in, customising your home screen is as eas... more
A True Sensation?
Member Name: hotrock4
Date: 14/10/11, updated on 14/10/11 (63 review reads)
Advantages: Sleek design, overall a well thought through phone
Disadvantages: Poor Battery Life, DLNA Complicated To Use
Upon being selected recently to test a HTC Sensation for a fortnight on behalf of another reviews website I was more than eager to get my hands on the phone to put it through its paces. The reason for this being that I currently own a HTC Wildfire S, and really wanted to see what improvements had been made with the HTC Sensation and whether it lived up to its predecessors performance as well as all of the hype and good things that I have heard about the phone to date.
Out of the Box and Setting It Up:-
The HTC Sensation come securely packaged in a pretty solid smart looking black cardboard box with a real size picture of the phone on the front. Along with the picture of the phone there is white text stating there is a HTC Sensation enclosed at the top of the box along with the "HTC quietly brilliant" slogan in green and white at the bottom. On the back of the box in silver writing are some of the main features of the phone along with the operating spec. When looking at the box it is similar to a box you may get an expensive aftershave/perfume in only more sturdy so really does shout quality before even getting the phone out of the box which is just as well for the price of the phone but we'll get to this later. Getting into the box was probably the hardest part of setting this product up with the outside sleeve being tight around the box inside, be careful however as if the box is slid out upside down your phone may well end up getting dropped as there is no lid on the bit that slides out.
Inside the box there is a cardboard insert with a cloth like finish holding the phone solidly in place within the box, this insert is also sturdy which only adds to the quality feel of the product. I consider this to be important as when purchasing a product such as a phone of this value I do expect it to arrive looking as though it has been looked after before being packaged to send out to consumers. The first thing that strikes you when you pull the phone out of the box is the large size of the screen, and secondly the reassuring weight of the phone which automatically feels robust and comfortable to hold despite the size.
Underneath the insert that holds the phone in place is the charger which is supplied in three pieces, a pair of earphones, and an instruction/warranty pack contained in a black cardboard envelope to keep the four advice leaflets together and undamaged which to me carried on well with the quality and presentation side of things. There was also a USB cable supplied which has it obvious use of connecting the phone to USB ports, as well as being the lead that connects the phone to the mains charging plug. Once out of the box it is simply a case of removing the plastic phone protector that it comes packaged in, then removing the back of the phone, then then taking out the battery, inserting the sim card, then reversing the procedure to reassemble the phone. The only problem here is I scarcely have any nails which meant the back cover was a bit fiddly to remove as the cover fits really snuggly, and gives a decent amount of resistance upon removal giving the feeling already that this is a robust phone. The charger is simple enough to assemble with the plug being supplied as two pieces that just need twisting together with the USB cable plugging into the back to supply a charging cable.
From here it is simply a case of hitting the on button and setting the phone up, there was around 10-15 minutes of battery life in the battery which gave me just enough time to get through the initial setup process of setting the time and date etc. The first thing asked after this is which service provider you wish to use, with this simply being the case of matching your selection to the sim card supplied with the phone. During the setup process you are also asked which accounts such as e-mail, Facebook and Twitter you would like to sync to your phone in order for them to display real time information regarding the accounts. When I had to put the phone on charge for the first time it took around 3½ hours for the phone to reach full charge and the green charged light to display at the top of the phone.
Appearance and Build Quality:-
As mentioned already the dominating feature of this phone is the large 4.3 inch capacitive touch screen display which is bright once the phone is turned on, crystal clear and is easy to read even in bright sunlight with minimal glare being reflected back at the user. As well as the screen being able to sense which way up the phone is being held in order to rotate displayed content the right way up the screen is also tilt sensitive allowing apps such as dice to be rolled around on the screen by shaking and tipping the screen in order to get them to move. The screen is known as a Quarter High Definition (qHD) screen giving the fore mentioned screen clarity and excellent results when viewing recorded videos in HD. Below the screen are four touch sensitive buttons, Home, Setting, Back and Search. The home and back buttons are the most commonly used when browsing the phone. There is minimal surround around the screen in a smart, shiny gloss black finish with literally just enough room for the four buttons at the bottom, a chrome surrounded ear piece at the top, with a small forward facing camera to the right and a tiny LED to the left which indicates when the phone is low on charge by glowing amber, and whilst on charge will flash amber then turn green once fully charged.
The main body of the phone is aluminium in construction giving a nice weight and solid feel to the phone with a thick aluminium strip running across the back of the rear cover with textured plastic top and bottom. The use of the different materials on the back gives a nice finish with a black section at the bottom, the centre aluminium piece being dark grey with the HTC branding etched into it, and the top being a lighter grey. This may sound quite dull but have a look at the pictures and I'm sure you will see what I mean when I say that in my opinion I feel that this gives a far smarter look to the phone than just one block of colour as with older HTC models. Also on the back of the phone is the main camera, two lights both of which are used for a flash for the camera and a torch, speakers, a microphone at the bottom and also a chrome grated speaker at the top.
Visually I find this phone to be very pleasing, ok it may well seem to be a bit big at first and not the type of phone you would want in your pocket, however due to the slim line nature of the phone it slips into an average size pocket very easily and doesn't cause excessive bulkiness or unsightly bulges. The actual dimensions of the phone are approx. 126 x 65.5 x 1.1cms and the weight is around 150 grams.
Build quality wise this phone is top notch feeling very solid in the hand due to the weight and materials used to build it the phone definitely feels as though it will last the two years contract length that will be expected of it by most people who acquire one of these phones. The screen seems to be tough enough and I have not managed to add even the tiniest of scratches to the screen in the time I have been using it. To give you an idea it has been inside my pocket whilst retiling a bathroom being used to text and call whilst doing this work, after a quick wipe over with a dry screen cloth the abrasive tile dust was removed from the screen with no sign that it had even been there, not even a minor scratch with the black screen held underneath a light for inspection. All fingerprints and grubbiness are easily removed from the durable glass screen easily with a screen cloth with the result being a brand new looking phone each time.
Navigation and Ease Of Use:-
Once turned on the phone is dead simple to use and find your way about due to the well thought through layout of the phones functions. At the very bottom left hand corner of the home screen is a button that will take you straight into a screen with all of the apps that are installed on the phone which can be easily scrolled through just by running a finger up or down the screen. Next to the apps button is a larger button which takes you to the all-important phone function then to the right of this is the personalization button which allows you to set wallpaper, choose which functions, and apps you would like on the homepage as you unlock the phone, and of course change ringtones and sound settings. There are several pages to the home screen which can be scrolled through to either the left or right making all of the phones main functions easy to access, and can also be modified to display which features most suit the user.
The phone will time out if left for around 15 seconds on default settings and will lock itself automatically and turn off the screen, to get it to turn back on is as simple as pressing the silver power button on the top of the phone, and unlocking it is just a case of dragging the ring displayed at the bottom up across the screen. Alternatively instead of unlocking the phone this way you can drag the function you wish to use into the ring at the bottom of the screen, meaning no need to unlock the screen if quick use of the phone, camera or any other app you wish to use is needed.
The HTC Sensation uses a 1.2GHz dual core processor coupled with 768MB of RAM to keep the phone running smoothly and I must say it does the job very well indeed when running the Android based operating system which itself is coupled with HTC sense making such things as, the phone ringing louder if in your bag or pocket, and instant web page resizing work well.
Phone Calls and Messaging:-
Before getting too deep into everything that the HTC Sensation manages to do on top of the basics, I will cover the basics of making a simple phone call and sending a text. As previously mentioned the phone button is centred at the bottom of the main screen and it is simply a case of pressing this button and a keypad appears on the touchscreen from here on it is just a normal phone, enter the number you wish to call and press the green button at the bottom of the screen. The phonebook is also displayed here and if it is the phonebook that is needed it's just a case of pressing the button on the keypad to drop it out of sight and the whole of the screen becomes free to scroll through and select numbers from the phonebook. It is also possible to use the keypad to quickly navigate to the number you wish to find by just tapping the number with the letter that relates above just the once then onto the second and so on and the phone figures out which letters you required from the entries in the phonebook. This makes for a simple calling experience, and the microphone and earpiece make for great call quality even in windy conditions with minimal interference from outside sources. The loudspeaker function also works quite well however it could be a little louder for my liking. Incoming calls are easy to answer or decline quickly by just sliding whichever option is required from its place on the screen into the ring at the bottom of the screen.
Texting with the sensation is a breeze with the capacitive touch screen being responsive, but not over sensitive needing what seems to me just the right amount of pressure to operate the on screen keyboard. As the screen is so big when the Sensation is used landscape way round whilst texting the keyboard is easily used without a stylus but as with smaller screened HTC's can be a little bit fiddly with the phone held upright. The predictive text is another thing that works well with the letters that you have already typed in always being the first selection so is easy just to tap on to confirm that's what you want, then it will insert the word to the text and automatically save it in the dictionary if it is not already present. The predictive text also takes into account common spelling errors and errors made when hitting the wrong letter on the keyboard by mistake, this part of the texting experience is much appreciated when longer words do just pop up although it doesn't work every time it is close enough to be an effective time saver.
Applications and Function:-
The applications and functions available on this phone are pretty much endless so I will just go into the ones that jumped out at me as being either worthwhile or simply worth a mention and briefly touch on the others that people will probably know about already such as Facebook and Twitter apps.
I must admit the first thing I tried out on this phone were the cameras , as the advertisements advertised this as being a High Definition screen and wanted to see if the camera was up to the job. The 8MP camera on the rear of the phone is simply excellent by mobile phone standards, offering excellent quality photos and videos. There is an auto-focus which enables the user to auto-focus onto whatever part of the scene they are photographing just by touching on that part of the screen. At times it almost seems as though you are looking straight through the phone the picture quality is that good. The camera does suffer as all mobile cameras seem to in lower light conditions however the double LED flash on the back helps somewhat. The pictures and colours still come out well just not with the clarity under decent light conditions, also I have found pictures taken in bright light can sometimes leave dark colours silhouetted against each other and doesn't seem to pick them all up. Overall a most decent camera for a mobile phone which outclasses all other cameras I have used on a phone (including the IPhone) however still hasn't ironed out all of the setbacks of a mobile camera.
The front camera on the phone is tiny and placed in the top right hand corner of the phone and provides a VGA quality picture suitable for making and receiving video calls. The picture quality from this camera is a little grainy but perfectly acceptable and keeps up with movement well enough with time lag and blurring being a very small and minor issue that rarely occurs.
Video and DLNA:-
Now this was the bit I was really keen to try out as soon as I got to my Dad's house to make the most of his new DLNA capable TV. DLNA is technology which basically enables a wireless home entertainment to be set up. Videos can be shot in HD with the HTC Sensation and then watched wirelessly when connected to a TV. This is the theory anyway, despite being able to get the phone to register that it was connected to the TV and vice versa, we never actually managed to get the DLNA function to work properly, we could view photographs on the TV just not the videos. This looked like such a simple function to use on all of the advertisements but from what I can gather the file type that phones record video in is incompatible with the TV's DLNA at least this seemed the case with the one that we tried. This may have just been me being technologically incompetent but others have seemed to have had the same problems, and in the end I gave up trying, being left with the feeling that this part of the phone could have been a lot less complicated.
The experience with the DLNA disappointed me largely because videos shot with the excellent camera on the back of the phone looked outstanding after being recorded in HD and just played back on the 4.3 inch phone screen and I would have liked to have seen if they retained their picture quality when upsized to a larger HD screen. I have no doubt that the DLNA would have been good if we could have got it working, someone with a bit more patience or technical expertise may well have managed to get it sorted but I have a feeling that it was beyond me.
The HTC Sensation has inbuilt GPS and as a result can give quite good results when used as a sat nav. The navigation app needs an additional app to be installed in order to add a voice to the maps but other than this it is good to go. The sat nav works in conjunction with Google Maps, which makes for a reliable set of directions however due to the constant change with the maps on screen the phone can quite often get to the point where it is stuttering along. It sometimes takes a few seconds to catch up meaning I would not like to rely on this for a long journey, but if lost without directions this is a most handy tool to have on a phone. Let's face it as long as the navigation feature would work well enough to get me out of a pickle if I was lost in a city centre, or find my way out of the middle of nowhere, it is perfectly functional when it is considered it is an added extra on the phone.
The internet app is pretty good with the processor speed, and pretty generous RAM that are installed making for a fairly speedy internet experience, again being a real contender when compared with an I-Phone. The phone auto-sizes pages either portrait or landscape with just a double tap on the screen needed to zoom in on a particular part which it will also resize to fit the screen where possible. It is when using this phone on the internet that I first realized the line between the newest versions of smartphones and tablets really is getting thinner with each new smart phone that is being released in terms of processing capabilities, and the sheer amount of extra technology packed into each new model.
Music and Radio:-
Getting music onto the phone was a simple process, I chose to connect it to my laptop via the USB cable, it was just a case of selecting to mount the phone as a disc drive which appears automatically on the phone screen, then dragging the files I wished to use into the phone file, the same as using any form of external memory. The transfer was speedy enough between 30 seconds and one minute to transfer a whole album. The speaker on the back of the phone provides good quality sound with decent clarity when compared to other phones, and the earphones (connected by a standard 3.5mm jack) also give a good quality sound with a decent amount of volume being obtainable.
The radio requires a set of earphones to be plugged in to act as an antenna and I was not really impressed with the radio as it needed to be positioned carefully to get a decent reception and would not really be much use for when out walking or on the bus however this is not too much of a concern for me as I prefer to have my own music loaded onto my phone for these occasions. Unlike other phones the radio can either be played through the speaker or the earphones which is a bonus if it's being used somewhere you can leave it on a table and not needing to listen through earphones. Overall though the quality of the radio is poor and I would guess that most people would try it once and decide against using it again.
The earphones supplied with the phone are worth a mention here, the wires are a little thin but come with inline controls to enable the user to start/pause tracks, skip forwards/backwards fast forward/rewind tracks as well as answer calls without having to actually use the phone. I found this to be a nice touch as the phone can be used hands free without the need for a Bluetooth headset or the loudspeaker on the rear of the phone.
The apps and features above are by no means an extensive list of what's available with this phone as standard with all the normal bits coming pre-installed such as, flashlight, calendar, alarms, calculator as well a radio and music player, and also the connectivity apps enabling the phone to be linked up and synced with Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail accounts giving the feel of having a PC in my pocket. I would go into these here but I would guess most people have an understanding of what these are and the knowledge that these all run smoothly and quickly on the HTC Sensation would be more than enough when considering a purchase.
I have left a section for battery life all to itself as I feel this is the one major drawback of this phone, and seems to be the main complaint among HTC users in general. The phone will take around 3 hours or more to charge from flat and whilst using multiple apps this battery can life can be chewed through in about the same time. I wouldn't say I was using the phone excessively just watching a few music videos on YouTube and checking out the pre-installed games and goodies on the phone but it really did surprise me that the battery run out as quick as it did. Whilst the phone is on standby the battery life isn't drained anywhere near as quickly, however will still need charging at least once every 24 hours if not sooner with average use. If you spend a lot of time driving or out and about it would be advisable to get an in-car charger or take a charger out with you. The battery life and charging time could really still do with working on as it sometimes seemed as if the phone was on charge as often as it is in my pocket some days unless it had spent quite a bit of time on standby.
Considering the HTC Sensation retails at over £450 I was expecting great things from this new offering from HTC, and in all honesty I cannot say they disappointed me. The build quality, general feel and layout of the phone along with the reliability I have experienced all scream quality, nothing less than I would expect from a phone that costs this much. I was impressed by the array of apps pre-installed on the phone as well as the ease of use of most of them.
I would have liked the battery issue to have been addressed, as HTC must know that this is a problem, maybe they will sort this once they have finished cramming new technology into their phones. I will be knocking off half a star for the battery issues as it is understandable when running several apps that the battery will run down quickly, it is more a minor niggle than a real issue. The other half of the fifth star will be knocked off for the fact that the DLNA was so complicated to setup and get to work fully I'm not the most up to date person when it comes to new technology but can usually muddle my way through and this was by no means easy to set up.
So overall an outstanding smartphone that in my eyes keeps up with the competition in all respects and leaves them behind when it comes to features such as screen clarity, picture quality and having by far the best camera I have ever seen on a phone. This phone has somehow managed to improve on previous models by an outstanding margin and is definitely a phone I would recommend and also one I will seriously look into trying to get when my contract is due for renewal. It really will be a shame to go back to using my perfectly good Wildfire S which is perfectly functional but seems inadequate when compared directly with the Sensation especially when it comes down to the screen size which I initially thought was excessive but have now grown to like. I really will miss the HTC Sensation and it will be a shame to be stuck with my Wildfire S until the end of my contract after now seeing what HTC have to offer with their newer models.
4/5 stars from me with a very strong recommendation being in order for the HTC Sensation.
Summary: Great All Round Phone Despite Battery Life
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