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Cell Phone Review: HTC Sensation 4G
By: Thelonius Funk
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    In this mobile device review, we look at the HTC Sensation 4G.

    HTC and T-Mobile first introduced the HTC Sensation 4G back in April, and we were instantly enamored of the Android smartphone. Not only did HTC give the phone a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 4.3-inch qHD display, but it enhanced the user experience by adding some great features to the HTC Sense user interface.

    HTC and T-Mobile first introduced the HTC Sensation 4G back in April, and we were instantly enamored of the Android smartphone. Not only did HTC give the phone a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 4.3-inch qHD display, but it enhanced the user experience by adding some great features to the HTC Sense user interface. We've had to wait two long months since that fateful day in April, but T-Mobile customers will finally get the chance to get their hands on the HTC Sensation 4G starting June 15 for a price of $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. Needless to say, we were excited to get our own hands on the Sensation again, and we're happy to say it does not disappoint.

    What can we say; it was love at first sight. The HTC Sensation 4G is one of the best-looking and most well-built smartphones we've seen to date, and it's not because of any flashy gimmicks, but simply a solid and sleek design. Like a number of HTC handsets, the Sensation 4G has a unibody aluminum chassis with a streamlined and high-quality construction. What's most notable about the phone, though, is how sleek it is for a 4.3-inch touch-screen device.

    Part of what allows the smartphone to be so slim is the 16:9 qHD (540x960-pixel resolution) Super LCD touch screen. The display features a contour design that gives it a concave shape, making it comfortable when held against the cheek, and also prevents scratches when the phone is placed screen-side down. More importantly, it looks gorgeous. Text and images look sharp with vivid colors, and we were still able to read the screen outdoors.

    The touch screen was responsive, as we were able to easily navigate the menus and launch applications with a single tap. Scrolling through lists and using the pinch-to-zoom feature was also smooth. For text entry, you only get the choice of HTC's supplied virtual keyboards--full QWERTY, phone, or compact--but no standard Android keyboard or Swype. That said, while it's not immediately obvious, the HTC keyboard has a feature called Trace that acts very much like Swype where you can drag your finger from letter to letter. As with Swype, we found Trace to be faster and easier and even more accurate than pecking away at each key.

    A lot of the new features of Sense (HTC Sensation) can be found on the lock screen. Aside from a display of the date, time, and other vital statistics, you now get shortcuts to four of your favorite apps. By default, the shortcuts are set to phone, mail, camera, and messages, but you can change them in the phone's Personalize menu. To open a specific app, you can simply drag the icon to the ring at the bottom of the screen, instead of having to unlock the phone first.

    Once you unlock the phone, you'll find even more enhancements. For example, much like the HTC Flyer, the Sensation features a 3D carousel so you can more quickly flip through the seven home screens, rather than swiping through each panel. (Of course, you can also use the Leap screen function.) The pull-down notification tray has a second tab called Quick Settings where you can manage your wireless connections and access other settings. The mail app and widget now give you a preview of each message, and the photo gallery widget features a flip-board effect.

    Though the smartphone carries 4G in its name, the Sensation is only capable of reaching maximum theoretical download speeds of 14.4Mbps. Nothing to scoff at, of course, but remember that's a theoretical number and T-Mobile offers other smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, that are capable of achieving faster data speeds (up to 21Mbps). The phone can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices for an additional $15 per month.

    Enabled by HTC's investment in multimedia provider Saffron Digital, HTC Watch allows users to rent or buy movies and TV shows to watch on their smartphones, much like Samsung's Media Hub service. Though details about specific studio partnerships were not disclosed at the time of this writing, HTC said customers will have access to many of today's popular TV shows and movies, and progressive downloads will allow you to watch your video as soon as it starts to download instead of having to wait till the whole show or movie is transferred to your device. You'll also be able to watch any purchased content on up to five different HTC devices.

    Last but not least, we have the Sensation 4G's 8-megapixel camera. It offers autofocus, a dual LED flash, and a variety of editing options and effects. We haven't had the best experience with HTC's cameras, so we were afraid of the results, but picture quality was quite good. Pictures taken outdoors were sharp and vibrant, and the camera was able to capture fine detail when used in macro mode. Even photos taken indoors looked bright, though slightly softer. The camera can also capture 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second, thanks to the phone's dual-core processor. Video quality was pretty decent, but there were areas that looked slightly shaky.

    We tested the quad-band HTC Sensation 4G in New York using T-Mobile service, and call quality was good. We enjoyed mostly clear audio on our end with little to no background noise. We didn't notice any type of voice distortion, but there were a couple of occasions where voices sounded slightly muffled. Meanwhile, our callers were quite impressed with the call quality and didn't have any complaints.
    Though we felt the T-Mobile G2x was slightly more responsive in some respects--apps launched a tick faster and load times for games were also quicker--the Sensation 4G delivers solid performance. We were able to easily switch between tasks with little delay. For the most part, the browser handled Flash content well, but there were a couple of hiccups while we were trying to watch a CNET TV video. We also tried out a couple of games (Gun Bros and Nova), and game play was smooth and fun.

    The HTC Sensation 4G most definitely lives up to its name. The Android smartphone is sensational in many ways, which is why we've named it an Editors' Choice Award winner. Of course, T-Mobile customers now have the enviable problem of choosing between two great Android devices: the Sensation 4G and the T-Mobile G2x (another Editors' Choice pick). The T-Mobile G2x will certainly do right by Android purists and power-hungry users, but the Sensation 4G is a phone to please the masses with its sleek design and interface.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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