HTC Sensation review: Front-page stuff

GSMArena team, 10 June 2011.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Connectivity has many features, death grip issues

The HTC Sensation has a complete connectivity set. There’s quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and blazing fast dual-band 3G: 14.4Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink thanks to HSPA.

The local wireless connectivity has Wi-Fi b/g/n and full DLNA support (both client and server, for images, videos and music) and Bluetooth 3.0.

There are death grip issues though - the Wi-Fi radio is especially prone to it. It can be reduced to zero when you touch the top part of the back of the phone. We tested the issue extensively, and we’re not the only ones.

The cell network signal is more resilient though touching the bottom of the phone might cause trouble in areas with poor reception.

The Connected media app handles all sorts of DLNA connections – it plays media to and from devices on the network with just a couple of clicks. Apps like the gallery have such functionality built in too.

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The Connected media app flexes the Sensation DLNA muscles

You have a long list of options for connecting to a PC - Charge only, Disk drive (mass storage), HTC Sync, USB tethering (use the phone as a modem) and Internet pass-through (the phone uses the computers Internet connection). The Charge only and Disk Drive now have big, thumbable icons, which is great since they are used most often.

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Selecting a USB connection type • Starting the personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Last but not least is the HTC Portable Hotspot. It can support 1 to 8 devices (default Froyo app maxes out at 5), you can WEP, WPA or WPA2 encrypt the hotspot and you can enable “allowed users” only to connect or leave it open for all (unsecure, but the quickest setup).

The app can be set to power off automatically after 5 or 10 minutes of inactivity, saving your battery in case you forget to switch it off manually.

We're not over covering the connectivity - the "microUSB port" as we called it for convenience is actually a MHL port. If you plug a MHL dongle in it, you can output HD video over a standard HDMI connection.

The phone's UI is mirrored on the TV - the qHD resolution has the perfect 16:9 aspect ratio for connecting to HDTVs.

We did a quick test using the MHL adapter from Samsung that we used to test the Galaxy S II - and it worked. This was good to see as we wondered about compatibility of MHL accessories across different makers.

Excellent web browser, plays HD Flash videos

The HTC Sensation has the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread web browser, plenty of processing power and a large, high-res screen.

The user interface keeps mostly out of sight, which leaves the entire screen to the web page. The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up.

There are back and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out even more options – stuff like find on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).

The Sensation's browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which makes even longer texts extremely easy to read on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.

Once you select some text, you can copy it, launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.

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Web browsing is a pleasurable experience on the HTC Sensation

The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history. Tabs are displayed as 3D cards too – a really neat trick is that if you pinch zoom out beyond the minimum zoom level you go straight into the tab selector. This may be a cool way to manage tabs but too many of them open at once will seriously slow down the browser.

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The bookmarks and History lists • Text reflow in action • Tabs are supported

The HTC Sensation has full Flash support and YouTube videos up to 720p played quite smoothly. 1080p however proves too much for the browser and the video gets extremely choppy.

We even decided to try out a few Flash games and they worked fine as well. You can play the Flash content in full screen and landscape mode, which makes the most out of the display.

You could use the YouTube app if you find navigating YouTube in the browser hard.

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Playing Flash games in the browser and watching YouTube videos

Mind you, the Android 2.3 browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag but that is a few years (at best) away from becoming the norm.

Fully-featured organizer

The usual set of organizer apps are aboard the HTC Sensation, with a mobile Office app to boot that can both view and edit documents.

The Polaris app has support for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, including the Office 2007 versions and it can create Office 2003 Word and Excel documents but not 2007 docs. Oddly, you can edit existing Office 2007 docs.

There is also a PDF viewer to handle PDF files. The on-screen keyboard does cut down the available space in half but if you zoom out you can still fit a reasonable amount of text.

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The Quickoffice handles .doc, .xls and .ppt files • Editing a Word document

This version of Polaris gives less editing options than we're used to - you can do copy, cut and paste, then apply bold, italic and underline styles and highlight text and that's it. There used to be font style options here but now they're inexplicably gone. You can't edit formulas in Excel spreadsheets either, which is a major stumbling block for doing Office document editing on the go.

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Editing an Excel document • creating a new Office document • Viewing a PPT presentation

The doc viewer integrates with the Gmail app, which makes viewing attachments a cinch. You can’t download them to the phone’s internal memory however. Attaching saved files (and we mean all kind of files) is possible though.

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The PDF files are handled by the dedicated PDF reader

The calendar has five different types of view: daily, weekly, monthly, agenda and invitation. Adding a new event is quite straightforward and you can also set an alarm to serve as a reminder.

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The HTC Sensation organizer centerpiece – the calendar

The Agenda view shows a list of all the calendar entries from the recent past to the near future. Invitation only lists events with invitation info attached to them. The day view showing the weather forecast at the top of the screen is a nice touch.

There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized with big, easy to hit buttons. Flipping it horizontally enables some more advanced functions like logarithms.

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The built-in calculator

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