HTC Sensation 4G hands-on

The Sensation 4G has the brand new HTC Sense user interface, a dual core processor and an 8-megapixel camera.

HTC stopped by the PCWorld offices last week to show off its latest Android smartphone, the HTC Sensation 4G. The phone was officially unveiled today at a launch event in the UK, but we got an exclusive hands-on look. Coming to T-Mobile this summer, the Sensation is a Qualcomm dual-core phone running the latest version of Android, Gingerbread. While I was certainly impressed with HTC's last superstar, the Thunderbolt on Verizon, I have to be honest: in terms of specs and design, the Sensation blows it out of the water.

HTC EVO 3D vs. LG Optimus 3D

Thin and Curved Design

Processing power aside, the Sensation is an exciting phone for a couple of different reason. For one, it sports a 4.3-inch qHD display, which stands for Quarter High Definition. This means the display has a resolution of 960-by-540 pixels arranged in a 16:9 aspect ratio. This resolution is one quarter of a full HD 1080p frame (hence the name) and is three quarters of a 720p frame. The HTC EVO 3D for Sprint, which we saw at CTIA last month, also has a qHD display, but with a parallax barrier (which creates the 3D image).

You also feel a change in design as soon as you hold the Sensation in hand. The qHD display allows for the phone to be more narrow, making it easier to holding and navigate in one hand. Other 4.3-inch phones, like the EVO 4G and the Thunderbolt, are wider and in my own experience, more difficult to use (I also have small hands).

The display is also slightly concave so if you put it face down on a table, it won't get scratched.

New Sense User Interface

Like, the EVO 3D, the Sensation 4G sports the latest version of the Sense user interface, which has a brand-new customizable lock screen. You can pick a theme for your lock screen (the phone offers quite a few to choose from) and then select four apps that you visit the most. When you turn on your phone, you'll see those four apps at the bottom of the screen. To unlock the screen, you drag the circle and move it over an app; you then jump straight to that app. That way, you don't have to go through multiple menus to reach your e-mail or any other items you access frequently.

The new version of Sense also has a spruced-up Walls system. Rather than having to flick back and forth between your walls, as you do in the stock Android operating system, you can flick the EVO 3D's screen to make the walls spin. The effect is a bit reminiscent of a carousel.

You'll find a clutch of new widgets in Sense, but my favorite is the gorgeous new Weather widget. HTC has a nice tradition of creating visual weather apps, and it is cool to see the company continue to improve them.

The Sensation will also come loaded with HTC's new movie and TV show streaming service, Watch. You can download videos from Watch and start watching them immediately. Watch is nicely integrated into Sense so it is easy to find the videos that you want to watch.

Like the EVO 3D and Thunderbolt, the Sensation has a back-facing 8-megapixel camera and a front-facing camera for video chat. According the HTC, tweaks to both the hardware and software have been made to improve the shutter speed of the camera. I definitely noticed the quicker speed in my hands-on tests. It doesn't matter how good a camera is if there is shutter lag! It makes snapping photos of people or animals incredibly difficult.

Thunderbolt or Sensation?

While the Sensation has some impressive specs, it is worth mentioning that we saw a big difference in performance between T-Mobile's HSPA+ network and Verizon's LTE network in our multi-city 4G tests. The Thunderbolt achieved data speeds averaging 18.30 megabits per second for downloads and 7.39 mbps for uploads. T-Mobile's Samsung Galaxy S 4G, on the other hand, turned in a solid performance, but clocked average speeds that looked 4G-like (3.38 mbps for downloads, 1.13 mbps for uploads).

The HTC Sensation 4G will be available exclusively from T-Mobile this summer. Pricing has not been announced. With the LG G2X and Sidekick also coming out soon, T-Mobile is definitely going out with a strong portfolio before its impending merge with AT&T.

Tags htcconsumer electronicsqualcommAndroidPhonest-mobile

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Ginny Mies

PC World (US online)

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