HTC Sensation Review: This Is The Android Phone You Want

I got into the office one morning a couple of weeks ago and found the HTC Sensation perched on my desk, looking all sexy with its shiny screen and curved unibody design. It hasn't left my side since, but just like any relationship, it's not perfect.

<h3Why It Matters

HTC has come a long way since the Desire's release last year -- the Sensation is the Taiwanese manufacturer's newest flagship phone, and it has some impressive specs, including a 960x540 qHD screen and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor.

HTC recently launched a website that provides the tools necessary to unlock bootloaders, and while we're still left hanging on a concrete date for the tool to become available on Telstra-branded devices, the Sensation will no doubt be one of the more popular phones to be unlocked as it's targeted at the sort of people most likely to experiment with custom ROMs and UIs.

Specs: HTC Sensation Display: 4.3-inch 540x960 resolution Battery: 1520mAh lithium-ion Processor: 1.2 GHz dual-core Memory: 768MB RAM, 1GB ROM OS: Android 2.3 + HTC Sense Cameras: 8MP rear camera; VGA front-facing Price: $0 upfront on Telstra's $79 Freedom Connect plan

Like

HTC is renowned for making well-built phones, and with the Sensation weighing in at 148g, it feels solid in the hand. It has a curved aluminium unibody design, the trademark rubberised back, and it doesn't feel too large thanks to a smaller bezel. The 4.3-inch qHD Gorilla Glass screen is beautiful and resistant to scratches even in my klutzy hands -- as with any screen, it's difficult to see in sunlight, but images and text are exceptionally crisp and bright.

It has a fast dual-core processor that makes makes browsing the web and switching between applications a breeze. And while we're perfectly happy with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) -- we wouldn't expect anything less on a flagship phone -- there's no reason why it wouldn't be a perfect candidate for Ice Cream Sandwich, which is expected later this year.

I've never been a fan of HTC Sense (and I'm not the only one), but I can't imagine the Sensation without it. It was a pain on some of the older, lower-specced HTC phones like the Desire, but the dual-core processor and more generous internal memory (thought not by much) makes it a pleasure to use.

One of the features that I love the most about the Sensation is its 8MP camera and 1080p HD video recording. The auto-focus is spot on and it lets you make custom image adjustments, such as sharpness, saturation, contrast, exposure, ISO, face detection, among others. It also comes with a bunch of different effects that make it fun to play with, but its lack of image stabilisation means it doesn't really work as a point-and-shoot replacement.

No Like

There isn't a lot to not like about the Sensation. Many of its downsides come from its strengths -- namely high-end specs that make you want to do juice-sucking activities all day long. My other beef is with the usual Telstra bloatware that you can't remove, but there's more than enough space to carry all the apps you need despite the 1GB ROM being quite stingy compared to other similarly specced Android phones.

The Sensation comes with a relatively large 1520mAh battery, but despite having what's supposed to be more efficient dual-core guts, even moderate usage will see you need to charge your phone by dinner time. Most days it would pop up a dialog and whine about being below 15 per cent battery before I was ready to put it down for the day.

The camera is great for taking pictures on the go, but there doesn't appear to be an option to upload individual pictures from the gallery. You have to open up Facebook or Twitter and select the image from there. You can upload as soon as you take the picture, but you have to hit the "share" button before the preview disappears. That's a major oversight for snap-happy people like myself, especially since the camera is good enough that you want to use it regularly for even the littlest things.

Should I Buy It?

Despite its few weaknesses, the Sensation is one of the best Android phones you can get right now, especially since it'll soon have the freedom of an unlocked bootloader. It emphasises Android's strengths in the best way possible, and it's especially a delight to use if you're into the social networking scene. Telstra's little-talked-about HD Voice will also be appealing to those who make lots of calls, provided that the person you're speaking to also has a HD Voice-enabled smartphone.

The HTC Sensation is exclusive to Telstra and available outright for $792, or $0 on a $79 Freedom Connect plan.