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 (you can read about our results in the Performance section below) 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.
In addition to the standard Google services, the Sensation 4G comes preloaded with a few extra apps and services. This includes Polaris Office, Lookout, a security and backup app, TeleNav GPS Navigator, HTC's Peep Twitter client, Slacker, and T-Mobile TV. The Sensation 4G is also the first HTC device to offer the company's new HTC Watch video store and HTC Listen music store.
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.
We found the catalog somewhat limited, though it did include some recent movie titles such as "The Fighter" and "No Strings Attached." The TV show selection was even more limited (we counted 10 episodes total). We do like that the service provides a synopsis for each video. With movies, you're also shown a cast of characters and the option to watch a preview before buying. Prices range from $8.99 to $14.99 to purchase a movie and $2.99 to $3.99 to rent, while TV shows cost $1.99 per episode.
HTC Listen is currently in beta but will provide direct downloads of music albums and tracks. The service is powered by MusicStation, but again, we weren't exactly wowed by the selection. Fortunately, the Amazon MP3 Store is available to help you get your music fix. HTC says it will provide more details on HTC Watch and HTC Listen when the Sensation 4G launches on June 15.
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.
The smartphone offers DLNA support and HDMI output via an MHL adapter (sold separately), so you can connect your phone to your HDTV. If there's one downside to the HTC Sensation 4G, it's the paltry internal memory. The smartphone has 4GB of internal storage but only 1GB of that is available to the user. The preinstalled 8GB microSD card helps, but those who have large music and video libraries will probably want to upgrade to a 32GB card, which the expansion slot can support.
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.
HTC Sensation 4G call quality sample
Unfortunately, speakerphone quality was another story. Callers said we sounded far away and garbled at times. The audio was clear on our end, but even at the highest level, volume was pretty weak and there was definitely not enough power to hear in louder environments. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music wirelessly.
As we mentioned earlier, the Sensation isn't T-Mobile's fastest 4G phone, but we still experienced some swift data speeds. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged 3.99Mbps down and 1.27Mbps up. CNET's full site loaded in 15 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 3 seconds and 4 seconds, respectively. High-quality YouTube clips buffered within seconds and played backed without interruption.
Up to this point, most of the dual-core smartphones we've tested have been powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset, but Qualcomm is in the business too, and the HTC Sensation 4G uses the company's dual-core 1.2GHz processor for better applications, multimedia, and graphics performance. 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 ships with a 1,520mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8.3 hours and up to 12 days of standby time. So far in testing we have experienced great battery life. Starting with a full charge in the morning and with moderate use, we've been able to go a little over a day before needing to recharge. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 6 hours of continuous talk time over 4G. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sensation 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.776W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.
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.