The Sensation has a unibody construction, meaning the frame is milled out of one solid piece of metal. You can see some machining marks inside the metal case from where no doubt CNC was used to remove material in the right places. As a result, the Sensation doesn’t have a battery cover that snaps onto the back so much as the phone itself snaps into one monolithic case. 

There’s a spring loaded button at the bottom of the Sensation which presses in, at which point the device releases and can be lifted slightly. A downward tug then pulls the Sensation out of its metal exoskeleton.

To reassemble the Sensation, the front speaker, camera, and LED all insert into a lip, and then press down. With the phone disassembled, you can get at the battery, SIM slot, and microSD card.

There's a bit of an opportunity for dirt to creep in here, but only when the phone is open like this. The only place that things are a bit sensitive are the top front where the front facing camera, speaker, and LED light sit - you can easily get dust in here that will affect the camera. 

While we're talking about the LED notifications light, I should note that it still is located behind the speaker grille, this time at the far right next to the camera. This was something a lot of people complained about on the Desire HD, and I can understand why - it simply isn't as visible this way because the grille is recessed. 

The back camera however remedies the problem we've talked about with a few other HTC devices that have snap on rear covers. There's no longer a removable plastic layer that's part of the battery cover on the Sensation, and as a result no opportunity for dust, grime, fingerprints to scatter light and create glare and haze. The circular camera cutout allows the module to stick through slightly. 

The volume buttons on the Sensation are thankfully very communicative and protrude enough to be located easily. I'm a bit less enthused with the power button, which is a bit small, and sits flush on our review unit. HTC also put the microUSB port on the bottom left side of the phone, another one of those love it or hate it things. 

I'm impressed with how well the Sensation sits inside this cage, it doesn't rattle or move around at all inside, which is quite a testament. The only evidence that the Sensation literally isn't one solid piece is a tiny gap at the top where the display meets the speaker grille. 

Of course the Sensation needs RF windows for antennas (this is a cell phone after all), so unfortunately the entire backside can’t be metal. Apple isn’t the only one getting creative with where it hides antennas, as HTC patterns them onto the back of the two discrete plastic parts inserted into the metal structure. This is very similar to how the HTC Thunderbolt uses its back case as an antenna, and likewise to how the Desire HD used its battery and SIM slot covers. 

With the Sensation removed from its exoskeleton, you can see the four separate gold antenna connectors which mate up with gold pins on the rear of the device. It doesn't affect the majority of smartphone shoppers, but HTC has also chosen to go with Torx #5 screws throughout the Sensation. I didn't take it apart, but just thought it worth mentioning for those of you interested in ease of disassembly.

We should also talk about the display on the Sensation, starting with the display's slightly concave lip. Curved glass seems to be a trend lately, and the Sensation does something unique on the Sensation that I wish everyone did. 

Instead of leaving the display completely a completely flat piece of glass, HTC created a top glass layer that is slightly curved at the edges, thus recessing the main display and interaction area by just shy of a millimeter. It's a very subtle concave structure. As a result, the display doesn't rest completely coplanar with flat surfaces when you placed face down, and is far less likely to get scratched. It’s just a small detail that shows HTC has been paying attention to the subtle things when it comes to designing its hardware.

Intro and Physical Overview Display: Super LCD and Performance


View All Comments

  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    and I was looking forward to getting the Sensation, especially for its big, high-rez screen.

    I'm thinking of going the Galaxy S 2 route instead:
    - GS2 is much lighter (115 vs 150 grams). Less sagging pants and shirt pockets sound really nice (I currently have a 155g HD2)
    - screen seems better: fewer pixels, but much better contrast and angles
    - Samsung actively supports CM7, I'm not even sure if the Sensation is unlocked (HTC says they're no longer locking, I don't know if originally locked devices get an unlock)
    - everything else seems broadly the same. camera maybe a bit better on the GS2
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I personally think the HTC Sensation looks much nicer than the Galaxy S II, and it also provides all 4 Android buttons, which is more useful.
    Also, Sense 3 is a genuinely nice addition, so I REALLY don't understand the lust for AOSP based ROMs.
    I know which phone I'll be recommending if people ask me...
  • kaworu1986 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I actually registered just to post this, and here it goes:
    Sense (and the other skins) just need to DIE: they're bloated, ugly and inefficient (not to mention introduce bugs that stock Android does not have); worse than that, they are way of creating vendor lock-in and force users to upgrade hardware by withholding Android updates (a very clever trick to neuter one of the greatest advantages of Android, its open source nature).
    Why can't OEMs just stick to do their job? People complain about the crapware OEMs install on PCs (which at least you can uninstall or just format) and somehow this is OK? Also, commodization is exactly what makes the PC ecosystem great: customers can shop around for the best price for their performance needs without having to worry about their devices being left without a software upgrade path or features unavailable. And with phone makers locking their bootloaders the last way of getting out of their death grip, custom ROMs, are being taken away from us.
    Finally, I'd much rather rely on software written by a good software company (Apple, MS, Google) with 100s of engineers dedicated to the project than the much smaller team an OEM can afford to put on the job.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Well, I have a Desire HD, rooted, s-off, I can put whatever the hell I want on it...

    Oh, and I choose to use a sense based ROM with Sense 3. I've had a phone with pure CyanogenMod, it's all well and good, the point is, as long as the phone isn't horribly locked, and xda-dev get their dirty mitts on it, you can have whatever yo uwant!
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Oh, that said, I don't use the launcher. I use Launcher Pro. Reply
  • Chloiber - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Exactly the same here, except I'm using a Desire (non-HD). I really like Sense. I rooted the phone about one year ago and was using Stock Android ROMs a lot. I really liked it. Now I returned to a Sense 2.1-3.0 mix and I like it even more. Some things are simply better with Sense. I also replaced the launcher with LauncherPro (also on Stock Android) because it gives you a really nice, smooth experience. In this regard, pretty much every stock browser, be it Sense or stock Android have failed thus far.

    Strange that Brightness, Airplane Mode and Screen Rotation is missing, as it is included in Sense 2.1 (for example Desire S). But you probably already knew that, as you listed exactly the 3 things that are included there... :-)
  • shabby - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Aosp ui is pretty archaic compared to touchwiz/sense, it lacks a lot of features that makes the phone more user friendly to the average person.
    Compare the aosp lockscreen to the sense3 lockscreen, which do you think the average person would want? Compare the widgets from touchwiz4 to the widgets of aosp... oh wait there aren't any in aosp. Catch my drift? Majority of users aren't like you and me that want a plain aosp/cm7 phone, so sense/touchwiz will never die, top selling phones will never be plain google aosp phones because that's not what majority of the public wants.
  • JasonInofuentes - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    I think it's important to keep in mind that AOSP was designed with UI modifications in mind. It's not like HTC/Moto/Sammy/LG/Lenovo/Sony got their hands on source and went to work altering it against Goog's wishes. They wanted to be supportive of modifications to the OS from corporations and amateurs alike.

    Yes, the course was lost as manufacturers delayed updates in order to implement their UI, and some of the UIs were buggy, but then again lots of popular custom ROMS are buggy and users still love them. The point is, if there's value added, which in the case of Sense 3.0 and, by reports, the new Blur then it might be worth the cost to many. But devs should work with Google to make sure that their skins add without being too deleterious. Where I think all OEM devs should back off is in integrating social media streams; unless your implementation is decidedly better than the best social media apps then it's likely going to be a redundant, unwelcome presence.
  • mikehunt80 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I don't think I've ever used the search button in previous devices, but I guess that's personal preference.

    I tried out the Sensation before buying the Galaxy S2. There was absolutely no contest. The S2 felt snappier browsing the web (A9 is 25% quicker clock for clock vs. A8/snapdragon), much lighter and nicer to hold without feeling cheap or creaking and I thought the screen on the Sensation was fairly poor in comparison. On top of that the S2 will play absolutely any video you throw at it, I'm told it'll even play 1080p mkvs and my 720p mkv Avatar makes people's jaws drop on the S-Amoled+ screen.

    The Sense launcher is nice, but I use Go Launcher EX, which has most of the features of the Sense and is almost infinitely customizable. The Sense lock widgets screen looks nice, but is useless is you use pattern or pin lock.

    Both great phones, but the S2 to the more rounded device for me.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Good point on the video compatibility.
    It best bloody play 1080p mkv though, since my dirt cheap chinese tablet (<$200) can play 1080p mkv without any pauses.

    That's one thing a lot of the top tier devices miss, and I agree that that actually swings things in favour of the Galaxy S II..

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