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
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  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    We're still waiting for an SGS2, hopefully we will get one soon from Samsung USA and be able to compare it in its final form.

    Take care,
    Brian
    Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    brian,
    this is one of the few reviews which have praised sensation.but in my view your review is the best.
    i am saying this because i believe that unlike other reviewers you not only test mobile phones in your lab but also use them as in daytoday life as a normal user.this gives a better impression of the devices which you review.
    many reviewers have given more praises to sgs2 than sensation.they have based their views with the limited time which they had with the devices that too in their testing labs.but i believe that in real world usage sensation makes more sense than sgs2.and this has happened before with their older brothers that is desire and sgs.the reviewers had given more praises to the sgs but the actual users prefered desire over sgs.
    though samsung devices looks great on paper,users get frustated with their handsets.
    apart from htc in my view hp makes better handsets.lately they are catching up with the hardware but their design sucks.for example take pre3,may be its design makes more sense while handling and using it,but its looks are not good enough to make a good impression.now that they are putting single core1.4ghz processor in pre3,but still they are behind the competition of dualcores.but i do believe that pre3 will give a tough competition to all the dual core phones in terms of speed and performance because of a very light os that is the webos. webos is unarguably the best os out there which is slick and fast,easy to use interface,better management of memory,provides true multitasking,provides a great
    feature like just type, and a best notification system.webos is very very light when compare to ios and android,so i think it doesnt need a dual core processor and 1gb of ram.it can perform better than ios and android even with a single core processor and 512mb ram.but hp needs to work on better designs to give a better impression of their devices.

    by the way,congratulations brian for this great article.pls tell me what do you think of the observations i made above.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    You need to be specific: what hidden drawbacks do Samsung's phones have ? and what hidden qualities, HTC's ?

    Disclaimer: my current HTC HD2 is the first phone I'm happy with in ages. I had junk from Motorola, LG, and Nokia before that had serious design flaws, plenty of bugs, bad support... or rather, all of the above. My HTC just worked from day one, now it's started a second life under CM7, and I'm very happy with it 2 yrs on.

    I was looking foward to buying a Sensation. But the lighter weight, on the whole, better screen, and better moddability f the GS2 are on the verge of convincing me to buy that, instead.
    Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Read the review of droid charge by brian klug.He clearly mentioned that samoled+ has some serious problems such as overheating,yellowish tint and oversaturated colours.It is the slimmest smartphone in the world,but according to many users sensation is better to handle.Due to its wait and built quality it feels solid in the hand.And also remember that sgs2 is made of plastic.

    To know what drawbacks samsung phones have you need to do some googling.Just search for
    defects of sgs and sgs2.
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Please capitalize your sentences. It was quite the chore trying to read your post. If you want to be taken seriously you need to remember to correctly use those writing rules you learned in school. Reply
  • sam46 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    sorry,i am from a non english speaking country.despite that i can write pretty good english,isn't it? Reply
  • SimKill - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    Do you still not capitalize stuff in your language? I'm a non-native English speaker too, and my language doesn't even have capital and small letters. I still make an effort to write well so that I can convey my message as clearly as possible. Reply
  • sam46 - Monday, July 4, 2011 - link

    I will :) Reply
  • Speed3mon - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    bigboxes... gAy Reply
  • Visual - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Wait, what? Having white appear as red is accurate color now?
    BTW the Galaxy S II gives users a few choices of color calibration even with stock FW. And just wait and see what the hacked ones do...
    Reply

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