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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  • warisz00r - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Some reviews mention that, by cupping the non-metal parts at the back of the phone with your hands (like whule using it in landscape mode) seriously attenuate reception of one of the radios. Have you tested for this issue? Reply
  • warisz00r - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I've read the Connectivity part again now and found the mention about it, but you still didn't mention how this problem impacted your day-to-day experience with the phone. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    For me honestly the Sensation is still in-line with other handsets I've tried. You always end up dropping ~15 dB, sometimes more and sometimes less depending on whether the device has diversity with a second antenna up at the top.

    It makes a difference when you're on the lower end of signal, but again not more than any other smartphone (excluding the iPhone 4).

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Conner_36 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    What?? no side-by-side pictures with the iphone 3g/s? Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    HML/MHL on page 4
    clos instead of close on a previous page
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Thanks, those are fixed now!

    -Brian
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Is that an app, or built-in? I don't have it on my Evo 4g running 2.3

    thanks
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    NM, saw the icon on one of the app list pics; It's GPS Test Plus. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    GPS Test Plus - it's awesome, and it's just using the raw NMEA GPS output which includes SNR to make a nice visualization. ;)

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

    brian,can it play 1080p flash videos in the browser flawlessly? Reply

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