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

  • synaesthetic - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    No SGS2 on AWS bands. :( Reply
  • coolhardware - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    Nice review. Never thought I'd see a gf discussion be the first comment posts on an AT article ;-)

    A note on the Sensation, it is supposed to be capable of 1080p MKV playback!
    And of course the 1080p recording is pimptastic too:
    Overall a pretty sweet phone IMHO :-)
  • mutu - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    pls review Samsung galaxy S2. Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    Not to nitpick but why is it even called 4G? It's simply a 14.4Mbps device, we have 32Mbit (advertised speed) HSPA+ for "mobile broadband" here in Sweden, and nobody would care much what speed the cell phone is able to use and nobody tries to pass it as anything else. It's simply called HTC Sensation over here in Europe. Do not yet have 4G in my very little town, but 32Mbit HSPA+ is here. Expect 4G even out here in this market within a year or so though. Sooner in neighboring towns. Guess it's a good thing AT&T are picking up T-mobile USA. We will still need HSPA/+ for a while, but we are quickly moving on. Sure you could also opt for a WiMAX 16m network and the handsets is about as immature, but you need to be building your next gen network now. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    The "4G" is T-Mobile US silly marketing speak that means nothing, of course. They tack 4G on the end of every phone with an HSPA radio capable of more than 7.2Mbps peak downstream. Reply
  • Penti - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Yeah I know that, but why not just call it "Our old network till we get picked up by AT&T"? It's clear why they are without a next gen plan. Their customers need to be picked up by another operator for that to happen. Reply
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Until it's unlocked, I won't buy it. Reply
  • tejagamer - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Excellent Review.. As usual..
    Now waiting for your comparison of SGS2 vs O2x vs Sensation and the SGS2 review..
  • bubblesmoney - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Hi Brian,

    When you review the SGS2 please compare the internal memory on it to the internal memory available on other top of the line android handsets. This is an important limitation on android handsets which are not rooted +/- rommed to overcome the app2internal memory problem of android. Full time Android users [not part time android reviewers :) ] will appreciate what i mean. None of the reviews of android handsets bother to cover this problem users of stock handsets face if they dont root their handsets.

    Handsets made by the likes of HTC severely skimp on the internal memory, more specifically the internal memory partitioned and kept for loading apps. On just a year old HTC Desire the partition available for apps is just a measly 147mb. Even on the HTC sensation it is just about 1gb. Compare this to the year old samsung galaxy s which has 1.8gb available for apps. The samsung galaxy s2 also has about 1.9gb available for apps from its 16gb/32gb internal memory. The HTC low internal memory problem does not go away by buying a 32gb card as the card is useless for apps that go on internal memory. The only option on HTC handsets which ALWAYS come with low internal memory compared to the competition (internal memory partition available for apps) is to buy a non HTC handset or to root and get rid of the problem or to use the sdk method described on xda forums.

    For a reviews of android handsets it is vital that the internal memory is compared too in a comparison chart and more specifically the internal memory available for apps need comparing too. Please exclude the useless microsd cards supplied with handsets as that is useless for apps that dont go to sd card. Hope you provide such comparison charts for future reviews of android handsets. When games by gameloft etc run into many MBs on internal memory, having internal memory of the likes of 147mb available for apps on the HTC desire will be crucial information especially for many android handset buyers.

    Similarly the rear speaker quality being poor is another HTC hallmark in my opinion after owning 2 HTC handsets. But not sure if it is just a hardware issue or HTC software issue. But things get better after loading apps with equalisers (poweramp etc) and boosting the gain. This works later even if the said apps are deleted I think.

    Software is nothing without good hardware, so i will be keeping away from HTC and go the samsung galaxys2 way. But I guess the compromise is the much poorer GPS reception on samsung galaxy s2 and other handsets made by samsung.

    USB on the go needs to be mentioned as well as competitor handstes have this feature but not the HTC sensation.

    Accessories like speaker docks, keyboard are an important differentating feature. Just have a look at the HTC website to see if their handsets can even find one speaker dock or even anywhere else on the net. These options will make a difference to buyers and need to be mentioned in handset reviews.
  • bubblesmoney - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link


    In another review they seem to be saying the speaker is good. see see the link for detailed test results

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