Review: Bell HTC Sensation 4G


  • Jeff Dao

    Do want.

    • linny

      The sensation is available starting today, and I heard that the galaxy S2 will be next week. What would be the best choice. Should I wait one more week. I’m about to change phone.

    • Jerrik

      I spent a lot of time reviewing both phones and I’m going to wait until next week to get the S2, a much better phone.

  • Thomas

    God, if only the GS2 had this resolution

    • SimpleJack

      The GS II has a much better screen. What are you taking about?

  • JAcksib


  • Tom

    – You write that this phone is not (yet) hackable – will it be?

    – Does this phone qualify for the 18 month firmware upgrade guarantee that was announced this Spring?

    – In the specs you don’t mention the 3G frequencies supported. I heard that it only support 850 & 1900 – if this is true users should be warned that this phone will be pretty useless for travel outside N.A.

    It is pretty hard for us consumers to get straight answers to questions like these – even just figuring out the frequencies supported can be tough. So it would be great if reviewers could provide the answers for us. Thanks.

    • Jay

      Yes it will be hackable in 2 weeks
      ask Bell for the 18 months
      what do you expect such a great reviewer to tell you about the frequency? it support 850 and 1900 HSPA+ for high speed data connections and quad band for GSM for your global roaming…
      honestly, how difficult is it to look for this information, plus there ain’t much phones out there that has a dual band for GSM for your global roaming pleasures…

  • Jeff Goebel

    I’m curious to know when somebody unlocks it for use on Telus. I don’t need to root, but I won’t switch back to Bell.

    • Ivanos

      For Jeff G and all those that are also wondering.

      I just got the HTC Sensation tuesday and unlocked it with Telus and it works perfectly! I love it. Though you must change/add some settings into the APN settings in order to get your data and mms (picture/video messaging) before it will work. But that’s the same with all unlocked phones right?

      Love the Sensation compared to all the blackberry’s ive used before. Yes the SGS2 does have a better screen and runs programs a bit faster, but to me the SGS2…bottom buttons looks too similar and un-customizable to the iphone!

  • apowerranger

    Why does Bell get sweet phones? That damn Samsung Galaxy S2 better go to Rogers.

  • wtf?

    According to

    HSPA/UMTS: 850/1900 MHz
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

  • Gab

    I guess since the GS2 wasn’t on a carrier you didn’t give it a score? How do I know which phone is better w/o a score!

  • jerry ding

    Holy ! your 1080p test video was just filmed outside my school!

  • jellmoo

    I’ve been playing with both a Sensation and a Galaxy S2 for the past few days, and honestly, the Sensation *is* a good handset.

    The problem is that the Galaxy S2 is simply better in most ways. If you compare the screens you are left with a bad taste in your mouth at just how much nicer the screen is on the Samsung. The screen on the Sensation is just so washed out, not only in comparison, but on its own as well.

    The other problem is that Sense 3.0 is sluggish. Not by any big amount, but just enough to be noticeable. Enough to irk you while moving through screens or menus. I’m not a huge fan of Touchwhiz, but I’ll give it credit: it’s smooth. HTC has gone too far into the realm of pure eye candy for the sake of eye candy, and it really shows.

    The kicker is that the Samsung Infuse, with its lower specs, feels snappier. Heck, for most casual users, the Infuse runs about on par with the Galaxy S2. It’s only power users that will ever see a real difference between the two, and the Sensation just feels like it’s a step behind.

    The HTC Sensation isn’t a bad handset. It’s quite decent. The issue is that it doesn’t feel like a premium one.

    • SparklingCyaNide

      I’m sorry but Everything about the Sensation screams Premium, especially in the build department. The quality of the Sensation’s build as well as the materials used are far and away Superior to the Galaxy S2 build quality, which feels like a cheap and flimsy children’s toy. #truth

  • Peter Boggs

    For the price of 550 dollars i still am not sure it is a good deal. Going to wait for the galaxy s ll then decide between the two. I think samsung will win but cost 150 dollars or more , then decide what is right for me . Think the breaker will be video rec. and play back. The Galaxy will win that one from what i have read.

  • jpl

    I’m still going for the Galaxy S II. Firmware updates on the Galaxy S 1 are near every 1-2 weeks. HTC takes months.

    The GS2 is rooted and CM7 is near nightly releases.

    • Michael

      I’ve only gotten 3.
      1. Android 2.1 update 1
      2. Android 2.2
      3. Android 2.2 KB5 Update

      Every 2-3 weeks?
      Yeah right.

    • jpl

      Galaxy S i9000 Updates Since January 2011:

      I9000XFJS2 2.2.1
      I9000XWJS3 2.2.1
      I9000XWJS5 2.2.1
      I9000XXJQ3 2.2.1
      I9000XWJS7 2.2.1
      I9000XWJS8 2.2.1
      I9000XWJV1 2.3.2
      I9000XXJVK 2.3.3
      I9000XWJVA 2.3.3
      I9000XWJVB 2.3.3
      I9000XWJSD 2.3.3
      I9000XWJVH 2.3.3
      I9000XXJVO 2.3.3
      I9000XWJVI 2.3.3
      I9000XXJVP 2.3.4
      I9000XXJVQ 2.3.4

      I even left out a few of the smaller ones. My point remains.

  • EmperumanV

    Another excellent in depth review. Definitely something to take a look before I put down $621.

  • kevy

    I just tested my updated Bel Atrix with speed test using a server about 43km from my house and I get decent speeds
    5.69 Mbps down and 2.43 Mbps up with a 66ms ping

    With servers farther from home I get:
    8.60 Mbps down and 2.75 Mbps up with a 168ms ping

    These speeds were significantly lower before the Bell OTA update (2.74 / 0.4).

    • Niners13

      With the new bell updated the atrix flies on the net.

      Got 10.3 mbps down and 3.5 mbps up.

      On avg. it’s about 5-7 mbps.

      Surprised at the reviewers low “record”

  • Dan

    “Lower frequency signals are able to travel better through obstacles, while higher frequency signals can travel further through the air.”

    You got this backwards. The 850Mhz signal is the distance signal, the 1900MHz signal is the penetration signal.

    Think AM/FM radio if you need a reminder. AM radio at it’s lower frequency can be tranmitted across great distances and why it’s great for farmers, while FM radio at it’s high frequencies gives higher quality sound but is only useful close to cities because of it’s limited range.

    • Michael

      well other companies say Lower frequencies go farther and penetrate better.
      I’m pretty sure it’s not the way you’re thinking because I’ve read other articles on spectrum and they describe it with lower frequencies being able to penetrate obstacles better.

    • jalin2

      Don’t think your radio analogy is correct.

      FM signals are superior to AM signals in the city because of the difference in their modulation.

      AM is amplitude modulated so when it hits buildings and other obstacles the signal is attenuated making receivers harder to reconstruct the signal.

      FM modulates through frequency and can still rebuild the signal w/ smaller signal levels.

      AM works well for farmers because signals don’t get obstructed by objects. FM would work just as well for them too.

      I think the author got it right.

      Phone looks good but I’m holding out for the SGSII. Gonna buy outright, root and unlock since I’m with Fido

    • Captain67

      Lower: Longer distance, better through obstacles.
      Higher: Clearer quality at close range, more data can be transmitted at a time. However, the signal gets cut off more easily.

  • the

    Bell has both this and the GS2. Rogers pisses me off, they rape me and don’t even compensate with having good phones. God if I wasn’t so broke I’d just buy this or the GS2 outright.

  • Steve Jobawobles

    I love HTC handsets but i’m starting to get annoyed by htc sense. I’d love for them to come out with a new sense that is a lighter version. A version that shows off android more than the skin. You know what i mean bra?

    But so far i’m satisfied with the build and quality of htc phones. The htc sense is just too much at the moment.

  • Frank

    Got the phone today at futureshop…no site can unlock this phone yet…frustrating tried all over. I like it, but I think I like my Htc desire Hd better?? Don’t get me wrong the phone is awesome but even though it has a better screen it seems that things look brighter and better on my Hd? Also my hd has more Ram don’t know how that affects the phone? If I can unlock it in the next few days I’ll keep it..if not I’ll return it or maybe someone here will buy it outright like I did and unlock it later on.

    • airsteph

      What carrier are you planning on using it. I was under the impression that unlocking the phone was as simple as just getting the code and entering it. I’m planning on picking one up full price and using it on Telus.

  • RM

    @Dan – Try not to compare AM/FM with 850Mhz/1900Mhz cellular signal.

    The author is correct in saying that the 850Mhz will penetrate through obstacles better than the 1900Mhz signal, as the signal has a longer wave length to go through walls and floors. Where the 1900Mhz signal will be better signal through air than the 850Mhz signal. The best of both worlds i guess.

    The point is Bell uses both and a user will receive a better signal than those who use only one.


  • Mike

    OP, Does the Bell version suffer the death grip? I wonder if the shipment for Bell might be a better batch. Could you try cupping the phone and see how much the signal degrades? Where i work, I get lousy cell reception…usually 1 bar 3G or 1-2 bar edge, so this is crucial for me.


  • Panzerpug

    I picked a HTC Sensation 4G and it is a very, very nice phone. The screen is excellent and the resolution is close to the retina display and has to be seen. No, the colors don’t pop as much as a amoled screen but resolution for “POP” and viewing angle is a fair trade imo. The screen shot comparing screens is deceiving because of the viewing angle, the colors straight on are not that washed out and who looks at their phone on a 45 degree angle anyways?) It’s very stable, no lag, its all smooth and intuitive with sense 3. It’s a sexy piece of kit and I am very happy with my purchase.

  • Matt

    Just got the phone today and I am incredibly disappointed with it after coming from a Nexus One.

    First off it is not yet unlockable, but I will let that one slide since it’s still a new phone.

    But Sense, and the whole HTC bullcrap is just too much. Couple of times, while sending text messages I would send something like [First Message] Ok [Second Message] I will meet you at 5. – But there would be a box that would popup saying “Sending message.” It’s up there for a fraction of a second, but enough to bother me. Why is it even there?

    – The dialer is just too bloated looking.
    – The app tray is horrible, who’s idea was it to do vertical pages?
    – SO MUCH BLOATWARE, why is Yahoo there, why is the Voice Command there? Google already has a search, and voice command better than these.
    – Oh, how handy, HTC made a “downloaded apps” section of the app tray… except you can’t organize it…
    – LauncherPro seems to lag on this
    – Keyboard is good… but I like the stock keyboard more
    – Why do all HTC changed icons have to look so weird?
    – WHERE IS MY TV OFF EFFECT?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!??!?

    • B

      No CRT Off screen effect because it is Android 2.2

  • Saffant

    Just got this on july 4th … The AWS version for $600 and must admit it’s a HUGE upgrade from my N95… It does lag slightly at times but not quite enuf to make it bothersome. I wouldve prefered the GS2 (eventhough i love HTC Sense), but unfortunately theres no AWS version. (goin with wind). In any case.. great handset.

  • Casualsuede

    Sense is for the casual phone user. It is actually very beneficial, with shortcuts and features such as FriendStream and unified email.

    I have been using the T-Mobile version of Sensation and like Sense. I understand the high end geek wanting a pure android experience with an unlocked bootloader. However, for 95% of the population, that has no interest for them.

    Similar to Blackberry going mainstream, while HTC used to be the device for the tech gearhead, I feel that HTC has also gone mainstream, especially since more than half the population is now buying smartphones.

  • Sunny

    Recently Nokia announced that they are leaving the Japanese market. I seem to remember seeing a recent map showing it had no foothold in South Korea as well. At the rate HTC is going, Nokia will probably end up leaving Taiwan as well.

  • Daniel Bader

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for all the comments. I’m going to be updating the post with a bit more information, stuff I’ve gleaned from the comments that people want to know.

    First of all, I didn’t mention a price, which is $149.95 on a 3-year term and $549.95 without a contract.

    The compatible frequencies are 850/1900Mhz UMTS, which means it will have 3G connectivity on Bell, and when unlocked, Virgin Mobile, Rogers, Fido, Telus, Koodo, Sasktel and MTS (I think).

    As for the Gingerbread CRT effect, it is not here, nor is it enabled in the Galaxy S II. This doesn’t mean it cannot support it, but rather HTC seems to have disabled it.

    There is SIP (VoIP) support built in, so you can configure an internet phone. Obviously Google Voice does not work in Canada.

    I took the comparison screenshot of the Sensation and Galaxy S II at a 45 degree angle to show the viewing angles. While the screen is much more vivid looking straight on, it still shows inaccurate colour reproduction compared to the Samsung. Doesn’t mean it’s not a great screen because it is.

    In terms of hackability, someone has found an exploit that allows for temporary rooting of the device, but the root goes away once the system is reset. At this point no development can really happen on the device until a permanent rooting solution is found, which is still forthcoming. It took almost eight months for a permanent root solution to come to the Incredible S. Hopefully HTC will have unlocked the bootloader by then and prevent all this chaos.

    Also, the guaranteed 18 months upgrade schedule proposed at Google IO has not been finalized yet, and therefore no carrier has given a commitment to upgrade any of their devices. I am assuming the Sensation will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich when it is released in the Fall, but that’s not for me to speculate.

    Overall, the more I’ve used the Sensation, the more I’ve enjoyed it.

    • Tom

      “There is SIP (VoIP) support built in, so you can configure an internet phone. Obviously Google Voice does not work in Canada.”

      I believe that Google Talk is their SIP (VoIP) product. Google Voice uses local access numbers to provide free long-distance, among other features. Google Talk only supports VoIP (and video) on gingerbread, and even there it is less capable then the desktop or gmail versions of GTalk (e.g. it can’t yet call landlines).

      Thanks for addressing my concerns about firmware updates and rooting. On the rooting, I look forward to it being officially ‘allowed’ on most of these phones.

  • Frank

    So after hours of research still no way to unlock to use on Telus… might be going back…or sell it to someone here who is having a hard time buying outright like I did….I’m still not convinced its better than my Htc desire Hd…camera is abit better but only by a tiny bit…

  • Meeee

    Unlocked it will work o fido right?

    • Frank

      yes it will. But no one can unlock yet.

  • Panzerpug

    I also picked the phone up at best buy for $100 on a new 3 yr contract with Bell if that helps anyone.

  • Dave4321

    “Unfortunately there is no option to set exposure manually, so indoor scenes with artificial light often result in yellowish shots when White Balance is set to Auto. Changing to Fluorescent or Incandescent, depending on the type of light in the room, often got colours back on track, but resulting photos had too much grain to be useful.”

    White ballance has nothing to do with exposure. Exposure is a factor of iso, aperture, and shutter speed. Almost nopoint and shoot have manual white ballance controlls.

    Changing white ballance also has no effect on grain which is usually a function of iso (and the sensor itself of course).

  • Ispiratica

    Unibody? did you’ll take it apart? It’s just 2 pieces. Unibody means a single body. You guys have to do better reviews and research. It’s just a light dust off and call it clean.

  • RC

    Well I really wanted to get this phone as an upgrade from my HTC Legend. That was my plan for this summer. But Bell put a wrinkle in my plan when they dropped the Desire Z down to $0 on a one year contract. The tech side of me wanted to get the Sensation, but I thought about it more rationally and ended up getting the 8 month old Desire Z. Needless to say I am not at all upset with my decision. HTC made it easier by having a locked bootloader on the Sensation (I know soon to be unlocked, but when?). I knew the Desire Z aka the T-Mobile G2 has lots of after market support such as Cyanogen. Currently I am running CM7 after a couple of frustrating days trying to downgrade the Desire to root. However it was totally worth it. I have it overclocked to 1.5GHZ and underclocked to 250Mhz when screen is off. Needless to say it scores 2900 in Quadrant and gets 52 megaflops in linpak. I know these scores are to be taken with a grain of salt. But they are still impressive and comparable to the sensation.

  • Dennis Forbes

    In single-threaded non-GPU tasks this unit is beaten by a Nexus One. The N1 featuring an earlier generation, architecturally limited, slow-clockspeed version of this processor.

    Something has to be wrong with the software on this unit. Perhaps it is down-clocking overaggressively, including in the middle of benchmarks (SunSpider in particular has pauses that can bring on a downclock).

  • Gob

    Would this Bell version be compatible with Wind Mobile if it were to be unlocked?

  • Jim

    This phone really has some deal breaking issues. There are definately issues with the wifi and with the bluetooth.

    Phone #1:

    random reboots, Super short battery life, would not stay connected to wifi reliably, poor batter life and it died in less than 24 hours and could not be turned on again. The battery meter just kept dropping even though it was plugged in and the charger and cable were good.

    Phone #2:

    WIFI: While NOT holding the Sensation in my hnad….The signal is always about 10dBm below my laptop and iPhone when in the same location. Installing a wifi finder reveals that access points are present one moment and gone the next unless they have the strongest signal. The iPhone and the PC see 10+ access points and the Sensation can only see two of the three in my house. If you install a signal analyzer it reveals that the Sensation shows the signal varying wildly while the PC and iPhone show a steady signal.

    BLUETOOTH: While playing audio the signal fades and the music skips unless the Sensation is within 2 feet of my Motorol S9 headset. if I put it in a sweathshirt pocket I get skips. If I put the sensation on my pants pocket the audio cuts out 50% of the time.

    Other issues: short battery life, stalls, browser hangs, phone search results put web results at the top of the list and contacts and music at the bottom of the list off of the screen making the user think that it is not searching contacts (what happened to ranking the results and displaying the highest ranked and closest matched?), song somtimes changes when unlocking phone, VM notification still displayed when there are no messages, hard to sync music automatically and most third party sync software doesn’t sync play counts or ratings, bluethooth integration with built in music player is poor, you have to tell the music player to use bluetooth each time… even if the bluetooth headset isn’t already connected. Compared to the iPhone, the navigation is inconsistent. Sometimes you navigate back with the back button, sometimes it’s in the software.

    I think I’ll go back to the iPhone, it is not as flexible as the Android OS, but it executes it’s core functions flawlessy. The Android OS, or maybe the Sense overlay doesn’t seem ready for prime time.

  • JVB

    Would this phone from Bell work on Wind’s 3G if it were to be unlocked?

  • hi

    “Lower frequency signals are able to travel better through obstacles, while higher frequency signals can travel further through the air. Unlike T-Mobile, or any AWS network (Wind/Mobilicity) networks with both a high and low operating frequency tend to have superior indoor signal levels, especially in places with thicker walls and in basements.”

    No, no, no.. this does NOT make this phone better than the T-Mobile version. It might mean that Bell coverage is better than Wind, but it doesn’t mean that the phone is PHYSICALLY ANY BETTER THAN THE T-MOBILE VERSION. T-Mobile’s AWS/PCS network provides urban coverage that rivals AT&T and Verizon which are the only US nationwide carriers with low band spectrum. If the coverage stinks it stinks. If the network stinks don’t get the phone on that network..

    Secondly higher band spectrum doesn’t penetrate better nor does it travel any better than lower band spectrum. It does allow for higher capacity and higher cell site density because the spectrum covers less users and has less interference with other cell towers.

    • Daniel Bader

      I didn’t say anything about the physical device being better than the T-Mobile version. Physically the device is identical though it does contain a different radio inside.

      And to reiterate, I said lower-band spectrum penetrates walls better (which is true) while higher-band spectrum goes further and faster. And if there are cell towers with the same frequency nearby, it doesn’t matter what spectrum they’re on, there will be interference if deployed incorrectly. It’s up to the CRTC to ensure carriers install their cell sites to not interfere with one another, since Bell/Telus and Rogers use similar spectrum.

    • Dave

      Great review Daniel, I appreciate reviews that actually review the product components and don’t just go through a list of features it has.

      However I do have to agree with hi, this statement…

      “At this time I’d like to give a brief explanation on why Bell’s version of the Sensation is superior to the T-Mobile version released down south.”

      sounds like you are saying the physical device is better on Bell simply because of the frequency it operates on, which is obviously not what you meant. But it does sound that way.

  • Patrick

    okay telus what the hell is going on .first bell beats you out for the samsung galaxy 2, and that htc sensation , and the motorola atrix and also the htc incredible wow what a line up. then rogers beat you out for the htc EVO, and the lg optimus 2 * ,and let us not forget the sony ericsson. not as good as bell but better than what you have . Telus right now you’re running distance third with your lg optimus black ,your htc desire is good but old . So Telus right now you suck

    • Ivanos

      This is why unlocking phones is the best way to go :)!
      I just unlocked the sensation with bell to use with my telus sim. 🙂

  • @deyadama

    I love it

  • saheed

    I love d htc and will love to have it

  • Farhan

    Hi I have a question with The sensation 4G with Bell.
    I had to cancel my data plan with Bell because i didnt need it and I could not afford it in the long run. My question is can the ‘bell additions’, ‘HTC watch’, and cellular data (data usage) be turned off (and disabled)?
    Please and thank you.

  • Ivanos

    For Jeff G (below) and all those that are also wondering.

    I just got the HTC Sensation tuesday and unlocked it with Telus and it works perfectly! I love it. Though you must change/add some settings into the APN settings in order to get your data and mms (picture/video messaging) before it will work. But that’s the same with all unlocked phones right?

    Love the Sensation compared to all the blackberry’s ive used before. Yes the SGS2 does have a better screen and runs programs a bit faster, but to me the SGS2…bottom buttons looks too similar and un-customizable to the iphone!

  • brando

    solid consistent sexy reliable, thats all that needs to be said about this device, mind you it does have its negatives, it does run hot on the battery

  • Captain67

    All benchmarks on Android are inaccurate. It’s been proven on XDA that you can actually cheat quadrant to get 4000+ scores. And how can you explain my Xperia Play getting a quadrant score close to the Sensation?
    The SGSII may have better benchmarks than the Sensation, but in reality they’re the same thing performance-wise. It’s just hype on paper. I’m willing to bet money a Sensation with a custom ROM and no Sense would outperform a GSII with a custom and no Touchwiz.

  • Colleen Black

    My sons HTC keeps blowing the SD card – any review on this?

  • HTC Sensation 4G

    Thanks for the cool pics man!.

  • sarah

    Anybody notice any heating up in the bottom half of the screen area (where the CPU is located) when the screen is on for a while or you’ve been calling or browsing?