If there has ever been a tough call between two top-shelf Android handsets, this must be it. Even a glimpse through the spec sheet can’t tell you which one to snag - they are both powered by 1.2GHz dual-core chipsets, allowing them to record Full HD 1080p video at 30fps with their 8MP cameras, have 4.3” displays, and are both running the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread with the respective homebrew interface overlays – Sense and TouchWiz.
And yet, when you dig deeper, the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S II are rather different - the design philosophy is polarizing, screen technology and resolution don't match, the dual-core chipsets are not from the same mother, and the user interface concepts are opposites. Which one will be right for you? Read on, while we jump in to solve this dilemma...
Despite being thicker and heavier that the Samsung Galaxy S II, the HTC Sensation actually feels more ergonomic in the hand. The two handsets have almost the same width and length, but the Galaxy S II comes in a bit edgy, being the anorexic rectangular slab it is, while the added thickness and heft of the HTC Sensation make it feel more solid, and the curvy corners with tapered edges make it palm-friendly. This feeling is then reinforced by the choice of materials for the chassis - aluminum and soft-touch plastic are more pleasant to handle and show-off than black plastic.
However, these are deliberate design approaches - since the first Galaxy S, Samsung prefers to hit where it would count in marketing materials, and it made the Galaxy S II the thinnest and lightest handset with a 4.3” screen, hence the all-plastic design. HTC prefers more sophisticated design materials, and yet it currently strives to achieve a fairly uniform appearance across its Android portfolio, which makes the phones of this brand immediately recognizable, regardless of the market niche they are heading to, and yet a bit unsurprising because of the similar looks.
So which one should you pick based on design and looks alone is entirely subjective - personally we prefer phones with a big screen to be as thin and light as possible, but many others would go for the more sophisticated and distinctive design paradigm of HTC. If you are paying that much money for a phone, you might as well get some aluminum around it, right?
Moreover, it might be the different display technology that has allowed Samsung to make the Galaxy S II so thin - the Super AMOLED Plus screen needs less layers than the Super-LCD in the HTC Sensation. It has other virtues, too, like almost infinite contrast, wide viewing angles, and saturated, vivid colors. The display on the HTC Sensation is able to exhibit lively colors as well, but in a more limited gamut, and when you are halfway through tilting the phone to determine the viewing angles, the colors and brightness start to fade significantly.
The LCD screen on the HTC Sensation appears a tad brighter indoors, but outside under direct sunlight the very low reflectance of the Galaxy S II coating makes the image slightly easier to see. There is one area where the HTC Sensation is ahead, though, the 540x960 qHD resolution, compared to 480x800 pixels in the Galaxy S II's 4.3-incher. Since the Super AMOLED Plus technology gets rid of the PenTile RGBG matrix pixel arrangement, the individual pixels are not distinct as on the Galaxy S, for example, when you bring the phone close to your eyes.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has another advantage
over the HTC Sensation – Samsung is officially
blessing the development of custom ROMs like
CyanogenMod for it , whereas the HTC Sensation
comes with a locked bootloader, at least for
now . It is also the handset with less storage – an
8GB microSD card comes with the phone,
whereas the Galaxy S II comes with 16GB of
So, which one is right for you? If you do a lot of
reading and browsing on your smartphone, you
will certainly appreciate the bigger resolution on
the HTC Sensation, despite that browsing on the
Galaxy S II is smooth as silk. If you are
somewhat of a performance buff, or use the
smartphone mainly for watching videos, then
the Samsung Galaxy S II will grace your day
with many hours of high-definition movie
playback, in any format, and with subtitles, if
you need to understand what Dr Gregory House
is talking about. Oh, and that Super AMOLED
Plus display has simply gorgeous colors when
displaying video, and is power-sipping then, too.
Thus, if you are a function-before-form type of
person, you’d appreciate the simple and easy-
going, yet extremely powerful and future-proof
Galaxy S II. If you are into classier design looks
plus a richer software feel with the Sense UI and
its goodies like offline navigation through
Locations, but willing to sacrifice some battery
life and internal storage for them, you are likely
to walk out of the store with an HTC Sensation in
In short, if the Samsung Galaxy S II is the light
and fast coupe, driven by the concepts for
simplicity and raw power under the hood, the
HTC Sensation is the more refined and
distinctive luxury ride, which is less capable in
certain core aspects, but carries with it
additional perks that make for a more
sophisticated experience. Frankly, in the land of
the little green robots, you can’t go wrong with
any of these two.