HTC’s Sensation is not in direct competition with Huawei’s Ideos X5.
At NZ$1100 a pop, HTC’s flagship Sensation costs almost twice as much as the middle of the range NZ$600 Ideos X5.
Nevertheless I want to review the two phones side-by-side. Partly because the two are sitting next to each other on my desk, partly because the comparison makes a useful update to my earlier Sensation and Ideos X5 reviews.
But my main reason for writing this is to see what spending an extra NZ$500 buys in terms of hardware and, more importantly, user experience.
It boils down to four things:
- Display quality,
- processor power,
- battery life, and
- bundled software.
There are other minor differences. These are the ones that count.
Spending an extra NZ$500 buys a better display. The HTC Sensation’s screen is 110mm diagonally compared to the Ideos X5′s 97mm. This doesn’t sound much. More importantly, the Sensation has 960 by 540 pixels while the Ideos X5 is just 800 by 480.
In practice these numbers add up to a huge difference.
Photos look better on the Sensation screen. Movies are stunning.
The Sensation’s 906 by 540 resolution is one-quarter of an HD screen – in a tiny handheld package it feels almost as good as watching HD. And there’s sound – not great but you can hold the Sensation in your hands and watch a movie in relative comfort. The Ideos X5′s screen isn’t bad for movies, but there’s a wide quality gulf between the two.
That extra resolution is also put to good use displaying text and web pages. Reading documents, email and other information is noticeably better on the Sensation. Text is clearer and crisper. I can read the Sensation’s screen for much longer without tiring my eyes.
Dual core processor and bundled software
At first sight the performance boost from the HTC’s 1.2Ghz dual core processor is less noticeable than you might imagine.
The Ideos X5′s powerplant runs at just 800Mhz, so you’d expect a huge leap moving between the phones. In practice, much of the extra grunt is swallowed up by the fancy Sense user interface HTC has overlaid on top of the standard Android front end.
Sense is nicer to use and the animations are pretty. But there’s nothing essential about it.
I found little practical difference between the smartphones when it came to performing most tasks. Sure, the Sensation is a smoother experience, but the extra power doesn’t translate into extra productivity. There may be applications where it matters – so far I haven’t used them.
HTC says Sense is faster to boot – and that’s true the Sensation phone boots faster than the Ideos X5. However, this barely matters, I wouldn’t expect to book an Android phone more than once or twice a month. There’s some clever caching – which speeds some applications – and a built-in social networking hub. The customisable lockscreens are a good idea, but once again, not productivity boosters.
There’s a great weather widget that comes as standard on the Sensation – but I managed to download this from the Android store on my Ideos X5.
In theory there shouldn’t be anything between the Ideos X5 with its 1500 mAh battery and the Sensation with 1520 mAh. In practice, the Sensation performed noticeably longer despite its bigger screen and more powerful processor.
Over the long haul the Ideos X5 is good for about 12 hours use between charges. Of course this depends on which power-draining components are switched on, whether applications continually update and a person’s usage pattern.
I found the HTC Sensation offers a few more hours before running out of juice. This could simply be because the review phone has a newer battery, but I suspect the phone does a better job of managing power during down times. I don’t have the time or facilities to test this properly.
What’s important to me is the Sensation can make it through an extended working day and still have enough power left to call a cab at the end of the evening.
Is the Sensation worth an extra NZ$500?
There’s no question the HTC Sensation is a better phone than the Ideos X5. What’s harder to decide is how much better and whether the extra stuff is worth NZ$500. It really comes down to what you want from a phone.
I work from home and generally only spend a day or two each week on the move in town. I’m a journalist, so I often carry a laptop computer – and may carry an iPad. The extra features of the Sensation are nice to have, but they do little to help my work. I could find better ways to spend that extra $500.
If I was working in offices again, I would be more inclined to stump up the extra for the HTC Sensation – especially if I needed to spend lots of time reading information on its screen.