Battle of The Budget Super Phones: Samsung Galaxy SII vs HTC Sensation

Ok, so maybe not quite budget phones, but they are definitely in the super category. These two phones have been out for quite a while now, and as such you can get both on quite reasonable contracts, and even for quite respectable sim only prices too (respectable in relation to other phones of course). Both have also been somewhat overtaken by newer handsets brought out by these two manufactures (more HTC than Samsung to be honest). Samsung have the more powerful Galaxy Note, whilst HTC have the Sensation XE. Both great upgrades in terms of specs, but with an additional premium on the cost as a result.

Christmas is coming, and if you are on the lookout for a top level android phone at a decent price, you might be thinking about either of these handsets, so to help you out I've put together a comparison of the main features these phones provide.

CPU

SGSII: Dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos chipset
Sensation: 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon

Both of these phones are running dual cores at the same clock speed. The exynos CPU made by Samsung is generally regarded to be the better of the two, and virtually all the available smartphone benchmarks seem to prove this point. You won't be disappointed with either of these, but the SGSII takes it simply because it's benchmark results blow the Sensations out of the water.

Winner Samsung
Samsung 1:0 HTC

RAM

SGSII: 1GB
Sensation: 768MB

The SGSII has slightly more RAM than the Sensation, but the Sensation really does need it more thanks to Sense. Sense is quite a heavy optimisation over android, and does consume a hefty amount of RAM. Samsung's equivalent TouchWiz interface has a much lighter touch and therefore doesn't consume nearly as much resources as Sense. It seems strange to me that HTC decided to only put in 768MB of RAM on this phone. Its something you do notice often in daily use. The SGSII generally hovers around the 400MB of free RAM, whereas the Sensation is typically less than 100MB. This is especially noticeable when you press the home button on the Sensation. Android sometimes has to close the Sense homescreen application in order to free up RAM for other uses, meaning as delay to get back home whilst the phone reloads Sense. The SGSII never has this problem at all, everything is silky smooth.

Winner Samsung
Samsung 2:0 HTC

Display

SGSII: 4.3" 800x480px (218ppi) Super AMOLED Plus
Sensation: 4.3" 540x960 (256ppi) SLCD

Looking at the display specs, most people would immediately jump towards the Sensation, however the reality is a very different story. The Super AMOLED Plus technology is supposed to provide better blacks, contrast, viewing angles as well as being less reflective than the SLCD display on the Sensation. Well, in reality it really does! Pictures on the SGSII look much more vivid than those on the Sensation. The difference is also quite clear outdoors as the Sensation has quite a reflective screen. The SGSII isn't amazing either, but is better than the Sensation in this regard.

The extra ppi and resolution on the Sensation is worth speaking about. Text on the Sensation is extremely sharp, and if I had one complaint about the SII it would be the lack of a higher resolution. The Sensation can fit more words on the screen, and things do generally look sharper when using the phone.

The result here should have been close, with the Sensation having an edge with its higher resolution. However, the Super AMOLED+ display Samsung have created is just... well super. I personally can't wait to see this screen technology on high resolution phones.

Winner Samsung
Samsung 3:0 HTC

Camera

SGSII: Rear: 8MP, autofocus, LED Flash, 1080p video recording @ 30fps Front: 2MP
Sensation: Rear: 8MP, autofocus, Dual LED Flash, 1080p video recording @ 30fps Front: VGA

The camera specs are pretty much identical here, with the Sensation having the benefit of two LED flashes over the one found on the SGSII. HTC have never had a history of good cameras, the thought of the camera on the Desire still gives me shudders, however they have done a top job with the Sensation. The camera is definitely one of the stand out features on this device. It picks out detail well and touch to focus is a nice feature.

The camera on the SGSII however is one of the best I've ever used on a smartphone. It really does a great job of catching colours, and the macro mode is stunning. In fact I've used it quite a lot myself to take pictures of devices for Droid-Den I'm that confident in it.

Video recording is largely the same on both devices, both very good for smartphones, with the Sensation probably taking it due to the stereo sound recording.

This one really is a close call, again I would say you won't be disappointed in the camera if you opt for either of these phones, bt once again the SGSII takes it by as nose, thanks to the vividness of the photos it captures.

Winner Samsung
Samsung 4:0 HTC

Size

SGSII: 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, 116g
Sensation: 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm, 148g

The SGSII is thinner, shorter and weighs less than the Sensation, but is also slightly wider. The extra width comes from the wider screen that the SGSII has when compared to the Sensation (the Sensation not as wide due to the screen aspect ratio). The Sensation definitely feels like there is more to it, and although it's actually not as wide and only marginally longer it feels much bigger than the SII. That's not to say the SGSII is bad, because personally I like the lightness and thinness of this device, but its something you should consider when choosing between these phones.

The Sensation has a unibody case, essentially the phone innards and screen fit into the back casing. The SGSII in comparison has a very thin back plate, it's almost nothing really. Both are awkward to take off in my experience. Taking the back off the Sensation (it would be more accurate to say, taking the front off the Sensation really) left me with sore fingers, whilst removing the back from the SGSII has left me with jittery nerves!

The back of the SGSII is a textured plastic, with a small bit protruding towards the bottom housing the speaker. The camera extends out of the back somewhat, giving some worry as to whether the lens casing can be easily scratched (this worry is mostly unfounded I have realised through experience). To the right the power button, the left the volume rocker, the 3.5" headphone jack along the top and the microusb/mhl port along the bottom, standard fare really.

The back of the Sensation displays a sort of cool wave effect, seemingly splitting the phone into three distinct parts. Its different, and its nice. The camera is towards the top left, and to the right of the camera is the speaker. The right side of the phone contains nothing, the left the volume rocker and the microusb/mhl port, with the power button and the 3.5" headphone jack along the top.

The power button and volume rocker seem slightly loose on the Sensation, especially when compared directly with the SGSII, where the same features are extremely sturdy. I also have an issue with the placement of the microusb port, it feels much more comfortable being at the bottom of the device rather than the side.

I hesitant to give a win to either side here really. Both devices are so different, but fantastic in their own way. Really the choice here is down to which you personally prefer. Both can have a point here!

Winner Tie
Samsung 5:1 
HTC

Storage

SGSII: 16/32GB internal + microSD
Sensation: 1GB internal + microSD

There's not much you can say about storage really, generally the device with the most storage is automatically the winner, but lets give it a shot. The Sensation has a lot less internal memory than the SGSII. In fact, with regards to storage space you can use for your own items, it has none. The whole 1GB of internal storage is reserved for apps. Now if you've come from a previous HTC devices this might excite you a bit, because it's a lot more than can be found on their previous phones. However, when you compare this to the 1.7GB of available app storage on the SGSII, it puts it into perspective. The truth is you probably won't use up the whole 1GB of app space on the Sensation, unless you play a lot of games, and even then you have the option to move apps to the sd card. But it is something to bear in mind, from my own experience, 1GB just isn't enough, for example I am currently using about 1.3GB of app space on my SGSII, more than is available on the Sensation in total.

Whereas many of the previous rounds were extremely close, the SGSII takes this round easily. HTC really need to start providing more than the basic amount of space on their android phones, especially as games and apps become more rich and begin to require more app storage.

Winner Samsung
Samsung 6:1 HTC

OS

SGSII: Android 2.3
Sensation: Android 2.3

Both of these phones are running android 2.3, or Gingerbread. ICS has just been released and both of these phones will be getting an update to this latest version of android sometime in the near future. I would expect Samsung to get the update faster, HTC have a history of being slow at updating their phones, mainly because it takes them longer to integrate Sense into the OS, which is much more tightly integrated than the Samsung TouchWiz overlay.

Sense does provide a lot of nice features, but sometimes "takes it too far". You cannot turn off sense, so you better make sure it's your cup of tea before you purchase the Sensation (or any HTC phone really). You can just about turn off TouchWiz, but it's more accurate to say you can replace more of the bits of the OS that it changes than you can do with a Sense phone.

Personally, TouchWiz is closer to stock android and therefore gets my vote. But I respect what Sense brings to android, and although not my cup of tea, it does hae many fans out there.

Winner Tie
Samsung 7:2 HTC

Price

SGSII: £386
Sensation: £329

I'm using the sim free price from the official Three UK website for the price comparison. Not much you can say about this really, +1 for HTC!

Winner HTC
Samsung 7:3 HTC

Conclusion

The final score is slightly advantageous to the SGSII, but really both of these phones are great. You would not be unhappy opening your Christmas presents and finding either one in there for sure. It's my personal opinion (shared by most out there) that the SGSII is the better phone, and certainly the one I'd out my money down for. The only real wish is for a higher screen resolution, but that's just being picky more than anything.

I hope you guys found this comparison useful, and a big thanks to the great guys at Three UK for giving me some time with the HTC Sensation too! Three have both of these phones on contract starting from £30p/m if you are looking for Christmas presents!
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