Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: The verdict

Dual-core smartphone beasts do battle...

The Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation are two of the most exciting smartphones to arrive in 2011. Find out which one them is worthy of your cash

The dual-core phones are here. The next wave of smartphones are built with a much brawnier and brainier architecture than before, and the extra processing power gives way to a host of new features.

Here we have two prime examples of this new wave: the Samsung Galaxy S 2 and the HTC Sensation, with the former already a prime candidate for T3's 2011 Phone of the Year. But which one should you buy? We’ve pulled them together for a head-to-head.

Reading time? About 10 minutes. Deliberating time saved in the phone shop? Limitless. Read on, dual-core pioneer…

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Build

Samsung Galaxy S 2 | Samsung Galaxy S 2 review

Pick up the phone and the first thing you notice is how light it is – it’s just 116g. Measuring 8.49mm, it’s incredibly slim in comparison to 9.9mm for the original Galaxy S; 9.3mm for the Apple iPhone 4 and 8.7mm for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. While the Galaxy S2 will certainly fit into the tightest jeans pocket, the compromise is build quality - the body just feels cheap and uninspiring.

Things don't improve when you remove the wafer thin back to insert a sim - we’d be seriously worried about snapping it. Controls are limited to volume on one side, power on the other, MHL port, which serves a dual purpose of charging via USB and outputting to HDMI, and a 3.5mm jack on the top, Samsung includes a range of streaming options including DLNA.

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

From the front it follows the same unimaginative build of other dual-core Android handsets including the Motorola Atrix and LG Optimus 2X. But turn it over and it’s classic HTC, this time with striking three-tone aluminium back. It feels incredibly well built and solid, certainly what you’d expect from HTC and of a premium product. The metal is a world away from the cheap plastic back of the Samsung Galaxy S2.

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Screen

Samsung Galaxy S2 I Samsung Galaxy S2 review

The highlight of S2 is the 4.3-inch 800x480 screen, which incorporates Super AMOLED Plus technology. Colours are eye popping and blues and greens literally jump out of the screen at you. Off-angle viewing is excellent too - the first phone we’ve seen to match the iPhone 4.

A larger screen sizes means that the phone is bulky, but it’s a joy for movies. When playing back our test HD movie clips, detail is sharp and action smooth. We found that whites aren’t as pure or bright as those on the iPhone 4, although blacks seem darker and colours are bolder and warmer. It handles action smoothly too.

HTC Sensation I HTC Sensation review

At 4.3-inches the screen is a great size and HTC has boosted the resolution of the Sensation to 960x540, matching the Atrix. It’s bright and sharp, and movies look fantastic.

Whites can’t quite match the purity of the iPhone 4’s retina display and blacks don’t reach the inkiness of the AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S2. Whites are ever so slightly pink and off-angle viewing isn’t as good. Although we should point out the screen is still great and will be fine for most people, but not class-leading. It's also quite tricky to see in bright sunlight.

A neat design tweak is the glass. Here it’s slightly set back, so when you put the phone face down the glass doesn’t get damaged.

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Processor

Samsung Galaxy S 2 | Samsung Galaxy S 2 Review

The Galaxy S2 has a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor. In use the phone feels incredibly quick – one of the fastest smartphones we’ve used. Indeed, whether you’re browsing a web page or swapping between applications it never feels slow and seems to manage all your tasks with gusto. During our tests it loads web pages over WiFi quicker than the iPhone 4 - loading a content-rich website like - replete with Adobe Flash banners and carousels - in just 15 seconds.

This isn’t an Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, so we couldn't download games designed specifically for this (such as Samurai II: Vengence THD), but there are a decent selection of games to play on Android as is, and it won't sturggle to run any of them. We defy anyone to not enjoy Shrek Karting with the 3-axis gyroscope, and it ably handles speedy gameplay. Photo processing and editing on the phone is also speedy, with no noticable lag across the whole user experience.

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

At the heart of the HTC Sensation sits a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with 768MB RAM. It’s the first HTC dual-core handset to arrive in the UK and makes a huge difference to the phones performance.

Everything feels quicker zooming in and out of web pages is lightning quick, as is scroll up and down web pages. You can play back HD movies and stream movies without a stutter, downloading is quick too.

As with other HTC handsets the text wraps automatically. Flash support is native, so you can easily play videos. The quick look-up tool is new; tap this to access You Tube quickly.

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Camera

Samsung Galaxy S 2 | Samsung Galaxy S 2 Review

Samsung has boosted the camera resolution from 5-megapixels to 8-megapixels, instead of a dedicated shutter; you tap the virtual shutter, which is fairly quick if not quite as nippy as the offering on the iPhone 4. Stills results are pleasing; the S2 is pretty good at controlling noise and colours are very natural. The S2 shoots HD video at 720p and 1080p at 30fps and results are good; it’s smooth, with natural colours, although perhaps lacking a little definition.

HTC Sensation | HTC Sensation review

The Sensation has two cameras. A front-facing VGA camera for video calls and a rear 8-megapixel offering. The rear camera is OK, but not as good as the Galaxy S2. Colours are generally natural, if a little pale, but fine detail can appear too soft, like many cameraphones it's at it's best in bright sunlight. Be careful with the white balance presets, while Auto produces natural results, some of the others can produce oversaturated results.

Capture HD video and 1080p and 720p, it isn't as sharp as we'd like, with some artefact blocking, but it's a lot better than many HTC phones we've seen recently. At 1080p in motion is smooth and fairly sharp at the edges, if lacking fine detail. In summary, not bad, but we've seen better. Video editing is limited to trimming tracks, so is best viewed as editing for web upload rather than creating masterpieces.

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Hands-on videos

Samsung Galaxy S2 video

HTC Sensation video

Source: T3 video

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs HTC Sensation: Verdict

It's safe to say that there is plenty to shout about from both sides, of course it all boils down to what you want from the next smartphone love in your life.

If you're looking for a handset with a strong, reliable build, the Sensation is probably the one for you. If you're planning to consume plenty of multimedia on the go, the Galaxy S2 has one of the most vibrant, gorgeous touchscreens around and one of the most impressive camera/video modes we've seen on a smartphone.

Both run on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and while Samsung's TouchWiz UI is steadily improving, HTC's Sense UI found on the Sensation is still one of the most efficient user interfaces you'll see on an Android handset. But frankly, there's not much in it between the two.

At the end of the day, the winner of this particular dual-core head to head is you: you really can’t go wrong with either, so long as you buy with your needs in mind. Made a decision? Let us know on the T3 Twitter feed.