Recently, I reviewed HTC’s Sense 3.0, as ported by the Virtuous team. Now, I’ve loaded up a leaked version of Sense 3.5, again for the HTC Inspire 4G, called RCMix3d. The two ROMs share a lot of the same features, so not everything will be covered in this review, just the new stuff. Check out the Sense 3.0 review here.
The RCMix team aquired a leaked Sense 3.5 ROM for the yet-to-be-released HTC Runnymede. So, of course, they decided to port it to the Desire HD and Inspire 4G. Despite being on unsupported hardware, it runs surprisingly well. After spending a few days with it, I feel HTC might finally be onto something with their Sense software. Again, I have to state this ROM is made for another phone and ported, so usage may vary. Also, the base software is a leaked version, and everything is subject to change.
HTC focuses very heavily on how their software looks. While very little has changed in Sense 3.5, most of the additions are welcome ones. First, the lockscreen remains unchanged. Once you unlock the phone, you’re welcomed to a slightly different looking dock. It’s a little larger with a different theme, but all the icons remain intact. The same applies for the app launcher. It gets much more interesting once you start switching home screens. When you swipe the screen, a new cube interface is in place. Visually, it makes Android just that much more fun. It gets even better. When you swipe fast enough, all the home screens go into a giant Android carousel. It doesn’t appear to do anything, as it goes back to the original page when it’s finished, but it’s a fun implementation. Otherwise, not much has changed in the interface.
After using 3.5, I’m starting to believe that it’s more of a performance update. It has been running incredibly smoothly, making 3.0 feel even more sluggish. And this would explain why there aren’t many interface updates. Ever since the original Hero, Sense would always have just the slightest lag, especially on the keyboard. I’ve noticed little to none of this on 3.5, leading me to believe HTC might have finally gotten it right. Also, load times seem faster.
One of the huge things HTC has been pushing lately has been their new partnership with Beats. Now, many believe that this will mean actual Beats speakers in their phones. This most likely won’t happen, but HTC will advertise it as such. What will happen, is the software will have an audio enhancing feature, and the phone may even include a special audio processing chip. This is what happened with the late HP Touchpad. How does this relate to a Sense ROM? Within it, there is a special Beats audio option. And it is truly amazing. It increases the audio quality by about 200%, in my opinion. After using this, I’m considering keeping my Inspire solely as a fancy mp3 player. The only downside to this is battery life.
One thing HTC didn’t seem to hit was battery life. It is still poor, despite all the bug fixes. On standby, the battery would go from about 70% to about 15% in 8 hours. That’s horrible. While some may understand that making a ROM look so good is going to require a bit of battery life. That can’t always be the excuse though. Look at MIUI for example. It’s even more customized, and it has the best battery life of any other ROM (in my opinion).
As much as I want to like Sense’s new iteration, I simply can’t. It has many improvements under the hood compared to 3.0, but not enough to make it a viable option, at least in my life. The Beats audio actually perfoms, greatly increasing the quality of audio. The perfomance is smoother than any HTC Sense ROM to date, and it still looks beautiful. There are still some persisting bugs that have become annoyances, rather than actual problems, and the ROM is a little on the heavy side. But the true deal breaker is the battery life. For me to ever truly consider Sense, I’ll need to be able to make it through the day with moderate usage. Otherwise, HTC has come a long way in software development, finally making Sense more of a convinience than an annoyance.