Jul 06 AT 10:02 AM Nick Gray 31 Comments

Review: Sprint HTC EVO 3D

Being the successor to the HTC EVO 4G comes with a massive responsibility, since many consider it to be the best device of 2010. The HTC EVO 3D has been one of the most anticipated devices of the year, featuring some of the best specs we’ve seen on any Android device until now. It sure seems it’s been a long wait since its announcement (last March during CTIA), but the summer that seemed so far away is now here. The EVO 3D finally released June 24th, the morning after the launch party we attended.

We know many of you are thinking of purchasing the EVO 3D. Some of you probably already have. While everything looks great on paper, you’ve probably wondered if this device really lives up to everyone’s expectations. Is it really the best device available? Will this be 2011′s best smartphone, like the EVO was last year? Let’s check out the main aspects and see if the HTC EVO 3D is worth all the hype.

The Breakdown

Build Quality and Design

The HTC EVO 3D measures 4.96″ x 2.56″ x 0.47″ and weighs 6 ounces. The front of the handset is dominated by the 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540 pixels) parallax barrier 3D display with four capacitive buttons along the bottom. Above the screen you’ll find the 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera and speaker grill, which houses the ambient light and proximity sensors, main phone speakers and LED notification light. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are located along the top edge of the EVO 3D while the volume rocker, aluminum 3D toggle and shutter button are located on the right side of the phone.  The left side of the EVO 3D features the micro-USB/MHL HDMI connection. The bottom edge of the device is bare, save for the microphone hole and thin slit for removing the back cover.

The back side of the device prominently displays the HTC logo, the distinctive 3D cameras and dual-led flash, accented by a dark red aluminum bevel that also houses the speakerphone. The back and sides of the EVO 3D are covered in a thin rubber shell, featuring a diagonal line design that covers ¾ of the back side of the phone. Removing the rubber shell reveals the 1730 mAh battery and 8GB class 4 microSD card included with the phone.

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When compared to the original HTC EVO, the EVO 3D feels slightly lighter and thinner even though the two phones are nearly identical in size. The reason for the perceived difference is the EVO 3D’s longer wide-angle screen, which shaves just a little off the phones width.

The build quality of the HTC EVO 3D is on par with what we’ve come to expect from HTC over the years. The rubber shell covering the back is really thin, but its extreme flexibility should keep it from breaking or cracking. We have had some issues with the over-sensitivity of the capacitive buttons and the screen itself, but it’s certainly not enough to give the phone a bad mark.

Hardware Performance

The HTC EVO 3D is the second phone to hit the U.S. market with Qualcomm’s dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor. The MSM8660 is paired with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage to deliver an exceptionally smooth performance. While benchmark scores with the dual-core processor deliver numbers on par with Qualcomm’s second generation Snapdragon processors, the extra processing power is evident while surfing the web, watching flash content or killing those high-resolution 3D enemies in Spider-Man 3D.

But 3D gaming and benchmark scores on the HTC EVO 3D are negatively impacted by the handset’s qHD display, since it features 30% more pixels than WVGA displays. While this may sound like a bad trade-off, the HTC EVO 3D has been able to churn through every single game we’ve thrown at it with no issues at all. We just wish we could test out some of those Tegra Zone games to see how Tegra 2 devices really stack up against phones powered by Qualcomm’s dual-core chips.

Camera

The camera on the HTC EVO 3D is one feature that makes the phone truly unique. The EVO 3D is the first Android phone in the U.S. market to feature two 5 megapixel cameras, allowing the phone to take pictures in 3D. We’ve covered HTC’s camera app extensively in recent reviews. The only difference we’ve been able to spot on the EVO 3D is the inability to change focal points while recording video in 3D.

Taking pictures on the HTC EVO 3D is actually quite fun with the two-stage aluminum shutter button. Simply press the button half way to focus on your subject and then snap your picture. To capture images or video in 3D, users must manually toggle the switch located next to the shutter button.

We’re a bit disappointed to note that the EVO 3D’s camera isn’t up to par with that of the HTC Sensation. Shutter speed is significantly slower and the dual-LED flash seems to be pretty useless in low-light situations. That being said, image quality produced by the EVO 3D is on par with what we’ve seen recently from HTC and other manufacturers.

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3D

Since 3D is in the name, we were expecting to be blown away by the 3D experience. The HTC EVO 3D can capture 3D images and video with its dual-camera setup or download and watch a 3D movie through HTC Watch. The 3D technology is simply amazing, but we’re a little disappointed HTC chose to limit the use of the technology to just a few applications. In order to deliver a true 3D phone, HTC needed to deliver a 3D interface (similar to what Sharp did with their 3D phone) or HTC Sense 3D rather than the standard 3.0 that’s also used on the HTC Sensation.

We have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more 3D-enabled handsets from HTC down the road. Let’s hope they listened to consumer feedback and deliver a more complete 3D experience in the future.

HTC Watch

Catching a TV show or movie while on the go isn’t anything new, but it’s certainly becoming more convenient. Earlier this year HTC purchased Saffron Digital, which has allowed them to create HTC Watch, giving users access to a limited selection of movies or TV shows to rent or purchase. HTC Watch made its debut on the HTC Flyer, but the EVO 3D is the first handset in HTC’s lineup to include a movie (The Green Hornet in 3D) that has already been downloaded onto the device. Users have the option to buy or rent movies ($14.99 and $3.99 respectively) or buy TV episodes for $1.99 each.

Using HTC Watch is extremely easy. The application allows you to start watching the movie or TV show while it downloads in the background. This allows users to continue watching even if they get disconnected from their internet. But our favorite feature of HTC Watch is the ability to access your purchased content on multiple devices and watch it on a big screen TV via the EVO 3D’s MHL HDMI connection.

Display

Internal specs can make a huge difference, but what makes a phone good is the first-hand experience. The common consumer is mostly not going to care if a processor is dual-core or not, since both can be fast. One of the first things noticed about a device is the quality of the display, and it can be a great decision factor depending on your priorities.

The EVO 3D definitely earns its place in the high-end display category, and that’s not only because it’s able to play glasses-free 3D content. This device comes with a Super LCD 4.3-inch display with a qHD resolution (960×540 pixels).

We’ve been quite impressed by the HTC EVO 3D’s display, and it was definitely one of the first outstanding features noticed about this specific device. The screen’s definition is among the best in Android smartphones, which is outstanding for a device with such a large screen. Outside viewing is not bad at all either, and we’ve never had a problem viewing the screen in direct sunlight.

Color display is also something to note; all colors are very bright and vivid. While they do not compare to those in a Super AMOLED Plus display, they definitely look much more realistic. I did find them to be much more saturated than the iPhone 4′s Retina Display (for the sake of comparison and common knowledge), which is well known for its high-end screen.

Battery

This is definitely not a good ol’ Nokia, but the battery life is actually very impressive compared to most smartphones we’ve used. In an Android world where battery life usually does not surpass the “working day” threshold (or barely does), good battery management has become one of the hottest topics. The EVO 3D definitely holds its own in this department, and it went through our heavy duty testing with no problem.

The device’s battery has more juice than the competition, but even still the results are outstanding. I’ve used this as my primary device since I got it at the HTC EVO 3D launch party, and I’m not one to make light use of a device. During testing, the device was fully charged when unplugged and 4G was never turned off. (This was in Los Angeles, CA – Sprint 4G WiMAX covered). It managed to get almost 11 hours of battery life.

Having a battery life of 11 hours with 4G turned on at all times can seem unbelievable, and it may raise a very viable question:  “Did you use it?!” The phone receives about 30-50 Android and Me related emails a day, without counting my personal account. Other functions include checking Twitter about twice an hour, using Facebook about once every 2 hours, chatting via Google Talk for about half an hour (throughout the day), and sending 4-5 texts an hour (both Google Voice and regular texting). I also played Plants vs. Zombies for about 30 minutes straight, browsed the web for around 15 minutes total, used GPS for a 15-minute ride downtown and was on the phone with my family and friends for a total of about 1.5 hours throughout the day. Yes, it was used.

When the phone was tested with 3G connectivity using WiFi (unplugged between 8:00 or 9:00 am), it managed to go through a full day and still have a 10-20% charge at the end of the night. It also helps that the phone comes with a battery manager and power-saving options. This activates as soon as the battery power reaches a certain percentage of your choice. (It’s set at 15% by default).

Android 2.3.3 and HTC Sense 3.0

The HTC EVO 3D comes with Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread and HTC’s Sense 3.0 UI overlay. Both Gingerbread and Sense 3.0, along with the processor and RAM memory, help make this device one of the best Android smartphones in today’s market. (Though some of you may prefer Vanilla Android).

With this device comes all the advantages of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Some of these features include a speed and performance boost, better text input (including text selection and copy/paste functions), and Internet calling through a native SIP client. To set up Internet calling, simply go to Settings > Call > Accounts (under Internet Call Settings) > Add Account. After that, the user can simply enter SIP account credentials and set everything up to use Internet Call.

Using the Internet calling feature works great. Settings allow the user to choose whether to receive Internet calls or not, as well as when to use them for outbound calls. The options are: “For all calls,” “Only for Internet calls” and “Ask for each call.”

Aside from Gingerbread, HTC has added some great functionality to this device. HTC Sense 3.0 is very well designed, as Sense fans will surely agree. Whether you like manufacturer UIs or not, the lockscreen will definitely lure you in.

The lock screen[1] is probably about the most popular feature from Sense 3.0. HTC has taken it a step further and given it great functionality. Instead of simply sliding your finger in a sideways direction, the Sense 3.0 lock screen has a ring at the bottom that you simply slide up to unlock the screen. The most interesting part about the lock screen is definitely the shortcuts. Just drag them inside of the circle, and the phone will unlock directly into the given app. These shortcuts can be customized in the lock screen settings, located under the Personalize menu.

There’s more to Sense 3.0 than that sexy lock screen, though. The dock’s (bottom bar’s) look can be customized, and you can access the skin settings by tapping on the right button on the dock. As many have already mentioned, it would be great if that button itself could be personalized to take you somewhere else. Personalizing the UI is something done only when the device is first purchased, and the button shortly loses its benefit after a while. Another great feature is the notification bar, which has been modified to include your most frequently used apps, as well as a series of “Quick Settings.” These settings allow you to toggle on/off your WiFi, 4G, bluetooth and GPS settings, as well as a few others.

Other Sense 3.0 features include a substantial amount of HTC widgets, a few replacement apps (i.e.: Browser, Dialer, Camera, Clock, etc.) and some HTC apps like HTC Watch and HTC Reader. You may hate or love HTC Sense, but overall it does offer some good functionality. And nothing beats that lock screen. It’s definitely far better than Sense 2.0 or 2.1, and we highly recommend it to all Sense fans out there.

Call Quality

Call quality is not bad as long as you stay within good signal areas. I’ve had 5 dropped calls in a week, 4 of which were while on the freeway, far from urban areas. Aside from coverage issues, the EVO 3D’s call quality was actually very good. Both sides could be heard very well, and the device had only a single dropped call when it was used within coverage. Those that travel often and need better rural coverage may want to consider another carrier, though.

4G WiMAX

Data speeds were quite disappointing after running some 4G WiMAX tests in Los Angeles, CA. This may be an issue with the area, but Sprint 4G is also known for its slower 4G speeds. Tests averaged at about 2 Mbps down on 4G, but I did get the occasional 4 Mbps. I experienced upload speeds of about 1 Mbps. Speed tests were quite disappointing with 3G, though, as the needle never went above the 512 Kbps mark.

When it comes to coverage, Sprint’s 3G network is definitely good, but 4G goes on and off very often. Whether inside a building or just walking around the streets, the EVO 3D is prone to disconnect from Sprint’s 4G network (at least in my experience). There were a few times when I had to pull out my HTC Thunderbolt because the data speeds became so slow.

As mentioned above, this may be an issue with the Los Angeles/San Diego area, and Sprint may actually work way better depending on where you live. Our very own Anthony Domanico has been able to get speed tests with up to 6 or 7 Mbps down. Not bad at all.

HTC EVO 3D8 / 10

Final Thoughts

Nick:

If any of you are still put off by the whole 3D aspect of the HTC EVO 3D, I’d recommend you try it for yourself. The technology delivers exactly as it should, and it’s certainly a great conversation starter (especially with the iPhone crowd). Take away the 3D and you’re essentially left with an HTC Sensation with a bulkier body. The dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor has enough muscle to power through the most taxing 3D games and deliver a silky smooth experience with HTC Sense 3.0.

Many consider the HTC EVO 4G to be one of the best Android handsets of 2010. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sprint customers label the HTC EVO 3D the best handset of 2011. The EVO 3D does have a few faults, but the highlights of the phone do an amazing job of covering them up.

Edgar:

The HTC EVO 3D is definitely among the best devices I’ve used. (Probably the best, for now). Its 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, along with the 1 GB of RAM and software, make this device one of the snappiest Android smartphones available. While it does have its small defects, this phone seems far more polished than the other dual-core phones in the market. Some of these may be slower than many single-core devices out there. HTC and Qualcomm did a great job of optimizing the hardware and software, making them work together in a more efficient manner.

I rarely found myself using the phone’s 3D features; it’s partly a “gimmick.” The 3D capabilities are definitely good for impressing the average consumer though, since almost no one has seen something like this on a phone. If 3D is not your thing, you can simply ignore it. The device is still impressive as a 2D smartphone, and it’ll handle any task you throw at it without a hiccup.

Overall, the EVO 3D is a great device, and I would definitely recommend it. So far, this is the best device available for Sprint users. I do doubt it will be the best of 2011, though. This year’s Android smartphone production has exploded far more than in 2010, and a better phone will probably come soon.

References

  1. Image via Android Central
Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. He started HTCsource.com (the first HTC blog) back in 2007 and later joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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