The HTC EVO 3D is America’s first 3D smartphone and is only available to those lucky customers on Sprint’s network. Boasting dual-cameras on its rear, it can not only take 3D photos and video but also display them on its glasses-free 3D display. The Evo 4G is barely a year old and there are a ton of other great HTC devices on just about every network under the sun. So, is the Evo 3D really that much a jump over the competition in terms of build quality, software and hardware? Well, we hope to answer all those questions in this review and hopefully we’ll find out if this phone is the right upgrade for you.
All around, I was very impressed by the build quality of the device. HTC definitely knows the definition of “high-end” and there’s no denying that you really feel like you’re holding $600 worth of technology. HTC decided to trade that horrible cheap plastic trim from the first Evo, for a more durable aluminum (no more cracks, screen separation or marring). This gives the phone an all around more solid and premium feel to it. Physical rocker buttons along the side click nicely and there’s no escaping that big, silver “Frankenstein” shutter button for snapping pics.
On the inside you have Qualcomm’s newest 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. Although the OS still doesn’t allow it to fire on all 2 cylinders, the speed improvements when opening apps (and even how warm the phone gets) is apparent over the OG Evo. HTC advertises 4GB’s of internal memory, though only 1GB of that is actually usable for installing apps. This will most likely raise a few eyebrows. Sneaky. Along the left side of the phone you will find the standard micro USB port that doubles as a micro HDMI output for displaying 3D content or playing 3D games on a 3D enabled television. It’s actually pretty impressive if you ever have the opportunity to see it in action.
What could easily be seen as the main attraction on the phone is its 4.3-inch (long and narrow) 960×540 qHD 3D display. One thing I found that was left out of every review I’ve read/watched is the fact that the SLCD display isn’t as bright or vivid as the Sensation and nowhere near as vibrant as the SLCD on the Thunderbolt. Viewing angles are pretty bad and colors wash out quick when tilting the phone in any angle. This is likely due in part to the 3D display being used seeing how the HTC Sensation didn’t suffer from the same issues. Still, the high resolution display is a big leap over the original Evo 4G and because of the higher DPI, there is more content displayed on the screen (my favorite part about qHD resolution).
The dual 5MP 3D cameras are hard to miss and protrude from the back of the device making them easy targets for scratches, especially when laying the phone down. The glaring omission of last generation’s kickstand definitely stings especially when laying the phone down on a hard surface. A 3rd party case is almost mandatory for anyone looking to protect their double cameras and HTC conveniently makes their own case complete with beefy kickstand. Soft touch and textured battery cover make the phone easy to grip but the aluminum trim around the camera hole actually bends and warps when trying to remove the impossibly difficult battery cover. Bad planning by HTC on that one.
The noise cancelling microphone on the device is a nice touch and call quality seems to be generally clearer and more crisp than the Evo 4G although the speaker on the back is so quiet it practically renders the speaker phone useless. HTC included an 8GB Class 4 micro SD card with the device and although I applaud HTC for making it 100 times more accessible than last years model, you still have to remove the battery to access it. Kind of a bummer but really, how often do you need to take out the SD card?
Love it or hate, gimmick or not, the 3D capabilities of the Evo 3D are definitely the phone’s biggest selling point. While they don’t make the phone, it can more or less be seen as the icing on the cake. I will admit, viewing angles are pretty narrow when viewing 3D content but that’s the price you pay for glasses free 3D. Protip: The 3D alignment can be adjusted to suit your angle which is a big help for those having trouble getting their eyes to cross correctly. Yes, the 3D display will make some people feel ill but I remember the same thing being said when video-games began hitting 30fps back in the day. My eyes adjusted fine to the 3D display but it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve always been pretty good with those Magic Eye books as a kid. Don’t forget, if you’re not feeling the 3D functions, simply switch to 2D mode. Problem solved. One thing that can’t be argued is the fact the 3D display is a huge conversation piece, pulling people in and letting first timers experience the joys of Android and beauty of HTC Sense.
Sense 3.o completely rocks my socks. Everything from DLNA, Media Sharing, Scenes, Skins, Widgets, Camera app — totally outdoes stock, boring, vanilla Android in terms of functionality, beauty and ease of use. Surprisingly, the one part about Sense I didn’t like was the launcher. I found that it wasn’t as smooth as some reviewers will have you believe and I want to say it’s locked at around 30fps or so. As for me, I’d happily take the old fashioned, non-carousel Sense 2.1 launcher any day. The reason I suspect there is a frame rate cap on this new launcher (like the original Evo) is because the Adreno GPU should easily make that thing fly well above 60fps. Can you tell I’m upset about this? Let’s hope HTC will fix this in future updates.
Because of Sense 3.0, the camera software is probably the most robust I’ve seen on a smartphone to date. Besides the 3D function, the Camera app provides TONS of real-time and post effects for hiptsers, teenage girls and wanna be photographers to play around with. The Gallery app even comes trim feature allowing you to do some light video editing and is something Android has been lacking for awhile now.
The phone also comes pre-installed with Swype and while some will consider this a good thing, it actually means you can’t uninstall the app and/or install the newer and improved Swype Beta’s currently released by the developer. A lot of reviewers missed this but HTC has also upgraded their keyboard software, Touch Input, doing away with those annoying arrow keys and adding their new Swype-like, Trace Input as an alternate method of entering text (you can enable it in the keyboard settings).
As always, Sprint throws on their typical Sprint apps like Nascar and Mobile Wallet but don’t freak — As it stands, Sprint is the only carrier that will allow you to uninstall these apps from your device. However, there are still some apps that come pre-loaded like Swype and the Spiderman demo that cannot be uninstalled (might be time for root).
One thing I was incredibly disappointed to see was the lack of HTC’s Flashlight app! The reason I’m so upset is because this was probably one of the most used apps on my original Evo for navigating the dark (I’m nocturnal) and looking for lost keys. Oddly enough, the Sensation has the app pre-installed. Thankfully, I’ve been informed that the app is finally available from the HTC Hub app on your phone (sign up required) so all will be right with the world again. Oh- if you don’t feel like signing up for HTC Hub I’ve gone ahead and provided a download for the app here:
I can’t possibly close my software review without mentioning the bootloader (for all you Android modders out there). Yes, the bootloader is encrypted and completely locked. Yes, HTC said they would provide an update to unlock it. Yes, HTC recently gave a rough September launch date for the OTA. HTC would also like you to know that the update needs to be fully tested and cleared with Sprint before we’ll see a rollout so if you’re not the patient type, and flashing ROMs is an absolute must for you — this might no be the phone for you. Although, I’m usually the first person to run out and root my phone as soon as an exploit is found, I have felt no rush to do so with this device and I’m currently enjoying it in all of its encrypted, unrooted glory.
When it comes to gaming, the included Spiderman 3D demo plays nice and smooth thanks to Qualcomm’s powerful Adreno 220 GPU and still runs great even when outputting to an HD television in 720p. Also, unlike Tegra 2 devices, 720p HD Flash movies and videos play silky smooth in the the browser with no frame dropping. If you try to go higher to 1080p, it will cause extreme frame skipping but really, there’s no reason to go that high when the phone wont even output in 1080p. Also nice is the fact that any 3D movies you can find around the net (don’t ask, don’t tell) are fully compatible with the phone. So no matter where you download them, you wont have a problem getting them to display properly on the phone’s 3D display.
Camera sensor seems like the standard HTC fare. Which means if you’ve ever owned an HTC phone, you probably know it’s not so hot. HTC has never been known for their high-end camera sensors and while the quality isn’t too much better than what you will find on say, the Evo 4G, the low lag when snapping pics was very nice. The dual-cameras on the back are capable of snapping pics at up to 5MP and video resolution maxes out at 720p. Pictures came out clear and crisp and although I’m not a professional photographer, I was more than pleased with their quality. It’s only when in low light or using the LED flash that things become a little more inconsistent. Weird green hue, overexposed/underexposed were all common. I found that the camera on the HTC Thunderbolt took much better, near flawless, nighttime shots even with LED flash. Let’s hope the camera software will be improved in upcoming OTA updates from HTC.
I was actually pretty impressed with the 1.3MP front facing camera unlike the near useless front facing camera of yester-year’s model. Not sure if it’s the software or a better camera sensor but taking self portraits or pictures with friends has never clearer or been easier thanks to a real shutter button. Believe it or not, I even used the included “Mirror” app to cut my own hair (I swear, it’s true). Here’s a front facing camera sample (don’t mind the ugly guy).
Video recording in 720p both looked good and sounded even better. The sensor adjusted adequately to low-light indoor shots but I did notice a dip in the frame rate. Bright, outdoor shots always look good on any camera so of course I didn’t have any problems there. I did see some artifacting in the shadows that bothered me but overall was pleased (especially when compared to the terrible video/sound quality on the Evo 4G). Nice to see that HTC also included stereo recording which is always a plus. I’ve included some test photo’s and video samples for you to take a look at and judge for yourself.
Wildcards: Battery Life, Call Quality, Quadrant
Don’t get it twisted. Battery life will never be the same for any two people. This is largely due to the amount of apps a person can have synching on their phone, how many times they’re refreshing Facebook, if they’re using the camera a lot and most importantly, signal strength. I did find that battery life is better than on the original Evo but not by much. It could definitely be better but that depends on who you talk to. Some days I get 4 hours, others I’m getting 13 without rhyme or reason. I’ll never understand why smartphones get thinner and thinner every year, yet battery sizes/life remain the same.
As I mentioned before, I did notice that call quality was noticeably better than on the Evo 4G, thanks in part to better/louder earpiece and noise cancelling microphone. I have read of some Evo 3D users from our forums who were unhappy with the clarity and managed a quick hack to help fix the “problem” although I haven’t tried it myself.
I’ve never been one for Linpack and Quadrant scores. They never represent any true sense of speed for the end user but for all you Quadpack junkies out there, here are some numbers for you:
- Quadrant- 1972
- Linpack (multi-thread)- 46.567, 3.73 sec, 3.24 norm res
- Neocore- 58.6fps
- Smartbench 2011- 2250, 1666 games
- NenaMark1- 44.0fps
- Angry Birds- Over 9,000!!!
Overall, I can honestly say that I am completely pleased and 100% satisfied with the Evo 3D. I’ve been using my device almost non-stop for the past 3 weeks and as it stands, there are no glaring problems with the phone that can’t be fixed by a simple over-the-air update from HTC. Is the phone perfect? Not by a long shot (failed the Walk on Water test). Still, even with the phone’s shortcomings, it’s a solid, premium smartphone at a great price. The HTC Sense experience did nothing but add the phone and improve the user experience. At the end of the day, the only thing I asked for from HTC was a true upgrade from the Evo 4G and for me, this phone met all those expectations and more.
Don’t forget to visit our Android Forums and chat up the phone in the Evo 3D forum. I can tell you right now, there are some great posts, comparisons and all around technical talk regarding this device and they are a HUGE resource. Great for noobies and veterans. Check it out!