The HTC EVO 4G was an out of the park home run for Sprint: it had an at the time uncommonly large 4.3” display, 4G WiMAX, a slim design and Android with HTC Sense. Just over a year later, Sprint and HTC are at it again with their follow up Android flagship smartphone, the HTC EVO 3D. Sequels are rarely as good as the originals, but the EVO 3D packs enough improvements and a 3D twist that qualify it as a new original rather than an EVO 2.
The EVO 3D is in many ways an HTC Sensation 4G with 3D added and Sprint 3G and 4G bands. It shares the same core specs: a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core CPU, 4.3” qHD 540 x 960 display, Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread with HTC Sense 3.0 and 4G. Those are currently top specs, and certainly earn the EVO 3D (and Sensation 4), top placement in their carriers’ lineups. While the Sensation 4G is a rounded phone in the HTC Desire family of design, the EVO 3D is angular and looks rather like the EVO 4G. The 0.43” EVO 3D is a relatively thin phone, though large in all other dimensions.
The phone’s special sauce is 3D. TV makers have been pushing 3D as the next big thing (how many of you are biting?) and the LG G-Slate was the first tablet that could shoot 3D video. While the G-Slate required those goofy red-blue glasses, the HTC EVO 3D has a glass-less parallax barrier 3D display. “Normal” 2D content looks the same as on any other display, while 3D content literally pops out at you, at least a bit. Is it immersive? Not really because a 4.3” display can hardly offer an immersive 3D world. Is it fun? Yes, with some caveats.
When viewing 3D content, you’ll need to hold the phone just right to really get things to pop. This involves some rotating back and forth and moving the phone forward or back to find the sweet spot. We’ve watched a bundled 3D movie (The Green Hornet), played the bundled demo Spiderman 3D game and eyeballed video and photos we shot with the camera in 3D mode. It’s something like the Nintendo 3DS experience with definite added dimensionality and an element of fun, but it also caused us some eye discomfort after a short period of time. The stronger the 3D effect, the more notable the eyestrain. We wouldn’t say that 3D is the smartphone’s most important feature, but it is moderately entertaining and something to show off to your gadget-loving friends. Honestly, we’re more sold on the phone’s fast dual core CPU, large display and 4G.
The EVO 3D can shoot normal photos and videos using one of its two 5 megapixel cameras, and it can shoot 3D video that’s viewable on the phone using both cameras at once. The 3D effect is noticeable and is stronger than that of the Green Hornet 3D movie, though the lenses are close together. Photos are saved in .mpo format (you can change the file extension to .jpg to view them on your computer’s boring old 2D monitor). Videos are saved in .mp4 format, and if you view them on your 2D computer using an app like QuickTime you’ll see two separate videos side-by-side in a single window (the view from each camera lens). We love that the phone has a 2D/3D slider switch on the side that sets recording format, and a large shutter button next to that slider.
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The remaining buttons are standard Android fare: large volume buttons on the right side, a power button up top and four large, round capacitive Android buttons below the display. The microUSB port is on the left side near the top and there’s no kickstand (bummer). The casing is finished in matte black, and the back is textured. The phone looks and feels solid and is attractive in a modern, masculine sort of way. Build quality is excellent and there are no creaks or gaps. Like the HTC Sensation 4G, the battery cover comprises not just the back but also the sides of the smartphone. Remove it and you’ll see not just the battery and included 8 gig microSD card in its slot, but the phone’s frame and micro switches that are actuated by the buttons on the cover. Neat in a geeky sort of way.
The HTC EVO 3D is undeniably a large phone, and its dimensions are nearly identical to the EVO 4G. You get a large, higher than average resolution display in the trade; and we confess to wholeheartedly enjoy the 4.3” capacitive qHD experience for watching videos and viewing web pages without lots of pinch zooming. No, it’s not a Samsung Super AMOLED display, but it’s quite bright, sharp and colorful and we found movie watching enjoyable. The 3D parallax barrier technology in no way impinges on 2D quality, and we found the display a bit sharper and more colorful than the old EVO 4G (as well as higher resolution). We do miss the EVO 4G’s kickstand though.
HTC EVO 3D Video Review
Call quality is average with some background hiss but decent noise reduction. Volume is likewise average, but the speakerphone is very loud and full. 3G reception is slightly better than average on Sprint’s EV-DO Rev. A network, while 4G reception is slightly harder to discuss because WiMAX runs on very high spectrum that lacks building penetration and is stymied by obstacles like tree cover. In the Dallas metroplex where we have decent WiMAX coverage, we couldn’t get a signal inside many buildings, but outdoors we got a solid signal and saw speeds ranging from 4-8 Mbps down and 1.3 to 1.48 Mbps up according to the Speedtest.net app. Indoors in strong signal areas we averaged 2.5 Mpbs down and 900k up. That won’t put Verizon’s LTE network to shame, but depending on coverage in your area, it rivals T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network, at least for outdoor coverage. 4G reception was similar to the HTC EVO Shift 4G and a little bit weaker than the EVO 4G.
The EVO 3D runs Android OS 2.3.3 Gingerbread, which is currently the latest release of that OS. It’s one dot release short of the 2.3.4 that’s required for video chat in Google Talk, but other than that, you’re looking at the newest Google has to offer. HTC Sense 3.0, the manufacturer’s latest release of their established and pleasant set of UI enhancements, widgets and integrated social networking are on board. We like HTC Sense and its low key but useful improvements of Android, but be warned: if you don’t like it, you can’t completely remove it.
The EVO 3D has a 1.2 GHz dual core Snapdragon CPU with hardware graphics acceleration—impressive stuff. So far we’ve found it not quite as fast the Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz dual core CPU used on competing Android smartphones when it comes to benchmarks and web browser rendering speed, but the EVO 3D comes close. It scores 2122 in the Quadrant benchmark, which is double the EVO 4G’s score, but lower than the pack-leading Motorola Atrix 4G that scored 2481. The EVO 3D had no trouble playing 3D games, though we did miss the selection of Tegra 2 games that have recently hit the market, and it managed Adobe Flash 10.3 as well as other top Android dual core smartphones.
WiMAX 4G is not kind to battery life. The EVO 4G was infamous for its short battery life that was made worse by a relatively low capacity battery. The relatively high capacity 1730 mAh Lithium Ion battery is more than enough to power the phone through the day in 3G mode. When we left 4G turned on and used the phone moderately to heavily, we had to charge by late afternoon. Verizon’s LTE 4G is also a power hog, while AT&T and T-Mobile’s HSPA+ has relatively little additional impact. That said, the EVO 3D is a lovely and fast phone, and we’d say it’s worth carrying an additional battery if needed.
The HTC EVO 3D is a worthy successor to the extremely popular HTC EVO 4G. Even if you don’t care about 3D, it’s a got a top of the line dual core CPU, a qHD resolution 4.3” display, a very good camera for 2D photos and video as well as 3D recording and slightly improved battery life over the EVO 4G. 3D is certainly fun, though I’m not sure it’s good enough to sell us on the phone (our eyes also need 10 minutes of recovery time after indulging in 3D viewing). But the phone’s top specs, good looks, excellent build quality and latest, greatest Android OS release plus HTC Sense 3.0 are enough to make us recommend this phone to Sprint users looking for the best Android smartphone in that carrier’s lineup.