Will the almighty HTC EVO 3D for Sprint live up to the hype? Read our full review to find out.
HTC EVO 3D Report
The highly anticipated HTC EVO 3D for Sprint has finally descended onto our landing pad for a full review. Replacing the HTC EVO 4G (the phone that stormed the smartphone market and aided the rise of Android last year), the EVO 3D takes things to a three-dimensional level. As the first 3D phone to hit the market, it has two 5-megapixel cameras that capture stereoscopic images to be viewed without the need for 3D glasses. The results were interesting, to say the least, but the addition of 3D movies and 3D games were more than welcome. It runs on a rabid Snapdragon dual-core processor and is governed by Android 2.3 Gingerbread with HTC Sense 3.0. As a high-end smartphone, you really can't get any better than the EVO 3D, as the phone shares many key specifications with the recently reviewed HTC Sensation 4G, including a qHD touchscreen display. The real question with the HTC EVO 3D (specs) is whether or not the phone is worth its 3D fanfare. We'll give you the 411 in this review.
The EVO 3D's faÃ§ade is strikingly similar to the original HTC EVO 4G with a 4.3-inch screen and four haptic feedback controls along the bottom consisting of Home, Menu, Back, and Search. However, it receives a screen upgrade, flaunting a 960x540-pixel SLCD display with 16 million colors. The screen quality was just as bright and refined as the Sensation 4G's, so watching movies and playing advanced games were beloved activities during our tests. The front of the phone also houses a 1.3-megapixel camera for skyping and self portraits. It wasn't the most comfortable phone against our ears, due to its sharp edge above the calling speaker, but the phone's overall size was quite portable.
Aesthetically, the HTC EVO 3D is inimitable with its grooved back panel, dual 5-megapixel camera lenses, and oversized camera shutter button with neighboring 2D/3D switch. There was also a dual LED flash configuration between the lenses, and the camera panel mimicked Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. While we loved the giant camera shutter button, being the camera nerds that we are, it was a bit of a hindrance, interfering with a standard grip on the phone. Also, we miss the red interior that was present on the EVO 4G, and are only limited to a scarlet border surrounding the dual lenses.
Under the rather flimsy back panel, the EVO 3D offered an 8GB MicroSD card and 1730mAh battery pack. The phone also had 4GB of internal storage for a total of 12GB out of the box, but we feel that a 3D entertainment Super Phone should have been packed with more. Also, how did that larger capacity battery perform compared to a standard 1500mAh juice box? We'll have to wait a few sections, but in the meantime let's finish up here with ports and buttons. The EVO 3D has a 3.5mm audio jack, Power/Lock button, and MHL terminal in addition to the camera controls. MHL means the phone supports USB and HDMI, but it also means you'll need a special HDMI connecter to do so. How about the kickstand? Not this year, and we really could have used one.
Software and Interface
The HTC EVO employs an all-star tag team of browsing awesomeness, relying on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the latest HTC Sense 3.0. We've seen HTC Sense 3.0 on the HTC Flyer and Sensation 4G, and it is nothing short of sensational. It is also fired by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, so the phone was about as fast as we could imagine. In addition to Sprint's 4G data speeds, the EVO 3D is capable of 3G/4G Hotspots for up to 8 devices, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, DLNA/UPnP, integrated GPS, and Google Voice support as showcased on the Nexus S 4G. Yes, the EVO 3D plays with a full deck when it comes to its platform and interface.
HTC Sense 3.0 is the most artistically sound UI on the market. We'll start with the Lock screen, which utilizes a ring that can be flicked into space in order to unlock the screen. But there's also a lineup of four shortcut icons that can be dragged into the ring in order to catapult us over to that application right from the Lock screen. This was especially helpful for quickly snapping pictures or videos. The Lock screen also assaulted us with weather animation and information, and when we flicked the ring into oblivion, the 7 Home Screens oscillated at us before settling on the primary Home screen. Obviously, the animations made the HTC EVO 3D a very pretty phone to play with.
Leap worked flawlessly, allowing us to pinch any Home screen down to a visual of all 7 as smaller icons that could be tapped as shortcuts. The Weather widget offered spectacular weather animation while the majority of our pages were occupied by refined widgets. We love HTC's slider controls, which accompany many different applications like Phone and People, and the phone's Personalize suite allowed us to set Skins, Wallpapers, and Scenes, which were like themes. HTC Sense 3.0 + Android 2.3 Gingerbread = the sexiest UI on the market.
Our Internet experience on the HTC EVO was tantamount to the HTC Sensation 4G's. Speed and maneuverability were exceptional, allowing us to pinch to zoom and double tap to zoom instantly. We were very impressed with the screen's rendering of text at full zoom, and the screen's brightness was ideal for reading. Like HTC Sense's Leap, we could pinch down a web page and view it in a lineup of all of our current open windows for easy access. The Bookmarks widget allowed us to store plenty of web shortcuts with detailed icons, and the EVO 3D offered full Flash support on every page we visited with top-notch speed and performance. With just an address bar, RSS button, and Refresh button, the phone's browser was minimalist, but highly functional.
Multimedia and Productivity
Here's where we think the 3D capability on the EVO 3D was most useful. Since the phone's qHD screen supported 1080p playback and 720p 3D playback, we could watch 3D movies and play 3D games. In fact, it came preloaded with the Green Hornet 3D movie and Spiderman 3D game. We'll start with the Green Hornet, which overall showed promise for the 3D format. We will say that 3D movies must be watched from a certain distance, and found that roughly two feet from the eyes was the magic length. Also, the resolution takes a slight hit because of the sacrifice in vertical line resolution due to the dual images. This is most noticeable on rounded objects like shoulders and car bodywork, but it was not detrimental to the quality of the movie. Think of this as a holographic image that needs to be viewed at the right angle in order for all of the resolution lines to align correctly.
For gaming, we were highly impressed. The included Spiderman 3D game was killer, and a blast to play. The 3D play was actually decent and we found ourselves locked into that one for quite some time. The phone also comes preloaded with a 3D Games application that is a direct link to Gameloft's site for more 3D titles. Blockbuster, NASCAR, HTC Hub, Qik Video (video chat), and YouTube also came preloaded on the EVO 3D for more multimedia action, and the phone actually shipped with 8 music titles to sample the phone's sound, which is of the highest quality in the smartphone world. The smartphone has SRS sound enhancement, and it was a great thing, especially while using a pair of high-quality headphones. For office geeks, it 3D had Polaris Office right out of the box, and email included Exchange support. The EVO 3D resides at the top of the smartphone A-List when it comes to software.
Call Quality/Battery Life
The EVO 3D is the type of phone that really requires a strong Sprint network connection in order to attain maximum call quality. We did not have the best experience making calls with the EVO 3D, but if you're in a strong Sprint zone, you'll be fine.
We're concerned about the phone's battery life, however. With a full charge, our HTC EVO 3D review unit lasted under 5 hours before it reached the dreaded 15% life remaining status. We shot a lot of 3D pictures and videos, watched a half hour of the Green Hornet, and played Spiderman 3D for a while, so that must have contributed to the drain on the 1730mAh battery pack. However, it was the phone's display that whittled down the battery's stamina. We made sure to choose Automatic brightness, and switch on every single power saving option available, but the phone drained like a ditch. Our hopes were high with the larger battery pack, but the EVO 3D punked out early regardless.
And now, drumroll, it's the moment you've all been waiting for. The EVO 3D and it's 3D imaging! The phone has dual 5-megapixel cameras with a dual LED flash setup and is capable of 720p HD video in 2D and 3D. 3D still images are recorded at 2-megapixels, which is a bit of a size reduction, but they are mostly optimal for viewing on the phone itself or smaller HD monitors. HTC's "glasses free" 3D experience is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Basically, what's happening is that two JPEG images are snapped simultaneously and blended together via alternating vertical resolution bars, kind of like interlacing. The result looks like a holographic image, in which we had to hold the phone at the correct angle in order to attain the maximum 3D effect (Check out photo and video samples).
It worked for preloaded 3D movies and video games, which were optimized for this type of 3D, but when it came to snapping and rolling our own content, the results varied. Obviously, the key to successful 3D is to shoot scenes with subjects at varying depths of field to really take advantage of that 3rd dimension. Most of the time, if we didn't view one of our own 3D still images or videos at the golden angle and distance, we went slightly cross-eyed, like we were trying to solve a Magic Eye puzzle. We will say that the EVO 3D's stereoscopic 3D technology was better than the T-Mobile G-Slate's, partly because it didn't require glasses while staring at the device's screen, but mostly because it was not as nauseating as the red and blue trainwreck that can be amateur/consumer 3D. Though of course when we exported images as anaglyphs and uploaded videos to YouTube, they became red and blue catastrophes that required glasses. At least we get glasses-free viewing on the EVO 3D's screen.
The most frustrating part about the HTC EVO 3D was its still image file format, which was the rare MPO extension shared by the Nintendo 3DS. If you don't have NVIDIA software for viewing 3D images, you'll have to find a third-party program to do so. With the right software, you can combine the dual JPEG images in the MPO file and export as a single anaglyph JPEG image, but it's far from intuitive, and images require red and blue 3D glasses in order to video the stereoscopic left and right fields. HTC should really have provided some support for the EVO 3D. Also, there's no HDMI terminal on the EVO 3D, so forget about hooking right up to an HD monitor without going wireless. 3D videos were recorded as split screen MP4 files, but thanks to 3D support for YouTube, we could add the necessary tags in order to view our videos in 3D. Still, consumer 3D technology is so young that a phone like the HTC EVO 3D is out of its element at the moment.
So, how about image quality? Eh. Overcompressed blotches, blown highlights, lack of detail, noisy and not sensitive in low light. A typical cell phone performance when it came to 720p videos. The T-Mobile G2x and its 1080p quality won this race. The EVO 3D's still image quality was far superior to its video quality, and it's usually one or the other with entry-level imaging sensors. Still image quality ranked among the top phone cameras thus far, so HTC got one of them right. It's just a shame those damn MPO files are so hard to work with at this point in time. The phone's Auto Focus was fantastic for a phone, and we could even use it and toggle the video light while recording.
HTC EVO 3D €“ infoSync Diagnosis
The EVO 3D is an odd duck. The phone does certain things exceptionally well while other things rendered us perplexed. For instance, as a standalone smartphone, it's just as speedy an intuitive as the HTC Sensation 4G. Its dual-core Snapdragon, Android 2.3, and HTC Sense 3.0 hat trick will reel in any consumer. The phone also comes with a 3D movie and 3D game preloaded, and it performs quite well in that department.
But when it came to creating our own 3D content, the results were not as favorable. The EVO 3D's 3D camera was more of a gimmick than an essential feature. Let's be practical here. Who's going to want to work with elusive MPO files in order to view 3D pictures at 2-megapixels? Also, what is the point of 3D video and still recording on a cell phone with image quality that already suffers as it is? At this point in the game, 3D is still a novelty rather than a necessity.
We also wondered where the kickstand went, and why HTC chose to only offer 12GB of storage out of the box. The battery performance on this phone frightened us, and we hope that it will improve with a few cycles. But at the end of our quest, we see the EVO 3D as a highly capable smartphone that will trounce competitors in its path.