The good: The HTC Evo 3D improves on its predecessor with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and a larger battery. The Android Gingerbread smartphone also features a glasses-free 3D display and can capture 3D photos and video.
The bad: The smartphone doesn’t offer much internal memory, and call quality could be better. The glasses-free 3D display has limited viewing angles and depth of field.
The bottom line: The 3D features are a fun addition, but it’s the HTC Evo 3D’s zippy performance and improved battery life that make this Android smartphone one of Sprint’s best.
We think it’s pretty fair to say that the HTC Evo 4G was one of the best and most popular Android smartphones of 2010. Now, just a little over a year later, we have its successor, the HTC Evo 3D. Introduced at CTIA 2011, the Evo 3D will be available from Sprint starting June 24 for $199.99 with a two-year contract. The Gingerbread handset ups the ante with a dual-core processor, a larger battery, and a glasses-free 3D display and 3D image and video capture. Adding 3D to the phone runs the risk of being a gimmicky ploy, and after some time playing with the features, we found 3D use was best in small doses. Fortunately, the Evo 3D offers plenty more to keep Sprint customers happy.
The HTC Evo 3D’s design is updated but familiar, and anyone upgrading from the Evo 4G should feel right at home with the smartphone. At 5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.48 inch thick and 6 ounces, the handset is roughly the same size as its predecessor. It’s a good chunk of hardware, to be sure, but the Evo 3D feels narrower, so it’s easier to hold and grip. It also has that high-quality construction we’ve come to expect from HTC, and we like the addition of the textured surface on back.
The phone is easy to use one-handed. As on the Evo, there are four touch-sensitive buttons below the display for the home, menu, back, and search functions. The smartphone offers both Swype and HTC’s virtual keyboard for text entry. On the right side are a volume rocker, a large camera key, and a 2D/3D camera-mode switch, while a Micro-USB port sits on the left. The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button, with the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera located just below it. On the back, you’ll find the dual 5-megapixel cameras for 2D and 3D image and video capture.
Previous Evo 4G owners might notice a couple of missing features. First, there isn’t a separate HDMI port on the Evo 3D; instead, you can use the Micro-USB port and an MHL adapter (not included in the box) to connect the smartphone to your HDTV. Also gone is the built-in kickstand.
The HTC Evo 3D comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, and reference material.
Gracing the front of the HTC Evo 3D is a 4.3-inch qHD (540×960-pixel resolution) Super LCD. The screen is beautiful in itself, showing sharp text and images with bright colors, and it offers a smoother picture than the Evo’s WVGA touch screen. However, there’s another level to the smartphone’s display. It features a parallax barrier that displays two different images on top of the screen, thus creating a 3D effect without the use of glasses.
It’s the same technology used in the LG Optimus 3D and Nintendo 3DS and can be used to view 3D videos, photos, and games. To get you started, Sprint preloads the device with a full-length copy of “The Green Hornet 3D” and a demo version of Spider-Man 3D, the game. You can also view 3D videos from YouTube, as well as shoot your own 3D clips and photos using the dual 5-megapixel cameras on back of the phone. Sprint said 3D content will also be available via the preloaded Blockbuster application and the new HTC Watch video storefront.
We watched a few 3D YouTube clips (the preloaded copy of “The Green Hornet” would not play on our review unit for reasons unknown) and played Spider-Man 3D. Images popped from the screen, and it definitely gave the smartphone a bit of a wow factor. However, when compared with the Nintendo 3DS, the Evo 3D has a limited depth of field. We asked Senior Editor Scott Stein, who covers gaming in addition to laptops, to take a look and he agreed that the 3DS delivers a richer experience that goes deeper into the screen, whereas the Evo 3D offers more of a popping-out effect. It felt more like we were looking at one of those 3D lenticular postcards.
You also have to view the screen pretty much dead-on, as the viewing angles for 3D are very limited. It’s not a huge problem for videos since there’s no need to really move the phone, but it is for games that use the phone’s accelerometer as a way to control movement.
Still, it was fun to check out, and we spent more than our fair share of time playing Spider-Man 3D. A couple of times we did run into a problem in which the screen stayed in 3D mode even after we’d exited the game, so everything on screen looked doubled up until we restarted the phone. We also got a bit of a headache after a while, and, more often than not, 3D photos just made our eyes hurt. Both the sample pictures and photos we took with the camera made our eyes cross as we tried to focus on the image. Recorded video clips were much better, but again, it was more a matter of objects in the foreground popping out than a deep, immersive 3D experience.
The 3D aspect isn’t what should attract you to the HTC Evo 3D, though. It should be about what it offers as a smartphone, and fortunately there’s a lot here to like here, including the addition of a dual-core processor and the latest software. The Evo 3D is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread along with the latest version of HTC Sense, which offers a new lock screen and enhanced widgets, among other things. You can read more about the Sense user interface in our review of the HTC Sensation 4G.
Voice features include a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling via Qik, and text and multimedia messaging. In addition to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS, the Evo 3D is 4G-capable and can handle simultaneous voice and data over 4G. The smartphone can also be used as a mobile hot spot for an additional $29.99 per month, and there is no data cap. Finally, we appreciate the fact that the Evo 3D offers a way to toggle between 3G and 4G in order to save battery life.
The handset comes preloaded with a number of apps and services, some useful, some not so useful. Among the more helpful apps are the Polaris Office suite, Kobo Reader for e-books, and a dock mode that displays the time, weather, upcoming appointments, and your social network feed on one screen. More apps are available in the Android Market, which now has a catalog of about 200,000 titles.
Though apps generally don’t take up a lot of space, be aware that like the HTC Sensation 4G, the Evo 3D doesn’t offer much internal storage. It has 4GB of internal memory but only 1GB of that is available to the user, and you can’t uninstall the preloaded apps. You can move them, as well as any downloaded apps, to the preinstalled 8GB microSD card, but if you plan on loading up your phone with apps, music, and video, you might want to upgrade to a higher-capacity card. The phone’s expansion slot can support up to 32GB.
We already talked a bit about the 3D photo quality, but how’s the regular 2D camera? Pretty impressive, actually. The camera offers a broad set of editing tools, including a sliding scale for adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. Even without customizing the settings, picture quality was bright and sharp. The built-in dual LED flash helped photos taken dimly lit rooms look vibrant and crisp. The camera can also capture 1080p HD video in 2D (720p in 3D), and video quality was also good.
We tested the dual-band HTC Evo 3D in New York using Sprint service and call quality was OK. We had no problems hearing our callers, and we didn’t notice any type of voice distortion or garbled sounds. However, there was a constant hissing in the background; it was faint enough that we could still carry on conversation, but it was noticeable. Unfortunately, our callers didn’t have the best experience. Some said we sounded muffled, while others noted tinny sound quality.
HTC Evo 3D call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was another mixed bag. The sound was generally clear, but the audio cut in and out a couple of times, and at the highest setting there was just enough volume to hear callers in a noisier environment. Meanwhile, callers said we sounded far away and there was some hollowness to the audio. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music. We also made a video call using the Qik client over Wi-Fi. The audio came through just fine, but the video was choppy and occasionally froze on us.
We didn’t experience any dropped calls during our testing period, and we were able to get 4G coverage in most parts of Manhattan. However, it did drop to 3G a few times, particularly around midtown. Sprint’s 4G network provided good data speeds. Using Ookla’s Speedtest.net app to measure speeds, we averaged 9.02Mbps down and 0.92Mbps up. CNET’s full site loaded in 13 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 4 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively. High-quality 2D YouTube clips buffered within seconds and played back continuously. There were some hiccups with 3D videos as they stopped and started in a few spots, and streaming content from Sprint TV looked pretty murky.
Armed with Qualcomm’s new 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, the Evo 3D easily handled any task we threw at it. General navigation was speedy. Apps launched as soon as we tapped them, and we were able to switch between tasks with minimal delay. Aside from the 3D screen issue we mentioned earlier, the only other uh-oh moment we had during our review period was that after we connected to the smartphone to our PC to transfer some media files, the phone spontaneously rebooted itself. However, this only happened once in our testing.
The HTC Evo 3D ships with a bigger 1,730mAh lithium ion battery than the Evo 4G and has a rated talk time of 6 hours. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 6.5 hours of continuous talk time over 4G on a single charge. Starting with a full charge in the morning and with moderate to heavy use (including playing 3D games and video), we were able to go a full day, sometimes early into the next day, before needing to recharge. As soon as we complete testing, we will update this section with our battery talk time results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Evo 3D has a digital SAR rating of 0.885W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T3.
Among Sprint’s touch-screen smartphones, the HTC Evo 3D sits high on the list, if not at the top of the list. HTC and Sprint improved the Evo in areas that matter the most, including speed and battery life, while keeping some of the qualities we loved about the original Evo, such as a premium design. These features are what make the Evo 3D worthwhile; the fact that it happens to do 3D too is just an added bonus.