Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Android-based smartphones are now established at all market sectors, and with entry-level models offering touchscreens, Wi-Fi and GPS, higher end models have to push the envelope to continue to attract attention. To that end we're seeing potentially useful Near Field Communications (NFC), alongside powerful dual-core processors. Another premium feature is glasses-free 3D, and HTC's Evo 3D is the second smartphone we've seen to offer this.
Nearly £60 (ex. VAT) more expensive than its only rival the LG Optimus 3D, is the HTC Evo 3D a compelling proposition? Our review sample came from Clove Technology, where it costs £445 (ex. VAT) SIM-free.
Just like the LG Optimus 3D, the HTC Evo 3D is a large smartphone. It has a 4.3in. screen, which is about as big as a smartphone screen can be before it becomes too unwieldy to use comfortably. Even at this size, we couldn't reach right across the screen for one-handed use.
The Evo 3D measures 65mm wide by 126mm deep by 12.05mm thick and weighs 170g. These dimensions are very close to those of the 4.3in. LG Optimus 3D — 68mm by 128mm by 11.9mm and 168g. The whole thing feels rather chunky and heavy — compare it, for example, to the high-end Samsung Galaxy S II, which also has a 4.3in. screen but measures 66.1mm by 125.3mm by 8.49mm and weighs 116g.
HTC gets one up on LG in terms of screen resolution, offering 540 by 960 pixels whereas the Optimus 3D — just like Samsung's Galaxy S II — only manages 480 by 800. Despite its higher resolution the HTC Evo 3D's screen left us a little disappointed (as did that of the LG Optimus 3D): colours aren't overly bright or vibrant, and there's a slightly washed-out appearance overall.
The Evo 3D's screen has a high resolution of 540 by 960 pixels.
Beneath the screen are four touch-sensitive buttons for the usual Android Home, Menu, Back and Search functions. These are rather over-designed, being permanently grey with white backlighting and surrounded by a circle. We prefer a more minimalist look.
The edges of the HTC Evo 3D contain a standard array of ports and connectors, with one addition. The Micro-USB connector is on the left edge, where the connected cable sits awkwardly during charging and synchronisation. We prefer this connector to be on the bottom edge, where cable interference is minimal if you want to pick up the device while it's connected.
The bottom edge is clear of any connectors, while the top has a lozenge-shaped on/off switch and a 3.5mm headset jack. The right edge carries a volume rocker, a camera shortcut and a button that switches the camera between 2D and 3D modes.
The camera shortcut button looks rather oversized, and requires a seriously hard press. Even then, the camera seems a little slow to start up. We actually preferred using the on-screen shortcut. The button comes into its own when shooting photos though: a gentle half-press calls up autofocus, while a full press takes a picture.
Dual 5-megapixel cameras provide the Evo 3D's 3D capability — although 3D images are only available at 2-megapixel resolution
As with the LG Optimus 3D, there are two camera lenses on the back, for taking stereoscopic images. Twin LED flashes sit between the lenses.
The HTC Evo 3D ships with an AC adapter, a Micro-USB cable, a pair of headphones with round in-ear buds, an 8GB microSD card and a printed user guide.
The HTC Evo 3D is a top-end smartphone powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260 processor supported by 1GB of RAM. It's a shame there's only 1GB of internal storage, but HTC provides an 8GB microSD card to augment this.
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) with mobile hotspot and DLNA support is available, along with Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. The Evo 3D is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone with HSPA mobile broadband supporting up to 14.4Mbps downstream and 5.76Mbps upstream. In contrast to LG, which supports HDMI via an on-board connector, HTC offers HDMI via the USB port; you'll need to buy an adapter to take advantage.
The operating system is Android 2.3.4, where LG opted for Android 2.2. HTC's Sense overlay sits on top, providing its usual, familiar look and feel. There are seven home screens and a wide variety of widgets with which to populate them.
HTC has recently updated its Sense interface, and it's shown off to full advantage in the Evo 3D, including an animated carousel-like feature as you flick between the seven home screens and an enhanced weather widget that takes over the entire screen with animations and accompanying sound effects. This seems rather excessive to us, but it can be disabled.
HTC has built a text entry system like the popular Swype into the Evo 3D. Called Trace, this allows you to drag a finger around the keyboard to spell out words rather than poking at individual letters. It's a pity you can't turn this on and off from the keyboard. Instead you need to go into the handset's settings area.
The HTC Evo 3D doesn't exploit 3D as well as the LG Optimus 3D. The user interface is entirely 2D, as are the apps, widgets and HTC Sense elements. There are some 3D games you can download from Gameloft, and if you use the 'yt3D' prefix in the YouTube search box you'll find 3D videos to view. But HTC does nothing to advertise ether fact, leaving you with the distinct impression — unless you're already aware of those options — that the only 3D element supported is the camera.
The twin cameras shoot 5 megapixel 2D stills, but the resolution drops dramatically to 2 megapixels when you move to 3D. The LG Optimus 3D shoots its 3D images at 3 megapixels. The positioning of the lenses means you get the best 3D shots in landscape mode. Anything shot in portrait mode won't offer the right pair of stereoscopic images to trick your eyes into rendering then in 3D. You can also shoot video in 3D, and here the Evo 3D supports resolutions up to 720p.
There is a secondary front-facing camera that shoots 2D stills at 1.3 megapixels.
Performance & battery life
HTC provides a 1,730mAh battery with the Evo 3D, but even this is not enough to keep the handset going in 3D mode for very long. We got through about half its capacity in a morning after several 15-minute 3D viewing sessions. If you're going to use the 3D functionality heavily, you'll regularly find yourself having to recharge by mid-afternoon.
Also, it seems that leaving the side switch in the 3D position causes the battery to drain faster than if it's switched to 2D — even when 3D content is not being viewed.
And even in everyday (non-3D) use, we found we had to charge the Evo 3D every day. The power required to drive the large 4.3in. screen is the main reason.
We're still quite impressed with the fact that 3D exists at all on a smartphone, and that it's quite effective. But, even more than with LG's offering, 3D feels like a gimmick rather than a core feature. This is because HTC has not integrated 3D into the Evo 3D to the same extent that LG has with its Optimus 3D. Although 3D is available for more than the camera, there's little indication of the fact in the user interface.
The HTC Evo 3D is also relatively bulky and heavy, making it feel more clunky than top-end non-3D rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S II. There's a clear negative effect on battery life too.
If you want to try 3D on a smartphone we'd recommend the less expensive LG Optimus 3D, which shoots 3D stills to a higher resolution and has a dedicated 3D user interface with better 3D integration.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel