In 2012, HTC finds itself in a defensive position. Apple continues to carve out a larger share of the smartphone market, and Samsung has stolen a lot of the momentum HTC gained in the last two years. Though it’s not part of the HTC “One” series of phones, the EVO 4G LTE is one of the new devices HTC hopes will turn users back in its favor with fast data speeds, hot specs and unique features like a kickstand. But is that enough?
Preferences in phone size and feel vary from user to user. Generally, the larger your hands, the more comfortable you will be with larger phones. Like almost every top-tier phone lately — including the HTC One X, LG Optimus 4X HD, and Samsung Galaxy S3 (4.8 inches) – the EVO 4G LTE has a 4.7-inch screen. Because of the flexible way Android is designed, using a larger screen is possible even though few of you will be able to reach its edges without uncomfortably stretching or adjusting your hand. If you want a more petite phone, oddly, the iPhone is your best choice right now. Though it can’t help its screen size, the EVO 4G LTE does a decent job managing it.
Thanks to a nice metal edge, it’s relatively easy to get a grip on the EVO. The thickness of the phone varies due to a protruding camera, but at its thickest, it’s still only about 9.5mm, which is in line with most super-thin phones these days.
The power button is on the top right, and the volume rocker is on the upper right side. This is decent placement, but it is a bit awkward to reach the power button sometimes. Both buttons fail to stick out enough, making them a bit harder to press than those on the HTC One X and One S phones.
Though Android is now capable of supporting touch navigation buttons, HTC has chosen to stick with fixed haptic navigation buttons for its new phones. The screen size and choice of fixed navigation buttons may prove wise, as it’s much easier to reach the power, volume, and three haptic navigation buttons (Back, Home, Multitask menu). But because the screen is so large, it almost feels like space is being wasted. HTC could have included an extra row of icons if it wanted to, especially considering that it ripped out Google’s Search Bar from the top of the screen. There are noticeable gaps between icon rows that are a bit large.
Though the EVO likely has its fans, we find it to be a bit messy when compared to HTC’s One X phone. The One X is made of an elegant unibody polycarbonate frame, but the EVO seems to use every material possible, including aluminum, plastic, and probably a bit of polycarbonate as well. Parts of it are shiny, while others are matted, and it has an ugly red stripe on the back. That stripe serves a purpose, luckily, but it’s still not great looking. Functionally, we prefer the EVO 4G LTE to the HTC One X, but visually, it’s not the prettiest.
Like the old EVO and some other HTC Sprint phones, the EVO 4G LTE has a snap-out kickstand. We found it particularly useful, though a bit difficult to pull out. Using it, you can prop the phone up in a landscape orientation or a lean-back vertical orientation. The downside is the placement of the USB charging port.
Though the kickstand would make the EVO a perfect night clock, the charging port is located on the side that is on the bottom, so when you plug in a charger, there’s no way it will stand up properly. This has been a problem on multiple kickstand-equipped HTC phones, including the ThunderBolt.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 uses an AMOLED screen, but with the One X and EVO 4G LTE, HTC has stuck with an upgraded form of LCD it calls “Super” LCD 2. The results are fairly impressive. For LCD, the phone is capable of getting fairly good blacks and bold colors. The screen’s 1280 x 720 pixel resolution is as high as they come these days, helping to prop up the screen as one of the best. The screen appears to be made of Gorilla Glass for durability, which should help resist scratches and smudges.
Like the rest of HTC’s new line, the EVO 4G LTE runs on Google’s new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system, which means it’s up to date. Most of the key benefits of Android 4.0 remain intact, but HTC has heavily modified the design of the OS with “Sense 4.0,” intending to make it look more like its Android 2.3 phones. Some cosmetic changes are fine, but others are a bit puzzling, like the new widget and homescreen modifier, and the new multitasking screen. At times, it feels like HTC is being different just for the sake of it, which is never good.
Still, the good outweighs the bad. Because this runs Android 4.0, users will have many stability improvements. If you can find its new location, the data-usage monitoring feature makes a handy way to stay under your data cap, and you’ll notice many other small enhancements, too.
HTC tries to make things easy on new users by including useful apps like weather, a task manager, and other simple things, but it does go overboard. There are just under 50 apps installed on the phone when you buy it, most of which aren’t removable or particularly useful. You can download extra HTC software from the HTC Hub, though we don’t recommend it. Stick to the Google Play store for now.
(Warning: When you make new contacts on the HTC EVO 4G LTE, make sure save them to Google Contacts, not “Phone.” HTC recently deleted a lot of user data from its older cloud services, making it a bit untrustworthy.)
Beats Audio rocks
The EVO 4G LTE doesn’t come with a pair of Beats headphones, but it does enhance the sound of all audio on the phone, if you turn it on. We’ll leave it to you to decide if some audio filtering is really a big deal, but it did make music sound a bit better to us. The HTC Music app has also been improved. Instead of just playing music, it now acts as a hub for all of your other music apps, like Amazon MP3, Google Music, Pandora, and Spotify. All of them are easily accessible from the music hub – a step in the right direction.
Like the One X, the EVO 4G LTE has a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal flash storage, a 4.7-inch 1280 x 720 pixel Super LCD screen, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and a 1.3-megapixel front camera. It runs on Android 4.0 with HTC’s Sense 4.0 UI overlaid on top. Common features include Bluetooth 4.0, Micro USB, NFC, a headphone jack, proximity sensor, digital compass, gyroscope and accelerometer, and Wi-Fi. The EVO 4G LTE also comes with a microSD slot, so those who want more storage can but it.
We don’t put a lot of weight into benchmarks, but the EVO 4G LTE performed incessantly well, scoring slightly above 5,000 (or ever so slightly more than the One X), in multiple Quadrant tests. The HTC One phones seem to perform better than any other devices out there, save perhaps the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S3. For reference, the speedy Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 scored between 2,500 and 3,400 on the same test. Is the One X twice as fast? It’s hard to say, but it may have a leg up on the competition.
On AnTuTu, the EVO scored only a 7,058, which appears to be somewhat low. However, we aren’t putting much weight into AnTuTu as it seemed to think our EVO 4G LTE was an EVO 3D from last year. AnTuTu fail.
If there’s “one” thing the One X and EVO 4G LTE may be known for, it’s their cameras. Using a combination of technologies HTC is dubbing “ImageSense,” the X and S produce superb photos from their 8-megapixel cameras, even eclipsing the iPhone 4S in select areas. The EVO 4G LTE has a speedy f/2.0 aperture that supposedly captures about 40 percent more light than other phones, a special imaging chip inside it, a smart flash with five levels of intensity, and HDR (High Dynamic Range), which allows it to take better pictures if there is a bright light behind your subject (if you like sunsets, this is for you).
In our testing (check out our camera test from MWC), we’ve found the EVO 4G LTE’s camera to be extremely fast and accurate, like the S and X before it. Indoor shots look as good as they do on the iPhone 4S and outdoor shots look fantastic. From our minimum testing of the S3, it appears that HTC has a camera advantage over Samsung as well.
One of the most innovative new features of the One series is the ability to snap photos while recording video. Anytime while recording, you can snap a picture of whatever is going on. If you’re watching a video, you can take screenshots of what you’re watching as well. Holding the shutter button will let you take a burst of photos. The default is set to a limit of 20 burst photos, but you can switch it to as many as 99 if you love taking shots. After you’re done shooting a burst, you can pick and choose which pictures are your favorite or save the whole batch. It’s a quirky feature, but may be very useful in some circumstances.
The EVO also has the advantage of a physical shutter button, something that isn’t present on the HTC One phones. Though you can’t record video and snap pictures using the physical button alone, it’s always nice to have a real button to shoot pictures.
Voice and data
This section is usually quite dull, but the EVO 4G LTE is actually the first phone to incorporate HD Voice. Using a combination of network enhancements on Sprint’s end, noise filtering and better microphones, the EVO 4G LTE is actually capable of better calls than probably any other phone. There is a big catch. The feature is only enjoyable and usable if you’re calling someone on the Sprint network who also has a phone capable of HD Voice… meaning they have to have an EVO 4G LTE. Sad face.
Another bright feature with a big downside (currently) is 4G. You may have guessed by its name, but the EVO can connect to Sprint’s upcoming 4G LTE network. Upcoming is the key word. Sprint’s network is not currently available in New York City, where we are testing this phone. Sprint is launching its LTE network sometime soon in a few big cities, like New York, but it won’t be widely available outside of major metropolitan areas for a couple years. Sadly, though Sprint already has a 4G WiMax network, the EVO cannot connect to it, so until you get 4G LTE in your area, you’ll be stuck with 3G, which is a bit sluggish.
We’ve been getting speeds of 262kbps download and 930kbps upload on Sprint’s 3G network. Be prepared to hook this guy to your home Wi-Fi because these speeds are slow. On Verizon’s LTE network, we usually get about 7Mbps down, or 7,000kbps.
Battery life on the EVO 4G LTE appears to be about even, if not a bit better than the HTC One X. With moderate usage, we were able to get almost two days out of the 2,000mAh battery, which is pretty good for a smartphone. However, we should note that we haven’t been able to test the phone on Sprint’s LTE network. LTE seems to be a battery hog, so we can’t say with any certainty how well the EVO will perform when you get it. So far, the battery life has exceeded the Galaxy Nexus, but comes nowhere close to the performance of the Droid Razr Maxx, which still remains the most battery-friendly smartphone.
HTC is claiming the device gets only 7.5 hours of talk time, which is a bit lower than what HTC claims with the One X. For those who need more battery life at times, this may not be your phone. The battery is sealed inside the phone, so there’s no way to manually swap batteries in a crunch. The Galaxy S3, in contrast, has a swappable battery.
Compared to One X and Galaxy S3
We could detail out the differences between the hot phones this year, but we already did – in excruciating detail. Check out our full Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC One X (EVO 4G LTE) in-depth comparison to learn the differences between three of our favorite new phones.
If you’re on Sprint, you have a lot of good choices right now. The Galaxy Nexus and the EVO 4G LTE are both great phones and the upcoming Galaxy S3 will make a decision more difficult still. The advantages of the EVO 4G LTE are its HD Voice, camera, and kickstand. The downside is that to really take advantage of it, you’ll need to wait until Sprint launches its 4G LTE network in your area, which could be many months away – right now, we just don’t know. But at $200 with a two-year contract, it’s as good a phone as you’re going to get on Sprint. Honestly, the only problems with the EVO are on Sprint’s end. If you want a phone that will keep you up to date with Sprint’s network advances, the EVO 4G LTE is for you.
- Comfortable to hold
- Amazing rear camera
- Runs Android 4.0 (ICS)
- Beats Audio included
- microSD card slot
- HD Voice shows promise
- Ugly black and red design
- Sense 4.0 UI is puzzling
- Non-removable battery
- Sprint 4G LTE network isn’t widely available
- No WiMax compatibility