Over the last few months, we’ve been drooling in anticipation over the Sprint HTC EVO 4G and it’s over-the-top feature set. Well, for the past week or so, we’ve had a chance to turn our dripping envy into obsessive play time with our very own Evo. So, to help you figure out if the hot new Android phone belongs in your pocket, we’d like to give you our take on EVO 4G. We call it Evo (Ee-voe) for short.
Thanks to the expansive 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display that downright dominates the entire front face of the device, Evo has enough space within it’s frame to house all sorts of smartphone hardware befitting its flagrantly high-end spec-sheet. How high? Inside, you’ll find a 1Ghz processor that we call “Snapdragon,” an 8-megapixel camera mated to a dual-LED flash, gobs of RAM, a 4G WiMAX data connection, and enough ports along the top and bottom edges to accommodate all your multimedia needs. Oh, and the Mobile Hotspot feature allows Evo to turn itself into a high-speed WiFi hotspot, Evo shines in hardware.
So, without further ado, we’d like to formally introduce you to Evo.
Specifications (Specs – sheet)
- 4.3-inch WVGA (800×480) capacitive touchscreen
- 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU
- 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
- 512MB RAM, 1GB ROM
- 3G and 4G data connectivity
- WiFi (b/g)
- GPS (aGPS)
- HDMI-out port
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Front-facing camera for video calls
- Mobile Hotspot feature
- Flagrantly large 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display
- Integrated kickstand. Yes, it has a kickstand.
- HDMI-out port
- 4G for high speed data (where available)
- Mobile Hotspot feature
- Red-colored accents
- Multi-touch support
- Battery life
- MicroSD under the battery
- Non-standard HDMI port
- Battery life (or lack thereof. Did we mention that already?)
- No simultaneous voice and data in 3G-only areas
- Big for small hands and tight pockets
Evo is like the over-achiever in high school who also happens to be the head cheerleader. At once a supremely capable smartphone at work (or play) and a head-turner on the street, Evo gets high marks for putting the power of a laptop from not even a decade ago in your pocket.
All that power comes from internals that are almost identical to those inside the HTC Incredible, which you might know as Verizon’s Droid Incredible. That means there’s a 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU for speedy apps, 512MB of RAM to keep all those apps running at the same time, an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, 3G and 4G data capabilities, GPS, WiFi, HDMI-out port, microSD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a built-in kickstand just for, uh, kicks. To top all that off, Evo struts around with a 4.3-inch multi-touch display that is the envy of every smartphone on market today.
With more processing power than some laptops years past, the 1Ghz processor makes quick work of pretty much anything you can throw at it. Evo rarerly bogs down and always seems up to almost any task you might have in mind. All that RAM makes sure you can run them all at the same time. The HDMI port does an impressive job of streaming HD video to a 50-inch TV, complete with audio. For all you photo-buffs out there, Evo is photo savvy and ready to do your bidding with all kinds of image shooting modes and a touch-focus feature that makes it easy to create balanced, crisp pictures.
The 3G data connection delivers speeds that are in line with what we expected from Sprint. We didn’t get a chance to check out Evo’s 4G data speeds this go ’round, but past experience with Sprint’s 4G network has been generally good. Download speeds on 4G should be reliably north of 3Mbps, with upload speeds capping out at 1Mbps. What’s really impressive is Evo manages to push 6Mbps on the downstream – that’s faster than many DSL home internet connection of just a handful of years ago. Although, you’ll need a strong 4G data connection to get that kind of speed.
Evo is a bigger phone. There’s no getting around the Sprint HTC EVO 4G’s wide package. While still pencil thin (literally), Evo proves that you can’t have a 4.3-inch display and have a narrow profile. You have to pick one.
In this case, Evo went with “bigger is better.” That’s not a bad thing for anyone with a bag, purse or big pockets. There’s a good heft to the phone that seemed a bit heavy at first, but then we realized that the weight makes the big phone more stable in the hand.
Beware, tiny hands or really tight pockets can be hindrances you don’t want to deal with when going out with Evo.
Fit and Finish
Overall, Evo is nothing short of a fit and attractive Android smartphone. If we were to ever describe a phone as “tight,” Evo would be the one. The battery door snaps off easily but won’t get loose over time. The kickstand flips out with a weighted “click” that just screams refinement. Even the power button oozes precision craftsmanship and attention to detail, as it depresses with a reassuring click.
The dual-LED flash does a good job of lighting up dark pictures when subjects are at the correct distance from the camera, but gets a little over zealous with too-close pics and turns them slightly blue. We can forgive that small issue.
What we have a harder time ignoring is the microSD card slot that forces you to pop out the battery to access the SD card, which reboots the phone, unfortunately. Sure, the 1Ghz CPU ensures fast boot times, but it’s still a a pain to have to wait those precious seconds for the phone to pick itself up by the boot straps. Oh, and the microSD card slot is needlessly complex, what with it’s side-loading pop-up sleeve.
We’ll get to battery issues later on. You’d better believe there are battery issues.
Here’s our unboxing video of the Sprint HTC EVO 4G:
From the software that makes the homescreen pretty to the software that handles your emails and pictures, the Evo uses the best that Android and HTC have to offer. As one of HTC’s latest and greatest Sense-ified Android phones, Evo is skinned with the latest version of the Sense UI. The Android 2.1 OS is easy enough to use, but the Sense UI just makes things that much more intuitive. You get Sense widgets pre-loaded on the phone, including the handy “Leap” feature that allows you to switch homescreen panes with a simple pinch gesture. You also get the benefit of having Android 2.1 OS on deck. That means you get voice-to-text, easy camera controls, support for multiple Gmail accounts, integration with social networks (sending pictures, messages, updates) and Google Maps Navigation.
Easy to use. That’s how we describe Evo’s homescreen setup. Menus be damned, everything is finger-friendly and swipe-tastically fun to navigate. The key to the homescreen is the “Leap” feature. With a pinch on any homescreen pane, you can easily jump from pane to pane without having to swipe through every pane in between. That means you gets quicker access to all your shortcuts or at-a-glance widgets.
The Sense UI homescreen comes pre-loaded with the HTC Weather widget at the top of the primary homescreen pane. It automatically updates itself with the latest weather, and then literally shows you the current weather conditions on the display. If it’s sunny and bright, the screen will display an animated lens flare effect. Rain triggers rain drops dripping down the screen and a wiper blade wiping them off. Cloudy conditions brings in clouds across the homescreen. You get the idea. Sense also has its FriendStream app that puts all your social network updates into a single app – the trick is to use the “large” version of the associated widget.
This is what Leap looks like:
Camera controls are intuitive, but can be a bit awkward. You’ll find oft-used settings – like flash, exposure control, and shutter – right next to your thumb. More advanced settings can be found in a pull-out drawer to the left of the display. You can tweak camera settings like contrast and saturation, photo effects, video recording mode, face detection, metering mode, resolution, etc. etc. The list goes on and one. That’s a good thing.
The awkward aspect, though, is that there’s no physical shutter button. Without any physical buttons that aren’t the volume rocker or the power button, Evo has to resort to an on-screen shutter button. It takes some getting used to, but we can see some people never getting used to having to tap the screen to take a picture. Speaking of which, you can set the camera to focus on any point in the frame by tapping your finger on the viewfinder – which happens to be Evo’s massive 4.3-inch display. That’s hot.
One of Evo’s stand-out assets is its Mobile Hotspot feature. What is the Mobile Hotspot feature, you ask? Well, imagine for a second that you had a portable WiFi router that was always ready to create a data network at your beck and call. Now, imagine that you stuff that wireless router into Evo and then added the possibility to get 4G WiMAX data speeds. That’s what Mobile Hotspot does – it turns Evo into a portable WiFi router that you can use to hop on the internet with your laptop or your iPad or PSP.
So, how good is Mobile Hotspot? Damn good. With a couple taps of your finger, you can easily coax Evo into the Mobile Hotspot mood. You get fairly fast wireless data speeds over Sprint’s 3G network, but it’s the 4G data speeds that will really make the Mobile Hotspot feature shine. That is, unless you like preserving battery power.
Evo is already a battery hog (we talk about that more later), but the Mobile Hotspot takes Evo’s appetite for Lithium ions to another level. As with any portable hotspot solution (think MiFi and Overdrive), you’re not going to get more than a few hours of regular WiFi connectivity with Evo. You have to choose – longer battery life or the convenience of the Mobile Hotspot.
2-Way Video Chat
Evo is supposed to do 2-way video chat with an exclusive Qik Android app that allows you to use the front-facing camera to make face-to-face video calls using the 3G, 4G, or WiFi data connection. Unfortunately, the service wasn’t available to us during our testing process, so we weren’t able to try out the Qik video conferencing feature. We did, however, get to put the new fring Android app to the test with a video call. Turns out, video calls still have a ways to go before they’re really practical.
Over a 3G data connection, video chats are downright nauseating. The video feed had more chops than a butcher and audio constantly went out of sync with the video. There’s also considerable lag when using 3G. Over WiFi, though, the story changes. Video chats are fast, reliable and video quality isn’t all that bad. We didn’t have a chance to test out video calls over 4G data speeds. But, having to rely on 4G or WiFi for video calls is essentially a deal killer for us.
We’ll wait to test out the Qik video chat feature in the near future before writing off video calls altogether. This is what Qik video chats look like:
Web Browsing, Multimedia, Camera
The web browser of choice for Evo is the webkit-based Android web browser. But, this particular browser is riddled with tweaks from HTC. Evo can actually do some light-lifting when it comes to playing Flash content. As we all wait for Google to unleash Android 2.2 OS to the masses, so that we can all install Adobe Flash 10.1 Player, Evo is again ahead of the curve with the ability to play Flash videos and website navigation controls.
And, with 512MB of RAM to back up the 1Ghz processor, you’ll rarely run into problems when surfing the web. As long as you have a good cellular signal, and ideally a 3G or 4G data connection, you should be able to open multiple tabs and surf the web to your heart’s content without worrying about Evo bogging down. You can also count on multi-touch “pinch” zooming in the browser to be accurate and responsive.
The music player isn’t the best. Let’s start this off on a low point. It can take some time for the music player to pop up, if it’s not running in the background. That’s the low-point. The high points are the music player widget that lets you play songs from the homescreen and the versatile playlist that lets you organize by artist, genre, album, etc. If you use iTunes for your music library, we suggest you use DoubleTwist to hand all your playlists and songs over to Evo.
If you have a compatible video format, you really can’t pass up the chance to use Evo for what it does best – show off its gigantic display. The WVGA (800×480) resolution capacitive touchscreen display is big and bright and throws out enough colors to make your high-res video look good. It does a good job in sunlight, but not the best that we’ve seen.
Thanks to all the processing power packed into the Snapdragon chipset, videos play back smoothly. That’s important, because Android can run multiple apps at the same time, so it’s important that Evo can throw video playback into the juggling act.
When it comes to video recording, Evo boasts decent camcorder chops. You can switch to video mode with no more than two finger taps on the touchscreen, with an extra tap to start recording video. The videos can be shared to social networks or uploaded directly to your YouTube account (which is linked to the Gmail account you used to setup the phone). You can see what video recording quality looks like in the demo below.
Oh, and remember to use Evo’s handy little kickstand to prop up the display on a table or tray-table when watching videos… or TV.
Sprint TV. We’ve never been too impressed with Sprint TV. But, we’re less unimpressed when watching Sprint TV with Evo. The big screen makes all the difference. Quality and playback are actually not too shabby, but it all depends on your cellular data connection. We only tested with 3G connections, but in our experience, audio and video sometimes lost sync or the video feed to get momentarily pixelated. Those aren’t deal killers, just more like “frustrations.” We didn’t test out the TV feature with a 4G data connection.
In the end, TV is usually little more than great idea and a novel feature on most any other phone, but for Evo, TV only serves to inflate it’s ego when it comes to multimedia capabilities.
Outdoor daytime video recording:
Indoor night time video recording:
Indoor daytime video recording:
Evo is blessed with the same amazing 8-megapixel camera we first encountered on the HTC Incredible. With an auto-focus system that focuses on wherever in the frame you tap your finger and a decent image sensor that captures as much detail as you could hope for in a smartphone, Evo’s shooter is nothing to scoff at. As long as you have good to passable lighting conditions, chances are good that the 8MP camera will perform admirably. But, despite the dual-LED flash, some low-light shots are just a lost cause.
Don’t get us wrong, Evo does quite well in dark rooms. But, in close or long-range shots with little light, don’t expect the best photos from Evo. That’s just how it goes with just about every phone that has a camera. The sample photo gallery should speak for itself.
Call Quality and Battery Life
Calls are what you’d expect from Sprint. Clear and reliable. While Big Blue and Big Red get at each others’ throats about who’s got the better network, Big Yellow has been serving up reliable and high-quality voice service as the nation’s No. 3 wireless carrier (in terms of subscriber count). You can expect Evo to help you hear and talk to your friends and family with the kind of clarity that not every phone enjoys. As for reliability, our test showed Sprint and Evo to be very reliable for voice and data service. You might not get the same results in your area, but the SF Bay Area shows promise.
This part is hard to admit. Evo is a sort of power-glutton that gorges itself on Lithium ions until it’s chewed through an entire battery. It’s almost a shame that such an incredibly powerful and undeniably sexy handset could have such a problem with power management. We say almost a shame, because it’s not really Evo’s fault that she can’t go all day under heavy use without needing a mid-trip refueling.
Really, it’s the Android platform’s ability to truly multi-task apps that is the root of Evo’s battery woes. There’s also a good amount of blame to pass onto some of those apps that do a bad job of optimizing their power consumption. Either way, if you use your smartphone heavily throughout the day – frequent jaunts on the web, significant music listening, frequent email checks (having more than three active email accounts adds up in data usage), repeated use of the camera, chatty voice usage – you’ll find it hard to go all day without a recharge. If you use the Mobile Hotspot feature, don’t expect Evo to last longer than a few hours, at best. Bad Evo!
But, if you’re easy on Evo (especially if you forgoe constant email checks and frequent Internet usage) you might be able to make it a day and a half. For us, we get about a full day of use. We carry around extra power sources as a regular habit (what, did you expect otherwise?) so mid-day top-offs really aren’t a problem for us, but if you’re not ready to get a higher-capacity aftermarket battery or carry around extra power, Evo’s battery life is something to consider.
As Good As It Looks?
So, does Evo live up to its striking good looks, killer feature-set, and the promise of a multimedia dream come true? Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention. Damn skippy. Evo’s huge screen just oozes sex appeal to any gadget geek – at the very least, it will draw the attention of just about anyone you happen to be near when you start playing with Evo. It’s packed with every high-end smartphone feature (super-fast data capabilities, GPS, sensors, awesome camera) you could want right now, and Evo will even let you pimp out its fast internet connection to other devices over WiFi.
The Sprint HTC Evo 4G is the kind of Android phone that will probably be the talk of the town even after the next iPhone launches. That should say a lot about Evo’s badass-ness. What, “badass-ness” is a word. Isn’t it? Whatever, the point is, Evo is definitely as good as it looks!