The EVO View 4G is HTC’s Flyer variant for Sprint that is a portable powerhouse, but many are wondering why they should choose this 7-incher over the likes of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or other devices that are more powerful for the same price. In this review, we’ll see if Sprint’s version of the Sense-ified Android tablet may be a bit more appealing. The EVO View 4G touts a new color scheme and WiMAX support but is that enough to choose Sprint’s version of the tablet over something else? Read on to find out!
- Well-designed, elegant hardware
- The Snapdragon processor is a powerhouse
- The addition of WiMAX is a huge plus, making it the ultimate portable tablet
- Scribe Digital Pen will only be useful to some people
- Same price as larger tablet competitors which offer nearly double the real estate
- Although it has HTC Sense, the View 4G lacks Honeycomb. This means no tablet-optimized applications.
The EVO View 4G is a well-put together piece of technology that just exudes high-quality when you pick it up. Instead of the aluminum finish you'll find on the WiFi-only model, Sprint's version is all done up in a black matte finish and it almost resembles a jumbo Thunderbolt. This is very much a good thing and I personally prefer the new color scheme.
The 7-inch form factor lends to a lightweight and is perfect for when you're on the go. Even though it's bigger than the original Galaxy Tab and thicker than the iPad 2, it fits comfortably in a single hand when held in portrait mode.
The View 4G has a 7-inch display at a 1024 X 600 resolution on its face and this is bright, crisp and quite responsive to the touch. It's an excellent size if you're using it as companion to your mobile on the go, as it easily fits into your pocket but the only issue is that you're definitely giving up a lot of real estate compared to the larger tablets. The 10-inch screens (or so) of the iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola Xoom offer nearly double the screen space diagonally, so the Flyer isn't as great of a couch companion or in-home media device as some of the competition.
Like most Android tablets, the design encourages you to hold it in the landscape mode as the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera is along the top of the screen if you hold it in that orientation. The HTC logo rests at the top if you hold it in portrait mode and the other two bezel spots are filled with the home, menu, back and pen (we'll cover that one later) capacitive buttons. Like the HTC Incredible 2, the soft keys will automatically rotate depending on which way you're holding it.
Along the right spine (portrait mode) are two small microphone holes and a metallic volume rocker and the left spine is completely clean. On the top right, you'll find a power/unlock button and a standard headphone jack, while the microUSB charger port is on the bottom. Having the battery there leads to a little hump on the bottom that's covered in black but I absolutely love not having to carry a proprietary port around like I did with the original Galaxy Tab (Note: it may not look like a standard microUSB port but you can definitely fit one in there).
You'll also find the two speakers on the back, as well as the 5-megapixel camera. Inside, you have a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor which is full of power, WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth, GPS, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage and it weighs less than a pound (14.82 ounces). Unlike the original, you won't see the, "With HTC Sense" on the back of this version but you will find Sprint's logo, as well as the Android logo. Another small touch you won't find on the original is that the camera is outlines in a metallic, red trim that reminds us of the EVO 3D and should look great laying next to it.
The 1.5GHz processor is a beast, but we would have preferred something like the Tegra 2 to power the device. Dual-core processors are becoming a common thing in newer high-end smartphones and tablets and even if the View 4G is plenty fast, having two cores under the hood would be just another selling point.
If you believe that there is value in a 7-inch tablet, then it's tough to think how it could be designed better than the View 4G. Sure, it could be a little bit thinner but this thing is a joy to hold with one hand or two, looks incredible and is packed full of power and features. Because it's a portable tablet, I would have liked to see a flash next to the 5-megapixel camera but I guess that can wait for the next one.
Of course, the real issue with a 7-inch tablet is how easy is it to carry around and I've found the View 4G can rest in a suit jacket, a large coat of the back of your jeans. If you don't wear skinny jeans, it can fit into your front pockets but it will definitely look like you have a tablet in there.
So, if you're going to have to put it in a bag anyways, would you be better off with a larger tablet? I'll cover that in the conclusion so let's not skip ahead. If you do end up stashing the thing in your back pocket of your jeans, remember it's there before you sit down. Just a helpful tip that we swear we didn't learn the hard way.
The View 4G doesn't have the Honeycomb version of the software and that may cause some of you to dismiss it because this version was specifically built for tablet computing. HTC is no slouch in the software department and the version of HTC Sense on this tablet augments Android 2.3 very well and it almost makes you not miss Honeycomb.
The View 4G with Sense blows Honeycomb out of the water is terms of visual pizazz. Whether it's the 3D carousel effects of swiping between the home screens, the absolutely gorgeous weather widgets and effects or the little animations throughout the operating system, the View 4G is the most visually-pleasing tablet I've seen yet. It's not quite as drop-dead simple to use as the Apple iPad 2 and it doesn't have the neat swiping gestures that the BlackBerry PlayBook has but it is quite a site to behold.
That visual flair isn't just eye candy though, as HTC has also used Sense to make better use of the screen space. For example, when you bring down the pull-down notification curtain, you'll have your most recent apps available, notifications and quick settings. This orientation smartly changes depending on if you're holding the device in landscape or portrait mode.
When you hit the unlock button, you'll come to the lock screen with customizable icons and a ring at the bottom. You can pull up the ring to unlock the device but you can also drag an icon into it to have the tablet unlock directly into that app. The lock screen bests Honeycomb's lock screen in virtually every way, as it's not just your average lock screen. These features are things you can expect from the next version of Sense on devices like the Sensation 4G and the EVO 3D.
It's not all quite roses though, as there are still some maddening inconsistencies in the UI. For example, the View 4G comes with an app called Snapbooth which is HTC's counter to Apple's Photo Booth and this is a cool way to take some silly photos. Once you've taken a pic, hitting the Menu button will bring up a set of options but tapping the screen on your photo will bring up even more options. Things like this can be found throughout the View 4G's software but it's not quite a deal breaker. I've also found the contacts and calendar apps to be quite a mess, although I never use those ones anyways (I stick with the Gmail app and the Business Calendar app).
Some of you early adopters may not be able to get over the fact that this doesn't have Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of the software that's optimized for a tablet computing experience. HTC promises to update the software once it has Sense ready to rock and roll with Honeycomb but I don't think that will happen for a while, but the introduction of Android 3.2 may change all of that. I actually prefer the aesthetics of Sense over Honeycomb at this point but you are sacrificing having apps that are optimized for tablets. Sure, many phone apps scale well and the number of Honeycomb-optimized apps are laughably low compared to the iPad but some of you may hate being left out.
While it's generally a smooth experience on the software side, those dreaded "This application has stopped working" force close menus have popped up periodically without rhyme or reason. This only happened a few times (and don't let the marketing hype fool you, the iPad 2 crashes too) but it's quite annoying when it does. I was pretty excited to catch up on Game of Thrones with the thing, but the HBO Go app sadly force closes when you try to sign into your account.
The View 4G also comes with a ton of preloaded software including a Notes app that can be integrated with Evernote, a reader app that's powered by Kobo, the HTC Watch app that stems from its investment in Saffron Digital (more on that later), the Amazon MP3 app (easily updatable to include the Cloud Player), custom HTC widgets for social networking, media sharing (Hub), and the weather, as well as standard stuff like a PDF viewer, Calendar, Dock Mode and more. That said, a lot of these apps you may never use and some people may not appreciate the bloatware.
The virtual keyboard on this thing rocks, as it has good auto-correcting features, leans my tendencies and it easy to bang out messages with. Maybe I'm still just hurting from the awful stock keyboard on the LG Revolution but I really appreciate what the View 4G is doing. That said, even though the keyboard was pretty nice I downloaded Thumb Keyboard since it's my all time favorite replacement keyboard.
Digital Scribe Pen
Oh, the Digital Scribe Pen. HTC is pitching this as a way to augment your tablet with natural pen-like inputs and while there are a few neat tricks here and there, I don't see how this adds much value especially when the thing is an $80 accessory. The point of the capacitive stylus is to let you take hand-written notes, annotate web pages or books, give people a painting canvas and to give users that familiar pen-like experience.
There are some neat bells and whistles too, as you can record audio notes while writing things down and your written notes will pop up onscreen during playbook when you wrote them. The notes are easily shared and Evernote is built in to help you keep track of these wherever you go.
I'm just not that into the Digital Scribe Pen, as I don't like how it needs a battery, the responsiveness is not amazing and I'm not sure how often this would really be useful to most people. What I really love about it is that it makes it simple to take screenshots for reviews but that's about it.
Maybe third-party developers will be able to hook into it soon and HTC may come to its senses and bundle it in eventually but I think it's a clear pass for now. Ok, maybe you artist types will like it and there could be some usage for students because you can annotate e-books. It's still very much more about the potential right now than the actual usefulness.
Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera
The View 4G uses the Webkit-based Android browser with a few little twists to better take advantage of the large screen. For example, when you hit the "Windows" or tabs button, a little drop down menu will take up a quarter of the screen. The advantage of this over HTC's phones is that you can see all the windows you have open at once while still being able to view the page you're on. It's a small touch but I dig it.
Other than that, the browser experience is pretty good as there's intelligent zooming, multitouch zooming and the Adobe Flash experience works pretty well. Still no Hulu directly from the browser (licensing issue on Hulu's part) but you can still find plenty of places to find fun videos to watch.
The View 4G does a solid job of playing and recording your media, as it can handle .aac, .amr, .orgg, .m4a, .wav and .wma audio files and .3gp, .3gs, .mp4, .wmv, .avi and .xvid videos. Transferring your (legally obtained, of course) songs, movies and TV shows is as simple as dragging and dropping. The stereo speakers on the back sound great.
This device comes with the HTC Watch service and this lets you rent or purchase movies and TV shows for your tablet or other HTC devices like the Hub. Watching videos on the 7-inch screen is a pretty good experience but you do kind of wish for that extra space you'd get on a larger tablet. As for HTC Watch, it's a solid service but like I said with the Samsung Media Hub, I'm getting sick of all these fragmented media stores. Someone please give me an Amazon Cloud Player for movies and videos and I'll be happy.
The View 4G has 5-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls and self portraits. Both of these cameras are pretty good for what they are and because this is a 7-inch tablet and is more portable, you'll probably wind up using these cameras more than you would on a 10-inch tablet.
The camera UI has all the goodies you'd expect like tap-to-focus, facial-recognition software, auto focus, geo-tagging and more. It's simple to share photos via your favorite social network or e-mail and the front-facing camera is not amazing but it's good enough for self portraits and some video calls. The preloaded Snapbooth app is a fun way to goof around too.
I would have loved a flash on this thing but it's by no means a deal breaker. Even with a solid camera on a tablet, you'll probably still grab your smartphone or point and shoot to snap pics.
Videos also came out pretty well - good enough for sharing quickly on Facebook - but it's nothing to write home about.
This 7-inch tablet has some decent battery life, as you can get a solid 7 to 8 hour out of a single charge with heavy use. It’s not quite as good as an iPad (which has a larger battery) but this has more than enough juice to get you through a full day at a conference or a cross-country flight. With relatively light use everyday the tablet only needed to be charged after about three and a half days. The cool thing about this is that recharging only requires a standard microUSB cable, even though it looks a bit funky.
The Final Take
The View 4G is a beautiful device that has some elegant software, so is this 7-inch tablet worth getting over an iPad, Xoom or larger device? It's an interesting question because it opens up the question about whether there really is a market for a 7-inch tablet.
I like the View 4G a lot, but I am wondering if its whether I like the tablet itself or was just reminded just how much I like the 7 inch form factor. I would easily suggest this tablet over the original Galaxy Tab but other, bigger tablets out there may give you more bang for your buck.
Seven-inch tablets are great for when you're on the go and are the perfect portable device when you want a screen that's bigger than your smartphone. The included WiMax also makes it easy to stay connected on the go. That said, tablets like the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 offer more real estate, snappier processors, and obviously, tablet-optimized applications that you just won't find on the View 4G.
The View 4G is a well-designed, high-quality piece of hardware and the Sense UI is good enough to almost make you forget that Honeycomb exists. It's packed full of features and the pricing (about $399 on a two-year contract) is definitely reasonable, although I'm not in love with having to get a new mobile data contract. If you want your tablet to be more of a companion to your smartphone, this may be the right device for you. If your tablet is mainly going to rest at your home, you may want to opt for one of the larger competitors.