There is clearly no shortage of excellent smart phones to choose from on any carrier these days making the choice for consumers not so easy as it may have once been. What used to be a decision between the current iPhone and a carrier’s high end Android device now is much more complicated and the HTC EVO 4G LTE, Sprint’s variant of the HTC One X line, both demands and warrants attention. In this review I will explain why if you are on Sprint and are looking for a high end Android device, you may want to think before pulling the trigger on a Samsung Galaxy S III.
Look And Feel
The first thing you will notice about the HTC EVO 4G LTE is the homage it pays to the original EVO 4G which debuted over 2 years ago. That phone was a game changer and has proved to be Sprint’s most successful launch of a phone to date and with good reason. It’s kin if you will, brings back the striking black and red design that the EVO line was known for. Unfortunately, while the color scheme is sharp, the choice of materials used for the phone is slightly confusing given what has been done with other phones in HTC’s One X family. The surrounding frame of the screen as well as a little more than half the back is made up of a poly carbonate material with an aluminum frame, yet the other part of the back of the phone is a plastic material that adds nothing to the phone’s sophistication. On the upside, we are treated to a 4.7 inch Super IPS LCD2 capacitive touchscreen made of Corning Gorilla Glass at 720 x 1280 pixels on top of a super light 134 gram body only 8.9mm thick. The screen is easily the most beautiful one I have ever seen on any phone and is completely viewable with ease in direct sunlight.
Pixels are indiscernible colors are vivid but not over saturated. Despite the largeness of the screen, a device this thin easily fits into any pocket whether jean, blazer, or shirt and never felt uncomfortable. To top things off, the kick stand made popular by the original EVO 4G makes it’s triumphant return, this time in fire engine red and slightly thinner, but no less useful. This version of the EVO is unique, but definitely an eye catcher and if the black and red version is not your thing, Sprint has a white version available as well.
Under the hood, is a Dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon Processor backed by 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage with support for a microSD card up to 32 GB. The EVO is sporting an 8 MP rear camera with auto focus and a LED flash which touts features like simultaneous HD video and image recording at 1080p at 30fps, stereo sound recording, video stabilization, and face and smile detection. On the front is a standard 1.3 MP camera. The increasingly popular NFC support is built in for services like Google Wallet and MHL is supported for connecting to a TV or supported monitor and all of this is backed by a non-removable Li-Ion 2000 mAh battery. The device is running Android 4.0.3 aka Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC’s custom Sense 4.0 UI implemented throughout with features like Beats Audio which we will discuss more later. Add in support for Sprint’s currently very small LTE network, and this phone is worthy of being a flagship device and the EVO moniker.
To really understand the capabilities of this device, I used it exclusively for about two weeks with services like Spotify, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ constantly streaming and synching. In addition to this, Sense 4.0 much like previous iterations affords the user 7 home screens which I had filled with active widgets keeping me updated constantly. Ice Cream Sandwich is already a pleasure to use and the addition of Sense at this point seems superfluous and at times counter intuitive. Sense was a huge benefit in the early days of Android going back to devices like the HTC Hero. At that point, Android lacked many functions like pinch to zoom, a user friendly internet browser, additional home screens, and a refined user interface. Sense was the best UI covering for many of the weaknesses expected of a new OS.
However, after Android 4.0, the best way to experience Android is just pure Android, a fact driven home by the recently released Nexus 7 tablet and the line of Nexus devices Google has released. One of the best additions of Ice Cream Sandwich was the new way to multitask simply by pressing the menu button and viewing all open apps on your current screen which you can then simply slide away to close or tap to enter. Sense however, takes users to another screen entirely with a card type view of all available apps which u can only view one at a time. You then must swipe them up to eliminate them. What is frustrating is that the app that you were in then must reload as it were, for example, if you were in the browser and wanted to multitask and then return to the browser, your page must refresh. This adds nothing to the experience of Android and essentially is a step backwards. It’s understandable that manufactures want to set themselves apart but it would be most appreciative to simply offer a way to disable the UI’s they include if one simply wants to run pure Android.
However, it must be noted that this is not always the case. HTC has provided us with amazing camera software that should be in every Android device with a shooter. The UI makes it very easy to take great photos, auto focus, and apply a bevy of filters and affects, which should make Instagram users or anyone who likes to play artsy photographer very happy. The shutter speed is instant providing virtually no delay between shots and with the benefit of a dedicated camera button on the side, eliminating blur in a photo becomes even easier. Rapid fire shooting allows you to capture several shots just buy holding the button which is great for movement. My personal favorite feature though, is the ability to takes stills while recording either during recording or during playback. It is just a great feeling knowing that you can record an event and virtually every frame can eventually make a great picture instead of having to choose to record or snap photos. This is perhaps the best instance of where Sense shines through.
The HTC EVO 4G LTE is a fantastic device and we would be remiss not to recommend this phone if you are on Sprint. Despite the lack of LTE in our area, if you have Sprint most likely you already use to their terrible 3G speeds and have made due until LTE is available. Plus the battery on this thing gets through a day easily with heavy use. However even with all this, as you can see in our Galaxy S III review, this phone faces stiff competition and with a new iPhone due out very soon and a new Nexus handset sure to follow you have to ask yourself if you should wait to see what is just over the horizon before locking into a new 2 year contract. If however, you are planning to pay full price for this baby, it is easily worth every penny.