In an increasingly competitive smartphone market, handset manufacturers have to get creative if they want their new phone launches to create a stir. The HTC EVO 3D is one of HTC's most significant launches this year – not only does it have a dual-core processor, but it's also 3D enabled. And you don't need to wear 3D glasses to see the effect either. LG's Optimus 3D is a similarly endowed phone, but there's a lot more hype surrounding the HTC EVO 3D, because it's the successor to the immensely popular HTC EVO 4G (Sprint's flagship Android phone that was launched only in the US). So will the phone live up to the expectations of HTC and Android fans alike?
I've been using the HTC EVO 3D for about two weeks now, and I'm quite impressed. This is a phone that I would be tempted to buy even without the 3D feature. The EVO 3D is a pretty cool looking handset – it's not thin like the Samsung Galaxy S2, but it does have a massive 4.3-inch screen. The usual four Android buttons are at the bottom of the bezel, and are touch sensitive and LED backlit. Connectivity options include a mini USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack, but the mini HDMI cable that was earlier seen on the EVO 4G is missing.
The most interesting feature of the phone though is the camera. Taking up about a fourth of the back panel area, the dual cameras are nestled in a shiny black strip, with a deep red trim. The back panel itself is rubberised and striped, so it provides a good grip. The camera on the EVO 3D is only a 5-megger, and if you want to take a 2D shot, only one of the cameras are utilised. 3D images can be captured only up to 2-megapixel. For a 3D shot, two images are taken simultaneously and are then layered on top of one another to create a 3D effect. The camera shutter button itself is quite clever – there's a slider on top which let's you switch between 2D and 3D modes, and the phone has a large round physical shutter button as well. There is also a front facing 1.3-meg camera for video calls.
The EVO 3D runs on Android v2.3 Gingerbread, and is laced with HTC's latest UI, Sense 3.0. Although Gingerbread provides a great user experience on its own, Sense really adds a level of finesse to the phone and also makes it much more intuitive. The phone has 7 customisable homescreens, and HTC has a neat little selection of widgets that are quite handy to use. Most of these widgets, including Email, Messages, Weather and People have a couple of layout options to choose from, and it's great for anyone who likes a free reign on customisation.
There are also a bunch of features you can access from the lock screen. You can choose from 6 different lock screens, each of which displays a different central widget like Stocks, Clock, Friend Stream, etc. There are also four icons at the bottom, and you can select any one of these by simply ‘dragging' them into HTC's ‘lock ring'. The lock ring also lets you answer or dismiss a call, or snooze or turn off an alarm with a similar dragging movement.
HTC's keyboard was a delight to use in the EVO 3D, and although it wasn't so accurate in portrait mode, the word prediction was the best I've seen on any smartphone so far, so I made very few errors.
The EVO 3D's screen has a 540x960 resolution, and was great for any sort of media use. I watched a few episodes of ‘Community' on the phone, and video playback was crisp and smooth. I did face a little bit of stagger between frames, but that was only the first time I watched a video after loading it on the phone. Sound quality is average on speakers, but when I hooked up my earphones, I was surprised by the richness and depth which I got – better than most Mp3 players.
A more powerful processor made for a considerably faster browsing experience. You can do a couple of cool things with the browser, like when you zoom in to a web page, the screen automatically adjusts to give you the best viewing mode. This works really well. You can also tap and long press a word in the text which will bring up the ‘Quick Lookup' option, and you can even highlight an entire sentence or a phrase.
HTC has its own Email app, which I preferred to the Android Gmail that I usually use. It has a more organised layout, displays your contacts' profile pictures and like the browser, resizes the text to fit the screen. Except here you don't even have to double tap.
The 2D camera actually gave me some decent results, and there are a lot of effects to choose from like distortion, vignette, vintage, etc. You can also adjust White Balance, ISO, Exposure, contrast and saturation. Video recording is possible in HD 720p in both 2D and 3D.
So the ‘wow' factor of the phone is obviously its 3D capability. I've already mentioned how the cameras work, but what about the results? The phone comes preloaded with a bunch of 3D images and videos, and they're quite impressive. However, because you're viewing content without glasses, you have to look at the screen at a particular angle to see the effect. Moving around will cause distortion. It was fine when watching videos, because you don't really need to move the phone at all. The kickstand that the Evo 4G had is missed in the EVO 3D. More than a regular effect, the 3D files look like they're popping out at you, so there's more depth of field. I also got a bit of a headache when I viewed too much 3D, and a few others who saw the phone had the same opinion.
The 3D photos which I took were nice and sharp in good lighting, but there was quite a bit of grain when I took some low-light shots. Also, the flash tends to whitewash photos sometimes, so you don't get the best 3D effect there either.
One of the things I liked best about the EVO 3D was how fast it was. Apps loaded lightning fast, touch response was mostly spot on and the phone didn't slow down when I had a few apps open. You can really see the dual-core 1.2 GHz processor in action when you're using the phone to its max. However, I did notice a bit of slowdown toward the end of my testing period. The otherwise fluid and responsive touchscreen came up with occasional freezes, mostly when I tried to quickly end a call. When running intensive games like Spiderman 3D, the phone also tended to heat up a bit, but only for a minute or two.
Battery life gave me a day of use – no more. The camera is a big drainer, especially in 3D mode. With a couple of hours of talktime, email and TweetDeck usage and WhatsApp messaging, my battery indicator flashed orange by the end of the day.
Call quality was average, and I felt that the speaker could have been a bit louder. Also, callers on the other end complained that my voice sounded a bit feeble.
The HTC EVO 3D is like the Sensation with an added punch. It looks great, is fast and the 3D effect adds the ‘oomph' factor. While I would give the phone a thumbs up on its performance alone, the no-glasses 3D feature is great to flaunt and will turn a lot of heads too.
Love: 3D effect, no lags in performance
Hate: Battery life is on the lower end, pricey