Review: HTC Evo 3D

Our score: 3/5
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Published: August 24, 2011 11:00 PM
By Romain Thuret

NB: For the time being, there aren't any 3D-compatible games for the Evo 3D.  HTC has, however, promised a free update for all customers before the end of this month, adding the following games:

  • Spiderman
  • The Sims 3
  • Need for Speed

The handsets that go on sale starting from that point will have all three games pre-installed.

Not to be undone by the LG Optimus 3D, HTC has released its own smartphone with a glasses-free 3D display.  Now that it's rapidly expanded its catalogue to cover just about every segment of the smartphone market, the firm can get back to basics with a top-of-the-range handset full of the latest technological innovations.

The Evo 3D is definitely a heavyweight addition to HTC's existing collection of smartphones.  Adding a three dimensional camera and display aren't the only the risky bets taken by the manufacturer: the Evo 3D is actually a new exterior for the HTC Sensation, which forms the base of the handset.
 

HTC Evo 3D


The only difference between the Evo 3D is the polarised display and the 3D camera.  Otherwise, the tech all is the same, including a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, 1 GB of RAM, 1 GB of internal storage (no better than usual—although there's always the SD card slot) and a 4.3'' touchscreen display with a 540 x 960 pixel resolution.  The camera's maximum resolution falls from 8 Megapixels to 5 Megapixels, but it's doubled up so it can take 3D photos.  Video is recorded using 2 x 720p if you use all three dimensions or 1080p at 30 fps if you just use two.

The 3D effect on the display relies on the same polarisation technology made famous by the Nintendo 3DS and more recently by the LG Optimus 3D, the HTC Evo 3D's clearest rival.

A huge evo-lution

As well as borrowing most of the Sensation's components, the Evo 3D also looks much the same as its older brother, except with a little extra bulk.  Weighing in at a hefty 170 g, it's a solid brick of a phone that will come in handy in a fight.  The side of the case is in soft rubber, but is tough and with a good grip.  This superphone is no lightweight.

HTC Evo 3D review

If the Samsung Galaxy S II and its ultra-slim, ultra-light form factor tempt you, then this isn't the mobile for you.  This is a phone that makes a very physical demonstration of force.  The backlit touch-sensitive buttons sit inside shiny circles, and the camera and 2D/3D toggle switch both have an impeccable finish.  HTC hasn't gone in for half-measures with the double 5 Megapixel camera, which sits under a very fine layer of plexiglas, and is backed up by a double LED flash and stands out thinks to a copper-coloured metallic trim (it's red/orange in the US version).

HTC Evo 3D review test

HTC has sensibly put the SIM card above the microSD card slot, and kept both of them away from the battery, making it easy to access both of them at the same time.

The micro USB port uses MHL technology, so if you have the right cable, it can stand in as a HDMI output.

Screen is on an even keel, even in 3D

First of all, all the hype that HTC has put out surrounding the choice of a qHD screen left us expecting excellent performance.  We were, however immediately disappointed by the contrast ratio, which on the Evo 3D was only 500:1.  That hardly makes it one of the best smartphones out there, but it is, however, one of the only downsides to the screen, apart the glossy finish which can prove annoying.

The maximum brightness of over 410 cd/m² gives enough power to see what's on screen even in bright sunlight.  The colour reproduction could hardly be more accurate: the average deltaE is 5.0, one of the best results currently available on a smartphone (the closer to zero, the more faithful a representation of reality is offered by the screen).

A ghosting time of 18 ms once again represents one of the best results we've ever seen on a smartphone.

All told, the Evo 3D offers attractive, smooth visuals, despite the rather average contrast.

That's in two dimensions, of course, so what about the 3D?  We weren't particularly excited about the arrival of 3D smartphones.  After all, the Nintendo 3DS is fun at first but quickly loses interest and doesn't have the best screen in the world.  But HTC has managed to win us over by creating a genuinely workable polarised 3D display.  It takes a little getting used to—you need to be looking straight at it and have the phone around 25-40 cm from your face for the best effects—but once you've got the hang of it, using this unusual screen becomes second nature.  Rather than creating the impression that objects are leaping out of the screen, it relies instead on the perceived depth of field.

 

HTC Evo 3D - glasses free 3d screen - review


The Evo 3D's other big advantage over the Optimus 3D and the 3DS is how flexible you can be with where you put it.  The effects are better when you're looking straight at it, of course, but the 3D effect remains visible if you move the phone gently to the left or right.  Even more incredibly, it still works if you tip the phone right back, especially if you're resting it on the right hand side.
 

Eyestrain, something your humble scribe is particularly sensitive to in 3D, is only a very occasional problem, but we'll know more about how bad it gets when there are more 3D games available.

Before taking a photo, you need to set the toggle switch next to the camera button to 3D, but the initial results look blurry as they're not shown in 3D; you need to switch to playback mode to admire your photos in three dimensions.

HTC Evo 3D test


The same thing happens when shooting video, which looks like there's a greasy filter over the lens, with the 3D effect only becoming visible when you play your clip back.  One piece of advice is to try to keep your hands as steady as possible when shooting in 3D as even a few light shakes can leave viewers with a nasty headache when watching in 3D.  It works best in wide, open spaces without too much movement.  Our favourite videos included landscapes, interiors and quiet street scenes.

3D photos of just about anything work, except when you're photographing dark objects against a very light background.  In that case, the 3D effect remains very limited. 

Overall, we're more than happy to claim that the quality of the glasses-free 3D display on the Evo 3D is better than that offered by both the LG Optimus 3D and the Nintendo 3DS.

 

Sense 3.0 ... in 2D

HTC really changed things with the arrival of Sense 3.0, its interface which gives Android a whole new look and which is now available on both the HTC Sensation and the firm's Flyer tablet as well as the Evo 3D.

Sense 3.0 is a virtual fireworks display in the palm of your hand, with ever more exciting animated widgets, a 3D carousel to spin from one homescreen to another, the HTC Watch app for mobile VOD, extreme customisation and hundreds of extra apps and widgets to download.

HTC Evo 3D - review homescreenHTC Evo 3D - test review screen

With all the power of the Evo 3D behind it, the interface runs lightning fast and is a treat to use.  The Sense 3.0 keyboard is easy to get the hang of—and, as well as being fast, also includes room for a custom dictionary which can learn your own words and abbreviations.
 

HTC Evo 3D - onscreen keyboard


It's just a shame that HTC hasn't reworked Sense 3.0 for the 3D screen: a 3D version, with the carousel really spinning and icons with genuine depth would have been amazing.

For the time being, though, the 3D display is only really used for your own 3D photos and videos and the YouTube 3D app, though it must be said it does both of these extremely well.
 

HTC Evo 3D - 3d smartphone testHTC Evo 3D - touchscreen


Like the HTC Sensation before it, the Evo 3D is very much made for the web, loading pages quickly, even if they are very Flash-heavy.  The qHD's physical size and resolution make reading pages in both landscape and portrait mode a breeze.
 

HTC Evo 3D - web browser - review


Android 2.3 Gingerbread can handle some audio and video formats natively, but the compatibility is rather limited.  If you want access to a wider range of formats and to avoid nasty surprises with your more exotic content, we suggest you download a third-party app like moboPlayer or RockPlayer.
 

HTC Evo 3D


For a smartphone, the Evo 3D produces good quality audio that's as pleasant to listen to on the speakers as it is via the phone's headphone jack.  Both offer plenty of power as well as a clear sound, and the dynamic range hasn't been neglected either. 

Despite having a smaller sensor than the HTC Sensation, the Evo 3D's camera puts in a very reasonable performance.  Dark areas might look a little underexposed—more so than on the now 'ageing' HTC Desire—but there's plenty of detail in lighter areas.  That's helped by a post-processing algorithm that highlights contours without being too heavy-handed.
 

HTC Evo 3D camera
HTC Evo 3D camera test shot

Compare the HTC Evo 3D to other phones in our Product Face-Off


In general, photos have a red tinge, and the double LED flash has been toned down a little, helping to avoid overexposure.

Longer and longer

HTC has already made a step in the right direction by featuring a 1730 mAh battery in the Evo 3D.  That's very sensible given how quickly the phone's demanding features—especially 3D—would devour the 1520 mAh available on the Sensation.

If you're not taking 3D photos or shooting 3D video, then with so much power behind it the Evo 3D can easily last a whole day, with battery life not quite reaching the standards set by the iPhone 4 or the Motorola Atrix.  Once you do start to use 3D, though, things change rapidly, and both creating and enjoying 3D content make swift work of the battery.  You can expect it to be gone in under three hours if you use these features intensively.  That might even seem impressive compare to even more demanding 3D games, which are set to arrive before the end of August.

So is the Evo 3D just a shiny new toy for diehard smartphone fans?  Well, the 3D display could clearly have gone further than just photos and videos, especially with a new 3D interface—but that's doing a disservice to the excellent work that HTC has put it on the display itself.  If you leave 3D to one side, though, the Evo is merely an alternative version of the Sensation, backed up with better battery life and a 5 Megapixel camera that more or less manages to hold its own compared to the 8 Megapixels offered by its brother.

In short, it all comes down to your personal opinion of whether or not 3D is a must-have feature for a smartphone ...
3/5 HTC Evo 3D DigitalVersus 2011-08-25 00:00:00

Pros

  • Overall display quality is very satisfactory with great brightness
  • Glasses-free 3D display works from several angles
  • Very good audio
  • Great at picking up signal
  • Sense 3.0 and responsive user interface

Cons

  • 3D could be taken further: why no 3D Sense?
  • Not many multimedia options and HTC Watch is expensive
  • Battery doesn't last long if you use a lot of 3D
  • Display has poor contrast ratio

Conclusion

The HTC Evo 3D lives up to its name by bringing 3D to a smartphone—and doing it well. That shouldn't imply that the rest of the handset hasn't been carefully designed or that the attractive HTC Sense interface didn't impress us either. In some ways, it's an improvement on the HTC Sensation, but there's a lot more scope to make more innovative uses of the 3D display.

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