HTC EVO 3D Review

04 November 2011

The HTC EVO 3D is a top-end Android Gingerbread device currently being offered by HTC that employs a slightly difference focus than that of a traditional smartphone. Instead of aiming solely at providing a better, yet similar experience for its users, the HTC EVO 3D has another trick up its sleeve. This device not only allows its users to view certain images and movies in glasses-free 3D, but can also take 3D photos and record 3D movies.

Physical Design of the HTC EVO 3D

The HTC EVO 3D has a solid-feeling construction that we don’t usually encounter with modern smartphones. Its reassuring weight, combined with rubberised back create a sensation of real durability. Of course the EVO 3D isn’t going to hold up to the same kind of punishment as “extreme” smartphones such as the Motorola DEFY, but it still gives the impression that it could take an extra knock or two than something like the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S II. That being said we didn't exactly take the EVO 3D out back to test our theory out, we just got the idea that this was a solid device.

The rubberised back also helps with grip. We never once found ourselves on the verge of dropping it, nor did it slide off of any slightly inclined surfaces that we may have (somewhat carelessly) placed it on.

The raised camera lenses on the back did create a minor issue when it came to using the phone on a flat surface. Placing the phone on a table to type or play a game was a bit frustrating, due to the rocking motion that was created by the protruding camera.

The right-side volume rocker is fantastically designed. There were no accidental presses, but it was still easy to access whenever you wanted it. The same could be said for the top power button, but we don’t find we often have many issues in that department.

Still on the right side but below the volume rocker are the camera controls. A switch that toggles between 2D and 3D camera modes is available, as is an absolutely wonderful dedicated camera button. This button is extremely easy to press which is a valuable commodity when taking accurate photos. There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to accidental activation of the camera button either, as it doesn’t register unless you are actually within the camera app. We’re big fans of camera buttons here and would love to see them implemented more widely.

Below the display are, of course, the four generic Android buttons; Home, Menu, Back and Search. These buttons are capacitive, something you can make your own mind up on when it comes to functionality. We tend to prefer the approach taken by the Galaxy S II with its single hardware button flanked by two capacitive buttons. But we’ve always found capacitive/mechanical button preferences to be a particularly subjective matter.

Display and UI

The 4.3 inch 540 x 960 display of the HTC EVO 3D offers impressive crispness and is responsive to commands. It is an LCD screen, so it won’t offer the same kind of vibrant colours or clear blacks that you might find on an AMOLED style display, but it’s still definitely of high quality.

What we were most surprised about is the clarity of the glasses-free 3D functionality. If you’ve never seen this kind of technology before then we should warn you that it isn’t just a normal view with 3D depth. There are a few dim vertical lines that will always show up, but that’s just a side effect of how the 3D image is created.

We were happy to note that only a few people we got to try it out found it difficult to focus on the 3D images. Younger people were definitely the best at viewing 3D, but even most of our older test subjects said that they could see it after only a few seconds of staring.

The UI was exactly what we expected. Sense 3.0 is a great user interface that is both fast and aesthetically pleasing. The seven home screens were easily accessible by both swiping and from helicopter view. HTC’s standard widgets are also visually appealing, but we would have liked the ability to resize most of them in order to cram a few on to the same screen to save on the number of times we had to travel between different views. This functionality is apparently coming to all Android devices with the Ice Cream Sandwich update, but there's no telling just when ICS will hit the EVO 3D.

We have to give another shout out to the lock screen HTC is working with these days. Being able to view how many emails, messages and calls you missed at a glance is fantastic. What's even better is being able to go straight to any of those areas within the phone is even better. Add to that jumping straight in to the camera app without having to go through any menus and you've got a pretty great lock screen right there. We honestly cannot convey enough how much we hope other manufacturers start picking up on this (and indeed some already have). It's small things like this that make a UI experience run just that little bit more smoothly.

Hardware and Speed of the HTC EVO 3D

The EVO 3D sports a similar dual-core 1.2GHz processor to HTC’s current flagship: the HTC Sensation. However, interestingly enough the EVO 3D actually outdoes the Sensation in terms of RAM, coming in at a full 1GB where the Sensation sports just 768MB. This lead to a minor yet noticeable improvement in speed when loading or closing apps.

Battery life is pretty much what we expected from a high-range HTC smartphone. That is to say, it was poor. The same issue that plagued the HTC Desire HD, the HTC Sensation and even the HTC Desire Z is still present within the HTC EVO 3D. There simply isn’t enough battery life to last a full day at medium-to-heavy use. Overall battery performance did seem mildly improved over the HTC Sensation, but anyone who uses a lot of WiFi or 3G in their day to day dealings will be reaching for an outlet before the day’s end.

3D image and video capture was also an exceptional battery drain. Anyone planning to go snap happy with the 3D function should definitely charge their phone before heading out for the night, as we managed to use up an entire charge of the battery in just 1 night on the town (shots taken both with and without flash). Internal storage is still a disappointing 1GB, with a supplied 16GB MicroSD card. It didn’t become a huge issue in the short time we had with it, but media junkies will definitely want to take note of this point. If you think you’ll need to expand your memory in the future it’s best to do it straight away, as otherwise you’ll need to back everything on your 16GB card up before you switch to a 32GB, then load it all back on again. But if 16GB sounds like more than enough then there shouldn’t be any issues for you.

Camera and 3D Functionality

We’ll just say it now, 3D image capture worked wonderfully. At every event that we took the HTC EVO 3D to we were suddenly the life of the party. Setting up cool shots and seeing which ones came out with the best 3D images was actually a tonne of fun and even the 3D haters in the crowd got in to it. It even took decent photos in low light and wasn’t too affected when using the flash. Even 3D video came out pretty well, which we were pleasantly surprised about.

That being said there are a number of problems we should point out with 3D capability.

  • The aforementioned battery issues
  • 3D tended to bug out when there were images too close to the camera. If an image was close to the lenses and closer to one side than the other then the camera was incapable of rendering it as 3D and it just came out blurry.
  • Outside shots didn’t work as well as inside ones, but were still passable.
  • Shots from a distance tended to come out with less 3D impact than closer shots. This is just a constraint of using 2 lenses to achieve a 3D image, but it’s still a bummer.

The one major point that concerned us is that the whole 3D photo thing just felt super gimmicky. 3D photos will never be able to be viewed other than on your EVO 3D’s screen and we got the impression that we’d get over the fun eventually. That being said we were still playing with the 3D camera right up until the end, and you’ll always be a hit at parties with people who haven’t seen it before.

The 2D camera functionality is pretty standard for a 5MP camera. We did find that the EVO 3D had a bit of trouble capturing movement in its 2D mode, but other than that it was all rather straight forward. As usual shots in well lit areas came out swell and shots in worse lit areas tended to suffer. The flash was quite bright for night shots, but not so bright as to put an eerie bluish ting on every photo. We obviously would have preferred to see an 8MP camera here, but it’s understandable that with all this new 3D functionality that something had to give.

Keyboard and Browsing on the EVO 3D

The keyboard on the EVO 3D is great. We’ve always been a big fan of HTC’s on-screen  keypads and this was no different. It was extremely quick, keeping up with us no matter how insanely fast we typed. It was also very easy to hit all the buttons and HTC’s predictive text, while not the choice of many, is one of the better predictive user interfaces we’ve encountered. As a result texting, emailing and browsing were all extremely easy. We had no issues here.

Browsing speed was good and we found that even pages that were heavy on Flash tended to load quite quickly. Creating new windows was quick an easy, as was switching between them. We did find the 4 window limit to be a bit of a constraint, however.

The 4.3 inch screen really lent itself to the browsing experience, increasing not only the amount of a page that could be viewed at once, but also allowed for a closer zoomed-in view when reading text without sacrificing too much screen real-estate. It's true that the bigger you go with screens that the easier everything becomes and it's up to the user to really decide how big is "too big". But we're still fans of a good 4.3 incher.

The WhistleOut Opinion

All up we were big fans of the HTC EVO 3D. 3D functionality worked well and was very fun. We can’t speak for the longevity of 3D’s appeal as a day-to-day function, but it’s a great conversation starter at social events. Just beware of its battery hungry tendencies.

Even without the 3D stuff it’s a fast, smooth and solid device with a great feel and fantastic functionality. In just about every area but 2D photo capture it either equalled or outstripped the flagship HTC Sensation. We would actually suggest the EVO 3D over the HTC Sensation just based on the few speed improvements we noticed, but it’s really down to personal choice when choosing between the two devices. Would you prefer to have 3D functionality and a slightly faster UI while sacrificing 2D photo quality, or are you willing to take the minor speed hit for an 8MP camera and superior stylish design? Either way you’ll still be getting a great device, but we don’t envy anyone who has to make that choice.



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