Review: HTC EVO 3D

There’s no question the EVO 3D is a lightning-fast workhorse.

The latest entry into HTC’s flagship line of Android phones has a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon chip, and the rest of the specs are equally as impressive on paper as they are in practice. It makes crystal-clear phone calls, too.

The phone is only available on Sprint, the last of the major carriers to offer an all-you-can eat data plan. And you’ll want unlimited data, as this is a zippy 4G phone that will handle any media thrown at it with ease.

But more about that later. The real question is: What’s this 3-D thing all about?

For starters, it’s a novelty with limited utility. It’s easy to make 3-D videos or stills — just point and shoot.

But the primary venue for viewing any 3-D shots or movies is going to be the EVO’s 4.3-inch screen. The screen is the sort that lets you see 3-D images without glasses, but the camera’s applications are limited. If you think you’re going to send your folks 3-D footage of Little Johnny’s first steps, think again. Unless your parents have an Evo 3D or a 3-D television, the video they’ll see will be of two Johnnies side-by-side, both taking those historic first steps. The 3-D stuff won’t be visible to them, and it has nothing to do with their cataracts.

The EVO 3D also shoots standard 2-D images and video. You flick a physical switch to go from 3-D to 2-D, and I’d recommend you leave it there unless you want to show off at parties.

The glasses-free 3-D screen is cool. It basically has veins, or grooves, on top of it (a thin layer called “the parallax barrier”) and when aligned properly before your eyes, each eye sees the video or photo image through different slits. Positioning is an issue. In my tests, it wasn’t always easy to find the sweet spot for 3-D viewing.

A feature I found amusing was the ability to use the EVO 3D to view the world in 3-D. To do this: Hold the phone up in landscape mode — and just watch the screen while in still picture mode. Voila! The world is in 3-D. Just remember to feed the kids and dog before you step into the Third Dimension. (Caution: Objects appear closer than they are.)

That said, whether the 3-D features are just a novelty or a new way to view reality, the Evo 3D isn’t all about the 3-D.

“At the end of the day, we don’t look at it as a 3-D phone,” HTC spokesman Keith Nowak said in a telephone interview. “It’s a top-notch super phone that happens to support 3-D.”

He’s right, it fits the “super” category. It’s a big, big phone weighing 6 ounces. It’s 5 inches long, about 2.5 inches wide and nearly a half-inch thick in some places. The volume rocker is on top left side, and the power button’s on top.

And unlike the EVO 4G, the EVO 3D has a dedicated camera shutter button. The shutter button is a major upgrade from both the other EVOs, which don’t sport one, but it feels cheap to the touch. It’s sharp enough to scratch your hand.

(See Android Police for spec-by-spec comparison of the EVO 4G, EVO Shift and EVO 3D.)

Four capacitive buttons line the device’s bottom, the common Android stack of Search, Back, Settings and Home. The phone fits into my front jeans pocket just fine, but skinny jeans aren’t going to cut it, for neither their fashion sense nor for their ability to house the EVO 3D.

Slide off the plastic back, and you’ll see the 8GB microSD card and the 1730 mAh battery, which you’ll need to constantly recharge. In my tests of this battery, which is slightly larger than the EVO 4G battery, I got about six hours of straight use. That was with high-speed 4G WiMax turned on, as well as with several videos being played throughout the day. A few phone calls were made, too, as were countless texts using Google Voice, which is where my mobile number has been ported.

When I ran Quadrant Standard, the benchmark app for measuring a device’s CPU power, 3-D graphics processing and input-output speed, the phone scored an excellent 2,005. Compare that to 1,000-1,500 on my rooted EVO 4G, which was set on the “performance” governor using the CyanogenMod ROM.

To get videos onto TVs or other devices, you can use a USB cable or an MHL cable (which is not included). Unlike the original HTC EVO 4G, there’s no HDMI output. Also gone is the kickstand, meaning you’ll have to get creative when propping up the device for viewing.

The phone comes with the Gingerbread 2.3 Android operating system and HTC’s own Sense 3.0 skin layered on top. Sense has historically been a love-it or hate-it affair, but Sense 3.0 attempts to bridge that gap.

While stock Gingerbread is minimalist and austere, the new Sense UI is maximalist. Press the power button and an image of the weather jumps out at you in 3-D. The weather lately has been a big yellow sun with some clouds, but the other day, the Bay Area weather was rain. When I awoke the phone, giant clouds and rain started pelting the screen, with windshield wipers trying to keep up. That’s cool.

It’s one of the many Sense tricks the third-party ROM or app developers are trying to mimic and incorporate into their Gingerbread ROMs. Sense’s transparent e-mail widget is another example of that.

There’s one annoying aspect about unlocking the home screen, and it’s annoyance level depends on how many beers you’ve consumed, or what you ate for lunch. Upon sliding the unlock “virtual slider” on the main home screen, the device’s seven home screens (your widgets, Android Market apps, and so on) briefly spin like a tornado. The feature could be the impetus for a new drinking game, and it’s not for the meager.

One feature Sense seems to have mastered, however, is the notification bar. Unlike in the Apple’s iOS, Android comes with a tiny status dashboard that slides out when you swipe down from the top of the screen. (The next iteration of the iPhone operating system is expected to support this style of menu.)

After pulling the slider down, you’ll see notifications of e-mail, texts, downloads and so forth. The Sense notification bar also includes a “quick settings” tab, where a user can call up a menu to enable Wi-Fi, 4G or Bluetooth. Many ROMS for rooted devices have similar features, but don’t seem as refined.

But for now, the EVO 3D isn’t completely hackable. Sprint has promised it will fully unlock the phone’s bootloader, which allows root access and the ability to add third-party apps and ROMS like CyanogenMod, Fresh, Baked Snack, myn, MIUIand among others, Salvage-Mod.

“It is certainly something we have committed to,” HTC’s Nowak said. “I just can’t give you a specific time frame right now.”

The commenters and the forums on the XDA developer’s site and the Android Police site are salivating for root access so everything on the phone can be modified, from altering the reboot screen animation to over clocking the CPU.

The jailbreak crowd, Nowak said, is a “very, very small part of the market.”

Hackability, however, is an important feature if you’re in that market. And hackers are already HTC fans — the EVO 4G is high on the list of standard devices for the Android root community. My guess is that this phone will be at the top as soon as that bootloader opens up.

Photos by Jon Snyder/get-gadget

See Also:

  • EVO Phone With a Keyboard? Just Not Our Type
  • Sprint’s HTC Evo Shift Hits the Shelves on January 9th
  • Hands-On With the HTC EVO Shift
  • Overclocked HTC Evo Runs Almost 30 Percent Faster
  • Evo View | Gadget Lab
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