The Evo 3D is HTC's first glasses-free 3D smart phone, packing a powerful dual-core processor and Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It's available for free on a £35-per-month contract, while an unlocked, SIM-free version costs around £500.
Should I buy the HTC Evo 3D?
If you're looking for a phone with that little extra something to make it stand out from the increasingly generic smart-phone crowd, the Evo 3D could well be what you're after. Its 4.3-inch, 3D-capable screen doesn't require you to wear an awkward pair of glasses to appreciate the effect, and, if you dig the idea of snapping images, shooting movies and playing games in three dimensions, the Evo 3D will have you very excited indeed.
But the jury's still out on whether or not glasses-free 3D is going to take off. It's certainly a bonus, but it comes with drawbacks as well. Firstly, incorporating the auto-stereoscopic display and twin-camera set-up required to take 3D images has forced HTC to boost the phone's thickness to 12.1mm -- a far cry away from the ludicrously thin, 8.5mm frame of the Samsung Galaxy S2.
Secondly, the battery life of the device nosedives whenever the 3D effect is enabled. If you spend an hour or so playing a 3D game, you'll notice a catastrophic dip in juice. During our review, we witnessed a fully charged battery go from 100 per cent to 50 per cent after about two hours of 3D-related activities. Even when the phone isn't being used, its ravenous appetite for power is astonishing.
But, despite its troubles, there's no denying that the Evo 3D is a formidable smart phone. It boasts a 1.2GHz, dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and comes pre-loaded with the most up-to-date phone edition of Android Gingerbread, version 2.3.4.
If you're in the market for a new Android phone, the Evo 3D is definitely worth a look. Although the 3D technology has its limitations, it's a selling point that many other high-end devices lack. But, unless you're absolutely barmy about 3D, we wouldn't recommend ditching your existing dual-core device purely to get your hands on the Evo 3D's three-dimensional display.
HTC Evo 3D vs LG Optimus 3D
The Evo 3D is basically an HTC Sensation with a few upgrades -- a 3D screen and more RAM -- and a few considerable downgrades -- lower-resolution cameras, a heavier and bulkier frame, and poor battery life. But its biggest rival is definitely the LG Optimus 3D, which is currently the only other smart phone in the UK that offers the same glasses-free 3D technology.
We found that LG's phone offered the better 3D experience, and it also allows you to switch off the 3D effect to conserve battery life -- something that the Evo 3D doesn't allow. However, the Optimus 3D is currently stuck on Android 2.2, whereas HTC's handset runs the very latest edition of Android.
The Evo 3D runs HTC's Sense 3.0 user interface, which sits on top of Google's Android 2.3 operating system.
HTC's Sense UI remains one of the most polished and intuitive Android skins on the market, although it has to be said that many of its most innovative features are now either available in the core Android software or have been imitated by other companies. For example, the once breathtaking ability to mute your device's ringer simply by turning it over is no longer exclusive to Sense-powered Android handsets.
The Evo 3D essentially runs the same software as its non-3D counterpart, the HTC Sensation, offering the same improved home-screen animations, access to quick settings in the pull-down notification bar and a powerful task manager.
The Evo 3D also benefits from Sense 3.0's flashy new lock screen. To unlock the phone, you drag a ring from the bottom of the screen into the middle. The biggest benefit is the ability to instantly access applications using four shortcuts. You can do this by dragging the shortcut icon down towards the ring.
HTC's Sense UI offers a range of exclusive applications and widgets. New to Sense 3.0 is the HTC Watch app, which allows you to purchase, download and view movies and television shows on your phone. It should be noted, though, that, at present, there are no films which take advantage of the phone's 3D screen. There's also HTC Locations, which attempts to go toe-to-toe with Google's Maps app.
The first thing you'll notice when picking up the Evo 3D is the sheer weight of the device. At 170g, it's something of a mobile monster, and one of the heaviest handsets we've cradled since the gargantuan Dell Venue Pro.
Aside from the bronze accent running around the dual cameras on the back of the phone, the Evo 3D is one imposingly black slab of tech. The absence of colour makes it look like the monolith from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that's not to say it's ugly -- it merely lacks the refinement of the iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S2.
The back of the Evo 3D is made of plastic, with a rubberised covering, which means it's less likely to slip from your grasp during use -- a welcome feature, because you'd probably break a toe if you accidentally dropped this weighty blower. The ultra-grippy texture is complemented by a series of diagonal grooves.
The front of the phone lacks physical buttons, instead opting for a touch-sensitive array. The traditional four Android buttons are present, but, as seems to be the case with practically every phone, the order has been jumbled, as per HTC's own preference.
Moving from one Android phone to another can be a frustrating experience, as each manufacturer seems to have its own preferred button layout, but at least the Evo 3D doesn't do away with the search command, as many phones in Samsung's Galaxy range do.
On the side of the Evo 3D, you'll notice a large metallic button for controlling the camera shutter. This is a two-stage button that allows you to lightly press for focus, and then fully press to capture a shot. Next to this is the switch that toggles the camera between its 2D and 3D capture modes.
The Evo 3D's biggest selling point is unquestionably its auto-stereoscopic 3D display. It uses unique technology that allows it to effectively project two different images into each eye, thus creating the impression of three-dimensional depth. We've already seen this trick in action on the Nintendo 3DS console and LG's Optimus 3D, and it's very impressive. Not having to don a pair of laughable 3D spectacles is a real godsend.
But there are some caveats. Firstly, the 3D effect is only triggered by certain activities. You can view 3D movies and still images, play 3D-compatible games, and shoot 3D photos and video. But none of the phone's menus are displayed in 3D.
Also, because the illusion of 3D is dependent on achieving the perfect viewing angle, it's very easy to make the effect 'break' by tilting the phone during use. This issue affects all screens of this type, and isn't exclusive to the Evo 3D. It means you'll need a steady grip when using the device -- something that could prove to be a problem with games that use the phone's accelerometer.
It's worth mentioning too that, when the 3D mode is triggered, the resolution of the phone is reduced in order to accommodate what are effectively two screens displaying a slightly different view. This means that images and footage viewed in 3D won't be shown at the 540x960-pixel resolution that the Evo 3D's LCD screen is capable of.
Pixel density on the Evo 3D stands at 256 pixels per inch, which tops the 217ppi found on the Galaxy S2.
Cameras and movie capture
To facilitate its fancy 3D image- and video-recording power, the Evo 3D has not one but two snappers on its rear. This is because the auto-stereoscopic screen functions by displaying two images simultaneously.
Both of the rear cameras have a 5-megapixel resolution, and are supported by a particularly strong dual-LED flash. It's possible to toggle the phone between 2D and 3D capture by sliding the switch next to the dedicated camera button on the side of the handset. 3D photos are limited to a 2-megapixel resolution.
Like so many mobile snappers, the image quality isn't fantastic. Shots tend to appear slightly washed-out, and the LED flash is harsh when you're in a particularly dim environment. You probably won't use the Evo 3D as a replacement for your traditional point-and-shoot camera, but it's perfectly acceptable for quick, convenient and impromptu snaps.
The Evo 3D can capture video footage at up to a 720p resolution, in both 2D and 3D. Naturally, footage only appears in three dimensions when viewed either on the phone itself or another compatible auto-stereoscopic device. The same goes for still photos.
One final thing about the twin cameras -- they bulge out of the back of the phone, which means that, when you set the Evo 3D down on a horizontal surface, it doesn't lay completely flat, but rocks ever so slightly. It's a minor quibble, but one that's worth mentioning.
Thanks to its powerful dual-core processor and ultra-responsive capacitive touchscreen, the Evo 3D is perfectly equipped to play the latest and greatest games the Android Market has to offer.
The usual suspects, like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and They Need to be Fed, all function perfectly, and they look great on the massive, 4.3-inch display. Pinch-to-zoom support is a given, too.
When it comes to 3D games, though, Gameloft is the only developer really committed to supporting the tech so far. It has retooled several of its bestsellers to take advantage of the Evo 3D's screen.
3D gaming on the Evo 3D is possibly the most reliable test of the display, as it's directly comparable with that of Nintendo's 3DS console. Alas, HTC's device comes out second-best. We're not sure if it's down to the fact that Gameloft has merely re-programmed existing games, rather than build a title around the 3D screen, but the effect is curiously muted.
Games like N.O.V.A. and GT Racing: Motor Academy play well enough, but the depth of the 3D effect isn't as striking as it is on Nintendo's console. Another drawback is that the games are forced to run at a low resolution, because the phone is effectively showing two pictures at once, and that means they look noticeably rougher than on rival handsets playing 2D versions of the same titles. Even the Samsung Galaxy S2, which has a lower screen resolution than the Evo 3D, offers sharper, cleaner graphics when playing the non-3D edition of a game.
Like the Sensation, the Evo 3D is powered by a dual-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.2GHz. This also puts it on par with other cutting-edge Android handsets, such as the Galaxy S2 and LG Optimus 2X. This raw power ensures that almost every activity is silky-smooth and lag-free, and the addition of 1GB of RAM makes things even speedier.
Application storage is reasonably generous too, with 1GB reserved for the installation of apps and games. By using Android's ability to store some app data on the SD card, you can make this memory go much further than you think.
The Evo 3D supports 3G HSDPA data transfer for quick online access on the move. It also boasts 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for those moments when you're near an open wireless hotspot.
Like all recent Android phones, the Evo 3D can be used as your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to connect Wi-Fi-only devices like the iPod touch and get them online using your phone's 3G network connection. In addition to this, Bluetooth 3.0 is supported. You can also display content from your phone on your TV screen, providing it offers DLNA connectivity.
The Evo 3D has a microSD slot which can accept cards of up to 32GB in size. An 8GB variant was included with the model we reviewed.
The Evo 3D packs one of the largest-capacity batteries we've seen, but even this 1,730mAh behemoth can't keep the voracious device contented for more than 24 hours.
If you avoid using the 3D features of the phone, you can expect to get just under a day without a recharge, but viewing and taking 3D photos, watching 3D videos or playing 3D games are all activities that drain the Evo 3D's power cell at a frightening rate.
Again, this is down to the auto-stereoscopic tech used in the screen, and Nintendo 3DS owners have experienced similar issues with battery stamina. The key difference is that it's possible to switch the 3D effect off on Nintendo's handheld, whereas all 3D content is displayed in 3D on HTC's phone, regardless of whether or not you want it to be.
Even when the phone is idle, it seems to consume battery power at a much keener rate than rival Android devices.
The HTC Evo 3D is most definitely in possession of a neat party trick, but it's not enough to make the phone a must-buy. Still, if you're about to upgrade and you don't mind putting up with poor battery life to get glitzy 3D, then it's worth a look.
Edited by Charles Kloet