htc evo 4g lte
evo 4g lte review

HTC Evo 4G LTE Review: I Can’t See Why Not

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Short Version

The Evo 4G LTE is a fine phone. There certainly aren’t any glaring issues: Sense has been considerably streamlined, and it’s really good at what it was made to do, which is entertain. The design language is a little loud, though maybe that’s what it takes to shake things up in the land of Android. (LAndroid.) But unlike the Evos that have come before it, this latest iteration doesn’t really bring any truly special features to the table.

I mean, consider the name. It’s the Evo 4G LTE, yet Sprint’s 4G LTE network isn’t set to go live for another month, at the very earliest. And even if that weren’t the case, LTE is no longer a wow factor. It’s a soon-to-be norm, which means that the Evo needs something more than fast data to be a big deal.

Does it have what it takes? Let’s find out together, yes?

Pros:

  • Excellent camera
  • Pretty solid battery life
  • Thin and light (in a good way)

Cons:

  • The plastic on the back gets marked up with prints easily
  • It’s a 4G phone, but Sprint LTE won’t be around for a while

Features:

  • 4.7-inch 720p display
  • Sprint 4G LTE (eventually)
  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich/Sense 4
  • 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 dual-core proc
  • 8-megapixel rear camera (1080p recording)
  • 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
  • MSRP: $199.99 on-contract

Long Version

Hardware/Design:

As I mentioned before in my initial impressions post, the Evo feels like business in the front and a party in the back. The bezel is quite thin, which means that HTC managed to comfortably fit a rather large 4.7-inch display onto a smaller frame (thumbs-up for that!), and the top bezel near the speaker grill is finished with soft-touch rubber.

On the back, however, the Evo tells a different story. A strip of shiny red metal separates a soft-touch bottom and a shiny, black plastic top. Within the plastic area, the camera is square in the middle, with a little extra Evo-esque red lining. I’m a huge fan of the soft-touch and honestly wish that the entire backside of the phone was finished in it. It’s comfortable and doesn’t take prints much at all.

The plastic, on the other hand, picks up prints like it’s being paid to do so. It feels a bit like HTC ran out of budgeting dollars and simply said “F&#* it! Let’s just slap some plastic on this last bit.” It’s the only part of the phone that feels cheap, even in the way that it creaks a bit when you stress the phone.

HTC nailed the kickstand, as you can prop the phone up with it in the traditional sense, as well as turn it right over so that the kickstand is resting against the table. Either way it works, which means that you can plug your phone into the charger while you’re kickstanding.

Just as you’d expect, the lock button and 3.5mm headphone jack are up top, microUSB is on the top left-hand side, and volume rocker is on the left. There’s also a dedicated camera shutter button on the bottom right-hand side of the phone.

Software:

As I already briefly covered, Sense 4 is far more attractive than earlier iterations. HTC clearly took a hard look at the UI and realized that too much fluff on top of Android is a big no-no. That said, this streamlined, clean version of the custom overlay offers only what you need.

One nice touch is the ability to drag and drop icons from the lock screen into the circle used to unlock the device. By doing so, you’re taken straight into the dragged app. The less clicks the better, am I right?

At the same time, we’re not seeing anything incredibly new here. No pop-up play, like on the Galaxy S III. No brand new operating system, like on the Galaxy Nexus. But that’s not to say that HTC doesn’t offer up some solid, albeit a bit played out, features.

For one, you’ll get 25 free GB of Dropbox storage with this bad boy, along with Beats Audio integration. I see the former as much more of a selling point. Oh, and Google Wallet comes pre-loaded, as well.

Sprint’s loaded this thing up with plenty of its own content, including Sprint Zone and Sprint Hotspot, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem that you can uninstall them.

Camera:

The camera on this phone rocks. It employs the Sense camera app on the software side of things, which means you’ll have easy access to plenty of Instagram-esque filters even in the viewfinder. A couple of my personal faves are Vintage, Solarize, and Aqua.

There are also plenty of settings for ISO, white balance, etc., and zoom is on the left. Shooting modes include auto, HDR, Panorama and portrait, but there seems to be some sort of auto-burst mode inherent in the app. In other words, when you hold down the shutter, you get a continuous stream of shots.

The shutter button itself is incredibly fast, snapping pictures as soon as you touch it. It’s also very solid — no shakiness or looseness in its socket — and can be half-pressed to focus and then full-pressed to shoot (just like on a DSLR).

Color reproduction was excellent, though I think that HTC tends to blow out warmer colors like reds and yellows to make pictures more beautiful, but not necessarily realistic. Low light shots turned out better than expected, and video recording only takes a second to focus and switch between bright and low light.

The camera app has some nice features to it, as well, like the fact that it goes into a thumbnail mode if you start swiping through pictures quickly. It’s like the phone knows you want a photo that’s way on down the line, and wants to help you get there. The only problem is that it only works like half the time.

Comparison shot between the Evo 4G LTE (left) and the iPhone 4S (right):

Display:

There’s more to a display than resolution or size. It’s the marriage of these two factors, along with the technology behind the screen that makes an excellent display. In the case of the HTC Evo 4G LTE display, this marriage is a harmonious one. The 720×1280 display measures in at 4.7-inches diagonally, which yields a ppi of 312. This is pretty good.

For reference, the iPhone has a 326ppi, so the Evo isn’t far off but with much more real estate. At the same time, the Evo has a TFT LCD display, rather than the more favorable AMOLED-style displays we see on most Samsung phones. I still found the display to be excellent, with little to no differentiation from pixel to pixel and bright, brilliant colors.

I also think it’s worth taking a moment to talk about the size of this display as it relates to using the phone. Most phones with 4.3-inch or greater screens tend to get a bit uncomfortable. It can be difficult to reach across the screen while performing one-handed actions, depending on the aspect ratio.

But HTC has found a way to master slapping giant displays on comfortably small frames. The Titan II is a great example of this, and the new tradition only continues here on the Evo. Well done, HTC.

Performance:

Performance is becoming less and less of a factor. The spec is dead, in many cases. In fact, the only specs I consider useful on a smartphone are the display and camera specs, and even then a solid understanding of the numbers and their context is necessary. But rarely — very rarely — a phone’s performance will be so smooth in real-world use that it’s reflected in the testing.

So is the case with the Evo 4G LTE, and really most of HTC’s handsets lately. The Titan II was an incredibly smooth phone, but on a different platform like Windows Phone it’s unfair to compare. But the HTC One S, another Android 4.0/Sense 4 combo, was also found to be exceptional in browsing, app play, and the like.

Here are the numbers:

In Quadrant, a full-fledged benchmarker with a focus on graphics performance, the Evo 4G LTE scored a 4285. The only phone I’ve had that’s tested better is the One S, with most others staying well below the 3000 mark. In Browsermark, a web browsing test, the phone scored a 90,995, which is again just below the One S’s score of 100,662, but exceeding most others in its category.

Data speeds averaged around 1.4Mbps down and .72Mbps up, but that should go up once Sprint’s LTE network goes live.

Battery:

The new Evo’s battery is considerably larger than its predecessors and really most other smartphones on the market, at 2000mAh. The Droid Razr Maxx, which is basically built around its battery performance, has a 3300mAh battery. That said, the Evo 4G LTE lasted four and a half hours in testing, which includes an always-waking constant Google image search. The Droid Razr Maxx lasted for eight hours and fifteen minutes.

But still, the Evo 4G LTE’s battery is definitely better than most. It would hang with me for more than a full day on some occasions, with easy use. On days I spent fully reviewing the phone, it still got past dinner time, which is sadly very good these days. The battery is not removable.

Head-To-Head With The Galaxy Nexus And iPhone 4S:

Check out our thoughts on this match-up here.

Hands-On Video: Fly or Die

Conclusion

To be quite honest, the biggest issue I have with this phone is its design. I’m not a fan of the bubbly camera sensor that bulges out of the backside of the phone. I’m uncomfortable with this shiny black plastic, and the red stripe across the back is a bit much for me. But that’s totally my preference, and there are probably plenty of people out there who enjoy this type of differentiation.

That said, I can’t find much else wrong with it. The Evo 4G LTE is thin and light, but not so light that it feels cheap. It has a great display with plenty of real-estate, yet still manages to be comfortable in the hand. The camera is excellent, as is the software paired with it, and I never really noticed too much lag or any freeze-ups during a week of testing. Throw in 25 free GB of Dropbox storage and the promise of LTE in the next few months and then ask me: Should you spend $200 and sign a two-year contract for Sprint’s unlimited data? (While you still can?)

I can’t see why not.

Check out all of our Evo 4G LTE review posts here.