Glancing at the front of the EVO 3D, it's easy to mistake it for last year's EVO 4G or the more recent Incredible 2
. It combines design elements from both, like the angular edges and silver ringed capacitive keys of its precursor along with the soft curves and beveled earpiece of its Verizon cousin. But it's not until you notice the silver grating missing from the earpiece, and discover the silver 2D / 3D mode switch plus the large machined aluminum camera button on the right edge that you realize this is a completely different beast. The EVO 3D is a little taller than the EVO 4G, but narrower thanks to a different screen aspect ratio -- 16:9 vs. 5:3. It's also a little thinner than its predecessor which, combined with the difference in width, makes the new handset a better fit in the hand. Like the Incredible 2, the bezel is made from some kind of black anodized alloy and incorporates the earpiece, complete with a concealed notification light. Instead of hiding under the screen glass, the 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera lives on the bezel to the right of the earpiece. A sheet of Gorilla glass
protects the 4.3-inch qHD capacitive touchscreen and includes silk-screened HTC and Sprint logos at top in addition to the capacitive buttons (home, menu, back, and search) at the bottom.
Turn the phone over and "whoa!" -- watch the magic as people react in awe (or is it fear?) to the massive camera pod sprouting from the back of the EVO 3D. The pod, with its twin 5 megapixel autofocus cameras and dual-LED flash, easily takes up one fifth of the back cover's real estate. It features a tasteful red aluminum rim that also conceals the (loud, clear, if not a bit tinny) speaker, and reminds us of the red trim piece around the EVO 4G's camera. We're unable to determine if the camera pod is covered in glass or high-quality plastic, but unlike the recessed camera opening on the Sensation
, it protrudes such that it's likely to get scratched in day-to-day use. In fact, it's almost impossible to pull the EVO 3D out of a pocket without leaving fingerprints on the camera pod. The back cover is made of a matte black soft-touch plastic that wraps around the edges of the handset. It's mostly covered in a grippy textured pattern and adorned with a large shiny HTC logo. The top edge is home to the power / lock button, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack surrounded by a lovely silver ring, and a secondary mic. At the bottom, you'll find the primary mic along with a slot to pry the back cover off. The left edge is devoid of anything other than the combined HDMI/micro-USB (MHL
?) connector. On the right side there's a volume rocker plus the aforementioned 2D / 3D mode switch and that delightfully beefy machined aluminum camera key.
While the EVO 3D looks solidly built and feels substantial (it weighs about the same as its precursor), the materials used fail to convey the same sense of quality as the Sensation. The volume rocker and power / lock button, which are a part of the back cover, have an unpleasant, mushy feel. It's also far too easy to trigger the power / lock key and accidentally turn the phone on (it lacks the safety delay found on other recent HTC handsets). Removing the back cover reveals the same translucent black chassis as the Incredible 2, a generous 1730mAh battery, and a microSD card slot containing an 8GB Class 4 card. Gone are the EVO 4G's red innards and signature kickstand -- there's just no room for it.
Spec-wise the EVO 3D is similar to the Sensation. It uses the same 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon
CPU and Adreno
220 GPU, but features 1GB of RAM (up from 768MB) and is paired with a dual-mode GSM/CDMA capable radio (MSM8660 vs. MSM8260) -- with GSM disabled here of course. As expected, Quadrant
scores hover in the 2000 range
which is double what we measured on the EVO 4G, despite pushing 35% more pixels. The phone is equipped with a 4.3" 16:9 qHD
(960 x 540 pixel) Super LCD
display, and other than supporting glasses-free stereoscopic content, the EVO 3D screen appears to be identical to the Sensation's in terms of brightness, color saturation, black levels and viewing angles. It's not the best qHD display we've come across (that title belongs to the Motorola Droid X2
) and it's even outclassed by some WVGA screens (Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus
and the Incredible 2's Super LCD come to mind), but other than washing out in direct sunlight it gets the job done. You'll find a full complement of radios on board, including WiMAX
, CDMA / EV-DO Rev. A, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS / AGPS, as well as FM -- along with the usual plethora of sensors (light, proximity, orientation, accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope).
Although we didn't experience any problems with call quality and reception, we also didn't see WiMAX perform significantly better than HSPA+
on other carriers -- at least not in San Francisco where it's often difficult to find a strong signal. WiMAX works best outdoors (since 2.5GHz radio waves are more sensitive to obstacles and interference) and locking onto a signal usually requires staying stationary for a minute. We noticed this with the EVO 4G and the Epic 4G
last year, but without other "4G" technologies to compare WiMAX to, we simply accepted the status quo. Things are different now that HSPA+ and LTE
are viable alternatives -- WiMAX is suddenly less compelling. Power efficiency is another concern. As more carriers deploy HSPA+ and LTE networks, chip manufacturers are more likely to integrate those radios at the SoC
level, while WiMAX continues to require a separate radio.
Which brings us to battery life, or the lack thereof. After topping off the EVO 3D, it only took 14 hours
and 44 minutes to drain the beefy 1730mAh battery down to 7%. We barely used the handset during that time -- we made a 15-minute call and slept 6 hours. The rest of it was spent taking a half-dozen pictures, and occasionally checking three email accounts plus one Twitter account with all the radios enabled (save for Bluetooth). This is particularly surprising when you consider the Sensation's stellar battery life. 3D photography is particularly taxing on the battery. In another test, we saw the charge level drop from full to 60% in about an hour and a half during which we snapped about 80 photos and captured four short videos (about half of this content was in 3D). So, whatever you do, be prepared to bring a charger along with that EVO 3D.
Cameras and 3D
One thing is clear. It's hard to escape the gaze of those red-rimmed cyborg eyes the moment you see them. It's like catching a glance of the Terminator, but knowing you'll live. Yes, Skynet is watching you in three dee
now. Indeed, everyone immediately notices the twin 5 megapixel autofocus cameras and dual LED flash, and it's no surprise -- stereoscopic imaging is the EVO 3D's raison d'être
. Unfortunately, it's also the source of many compromises, and not just for 3D. Both cameras share what appears to be a decent quality 5 megapixel sensor with better than average low-light performance and low noise. The limiting factor here is the optics -- not the autofocus lenses per se, but the panel protecting the camera pod. We're still not sure if it's made of glass or optical grade plastic, but it causes noticeable halos
in the periphery of images containing bright light. While color balance is generally accurate, light metering is hit and miss
. For some reason, the issue is exacerbated when snapping 2D pictures. Only the left camera (when facing the screen) is used for 2D shots, and scenes with a wide dynamic range are often over- or under-exposed. Unlike the EVO 4G, there's no spot, center, or average setting to control how light is metered.