While pictures were mostly enjoyable, 720p video recording was more of a mixed bag. Quick pans from left to right do produce a noticeable jello effect, which can be partially masked with slow and deliberate panning. Rolling shutter issues aside, the resulting video was ripe with color and changes in exposure happened at fairly rapid clip. Audio quality from recordings was definitely better, yet not something you'd write home about.
As you're undoubtedly aware, good hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it. With that being said, this is
an HTC, and that naturally means it's been skinned to the gills with Sense. The Gingerbread 2.3.4 tottin' handset has been layered with a visual design language that permeates through every part of the OS, replacing lock and home screens, the app drawer and everything in-between. But while there was once a time when Sense, dare we say, made sense, stock Android sure has come a long way
since its humble G1 beginnings
That isn't to say there aren't those that'll find the additions tasteful or attractive, but we're dismayed by the additional overhead used to run such eye candy. When compared to a Nexus S running Gingerbread, the impact is notable. It isn't unusable, per se, but scrolling in the browser and in the app drawer do occasionally give the single core 1.2GHz processor a noticeable run for its money. Consider yourself warned, then -- there isn't consistent iPhone 4 or Galaxy S II buttery smoothness here.
Yet oddly, and like HTC's recently released Vivid, it makes do with version 3.0 of the skin, not it's latest rendition, 3.5, like on the Rezound
. But other than minor tweaks that omission doesn't mean much, as you're still getting a bevy of HTC widgets and apps to clutter up that app drawer.
And speaking of clutter, being a non-Nexus, there's naturally carrier bloatware galore. We can't speak for you, but it irks us when we're forced to look at Sprint's Music, TV & Movies, Zone and of course the venerable Nascar apps right there, in our app drawer, every time we open it. Sure, a metric ton of you will root out of bloatware hell anyway, but frankly, you shouldn't have to. At least there's some solace in Sense's "Frequent" and "Downloaded" views that help you pare things down a notch.
But there is hope on the horizon. HTC's confirmed
that the EVO Design 4G will get its very own upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich at some point in the future. When that'll be, your guess is as good as ours, but we'll gladly take an official confirmation over naught. Whether or not Nexus Prime snappiness applies here remains to be seen, but here's to being hopeful.
Performance and battery life
As noted above, for the smoothness we crave most skinned Android devices need at least a dual-core CPU to make them sing. The 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655 tries as it might, but its a definite step down from the raw horsepower in dual core devices like the HTC Rezound or any Galaxy S II permutation. That deficit shows, as it performs admirably most of the time
, but you'll certainly notice the occasional, seemingly random, stutter -- a consistent reminder, that you skimped on dual-core silicon. Most of the benchmarks, except for Linpack's multi-thread test, mask this disparity, but in real world usage, the step down in fluidity and performance delta is there and larger than the figures on paper would suggest. That being said, it does hold its own when compared to contemporaries that retail in this segment.
But with outright performance compromised is there a silver lining in perhaps longer battery life? In a word, no. Even with moderate use, those seeking an all day charge better plan on packing that A/C adapter or budget for an additional juice pack. In Engadget's standard battery test, that loops a video ad nasuem, it managed a meager 4 hours and 15 minutes before running out of steam. Out in the real world, your mileage will vary drastically depending on which radio stack is in use. For instance, we've experienced lifetimes ranging from a paltry two and a half hour stint with heavy WiMAX usage to a more respectable seven to eight hours with moderate 3G usage -- naturally, with brightness dialed down to 50 percent and WiMAX switched off. Use it sparingly and you'll be fine, but those hoping for a the ultimate budget WiMAX bit-shredder should look elsewhere.
And what an unfortunate conundrum to be faced with. If CDMA wasn't so routinely slow, we'd have no hesitation recommending WiMAX be switched off, yet with Sprint's network routinely pushing less than a megabit over 3G, we were often left wanting for more. Even when we braved it all in the name of outright speed, leaving 4G toggled on, performance with WiMAX was wildly unpredictable, ranging from 7 megabits on the high, to a half megabit on lows. An unfortunate side effect of rolling out the tech on 2500MHz, which significantly hampers signal any time you even approach building or any concrete structure. What was once impressive in 2010 has given way to frustrating in a world of LTE and HSPA+. Sure, Sprint's future seems brighter
, but there's unfortunately going to be more pain before real gain.
So where does that leave us? The EVO Design 4G is certainly a solid contender when vying for your Benjamin, yet we can't help but feel you'd be better off scrounging and ponying up for a more potent WiMax droid, like Motorola's Photon 4G
or Samsung's Epic 4G Touch
. The EVO Design 4G while well-made, ultimately is a phone trying to be the jack of all trades, yet comes out being the master of none. While plusses include affordability, great materials and a gorgeous screen, it's invariably overcome by negatives like questionable battery life and a hungry WiMAX radio that, for most of us, adds little. Being neither performant, nor frugal, makes its contemporaries shine that much brighter, especially when you consider something like the Epic 4G Touch can be had for the same $100 (if you're willing to look hard enough...
), is faster and boasts a longer battery life.
We suppose, if Sense is a must have and you're dying for a world phone touting WiMAX, there really isn't any other choice -- just think long and hard before you tie the knot for two years, okay?