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EVO 3D vs EVO 4G: Flagship Faceoff
on June 25, 2011
Off the bat, the EVO 3D has been getting a lot of mixed reviews. People either love it or hate it, but many reviews floating around have tended to direct the focus of their positive or negative feedback towards one of two things: the 3D features, or everything else. I hope the dispel the mass hysteria of other reviews by giving you a realistic account of my ongoing experience with this undoubtedly groundbreaking new phone. I'll also be heavily comparing it side by side with its predecessor, the EVO 4G, which I've owned for a year now. And for those of you who will be replacing another Android phone, I'll include an overview of how to transfer apps and data from your other phone to the EVO 3D.
Note: Be aware that I will also be mentioning the EVO 4G frequently throughout this review, so be sure to pay attention and not confuse the two.
Let's quickly look at what's new. Here are my pros (+) and cons (-). More in-depth coverage follows:
+ 3D glasses-free display - simply reciting the obvious here!
+ Dual 5 megapixel rear cameras - photos and videos shot in 3D can also be viewed in 2D!
+ Dedicated physical camera button - with two pressure levels, like a real camera
+ qHD display - ultrafine, high quality graphics at 540x960 screen resolution
+ Dual core Snapdragon processor - hasn't freezed up on me once!
+ Numerous software improvements - details noted further below
+ Super fast boot up/restart - purportedly hinders some Market apps, can be disabled via Settings > Power
+ Larger 1730 mAh battery - yet seems physically smaller than EVO 4G's battery
- Battery still doesn't tend to last a full day - 3D drains it at 1% per minute, display also a power leach
- Camera takes too long to snap photos, especially 3D photos - a good 1-2 seconds!
- Camera glass easy to smudge when holding the EVO 3D in your hand, can ruin some 3D shots
- Camera's aluminum bezel easy to damage, doesn't fit evenly flush against the glass
- No kickstand - keep your eyes peeled for a kickstand case accessory
===== Look and Feel =====
The EVO 3D looks strikingly similar to its predecessor, the EVO 4G. Since the original 4G phone has been so successful, I guess they figured why fix what isn't broken. Sadly though, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. HTC decided to trade up the kickstand, supposedly for a bigger battery although the EVO 3D battery is physically smaller than its EVO 4G counterpart. I'll miss the kickstand, though it was awkward to use at times, most notably on soft or unlevel surfaces. Otherwise, we've got the same capacitive touch buttons along the bottom (home, menu, back & search... the perfect order), the same 4.3" screen, with a slightly taller, equal width body, and the same soft touch back side, this time with a bit of added texture, which I don't really care for personally, but I digress. Naturally, with the dual cameras spread across half the back, holding the EVO 3D is a bit awkward. The glass covering those rear cameras is definitely not oleophobic, so it smudges easily, and I find myself constantly cleaning it up so my photos turn out clearly. Also, the bezel around those rear cameras was also easily susceptible to damage (had some dents fresh out of the box!) and also won't stay flush with the glass and can get caught on loose threads, or scrape the palm occasionally, an awkward sensation much like that of a razor blade shaving across your skin. Undoubtedly, you'll also notice an unsightly huge silver button gracing the right side of the EVO 3D. This new camera button is a stragely welcome addition, more on that in a sec, but you should be aware that it can also greet your palm with a harsh scrape every now and then, as well. Otherwise, the EVO 3D has a generally comfortable feel for its form factor.
===== Camera =====
Aside from the dual rear facing cameras, one of the most unmistakable new features of the EVO 3D has to be the huge silver button that at first seems to marr the landscape. Upon further use, however, I began to realize that this may have been one of the best new features. Perhaps you're like me... when I got my EVO 4G, it all but replaced my point and shoot camera. However, having to touch a specific, small circular area of the screen to capture the image proved unhelpful at times, provoking blurred shots or requiring me to contort my wrist and hand in an odd way when taking self portraits and such with the 8mp rear camera. Not any more!
Also note: Engadget reviewer claimed the phone had to "spot" setting to control light metering like the EVO 4G has, whereby you can touch a subject on your screen, and the brightness automatically adjusts to that object. However, the reviewer failed to realize that there is indeed spot metering, it's just built into the phone now as a default. I like that, because this wasn't the default on the EVO 4G and I suffered some ill fated, over exposed shots before I found the setting. So now you just have to tap to focus and adjust brightness. Simple enough! Works in video mode too, even WHILE recording!
===== Camera in 3D =====
Taking pictures in 3D is novel, but getting the perfect shot can be hopelessly difficult. There's a 2 second delay. Your subject has to stay still, period. I tried taking pictures of my pets, and not one came out perfectly because they inevitably move in the 2 second wait after pressing the button till it actually takes the shot. Images captured in 3D can also be viewed in 2D, but there's a little trick involved. You have to use the pinch gesture to zoom into the photo slightly. Alternately, you can touch and drag the photo, as if moving between photos, although this doesn't technically disable the autostereoscopic display like pinching to zoom does, meaning you can still notice the subtle vertical lines of the autostereoscopic screen effect (much like those promotional lenticular "3D" holograms you may have seen on cereal boxes, or other places). Perhaps the device is capturing two shots, which explains why the 3D mode takes 2 seconds to fully capture the shot.
===== Video =====
This is where EVO 3D's dual core processor shines. On my EVO 4G, capturing smooth video was often an utter disappointment. Video would often be choppy, pixelated and unsynched with the audio, that is, when the video would even record at all. Sometimes it completely cut out after a few seconds, or decided to capture sound but no video. It seemed to get worse as time went on. What was causing the issues was beyond me, but it had to be some other app's processes getting in the way. Email? Tasker? Sprint's own ridiculous and lousy built in apps? Not sure, but I had a class 4 SD card, so that shouldn't have been the bottleneck. Nevertheless, the EVO 3D records flawless video, even after transferring all my apps and settings to the new device. Perfect! Now I don't have to worry about whether I will capture flawed video of the kids, and in 3D to boot! Another great new addition is that you can now zoom in and refocus (by touching the screen on the subject you'd like to refocus on) DURING video capture! Phenomenal! Videos are also saved in MP4 format instead of that useless 3GP that the EVO 4G uses. This includes 3D videos, which when opened on a normal computer show the left and right channels side by side, though each channel appears stretched.
===== Video in 3D =====
Now, do beware of high battery usage with 3D capture--I calculated around 1% per minute. 3D video capture ate through the battery like it was a piece of pumpkin pie with an extra large dollop of whipped cream! Nevertheless, shooting video in 3D seems much easier than shooting photos in 3D because you don't really have to worry about your subject staying still. It's great for those shots of the kids, or pets, or a high-speed train coming right at you!
To my great relief, video shot in 3D can indeed be viewed in either 2D or 3D, on demand. When viewing a 3D video, it will default to 3D, but if you tap the screen, you'll see a 3D/2D box icon in the top right corner of the screen. Tap it to toggle between 3D and 2D. I'll add more info in the comments about converting between various 2D and 3D formats for viewing on other 2D and 3D devices, including 3D televisions and such, so stay tuned! Also, 3D videos as well as
BUG NOTICE: Within my first few days of using the 3D camera and camcorder, I noticed a fair number of my videos and pictures were only getting shot in 2D instead of 3D, and the 3D was definitely switched on. I think it may have something to do with powering the device on with the 3D already set to 3D mode. So be sure to switch it off and on if you're taking photos outside, where you won't necessarily see the 3D effects clearly.
===== Movies in 3D =====
HTC has included The Green Hornet in 3D, as a psuedo "app", so you can find it under the same name, on the apps screen in the T's. It seems like the "app" is merely just a link to HTC's "Watch" app. I also had to agreen to a mile-long terms of service agreement, install the software update, and create an HTC Watch account, before it would let me watch the included movie. For all the effort, they could have at least included a better 3D movie like Avatar or Tron! Something I'd not mind watching over and over. The Green Hornet wasn't that great of a movie, but I digress.
===== Other Thoughts on 3D =====
The 3D features of the EVO 3D may feel a bit gimicky to some, but that's likely only because of the small viewing "sweet spot" due to it being glasses-free technology. It's not likely that any glasses-free 3D device will be able to improve on that limitation without tracking your eyes, plus it will likely remain single-viewer. But, that's what you get without having to wear those nerdy specs/goggles! The 3D effect is definitely disorienting the first time you see it, but that fades quickly the more you get used to it. After a few days, I still find the 3D effects quite novel! Will it wear off? I'll keep you posted.
Thankfully, you can view 3D pictures and videos in either of the two landscape orientations. You aren't locked to just landscape-left such as you were limited to in the early days of Android. The EVO 3D is smart enough to flip the left & right eyes when you rotate the device. And to my surprise, you CAN view 3D media in portrait mode as well. I didn't think that'd be the case, but 3D does go in all 3 orientation directions. However, you cannot capture 3D photos and videos in portrait orientation like you can in 2D mode, and the 3D-viewing "sweet spot" is a lot more finicky to get right in portrait orientation. Some people have been reporting having headaches induced by the 3D effects, I've been messing with it almost all day with no ill effects. If you don't get headaches from 3D movies in the theater or on 3D TVs, you'll probably be fine.
===== qHD Display =====
The EVO 3D features a new display, which has a higher resolution of 540x960, as opposed to the EVO 4G's 480x800. This means the images are crisper, albeit slightly smaller, but I really like that. It makes the notification bar notably thinner than the EVO 4G, with smaller icons, meaning the EVO 3D can fit more icons on the notification bar than its predecessor. Beautiful! I'm also thankful that the display is not AMOLED, because its RGBG PenTile arrangement of pixels generates an annoying checkerboard effect. Look it up on Wikipedia to see what I mean. However, Super AMOLED is perfectly fine, as it uses the normal RGB pixel arrangement, so that's desirable. Also, for those of you interested in using a stylus, especially on those cold winter-glove days, you'll need a capacitive stylus like this Targus ([...]) which I used on my EVO 4G, and it works just as great now on my EVO 3D. It's especially handy on apps & games that require a lot of finger swipes, because the longer your skin touches against a surface, the more it perspires, thus making it stickier.
===== Battery Life =====
Speaking of battery life, there's nothing that's irked me about the EVO 4G more than the daily 2pm low-battery automatic power down! It used to last at least a good day, but lately it just tanks way too quickly. I was holding out hope that wouldn't be the case with the EVO 3D, but so far, after using it with the same apps and settings transferred from the EVO 4G, it lasts about a day if I don't use the 3D features. If I do use the 3D features, it tanks after just half a day. Thankfully, there's a handy feature called Power Save mode that disables backgrounded apps once the battery dips below a certain percentage, customizable via Settings > Power. In any case, the culprit reported by the Battery Use utility was the display, taking 70% of battery (likely due to the 3D effects), followed closely by "phone idle" at 9% and "wifi" at 5%. So either I need to not use this thing so much, or HTC needs to improve their display technology, and preferably not by going the AMOLED route! Super AMOLED is fine though, because it doesn't have the pixel-checkerboard effect like regular AMOLED does.
On that note, if you're looking for a Sprint smartphone with awesome battery life, check out my review of the Windows Phone 7 powered HTC Arrive ([...]), which lasts over two days on one charge, even with ridiculous settings, tons of email accounts and all that jazz.
===== Call Quality =====
I've never reported on call quality in a review before, never needed to. Besides, I make so few calls. But so many of the early reviews had complaints that I had to at least account for this myself, and I'm happy to report that it's been a non issue, on my device anyway. I've made plenty of test calls to confirm this in the first week of use.
===== Email =====
HTC's built in email app has always been subpar. Thankfully HTC updated their email app, and while it still isn't without flaws (such as defaulting to POP instead of IMAP, not keeping messages on the POP server by default, lack of selecting all messages for deleting or marking all as read), you can now select multiple messages to mark as read or delete, so that's great. There's also some UI improvements to get used to, words are now purely icons on the reply/action buttons. I have also noticed some bugs where I'll not get notified for new emails from one of my accounts, for several hours. Then, when it finally does work it wants to notify my every 5 minutes, even when new emails have not come in since the last notification. Annoying!
===== Dual Core Performance and Plentiful App Storage =====
Installing apps on the EVO 4G was often a pain in the neck, for two reasons. Thankfully the EVO 3D takes care of both those issues. The first issue is terrible download and installation performance, causing the EVO 4G to slow down or freeze up constantly throughout the process, and good luck trying to install multiple apps simultaneously (or even back to back). It often doesn't work! That could also partly be due to the second issue though, which is low disk space. On my EVO 4G, I have a bundle of apps that aren't capable of being moved to the SD card, and the built in app storage space is limited to less than 512MB. Still, you'd think that would be plenty for mobile apps, but some apps are surprisingly large, or get large quickly because of excessive data storage or caching... the biggest culprit being HTC's own email app which is currently consuming 90MB! Other offenders include Facebook, Google Reader, Google Docs and Google Voice. Wow, Google! Seriously?! In case you weren't aware, when your app storage reaches 90%, you can no longer install new apps (unless those apps default to installing to the SD card). This limitation issue is an outrageous annoyance.
Thankfully, the EVO 3D takes care of both the performance and the limitation issues. Naturally, the dual core processor has allowed me to install new apps without hindering my ability to do other things simultaneously. As for limits? Nope! It's got a whole 1GB of internal app storage! I'm not sure why so many sites are reporting 4GB of internal memory for app storage, but it's simply not true! My file browsing app noted just over 1100 MB of app storage. Nevertheless, even the apps I had on the SD card on my EVO 4G fit within the 1GB of internal app storage on the EVO 3D, so I'm not complaining! There was also a generous 8GB class 4 (fast) micro SD card included, and you're gonna need it with those 3D videos. They're absolutely huge! So, I decided to just pop in my 16GB SD card that I'd been using with my EVO 4G. (I got the Topram on Amazon for cheap: [...]). If you're going to be taking a lot of video (even 2D video), I do suggest getting the higher capacity card, no question!
===== Software Improvements =====
The EVO 3D has a task manager app which I'm assuming is provided by HTC and NOT built into Gingerbread, because it's not on the EVO 4G that I updated to Gingerbread. In any case, it's a simple app that lets you see other running apps, how much memory they're taking and freely kill one or all of them at will. We also gain the Mirror app, which is handy for checking your teeth via the front facing camera, but it seems to have come at a cost, as we've now lost the Flashlight app that was available on the EVO 4G. A good replacement for the Flashlight app is TeslaLED which also features an incredibly handy flashlight widget for the home screen! HTC also seems to have changed the functionality of the app listing screen, and I don't like what they've done to the scrollability of it. You cannot flick to scroll continuously through the entire selection of apps like you could before. Instead, the scrolling snaps to each set of 5 rows. This will be hugely annoying when looking for an app that starts with Z. There's no quick scroll feature on the side, either, such as the quick scroll bar you can drag when scrolling through the contacts. On the bright side, however, there are now two new tabs in the app screen. One lets you see the most used apps. The other lets you As for Gingerbread itself, there's now a RESTART option when you hold the power button down. I've been waiting for a restart feature for ages! It takes so long to turn off the phone, that sometimes I'd forget to turn it back on. So a restart feature is extremely handy!
As for HTC Sense, I've always been a fan of it. The new lock screen is fantastic, customizable via Settings > Personalize > Lock Screen. From there you can choose one of six lock screen formats, which determines which large widget will appear on the lock screen: wallpaper, photo album, friend stream, weather, stocks or clock. The default is weather. For no large widget, simply change it to wallpaper. However, I do wish the weather on the lock screen showed the 3-5 day forecast, or at least allowed for adding custom widgets to the lock screen rather than having to choose from HTC's standard choices.
My biggest complaint with Sense is that it only provides 7 home screens when it should offer 9. If you trigger Sense's expose feature (see Hot Tips in comments) you'll see all 7 home screens at once, but clearly there's room for two more! Also be careful not to flick too hard on the home screen, or it'll spin through all the screens and you'll end up right back where you were! Pointless in my opinion, really.
===== Transferring Apps and Data =====
You'll probably be tempted to use the built in bluetooth transfer feature when it prompts you the first time you turn it on, which works great to transfer contacts if you don't have another Android phone, but if you DO have an Android phone I highly suggest using MyBackup (available in the Android marketplace for $5). I purchased it the day before I got my EVO 3D, and ran the backup which I saved to the SD card. You can save contacts, calendars, home screens, settings, and apps (but not app data, unless both phones are rooted). When I got the EVO 3D, I replaced the SD card, setup my Google account and redownloaded MyBackup (reinstalls of previously purchased apps are free), and restored my apps. The process went smoothly, and took about an hour both ways.
===== Bottom Line =====
All in all, the 3D aspect of the phone has huge potential, especially if planning to view 3D photos and videos from the EVO 3D on other devices, like 3D TVs and such, where the viewing experience doesn't require such a restricted viewing area. Thus it seems pretty future compatible in that sense. The camera could stand to benefit from some speed improvements more so than megapixel improvements, in my opinion. The picture quality of the EVO 3D is at least on par with the higher res camera on the EVO 4G, so I don't mind. Other than 3D, this device is still worth it just for the other improvements made over its predecessor. Thankfully being a Premier Gold member, I was able to upgrade after only a year, but I'm no doubt glad to be an early adopter. It was a worthy risk, especially since Sprint doesn't have an iPhone yet, but the EVO 3D is definitely much more comfortable than the iPhone in the hands. Now all we need is a breakthrough in battery technology, and we'll be all set! All in all, I decided to give the EVO 3D a healthy 4.5 stars. I rounded up for the Amazon rating though. :)
I hope you found this review informative and helpful so far. I'll keep the conversation going in the comments, including my favorite apps and some hot tips. Feel free to check them out and respond with any questions or comments!