Smartphone technology has advanced immeasurably in the last few years, moving on from painfully slow internet access and VGA screens to full wireless connectivity and HD displays. The most recent technology to surface is 3D with LG being the first to market with its Optimus 3D smartphone featuring full 3D capabilities . Although Sharp holds the mantle for the world’s first 3D-capable handset with the Mova SH251iS released back in 2002, the LG device was the first to offer a full stereoscopic touchscreen display, glasses-free viewing and 3D-recording capabilities.
HTC has become another early adopter to embrace the 3D realm with the release of the Evo 3D. At first glanc, the handset stacks up well against LG’s effort, featuring a faster 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a higher resolution qHD display and, of course, the fine HTC Sense UI built into the Android Gingerbread framework. But is the inclusion of 3D an inspired addition or just an over-rated gimmick?
- Android 2.3
- HTC Sense 3.0 UI
- 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor
- 1GB of RAM
- 4.3-inch 3D stereoscopic 540 x 960 (qHD) capacitive display
- 1GB internal memory
- Expandable 32GB microSD slot
- 5 MP autofocus camera with power LED flash and dual lenses (2 MP in 3D mode)
- 720p 2D and 3D video recording
- Accelerometer, gyro and proximity sensors
- 1.3 MP front-facing camera
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- 1730mAh lithium ion battery
- Full Bluetooth, USB (MHL), Wi-Fi and DLNA connectivity
- Social networking integration
Hardware and Design
The first thing to notice about the Evo 3D is the sheer bulk of the device. It weighs in at a considerable 170g and that’s something that is definitely apparent in the hand. Additionally, the phone is currently the thickest dual-core smartphone on the market at 12mm making it a noticeable presence when stored it away in your pocket or bag.
That said, the Evo does feel very well built and its form factor is a handsome one for a device with a somewhat overbearing frame. The materials used in construction are of a high standard with a black metal chassis, textured back cover and engineered shutter button all giving a real sense of robustness. An exposed microUSB port is a slight disappointment; a simple push cover would have avoided any chance of debris making its way into the port.
The rear of the Evo 3D is very much an imposing sight, with almost one fifth of the back panel taken up by the twin lenses and dual flash, framed in faux gold. The battery cover is of plastic textured construction, which provides a tactile feel in line with other HTC devices
The handset features a 4.3-inch qHD stereoscopic display, which uses parallax-barrier technology for a glasses-free 3D experience. The screen really impresses in both 2D and 3D modes, featuring improved brightness and vibrancy with performance only slightly compromised in bright sunlight. 3D is only available in landscape mode and resolution is reduced which is a slight let down, but this is tempered by the fact that the screen really does excel when watching quality 3D content.
Hardware specifications are another definite strong point of the handset, presumably to cope with the demanding data requirements of 3D. Featuring a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor, 1 GB of RAM and Adreno 220 graphics power, the handset is definitely pitching itself in the upper echelons of smartphone territory. On board storage is a disappointing 1 GB, however a 32 GB microSD card is included out of the box so overall you should have plenty of room for all your 3D movies, games and images.
Software and Multimedia
The Evo 3D’s ability to shoot 3D images and video will obviously be a major selling point for the handset and on the whole it does’nt disappoint. The simple flick of a switch on the side of the device toggles between 2D and 3D capture, engaging those impressive-looking twin lenses. Whilst 2D capture is at 5 megapixel, 3D photos are limited to a 2 megapixel resolution, however, that dazzling extra dimension more than compensates for this. Image capture really needs to be thought out by the user in order to make the most of the effect – in our testing the majority of shots with reduced depth simply appeared flat in 3D. Additionally, macro photography is not possible in 3D mode due to the proximity of the two lenses.
Both 2D and 3D video is shot at 720p and although full 1080p HD would have been a nice addition, our testing gleaned impressive results, especially when footage was composed to maximise the 3D capabilities. Videos are shot in .MP4, a step up from the HTC Sensation that shoots in .3GP format but like the Sensation, the Evo 3D records sound in stereo at a very high quality 44kHz.
The Evo 3D ships with Android Gingerbread and the latest version of the fabulous HTC Sense 3.0 UI. With its intuitive design and numerous customisation options, the interface really does shine on this handset, its slickness almost certainly a result the 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM that powers it along.
A plethora of software is pre-loaded on the device, maybe a little too much in our opinion. The familiar Friend Stream widget is included as are Facebook and Twitter apps in order to keep your social networking needs met, but the inclusion of apps such as Plurk and HTC’s Peep twitter client veer too close towards bloatware for our liking.
Considering the sentiments expressed above, an odd omission from the bundled software is that of any kind of dedicated 3D package or widget. The LG Optimus 3D executed this succinctly with their 3D Space menu, but there is no such area within the Evo’s interface, something which strikes us as an oversight on HTC’s part. That said, a future software update for the movie download app HTC Watch will give you the option to get 3D movies on the handset and the YouTube app means 3D content is only a few clicks away. Additionally, the free Spiderman 3D game (available via a software update at purchase) showcases the devices gaming potential and developer Gameloft are readying a host of 3D titles for compatible smartphones.
Connectivity options on the handset include Wi-Fi b/g/n, DLNA and MHL (via the micro-USB port) for sharing to HDMI. HSDPA is an acceptable 14.4 Mbps with upload speed coming in at 5.76 Mbps, meaning browsing on the move is comfortably swift.
Performance and Verdict
It seems that the HTC Evo 3D is a device that wants to be taken seriously as a top-end smartphone, rather than a mid-range handset bolstered by a headline-grabbing gimmick. We feel that it achieves this aim successfully, carrying an above average hardware specification whilst also having the look and feel of a high-end handset, albeit a somewhat cumbersome one.
Of course, the brilliant HTC Sense UI provides an intuitive experience for the user and the impressive qHD display shows the interface in the best possible light.
The 3D capabilities of the Evo are undoubtedly entertaining and immersive, with 3D gaming being a particular strong point. Unfortunately, HTC seem not to have the same faith in the extra dimension and we would have appreciated a dedicated 3D portal or menu in order for content to be accessed more easily. Similarly, a selection of pre-loaded 3D images and video would have been a nice touch in order to showcase the handsets abilities straight out of the box.
Overall though, this is a handset that is very well built, well specced and runs as smoothly as we have come to expect from HTC’s Android devices. It is a solid, usable smartphone and with that 3rd dimension available it’s future-proof too.