LG was first into the UK market earlier this year with a glasses-free 3D phone. Hats off to the Optimus 3D, but it hasn’t taken long for HTC to respond with the Evo 3D.
It can take both 3D and 2D pictures with its 5 megapixel camera and also boasts a large 4.3in screen, fast dual-core processor and the very latest Android operating system.
Design and build
High end smart phones are getting thinner and lighter, but the Evo 3D signals the return of the bulk, weighing in at 126x65.4x11mm and 170g. It’s a chunky handful, with sturdy metallic casing which sits slightly proud of the screen, offering a degree of protection when you set it face down.
All four standard Android buttons (home, back, menu and search) sit beneath the screen and the sides feature a microUSB power/sync port, volume rocker, an outsize camera shutter button and a 2D/3D switch. On top are a power/sleep button and 3.5mm jack while the back sports the twin camera lenses needed for stereoscopic photos as well as not one, but two LED flash lights.
Interface and OS
The Evo 3D features the latest version of Android – 2.3.4 Gingerbread, so you won’t have the frustration of waiting for an imminent upgrade. At least, not for a while. So you’ve got video calling (via the internet, not via network) and NFC (Near Field Communication) for phone-based payments, if and when they eventually take off.
HTC’s Sense user interface, which sits on top of Android, gets better and better, with good-looking icons, intuitive layout and some fancy looking graphics, particularly with the 3D-effect menu and animated weather app. That’s 3D-effect rather than real 3D, since it looks much the same on other recent HTC phones. Oddly, none of the graphics or widgets take advantage of the Evo’s 3D screen, which seems a shame, though that doesn’t mean there won’t be any available for download at a later date.
The 4.3in capacitive touch screen offers a maximum resolution of 960x540 pixels, which is impressively sharp when you’re viewing pictures, browsing the web or watching video. Unfortunately you don’t get quite that level of resolution when you’re viewing 3D images, though they still look bright and vibrant.
The 3D effect certainly works without the need for those awkward glasses, but it necessarily has an extremely narrow viewing angle, so you’ll need to share one at a time. The effect can get a bit much though, and you may start to get some eye strain if you look at it for too long.
3D is what this phone is all about, and the 3D camera allows you to create your own images and videos in glorious stereoscopic colour. There’s a switch on the side which allows you to swap between 2D and 3D modes, though it takes about three seconds to move from one to the other.
Picture quality drops from 5 to 2 megapixels in 3D and there’s a limit to the type of pictures you can take – it won’t allow portrait snaps for instance, instructing you to turn the phone on its side if you try. Usefully, the gallery flags up which pictures are in 3D and which are in 2D, especially since you’re unlikely to be able to view your pics or vids anywhere else but on the Evo 3D’s screen – there’s no option to show them on a 3D TV via HDMI cable and HTC couldn’t confirm which, if any, 3D TVs might be compatible with the technology.
The 2D camera isn’t much less limited than the 3D variety. Despite useful features like autofocus, face detection and a widescreen option, picture quality is far from the best, with less than vibrant colours, edges that are none too sharp and too much tendency to blur with movement.
Video recording is in 720p HD, not quite as good as the 1080p full HD that’s appearing on most dual-core handsets but not bad. It also has a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front for video calling.
Apps and browser
The Android browser works a treat with fast access to the internet via 3G or Wi-Fi. As mentioned earlier there’s little on the phone to take advantage of the screen’s 3D capability, though there are a few games available from Gameloft and some videos in the 3D section of YouTube (you’ll need to type yt3d in the search bar). What’s missing is a dedicated 3D section of the UI that would make the most of what is so far not much more than an interesting gimmick.
Media and connectivity
The screen’s relatively high resolution for 2D videos and images shows off films to good effect and the player gives you the option to stretch films to the full size of the screen. The Android music player is nicely intuitive and while the sound is on the tinny side through the supplied headphones, it’s at least easy to upgrade them via the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Performance and battery life
The phone’s powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor which shows enough grunt to keep things moving along nicely, switching between apps easily, though a few high-end handsets, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S or Motorola’s Atrix, are noticeably quicker.
If you keep away from anything to do with 3D, the battery seems to put in an average performance – you can expect to have to charge it once every day or two. But that would be like buying a Ferrari for the upholstery – you’ll want to use the 3D. The trouble is that the 3D functionality absolutely guzzles the battery life – best to carry a charger with you wherever you go, and make sure you switch off the 3D camera when you’re not using it.
- 4.3in 3D screen
- Decent 2D/3D screen
- Dual-core processor
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Some lag
- Not enough 3D options to take advantage of the screen
- No HDMI port
Verdict: The HTC Evo 3D is a powerful smart phone with some good features and one stand-out circus trick. If you really need 3D, it’s worth considering, but if not, your money will go further with the likes of HTC’s Sensation or Incredible S.
More info: HTC Evo 3D spec