HTC EVO 4G LTE review 14 640x426

With the introduction of the HTC EVO 4G LTE, Sprint effectively gets its own “HTC One” phone, renamed into one of the successful “EVO” Franchise that made history for Sprint. The EVO 4G LTE does look like its HTC One X cousin for the outside, even if it does not use the same type of industrial design.

On the inside, the HTC EVO 4G LTE is powered by a dual-core Snapdragon S4 equipped with a very fast graphics processor. The camera sensor, Operating System and HTC Sense layer are otherwise identical to the HTC One X smartphone that we recently reviewed. In this review, we’re going to dive deep into the EVO 4G LTE and see how it compares with the best that HTC has to offer.



Technical highlights

HTC One S (T-Mobile) HTC EVO 4G LTE HTC One X (AT&T)
OS Android 4, HTC Sense 4 Android 4, HTC Sense 4 Android 4, HTC Sense 4
Display 4.3″ 960×540 4.7″ 1280×720 4.7″ 1280×720
Processor SnapDragon S4 1.5GHz SnapDragon S4 1.5GHz SnapDragon S4 1.5GHz
Size 130.9x65x7.8 134.8×68.99×8.98 134.36×69.9×8.9
Weight 4.22oz 4.72oz 4.59oz
Internal Storage 16GB 16GB 16GB
microSD option No Yes No
Battery capacity 1650mAh 2000mAh 1800mAh
Network HSPA+ LTE, EVDO LTE, HSPA+
Camera (back) 8MP BSI Sensor 8MP BSI Sensor 8MP BSI Sensor

Context

We all use smartphones differently, so it’s important that I tell you what I do with my smartphone(s): I typically check email often with the built-in email app (via Microsoft Exchange), and reply moderately because typing on the virtual keyboard is tedious. I browse the web several times a day to check on news sites, but rarely watch movies or play music. I don’t call much – maybe 10mn a day, if at all.

On the “apps” side, I have a couple of social networks (FB, G+), a receipts manager and random apps (<20), but I rarely play games or do something super-intensive like video editing. This usage pattern will affect battery life and the perception of what features are useful. Now you know where we’re coming from…

Industrial design

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The kick stand back is the hallmark design feature of the Sprint EVO Series

Although the HTC EVO 4G LTE is not officially part of the HTC One Series, it does share a lot of the family traits. If you look at the specifications above, you will notice that most of the internals are similar (SnapDragon S4, internal storage, camera, software…) but Sprint has managed to get a larger 2000mAh battery and a micro-SD slot in this phone. Both of which are lacking from the original HTC One design.

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Left: HTC EVO 4G LTE, right: HTC One X

This new Sprint EVO phone has no problem being the best EVO to date as it uses the latest technology. First of all, it is much thinner than the original EVO and the EVO Design 4G – both also built by HTC. As its name indicates, this latest revision also runs on Sprint’s new 4G LTE network (Sprint’s previous 4G network was built on WiMax – for more information about the various 4G networks, read our post on this topic).

In my opinion, it also looks better than previous EVO phones- especially in the front, and it does look like and HTC One in many ways. In the back, it looks like Sprint asked HTC to integrate a stand, which is a hallmark of the EVO designs, and to add a red accent to match the overall EVO brand. I’ll let you make up your mind on this design: some love it, some dislike it – I think that this not as good-looking as the HTC One X, or the Galaxy Nexus. Also, the “piano black” part of the phone has quickly become a fingerprint magnet.

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On the sides, you will find the usual micro-USB port, the volume controls, the Power control and… a camera shutter button. The latter can launch the Camera app, and take pictures, including in burst-mode if you leave it pressed. We’ll come back to that later.

While this phone design works very well, I have to say that the slight curve and shorter length of the HTC One X are better design attributes. Although just slightly bigger, the HTC EVO 4G LTE does “feel” noticeably bigger than the One X, visually. It also does not feel as good in the hand because its sides don’t have the gentle curve that the monolithic poly-carbonate construction of the HTC One S and One X have. In fact, the HTC EVO 4G LTE has the “organs” of the HTC One Series, transplanted into a traditional smartphone body design.

Display

HTC EVO 4G LTE review 19 640x426The 4.7” (1280×720) display is beautiful and sharp. It seems to use the same S-LCD type of display than the HTC One X does, and this works great for us. Images look crisp, and colors are bright and saturated. While this is not an AMOLED, but frankly, we’re getting to levels of quality where users don’t care about the underlying technology. This is right there at the top in terms of display quality.

What’s different?

The EVO line of smartphones has often been the high-end offering at Sprint, and this the case once again. As it stands, this is probably the best phone that you can get on the Sprint network. The new SnapDragon S4 (1.5GHz), the huge display, the imaging capabilities and the LTE network are most important elements in this phone.

Killer apps

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Virtual keyboard: Ironically, despite having hundreds of thousands of apps at their disposal, most users sill refer to text-based communication as being the “critical” application for them. That’s why you must not underestimate the importance of a virtual keyboard. The more productive you want to be, and the more likely this element may get in the way.

HTC doesn’t use the stock Google Android keyboard, but has its own HTC Sense version, which I find very usable. If you mind the general lagginess, you can make it more responsive by disabling the real-time spell check. Alternatively, you can also download Swiftkey or another keyboard if you want to.

On my wish list, I’d like to see things like up/down swipe motion to access special characters and capital letters. That is so much more efficient, and even entry-level phones from Huawei have this feature, so let’s hope that others pick this up.

HTC EVO 4G LTE review 21 640x426Email:  I really like the email client on the HTC One X (and I suppose that all HTC Sense 4.0 would feature the same). It’s clean and very readable and has all the productivity features that I would expect from an efficient email client:

  • Emails are actually downloaded in the background so they’re ready when you open the app
  • Search is quickly accessible
  • Actions can be performed on multiple items
  • Reply+All/Forward/Delete are easily accessible
  • Account is easily selectable

Some email clients “cheat” by checking only the notifications, but download the actual message only when you open the email app. This *may* save some battery life, but it is also a major annoyance in my opinion.

I get a lot of emails, so this is a big deal for me, and I feel like I can actually get some work done in an efficient way with this. On a daily basis, the most important features are the search and background download. Not having a search is a “no go”, and having the app load the emails only when you open the app is frustrating.

HTC EVO 4G LTE review 22 640x426Calendar (excellent) : The calendar is also very effective: first, it’s clear and very readable because HTC has done a good job with the layout and font choice. For frequent travelers, there’s also an option to display two time zones, which is really well integrated. The second time zone shows up on the other side of the screen, and takes very little place.

There’s also an Agenda mode that uses all the available display surface to only show upcoming meetings. Overall, this is a great calendar, and I don’t feel like something obvious is missing. I’ve included a photo that compares the HTC One Calendar to its poor cousin: the iPhone 4S calendar.

HTC EVO 4G LTE review 17 640x426Google Maps:  it is already excellent on Android, there is no question about it. The app does a great job of utilizing the extra pixels on the screen, so while the overall readability and sharpness stay equal to a regular 3.7” smartphone, you can actually see a bit “more map” on the screen, which is great. My favorite feature: map area preload that lets you download a 10 square-mile map onto your local storage. Rocks!

Skype:  it works normally, which means that it is a big laggy and tends to use more CPUs that it should. With the HTC One X, the overall experience is very similar to to other high-end Android smartphones, however, I found the incoming video to be better than usual. On the other end, the outgoing video was not so great: mostly blurry and laggy (and that was over WiFi). The audio part seemed OK, however.

Entertainment (excellent)

Video (excellent): The Snapdragon S4 can play video without breaking a sweat. This is not new, so the excellent video playback capabilities are pretty in-line with out expectations. Again, my usual 1080p MP4 files worked very well. On the official product page there is no list of supported CODECS, but the HTC One X did list 3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), so that’s probably very similar. As always, keep in mind that there are variations, so don’t expect things to work just because you see the right file extension.

Gaming (fast!): The HTC EVO 4G will run most games very well, so performance should not be an issue. In fact, the most important aspect will be how much support each chip manufacturer will gather from game developers. Qualcomm has been promoting its Game Command app, but it seems to me that NVIDIA and TegraZone still have the upper-hand when it comes to exclusive title and features. This is something that Qualcomm will have to work on a bit more. Given the excellent performance of their GPU, it’s a pity that we don’t see more special-effects running on them.

Speaker-quality (excellent): The speaker sound quality is excellent, and just as good as the HTC One X. Again, despite having a rear-speaker design, which is not the most straightforward way to emit sound to the user, HTC delivers a very good audio experience. Although the sound quality will vary depending on whether or not the phone is in your hand, or on a table, the over quality remains very good.

Imaging

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A photo taken with the HTC EVO 4G LTE in very good lighting conditions

Photo: in terms of photography, I’ve been assured by HTC that the EVO 4G LTE uses the same sensor and software than the HTC One X, so it should be just as good. I’ve uploaded more full-size samples to the Ubergizmo Flickr account in case you want to take a closer look, but I’ve been quite happy with the imaging capabilities. Even in very dark/difficult conditions, the phone did well – even if the anti-noise function made the photos more blurry than I would like. While I may not print all the photos, I think that they are simply outstanding for web/social network usage.

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This photo was shot under extremely difficult lighting conditions

Burst Mode (well-done): although the absolute quality was very good, but not “amazing”, the photographic options are excellent. The burst mode is a good example. Unlike many other implementations, it is very easy to use: just keep the shutter button pressed. It sounds like a “duh”, but most cameras require you to switch to a special shooting mode, which is annoying and therefore becomes unused. The HTC One X is ready for Burst Mode out of the box.

Camera conclusion: while this phone does deliver an amazing imaging experience, thanks to a very refined camera user-interface. Hopefully others, including Google, will copy this.

Performance

htc evo 4g lte antutuAntutu is an overall system performance benchmark (CPU, graphics, storage), and what it shows is that overall, most recent phones land in a comparable performance footprint. This means that unless you do something very specific (like “gaming” or “downloads”), those phones should provide a similar overall performance. Here, the test shows the dual-core nature of the SnapDragon S4 chip that is used in the EVO 4G LTE. The HTC One X quad-core does very well in this test because Antutu takes advantage of multiple cores.

htc evo 4g lte nenamark 2Nenamark 2 is a test aimed at measuring the graphics processor performance. It is handy, but keep in mind that the latest games use much more complex techniques that are not represented in this test. Still, the EVO 4G LTE performs admirably well, and we’re impressed by the graphics performance of the latest Adreno graphics processor design. Qualcomm has done an excellent good job with this.

htc evo 4g lte sunspiderSunSpider is a Javascript test that mostly measures how good the Javascript engine is. Performance jump of 100% have been witnessed after software updates, so keep in mind that this may not be a great CPU test. It also uses a single-core, so it won’t be able to differentiate much between single and multicore architectures. Also, please don’t consider it to be a “web performance” test, because it is not. Most of the perceived web performance is felt during the load time and rendering time, both of which often have nothing to do with Javascript performance.

This handset does a very good job, this shows that the single-core performance is excellent as we’re assuming that the HTC One X uses pretty much same software stack.

Perceived performance

Synthetic benchmarks can only carry us so far. What they don’t show for example is the user experience is smooth and responsive (responsiveness is not always solved with brute-force processor power). In the end, what good is raw performance if you can’t perceive it?

Fortunately, the synthetic benchmark are mostly representative of the real world experience. The phone is fast and responsive, and definitely deserve its reputation as a high-end phone. There’s no question about that. To be honest, it exceeded my expectations, and although Sprint has had a reputation for not having the “cool phones”, the HTC EVO 4G clearly sets the bar high.

Battery life

We typically like the battery depletion test because your smartphone probably spends most of its time doing “nothing” and waiting in your pocket/purse for the next session.  The HTC EVO 4G LTE lands into the top of the list with an overnight depletion of 4% to 5%. Note that with results there is some margin for error, so you should take the relative differences with a grain of salt.

htc evo 4g lte battery deplHowever, you can tell that it does better than many other other high-profile handset. Of course, those percentages are only valid for my particular (app) setup, and this may vary considerably depending of how your own setup is. That said, I try to keep my background app usage low, so short of shutting the 3G radio OFF, there should not be much that you can do to help further.

Keep in mind that battery life varies a lot depending on the apps that run in the background, your network reception, your local network density and the amount of time that the: display is ON. You can always refer to the Android battery report to see what is consuming the power. Finally, keep in mind that network transactions generated by apps can appear as “Android” as it is ultimately the OS that handles those transactions.

I was impressed by the battery life of the HTC EVO 4G LTE. It did very well in our battery depletion test with 4% to 5% spent overnight (8hrs), which is great for a modern smartphone. The decision of using a slightly larger battery capacity paid off. I can only imagine how awesome it would be with a 3200mAh battery like the RAZR Maxx has.

Note that Sprint’s LTE network is not yet available in San Francisco, so we were mostly on 3G or WIFI. Also, HTC designed all their HTC One (and derivative) phones to shut down the 3G/4G radio when connected to WIFI. This most definitely helps, but of course, being smarter with things like the radio is part of the game.

Conclusion

HTC EVO 4G LTE review 02 640x426While Sprint does not have an official “HTC One” phone, rest assured that the Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE can go toe to toe with the HTC One X. If anything, I think that Sprint should not have messed with the original name because it dilutes the message, and can’t leverage all the marketing that HTC had done for the One Series.

Of course, the missing part here is the LTE network. As it stands, Sprint is rolling it out, but chances are that you will be in a location that has not been covered yet. Also, we would recommend doing some homework to understand the different “flavors” of 4G when you search for coverage. For example, Sprint’s WiMax and LTE networks are labeled “4G”, but this handset does not support WiMax. This post will give you a head start when it comes to 4G networks in the USA.

In any case, even with a slower 3G network, I found the user experience to be excellent, but that’s really up to you to decide if you would rather wait for Sprint’s LTE coverage to be deployed in your area. Finally, I should add that the slightly bigger battery and the presence of a micro-SD slot may be critical elements for some users.

I hope that this review was helpful (share it if it was icon razz ), but if there is something that I haven’t covered, or if you have more questions, drop a comment below.

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews. Read more about HTC and Sprint.

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