The EVO 4G in 2010 was a big deal for Sprint. Not only was it the first U.S. phone to offer WiMAX, but the device was also fast, beautiful and stood out as probably the best (at the time) Android smartphone on the market. But Sprint began to lose its way, resulting in a lull of truly flagship-worthy devices (save for the introduction of Apple's iPhone). Now, Sprint is hoping it can recapture some of its acclaim by shining that big ole EVO signal to the sky, saying, "Help us, EVO. Please."
HTC has forged a bright new path. The handset maker was adamant before MWC that its days of overwhelming consumers with multiple devices was over — then the company delivered the One line. Talk about making good on its promises. The HTC One X and One S are arguably two of the most well executed, well thought out Android devices in quite some time. With a pretty noticeable design change, a new carrier and some new tech, the EVO 4G LTE, while not One in name, beautifully continues on HTC's more focused frontier of next-gen mobile technology.
Awesome — Design, Speed, Screen, Camera
Right off the bat, the biggest noticeable difference between the EVO 4G LTE and the One X is the design. Sprint's new EVO looks (mostly) like AT&T's One X, just disguised; think of it as a flashy, confident alter ego — like a super hero. Instead of the One X's polycarbonate back, Sprint's iteration is made of part aluminum and part Holy crap what is this gaudy, shiny plastic mask? (Ok, it's not quite that bad.) It's got a menacing red ring around the rear camera lens, and a solid red strip cutting across the device that acts as the EVO 4G LTE's lifeblood — it connects this device with the EVO 4G of old. The red strip, by the way, houses a pretty great kickstand — which is admittedly a bit if a nuisance to open — that can support the phone in several different ways — you can even charge the device while the kickstand is in use.
You can also remove the rear plastic plate to reveal a microSD slot, wich gives users the option to expand storage by an additional 32GB (bringing it to 48GB total). Another additional design element worth mentioning is the dedicated camera button. Why don't more phones have this? It's not particularly handy in portrait mode, as the button's placement can make holding the phone and taking a picture a bit tricky, but for landscapes, it's great.
Exactly like the screen on the One X, the Super LCD2 display on the EVO LTE is absolutely stunning. It's bright, beautiful, and makes pretty much everything look amazing. Text looks crisp, pictures are vibrant and videos look fantastic. I watched quite a few videos and they all looked great. Setting the screen at max brightness looks terrific inside, and I was still able to see very well under direct sunlight.
Speed wise, using the EVO 4G LTE is a bit like sitting behind the wheel of a Formula One car. The 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 handled whatever task I threw at it in-stride — Web browsing, Temple Run (a lot of Temple Run), snapping pictures/video and watching cats play piano on YouTube. As you can see from the Quadrant screenshot from above, the EVO 4G LTE scored 4851, just a smidgen less than the One X's 5055. However, I did notice the occasional stutter or two while playing games, but nothing too major. Navigating the device was a pretty painless experience as well thanks to the S4 SoC, and opening apps was snappy. (For more on Android 4.0 and Sense 4, check out Todd's review of the One X on AT&T; it's the same experience.)
HTC EVO 4G LTE sample shot
Finally, the camera; It's the same beast found in the One X — which you could read more in depth about right here — with one improvement that I already mentioned, but can't be underscored: the dedicated shutter button. The images themselves look great thanks to the 8-megapixel shooter with wide aperture f/2.0 autofocus lens and HTC's ImageSense engine, but designing a button into the equation makes it that much better. It's a two-stage design, so anyone who has used a digital point and shoot will feel right at home.
Eh — Battery Life, HD Voice (because we couldn't test it)
This one will vary from user to user, so just because it's an "Eh" (not particularly good, but not bad) for me doesn't mean you'll have the same experience. I'm not the heaviest smartphone user, so I didn't really change my habits all that much when testing the EVO 4G LTE. Some users may be on their phone a lot, while others — like me — will be on it intermittently throughout the day. The EVO 4G LTE actually comes with a slightly bigger 2,000 mAh battery opposed to the One X's 1,800 mAh battery, but during a full day of use (gaming, email, text, phone calls, Web browsing, picture/video-taking and general use), the EVO was nearly out of gas by late afternoon or early evening. Like I said, I'm not the heaviest of smartphone users, so others will likely find their battery experience to be different, but that battery life isn't the greatest
Sprint just announced HD Voice in early April, and we knew the feature wouldn't be here until "late 2012," so we're reserving judgement on that feature for now. As a refresher of what HD Voice is, here's what Sprint had to say: "HD Voice is the next-generation evolution of voice quality and the future of voice communications for mobile phones. The service will provide fuller, more natural-sounding and less fatiguing voice quality." Regular calling performed well, though!
Not Awesome — No LTE (for now), 3G Speeds
Sprint customers are getting a future-proof phone, which is great, but not being able to see those next-gen speeds right now is such a bummer. The carrier has promised to roll out some of its LTE network by this summer, but that's only in a limited market — for now. Sprint has grandiose plans of blanketing its current 3G market with LTE by 2014, so if you're an avid Sprint supporter, it really comes down to how long you're willing to wait, especially with AT&T and Verizon already well on the LTE course.
With that in mind, 3G performance was atrocious in my area (Orange County). I could've ran a mile before a Web page loaded, and trying to watch YouTube videos was not an option without a Wi-Fi connection. This is obviously an issue that falls squarely on Sprint, and it's a real bummer that such a great phone is marred by the carrier's slow network. In addition, I ran multiple speed tests, and the EVO 4G LTE's best score was 0.04Mbps down and 0.20Mbps up.
So what are Sprint customers really getting here? Basically, the HTC One X's alter ego. The EVO 4G LTE is well designed — despite its plastic helmet — and comes equipped with several really cool added bonuses, such as the microSD slot, kickstand and (we're assuming this will be good) HD Voice. What ultimately bogs the EVO 4G LTE down is Sprint. The device can't live up to its 4G LTE name until there's actually an LTE network — and our 3G data speeds were just appalling. But if you're committed to Sprint, and want to buy into the carrier's utopian future, this is absolutely the phone to get. However, if the lack of LTE is a deal-breaker, or if you aren't feeling the new EVO's design, we wouldn't blame you for hopping over to AT&T's One X. Anxious customers will have a bit of time to mull their decision over, as the EVO 4G LTE's original May 18 date has been delayed indefinitely due to a patent dispute with Apple. So, which will you choose?
For more information on how we rate phones and tablets, be sure to check out our official mobile review scoring format guide.
HTC EVO 4G LTE for Sprint Specs:
- Price: Available for $199 with two-year contract (once the customs issue is resolved)
- OS: Android 4.0 with Sense 4
- CPU: 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4
- GPU: Adreno 225
- RAM: 1GB
- Storage: 16GB + microSD
- Bluetooth: 3.0
- Display: 4.7-inch Super LCD2 (720×1280)
- Camera: 8-megapixel rear, 1.3-megapixel front
- Battery: 2000 mAh
- Size / Weight: 134.8 x 68.9 x 8.9 mm / 134 g