Sprint HTC Evo 4G LTE In-Depth Review
After reviewing the One X, which I said was the best One series phone, how does Sprint’s model fare? It didn’t beat the One X in the comparison, and it isn’t quite the same device overall though it shares almost all of the same components and internals as it’s AT&T brother. Is it better or not?
Put the Evo 4G LTE and One X side-by-side and you could see the resemblance. They aren’t so different, but they don’t look the same. The Evo has a flat screen while the One X is curved. The Evo has a gunmetal grey bezel and a tri-colored back, while the One X is encased in a completely white shell. The biggest physical similarity is that they both stand out. The One X is bright and draws the eye towards it, and the Evo has stark contrast and is, quite frankly, ugly from behind.
This uglyness is part necessity, part poor design. Like the One S, the Evo 4G LTE has a removable panel at the top of the rear of the phone, which houses the MicroSD card slot. The Evo is the only One series phone out with expandable memory, but Sprint and HTC decided to protect the slot very poorly with a glossy cover that’s too hard to remove and collects fingerprints too easily. Beneath it is a kickstand, which is simply and strong, and really works. Most kickstands are terrible, and this one is the exact opposite: useful, steady, and it works right-side up or upside down. Finally, below that is a matte-finished non-removable cover.
With all those colors on the back, the Evo feels more like an unfinished ugly duckling than both the highly polished One S or One X. It certainly stands out in a crowd, but not in a good way. Turn the phone around however, and it’s a whole different story.
While the One X and One S are sharp-looking from the front, the Evo 4G LTE is sharper. The flat display is stunning. I’m convinced that it is different in some way from the One X, and if you look at HTC’s website, they’ll list the One X as a Super LCD2 panel while the Evo has an IPS panel. According to my research, that’s not accurate, though my experience with IPS panels says otherwise. I don’t have the tools at my disposal to fully address what kind of a display either phone uses, and only know for certain that both of the tested models use a Sony-built LCD display.
However, I’ve found that the Evo is brighter and easier to see outdoors. I’ve also found that the One X provides slightly better color contrast. This may be due to the curved display on the One X, but I can’t be certain. In either case, the Evo is better to use outdoors in direct sunlight than the One X, and it’s on-par with the iPhone 4S for outdoor use.
The only other thing regarding hardware design is the difference in the edges between the Evo and other One series phones. The Evo has a metal band around it which is surprisingly comfortable to grip, and is like a smaller version of the iPhone 4/4S metal frame. So don’t be wary of the phone being uncomfortable to hold, it isn’t. The 720p display is also stunning, though the One X is slightly, ever so slightly better for viewing media. The Evo also seems to have better dark contrast, which I could only tell by holding the phones together and looking at different images. For anyone interested in either device, you won’t notice any difference.
One very pertinent problem on the Evo is it’s lack of both 4G and LTE. While the Evo 4G LTE is the next evolutionary step for Sprint’s famed Evo 4G, the newest model lacks both. It doesn’t have a 4G antenna, so if you’re currently on Sprint and use their 4G network, this new phone will be a step down. Furthermore, if you plan on staying with Sprint and are waiting for their LTE network, it currently doesn’t exist anywhere. Six cities have been announced, but Sprint hasn’t stated when their LTE network will go live. AT&T and Verizon both took about a year to get their LTE networks off the ground, and AT&T’s is still much smaller than Verizon’s. Sprint will be lucky to catch up to either considering the company’s much smaller footprint.
This begs a very serious question for interested buyers: do you use 4G today on Sprint? Are you in a 4G area to begin with? If so, the Evo 4G LTE may not be for you. Sprint’s 3G network is fast for a 3G network, but anywhere from 8-15x slower than AT&T or T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G networks, and up to 50x slower than Verizon or AT&T’s LTE networks. So if you rely heavily on data, the Evo 4G LTE may be future proof, but it isn’t ready for today just yet.
It also has a new function Sprint is releasing called HD Voice, which makes calls sound as clear as VoIP internet calls. This sounds like an excellent feature, but it’s limited to devices and to Sprint’s network. So only Sprint users, and today only Sprint users with the Evo 4G LTE, have access to it. There’s no doubt that all of Sprint’s upcoming phones will feature HD Voice, but if you just want it to make your calls sound clearer, know that it’ll only influence calls over Sprint to recipients with either an identical or newer Sprint phone.
Both the One S and One X have some serious software flaws, especially when it comes to Beats Audio and general use. The One S turns off randomly and crashes both apps and the OS, and the One X skips music tracks because of Beats and occasionally stalls and hangs. The Evo 4G LTE doesn’t have any such problem. After three weeks of extended use, I’m left only impressed with the software’s stability and use. No tracks skip, no apps crash, and no serious problems not normally associated with Android 4.0.
The Evo 4G LTE features the largest battery of any One phone, but it doesn’t perform the best. This is partly due to the network. The One S had a similar problem, though with T-Mobile in rural areas such is expected. Sprint has historically had excellent reception and service, but in Los Angeles I’ve noticed a serious dip in network performance. Sprint used to be the one carrier that would never drop a call in certain canyons and areas where I live. Now it drops like everyone else, but worse, it roams.
Dropping signals and roaming drains the battery significantly, and I didn’t see the same battery-life performance on the Evo as I did on the One X, even with the larger battery. It will certainly last a full day, but if you aren’t in the city where cell coverage is always available, then the Evo will barely last out the day. Mind you, that’s on 3G, not 4G or LTE.
Furthermore, like with the One X, the antenna doesn’t appear to be as strong as other phones, which may cause the handset to drain power even more. The Evo also likes to connect to Wi-Fi, but Android still isn’t as conservative as the Palm Pre was over Wi-Fi and this will cause additional battery drain.
Unfortunately I couldn’t pull the same battery benchmark on the Evo 4G LTE because of some software issues, but I have no doubt it would score higher than the One X because of the higher-density battery alone. Don’t let that fool you; the battery is more powerful, but the phone itself requires more charge.
There aren’t any surprises with the Evo 4G LTE. With all of the same components as the One X, the scores are almost completely identical, off only a few points in every test. This isn’t a surprise since the hardware is identical and the software is nearly the same too. For more details on the benchmarks, refer to my review of the One X. In short, the Evo 4G LTE is the fastest Android phone out there, right beside the One X.
Again, the camera is identical to the One S and One X. Check the gallery below to see sample shots taken with the Evo 4G LTE. They’re good, but not as good as the iPhone 4S or Nokia Lumia 900. It lacks the clarity of those two phones and doesn’t provide as good color and light contrast or color reproduction. Take a look at the sample shots below.
Both the One S and One X from HTC are amazing phones, the best for their respective carriers right out of the race. And frankly, it’s a race between a rocketship and battleship. The next best phones currently available are from holiday 2011. But the Evo 4G LTE, even sharing nearly all of the build qualities and components of the excellent One X, is severely handicapped. It doesn’t work over 4G at all, and has no access to LTE because Sprint hasn’t built that network yet. It has HD Voice, but no one can use it yet. And both of these factors, coupled with Sprint’s smaller cellular network, hurts battery life of a larger battery.
These factors lead to a very confusing end result. Sprint’s most powerful phone, by a longshot, is also it’s most crippled. For three years Sprint’s 4G network has been faster than the competition, until Verizon’s LTE really rolled out and gained significant traction. Today that network is as fast as T-Mobile and AT&T’s 4G networks, but not nearly as available. And the Evo 4G was Sprint’s headlining 4G smartphone. Now the next generation of that phone, the best one yet, shares that namesake but forsakes Sprint’s 4G network entirely. This is just unreasonable.
My father uses an Evo 4G, and he asked me about this new phone. I had to tell him not to upgrade. Why should he? There’s no reason if you ever access a 4G network, not until LTE from Sprint is available. In the meantime he’s asking about other carriers, because Sprint’s loss of quality over the past year.
The Evo 4G LTE is definitely a good phone. It’s well designed, albeit not pretty. And I’d love to recommend it, but I can’t. The network it was built for doesn’t exist. The features it employs aren’t available. It’s a phone from the future, and it really won’t work until the future gets here. And for Sprint, that isn’t soon enough.
Bottom Line: The most powerful, potent Android phone that’s Sprint’s biggest letdown.
- As powerful and stunning as the amazing One X
- Excellent dedicated camera button and control
- Future-proof for Sprint
- No software problems, unlike the other One-series phones
- No 4G on Sprint, and LTE networks aren’t available, nor will be for some time. Users will be stuck on a slow 3G network
- HD Voice is limited to only new devices, specifically just the Evo 4G LTE
- Camera quality is so-so, with soft photos and all-too-easy blur
- Ugly design; the back is the opposite of pretty