[Mini-Review] HTC EVO 4G LTE for Sprint [Video]

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When it comes to getting a quality smartphone on Sprint’s network here in the United States, your choices are quite small, comprising of the Samsung Galaxy S III, Apple iPhone 5, and the HTC EVO 4G LTE. While each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, I’ll be telling you all about the latter of the three. (Sprint | Amazon)

Before I begin, keep in mind that this is a “mini-review,” meaning that topics are covered rather briefly. Those who like extremely detailed descriptions of things might want to look elsewhere, but for those who are looking for just the important bits, this should be sufficient. Lastly, I decided not to include any sample photos and videos from the device’s camera, nor did I include any images of the device itself. For the latter, refer to our mini-review video below.

What’s Included

For a video overview of the device itself, feel free to watch our “unboxing + first impressions” video right here:

Specs

When it comes to modern Android smartphones, most devices carry similar internal hardware. For the EVO 4G LTE, you get the following:

  • 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon Qualcomm MSM8960 CPU
  • 4.7″ 1280×720 IPS display
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage (microSD card support)
  • 8MP 1080p rear-facing camera
  • 1.3MP 720p front-facing camera
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC w/Google Wallet
  • 2000mAh battery
  • Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean (recent update)

Across the board, what you get with this particular smartphone is pretty standard.

Display

The EVO 4G LTE has a 4.7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280×720, which results in crisp and clear text and images. Viewing angles are quite good, retaining color accuracy at very excessive angles. Colors are fairly vivid, and color saturation is great. Overall, most will be very happy with the way the display works.

Design

HTC approached the EVO 4G LTE with a rather unique and ergonomic design, which results in an aluminum frame and three different back panels. The bottom panel, the largest of the bunch, has a soft-touch coating to it, which helps with fingerprints and smudges, but not so much for grip. In the middle, we have HTC’s signature metal kickstand, which is very strong and works rather well for landscape viewing and interaction. Lastly, the top piece is made of a glossy black plastic, resulting in a huge sea of fingerprints, which looks quite nasty. To me, and many others, it would’ve made sense for HTC to bring the same soft-touch material that was used for the bottom panel up to the top panel. The design also would’ve looked more uniform in my opinion. Also on the top panel is the rear-facing camera, which bulges out from the back. Because of this, the phone doesn’t lay flat when on a table. Lastly, on the back, you’ll find the speaker.

Oh, and don’t forget about the 3 touch-based buttons on the front of the device, which are for back, home, and multitasking, of which the latter of the three can be used as your typical Android menu button, HTC’s multitasking implementation, or a combination of both.

The phone is no doubt large (not Note II large, however), but one can still use it comfortably in one hand. This, to me, is as large as a smartphone really needs to get. While it’s not the lightest thing around, it’s certainly fine for most people.

Build quality seems solid, thanks to the aluminum frame. Regardless, it’d be recommended to purchase a case for the phone.

Unfortunately, the USB port is located on the left side of the device. While a USB cable is plugged in, you’ll have to deal with it sticking out of the left side, which can be quite annoying in a number of situations. Placing the USB port at the bottom seemed more practical.

In terms of buttons, the power button is traditionally located at the top, while a volume rocker and a two-stage camera button are located on the right. Also at the top is your 3.5mm headset jack.

Software & Performance

When I first received my review unit, the phone came preloaded with Android 4.0, “Ice Cream Sandwich.” Just a week or two ago, Android 4.1.1, “Jelly Bean,” was released, so I immediately updated to it. While the differences between the two versions aren’t too major, I was most interested in seeing how well Google’s “Project Butter” would help with the various sluggish UI animations. While the update helped, a lot of them were still a bit sluggish here and there, but I imagine that most people probably won’t even notice.

As this is an HTC device, your phone comes with HTC’s “Sense” Android overlay. This comes with easily manageable homescreens, new widgets, sounds, themes, and more. While it looks nice and is pretty easy to use, it’s a bit of a resource hog. Should I get this as my own personal device, I would immediately root it and install a custom ROM.

Performance is pretty good all around, with applications loading quickly and performing as one would expect them to. Web browsing, though, could be a bit faster. The stock “Internet” application is quite unstable, so I would immediately recommend installing Google Chrome from the Google Play Store. 1080p videos at high bitrates played without issues and, yes, you can take photos from videos.

Battery Life

Surprisingly, with location service enabled, 4G LTE enabled, and auto brightness set to on, this smartphone can easily get through a day and a half of use, which plenty to spare. I would consider my usage scenarios basic-to-moderate, consisting of regular checks of Twitter, emails, plenty of 4G web browsing, a few games here and there, phone calls, and SMS messages.

Call Quality & Speaker Quality

When using the front earpiece, calls weren’t very clear or loud, even at the maximum volume. Likewise, the rear speaker was generally quite, and the audio quality was very poor. Unless you use headphones for listening to music and watching videos, you’ll be disappointed by the speaker’s audio quality.

Camera Performance

The 8MP rear-facing shooter did an exceptional job when taking photos. It can take photos rather quickly, and you get a number of different effects and options to choose from. The front-facing camera was nothing mind-blowing, which is typical, though. Overall, the camera does a great job for photos, as well as videos.

Sprint Network Performance

I live in San Antonio, TX, which is one of Sprint’s initial launch cities of their 4G LTE network. As usual, your results may vary, as all of this is location dependent. You must remember that Sprint’s performance is generally quite poor, especially when compared to AT&T, Verizon, and even T-Mobile’s HSPA+ “4G” network. I found the phone switching from 4G LTE to 3G (“Ehrpd” as the Speedtest.net app calls it) fairly often, and the signal can vary quite a bit, even by just picking up the phone.

In terms of speeds on their 4G LTE network, it’s generally decent, and compared to their 3G network, it’s a huge improvement. Of the hundreds of speedtests that I’ve conducted around the city, my fastest LTE speeds were roughly 27Mbps down and 10Mbps up with a ping of nearly 100. On average, my speeds were around 7Mbps down and 3Mbps up with an average ping of near 65ms. I’ve seen many Sprint areas where performance is generally much better, with people getting 30Mbps down and 11Mbps up with just half a signal. So, again, take these results with a grain of salt.

However, none of this is to say that Sprint is bad. Phone calls and text messages performed just fine. Even if you live in an area with poor 4G LTE, it will still be a noticeable improvement over their 3G/WiMAX network.

On the bright side, you get truly unlimited and unthrottled data, which honestly made me jealous, considering I’m on a measly 4GB/mo. data plan for AT&T (but the data speeds & reliability are far beyond anything I’ve gotten on Sprint). Over the past three weeks, I’ve used nearly 36GB of data. THIRTY-SIX GIGABYTES OF MOBILE DATA IN LESS THAN A MONTH. Messages about using too much data? Nope! Overage fees? Nope! That’s one of the great things about Sprint that some are just now trying to mimick themselves (see: T-Mobile).

Conclusion

In the end, HTC’s EVO 4G LTE for Sprint is quite an upstanding smartphone, and in a sea of competing devices, all with similar hardware, this one comes out strong. Its combination of good looks and solid performance makes this one of the better choices that are currently available. Unfortunately, when it comes to Android devices, something better is always around the corner. Considering this phone has been out for most of the year, it might be worth it to hold off on it (that is, unless you happen to come across a good price for this device).

Feel free to follow Brian and The Tech Erra on Twitter.

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