HTC Evo 3D 3 Stars

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3D is the next big thing in gadgets – but few phone makers have jumped on the bandwagon. A few month ago LG released the Optimus 3D, and while it had the novelty factor, it wasn’t ever going to set the world on fire. Now HTC has decided to hop on board with its Evo 3D, which offers users the chance to shoot their own 3D films with twin cameras, as well as view 3D games and films on the screen.

One of the benefits is that you don’t need those chunky specs that scream ‘should have gone to Specsavers’, as you do when you go to the cinema to see a 3D blockbuster. However, Nintendo took the same technology to its DS range with the 3DS, and it seems that it has not been the success they might have hoped, having been cut in price quite spectacularly. So maybe most of us are actually happier to keep 3D for a night at the pictures rather than as an experience we must have at home, or while out and about.

On the big screen

That screen, which brings you 3D, is in fact a massive creature, measuring 4.3 inches, and offering crisp images thanks to its 540x960 resolution. Like HTC’s Sensation, you’ll find there are four touch-buttons beneath the display – for Back, Search, Home and Settings – which are also really responsive.

That huge screen sits in a rather chunky body – measuring 126x65x12.1, it makes the Samsung Galaxy S II feel small. It’s a heavyweight too – at 170g. If you’re used to ultra-slim smartphones you’ll be surprised by the size and weight of the Evo 3D if you try to squeeze it into a pocket.

The twin cameras are positioned at the back of the device – have them working together and they produce your 3D images. The way they sit, in a curved rectangle that juts out slightly, they remind us of Johnny Five from the film Short Circuit. Kind of cute if you like that sort of thing.

The rest of the build is very like that of the HTC Sensation – the microSD port sits on the left, while on the right HTC has placed the camera button, volume rocker and the switch that changes between 2D and 3D mode. On the top you’ll find the 3.5mm audio jack and on/off button.

Deja vu

In fact, generally, this device is pretty much the same as the HTC Sensation. It has the same dual-core 1.2GHz chip, which ensures smooth and speedy performance. It is pretty similar in terms of size (although the Evo is a tad – 0.8mm – thicker and 22g weightier) and the same 4.3inch display. Each phone runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. So you’ll be able to choose from the 400,00+ apps in Android Market, enjoy speedy, smooth access to the web, and take advantage of push email.

Both phones also have the benefits of HTC’s excellent Android skin – Sense 3.0. Sense adds more to Android by improving the visual experience, letting you flick between homepages on a carousel, and employing ingenious ways to unlock your screen – such as dragging an app or widget into a ring, which then opens up the display. We love HTC’s interface.

Getting connected

Connectivity is another area in which this handset excels – although at £500 we wouldn’t expect anything less. The A-GPS is really quick and the HSPDA is a solid 14.4Mbps. Sat-nav might well have looked fantastic in 3D, but is in actual fact the same as you’d find on the Sensation – in 2D. And that is our issue with the phone – it is pretty much the Sensation, and you’re paying for the 3D facility – but it doesn’t work with everything. However, turn the 3D mode on, and you’ll find that your battery appears to spring a leak – as power literally drains away.

Another issue is that there is no easy way to find your 3D content. LG’s Optimum 3D gathered all its content into ‘3D Space’. But HTC has failed to do this – particularly galling as with the Sense 3.0 interface it surely would have been simple to have a ‘herding pen’ for it. Instead, you’ll find there is nothing 3D pre-installed on the handset, and it is really hard to find any 3D content in Android Markey with its hundred and thousands of apps.

We’re also rather disappointed that HTC didn’t make the UI 3D – you get pretty much what you do on the Sensation, again. We reckon HTC’s wonderful Friend Stream widget, which aggregates all your Twitter, Facebook and other Social Networking events together, would have looked fabulous in 3D.

3D content

When you do actually find some 3D content to download, you’ll find the process is far from user friendly. As we mentioned, there is no portal or widget to help you find 3D downloads. And when you do find them, the effect is not great – we tried some great Gameloft 3D games, such as Spider-Man: Total Mayhem 3D and N.O.V.A., but we found the 3D effect kept disappearing as we moved the screen around – you’re better off with a 3DS for games.

Still in 3D

But the 3D effect is not only for viewing films and playing games; you can also shoot your own 3D content. However, despite the fact that both snappers have five megapixel lenses, when you shoot in 3D the res drops alarmingly to two megapixels. And even if you’re taking pictures in 2D, the HTC Sensation has an eight-megapixel snapper, so five megapixels isn’t so great.

If you’re taking pictures, the 3D is particularly effective when shooting a person or object close up. You get a very satisfying result, where your close-up subjects certainly look like they are closer than the background. Video films also work quite well – both in 2D and 3D – as long as you don’t move the phone too quickly and you keep relatively close to your subjects.

However, try taking images or video from a distance and you’ll be disappointed (especially as you can’t zoom in when in 3D mode). The cameras can’t establish what is closer and you end up with a blurry image that really does your eyes no favour. We tried experimenting by holding the phone at arm’s length – it improved things slightly, but this is not how you want to be viewing anything on your mobile phone. And again, if you tilt the handset slightly you lose the effect altogether – very frustrating. 

Aside from the fact that the 3D just doesn’t work very well, we can’t really see why you would need 3D on a mobile phone. It smacks of being just a bit of a gimmick, rather than the next step forward in mobile technology. And you can’t even share your 3D images and movies with anyone, unless they have the same technology, which isn’t highly likely.

For instance, your 3D snap will only look 2D if you upload it to Facebook. And put your 3D video on YouTube and only people who have those red and cyan 3D glasses will be able to watch it – a pretty limited audience we suspect. 

That’s not the only issue with the 3D offering; apart from the fact that the novelty is likely to wear off pretty quickly, looking at images and films in 3D actually makes your head and eyes ache after a while. And really, there’s little that we think would persuade people to want to watch much, after that initial ‘cool’ factor has worn off – after all it’s hardly like an ‘Avatar’ experience at the cinema is it?

Our conclusion

As it stands, the 3D technology on the Evo 3D is neither necessary nor good enough to persuade many people to pay out £500 for a phone, when the very similar, but 2D, HTC Sensation comes in at a hundred quid less. Maybe one day 3D technology will be standard on mobiles, but at the moment, we find it hard to recommend you buy a phone on the back of it – especially at this price.

Pros:
3D facility; latest Android; HTC Sense 3.0; huge screen; good build quality; excellent dual-core chip.
Cons:
3D facility; latest Android; HTC Sense 3.0; huge screen; good build quality; excellent dual-core chip.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 2 Stars
  • Ease of use 2 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 3 Stars
  • Battery life 2 Stars

Final verdict: 3 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice