I'm not sold on 3D for consumer devices, and I'm certainly skeptical of it on a smartphone-size screen. However HTC makes great phones, so I decided to keep an open mind about the HTC EVO 3D. Did the EVO 3D change my opinion of 3D phones? Well, let's just say it is a very good thing that there's more to this phone than just a 3D display.
HTC EVO 3D: Solid, Beautiful Design
First and foremost, the EVO 3D is a gorgeous phone. Like the EVO 4G, the EVO 3D is black with blood-red detailing. Keeping it in the family, the EVO View Google Android Tablet has the same colour scheme. The EVO 3D smartphone feels solid, but not bulky in the least. It has a nice, textured rubber backing and a slimmer shape that feels good in hand.
With the battery in place, the HTC EVO 3D weighs 170g. It measures about 127mm tall, nearly 76mm wide, and 12mm thick. Its display is a 4.3-inch 3D touchscreen with a sheet of Gorilla Glass for added toughness. Unlike the EVO 4G, the EVO 3D doesn't sport a kickstand. This is mainly due to the fact that the twin 3D cameras occupy most of the space on the rear of the device.
HTC EVO 3D: 3D Display
One of the most important features of the EVO 3D is, of course, its 3D display. The phone uses parallax barriers to display 3D images and video, without the need for clunky 3D glasses (similar to the concept used on the Nintendo 3DS). The EVO 3D's 4.3-inch qHD 960-by-540-pixel screen looks terrific in 2D - and pretty good in 3D, as well.
Let me be clear, however: This isn't the kind of 3D you'd see at the cinema. Images aren't exactly flying in your face. Rather, it looks like you can peer into the phone much like a diorama.
You need to maintain an absolute dead-on viewing angle to properly appreciate the third dimension, though. If you're viewing at a slight angle, the image will look like a blurry mess. This can be difficult with a small screen. With an image or a short video clip, it isn't too hard to hold the phone directly in front of your eyes for a few seconds.
And don't even think about trying to watch 3D movies outside; it completely fades in bright sunlight. If you don't want to view 3D images and prefer to stick to the standard 2D display, there is a toggle switch on the side of the device that allows you to turn the effect off.
HTC EVO 3D:New HTC Sense User Interface
Like the HTC Sensation, the EVO 3D comes with the latest version of the Sense user interface. Sense 3.0 has a brand-new customizable lock screen. You can pick a theme for your lock screen (the phone offers quite a few to choose from) and then select four apps that you visit the most. When you turn on your phone, you'll see those four apps at the bottom of the screen. To unlock your phone, you drag the circle and move it over an app; you then jump straight to that app. That way, you don't have to go through multiple menus to reach your e-mail or any other items you access frequently.
The new version of Sense also has a spruced-up Walls system. Rather than having to flick back and forth between your walls, as you do in the stock Android operating system, you can flick the EVO 3D's screen to make the walls spin. The effect is a bit reminiscent of a carousel and makes navigation a bit easier.
You'll find a clutch of new widgets in Sense, but my favorite is the gorgeous new Weather widget. HTC has a nice tradition of creating visual weather apps, and it is cool to see the company continue to improve them. They might not always be pretty, but they sure are dramatic.
HTC EVO 3D: Performance
The EVO 3D is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The Snapdragon processor supports advanced 3D technology, including full 1080p 30-frames-per-second HD video and stereoscopic-3D video capture and playback.
So how much of a difference does dual-core make? We matched the EVO 3D up against its predecessor, the HTC EVO 4G (a single-core device), and there's quite a big difference - one you'll notice it as soon as you turn on the phone. The EVO 4G had a start-up time of 74 seconds (!), while the EVO 3D had a much faster start-up time of 13.7 seconds. File transfer speed was about the same for both phones with the EVO 4G clocking in at 7.8 megabits per second versus the EVO 3D with 7.2 megabits per second.
We also conducted two gaming performance tests using GLBenchmark, a software suite that tests the quality and performance of OpenGL graphics. We conducted two tests: one with anti-aliasing on, one with it off. (Anti-aliasing is a graphics setting present in many games, which is intended to make gameplay graphics look smoother - for a full explanation of the pros and cons of anti-aliasing, check out Geek 101: Making Sense of Anti-Aliasing). We measured the graphics in frames per second (fps)-the more frames per second, the smoother the animations and graphics. The difference between the single-core EVO 4G and the dual-core EVO 3D is huge: With anti-aliasing off, the EVO 4G averaged 5.7 fps while the EVO 3D averaged 36.5 fps.
We're currently testing other dual-core phones, including the HTC Sensation and the LG T-Mobile G2x, to see how the EVO 3D's Snapdragon chipset stacks up against its Tegra 2 competitors.
HTC EVO 3D: 3D Camera and Video Capture
Despite my mixed feelings about 3D, there's something quite satisfying about capturing 3D images or videos and then being able to watch them on the same device. But you can also view them on any 3D TV with the help of the phone's HDMI-out jack. The HDMI jack uses a technology called MHL, which allows for both charging and HDMI-out via the same port. Like the Sensation 4G, the EVO 3D comes loaded with "Watch", HTC's new movie and TV show streaming service. With Watch, you can download videos and start viewing them immediately. Watch is well integrated into Sense; making it easier to find the videos you want to, um, watch.
The app's interface is clean, and movies are easy to find, but the library is pretty sparse at this point. You'll find some newly released movies like Due Date and some classics like Top Gun. If you're looking for something in particular, though, you're not likely to find it (no Spinal Tap!). A few popular TV shows like Chuck and Gossip Girl are available, but you're limited to one or two seasons of episodes.
See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?