There is a lot on the line with Sprint’s new EVO 3D launch today.  The EVO brand has now become the flagship Sprint Android device moniker and for more than a year, the EVO has been just about the most burly Android device you could get on the WiMAX 4G network.

Background:

The original EVO was a milestone in Smartphone development.  When it was released, the Nexus One and Droid were the top of the Android heap and Apple was still selling the iPhone 3GS.  The EVO was the first Android device with front camera, 8MP back camera, 4.3-inch display, 4G network access and a kickstand!  Even the Apple guys’ heads were turning.  I got an EVO 4G at Google I/O last year and have used it off and on since.  Among other things, it has one of the best GPSes of any phone I’ve used, it is always first or one of the first carrier phones to get an Android OS update and it pioneered (sorry HD2) HTC’s line of 4.3 inch devices which are now on every carrier in the US in multiple forms (Incredible 2 and Thunderbolt on Verizon, Inspire 4G on AT&T, Sensation on T-Mobile).

So how does the EVO 3D stack up to the original as well as the top of the other flagship phones out there?  Read on to find out:

Hardware:

The first thing you’ll notice taking the EVO 3D out of the box is that it is thinner and lighter than the original EVO but slightly longer.  The back panel is now rubberized and now has a big extra camera and loses the kickstand (which for me is a tragedy – my kid loved watching videos with the kickstand).  Because of the rubber, reduced weight and rounded edges, it feels better in the hand for sure.

The longer body enables a longer qHD 960×540 16:9 (vs original EVO 480×800 5:3) display which is gorgeous.  This is the same display as the HTC Sensation on T-Mobile.  The front camera and earpiece are now out from behind the glass.  On the side is a big beautiful new metallic camera shutter button that evokes old school manual shooters.  Next to it is a 2D-3D switch.  The bottom houses the four capacitive buttons that the previous model had but they are moved more away from the edges – which is good because the previous EVO was prone to accidentally clicking the side buttons when holding the phone.

Taking off the back cover, you’ll find a 1730mAh battery and a microSD card slot containing an 8GB Class 4 card.  Below that lie a 1.2GHz dual core  Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 220 GPU. Its also a monster in the RAM dept with  1GB of RAM (up from 768MB in the orig EVO).  IT also obviously has EVDO and WiMAX radios.

Software:

I don’t like Sense.  There are some benefits (more camera controls, notification drawer enhancements) but overall, for me it takes away from the Android experience.  For instance, instead of going right to the homescreen when unlocking your EVO 3D, you have to endure a little tornado effect and wait a second or 2.  It was cool the first time I saw it.  After that, it became a nuisance.  That being said, it isn’t Sense’d out like the Sensation. Sprint did pare down the Sense overload.

Overal the phone felt a bit buggy when I got it initially but midweek, Sprint released and over-the-air update which has improved stability.

Besides the slowness in the overlay mentioned above, the phone is wicked fast because of its speedy dual core processor and 1GB of RAM.  There is simply very little lag time in anything but the most serious of games.

Out of the box, the EVO 3D comes with Spiderman the game and Green Hornet the movie.  Spiderman is a good enough game and it is in 3D which is nice but it isn’t going to addict people like Angry birds or anything.  I wasn’t able to watch the Green Hornet the movie because it said I needed to update the Movie app but when I tried it said there were no updates available.  Whatever, the movie got poor reviews anyway.

And what about 3D?

Just like the Nintendo 3DS (and I mean just like), the EVO 3D has a no glasses 3D screen that can be toggled on and off.  For me, watching 3D like this is painful and I can only do it for a few minutes before my eyes go cross and I need to look away.  That being said, I know a lot of people like it so buyer obviously a personal preference here.  You can also watch YouTubes in 3D and play games (Gameloft has a few titles linked from the 3D Games shortcut) besides Spiderman. Again, for me, this is more of a gimmick –but to each their own.

My thing with 3D is that I believe that at some point manufacturers will get it right (or I’ll overcome my dislike of it – or my eyes will get used to it) and it will become more ubiquitous over the next few years.  Having the EVO 3D and its multiple cameras allows you to take pictures and movies of your kids in 3D now so that when 3D becomes viable, you’ll have movies encoded to play on 3D devices.  I’ve already taken movies of my kids that I don’t expect to watch in 3D for years – but at least I’ll have them at this age in 3D.

Battery, Camera, Screen..

The battery life on the EVO 3D beats the original.  But original EVO owners know that isn’t saying much.  You are not going to be able to ditch that USB charger at work on this one because on heavy use days, it isn’t going to make it past dinner time.  It will do a full day if you don’t plan on using the hotspot very often, keep the 4Gs to a minimum and can stay away from the videos.

The backside cameras are solid both for 3D and 2D images but far from spectacular.  They are in the 5 megapixel class and the pictures are about midgrade for a smartphone.  3D pictures are certainly cool but a long way from mainstream.  Video goes up to 720P and is also mid-grade with lots to be desired, especially since this is a high end device.  The 3D videos are as good as it gets and beat the LG Slate 3D’s quality by a significant margin.

The screen in 2D I found very nice.  There are a lot of pixels in qHD and they come out nicely.  The hardware renders movies, maps and games plenty quick even with the additional pixels and it seems to perform better than SuperAMOLED screens outside.

Overall:

This thing, like it or not, is about the 3D’s.  If you want/need them in your camera and screen, this is your phone.  My hunch is however, that for most people 3D isn’t as important as battery live or a great camera or “svelteness” –all of which have been compromised for the ability to view and record in 3D.

Sense is painful just like all manufacturer overlays and you’ll probably want to get Launcher Pro on there as soon as humanly possible.  Sprint’s added games, videos and apps aren’t a hassle but they also aren’t a reason to get this device either.

Sprint is taking a big risk here by adding 3D to their flagship phone and while it may be the next big thing for some people, my gut is that they’ve turned the EVO into a niche device.

Likes:

  • Qualcomm dual 1.2GHz speed is unrivaled for speed
  • Dedicated big beautiful camera button
  • Recording 3D pictures and movies for the future
  • Rubberized grip and better feeling in hand
  • Big, beautiful, qHD screen
Dislikes:
  • 3D display is painful to look at after a few minutes (personally, your mileage will vary)
  • Battery life, 2D cameras were substandard for a flagship phone
  • Sense 3.0
  • The overall compromises for 3D that turn this from a mainstream device to a niche.
Advice: If 3D’s your thing, this is your phone.  If you are an EVO owner, love the form factor, and want a faster phone and don’t mind the negatives above, this is also your phone.  However, Sprint Android customers now have the Nexus S 4G option, which is better in a lot of ways than this phone (lighter, no overlay, NFC, better battery but worse GPS).  I’d certainly go in that direction.
The EVO 3D is available at Amazon for as little as $179 with a 2 year plan.

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