April 30, 2012

Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE preview (video) -- Engadget

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What was the exciting new collaboration that HTC and Sprint's bigwigs just couldn't wait to tell us about? Anyone who's been following the smartphone scene at all as of late surely won't be surprised to find out that the one-time Nextel bedfellow is getting a member of the One family to call its own. It's just the precise name of the device that wasn't too predictable.

When the handset goes on sale sometime in Q2 for $199 it'll be saddled with the decidedly unwieldy moniker HTC EVO 4G LTE -- a rather clunky title for such a svelte device. What the name does offer, however, is a direct connection to the original EVO 4G. That phone, which arrived in consumer hands way back in June 2010, was branded as Sprint's first "4G" handset, courtesy of the carrier's WiMAX network. It's understandable, then, that its spiritual successor would carry that redundant 4G LTE moniker. The companies also clearly wanted to retain some of those happy memories, while setting the phone apart from those other One handsets on the market. How'd they do such a thing? Meet us after the break where we lay it all out.

So, how does the EVO 4G LTE differ from the One X? As HTC tells it, the company was focused on three major factors: design, camera and sound. The first is really what distinguishes it, and much to HTC's credit, the EVO does its best to stand apart from the tightly packed crowd of large-screened slabs. The vast majority of the front is monopolized by that big, bright 4.7-inch 720p HD display, flanked by three touch buttons on the bottom and a thin speaker grill (not machine-drilled as seen on the One X and S, unfortunately), along with a 1.3MP front-facing camera on the top. Flip it over, though, and you'll see some fairly interesting design choices on the rear.

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The bottom two-thirds of the back is fashioned out of black aluminum. The top portion, which includes the rear 8-megapixel camera, is protected by a removable polycarbonate plastic back. Slip that off and you can have a look at a number of antennae, including NFC (compatible with the pre-loaded Google Wallet, among others). There, you'll also find the microSD slot, which lets you expand the phone's built-in 16GB of storage to 32GB -- a welcome feature for the multimedia fanatics who will likely be drawn to the phone but were concerned about the lack of external storage on the One X or S. According to HTC, the dual-material rear was put in place to make it easier for users to position their hands while taking photos -- in other words, you can feel the difference on the back without looking. Fair enough, though we wish striking aesthetics mattered just a bit here too.

The materials are split by a long, thin, spring-loaded kickstand, whose red metallic color hearkens back to the original EVO 4G. HTC corrected a pretty glaring design flaw this time out, allowing users to use the kickstand with the phone positioned on either side, so you can actually charge the thing while you're consuming all your media hands-free. Speaking of correcting glaring flaws, the company assured us that, unlike past models (ahem, Thunderbolt), this guy should have ample runtime, courtesy of a 2,000mAh battery -- a sizable improvement over the One X's 1,800mAh juicepack. No word on how much usage time that translates to with LTE enabled, but for now we're cautiously optimistic.

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Of course, you can't discuss bold design decisions without mentioning the aluminum band circling the perimeter of the device, not unlike the metal ringing the iPhone 4. An HTC rep repeatedly used the word "oozing" to describe this particular flourish. In spite of that odd phrasing, it doesn't look bad, per se, but it certainly contributes to the cluttered, somewhat schizophrenic design, and it also lends the handset a slightly jagged feel in-hand. Up top, you'll find a door for the micro-USB slot, mic and headphone jack, so you can take that proprietary Beats Audio for a spin. Unlike the Rezound, though, the phone doesn't ship with Beats earbuds -- an sacrifice to the cost-cutting gods. On the right side is the volume rocker and dedicated camera button. Lastly, the phone comes in at 0.35 inches (8.9mm) thick, just like the global One X, and weighs in a mere tenth of an ounce heavier at 4.7 ounces (133 grams).

A lot of thought clearly went into the device's picture-taking capabilities, thanks in part to the ImageSense functionality that comes part and parcel with HTC's Sense 4 skin for Ice Cream Sandwich skin. To recap, it brings the experience in line with what you'll get on the One X and S. For starters, that dedicated button lets you access the camera functionality with the phone switched off. You can snap four shots a second with blast image capture, with the phone emitting a machine gun-like shutter sound effect (this can be turned down for all of those animated GIFs you want to capture in your local libary). Also nice is the ability to capture still images while shooting video. According to HTC, the phone's f/2.0 lens lets in "up to 44 percent more light than other leading smartphones," making it a solid choice for low-light shooting. Additionally, the flash on the rear automatically adjusts based on distance and light level, so you don't go blowing out shots.

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As we noted in our review, Sense 4 feels quite light on top of Ice Cream Sandwich. So far as we could tell in our brief hands-on period, the handset is quick and responsive, thanks in part to the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 chipset (Update: Sprint has confirmed that it uses MSM8960, the same chip inside the AT&T One X). HTC also promises that sound quality has been improved -- in fact, the EVO 4G LTE is set to become Sprint's first HD Voice-capable phone (update: our impressions are here!), boasting hardware improvements on the handset itself, which should help reduce background noise and forthcoming boosts to the network, which are set to begin rolling out later this year. Apparently people still use these things to make phone calls. Who knew?

All in all, the EVO 4G LTE is a promising team-up from HTC and Sprint. We prefer the simplistic look and feel of the One X, though the companies get some points for at least trying something different -- even if the cluttered design does feel a bit like a "too many chefs" situation. We also appreciate the focus on actual usable features, as opposed to, say, the gimmickry of the EVO 3D. Again, the EVO 4G LTE will be available for $199 at an unspecified time in Q2. If you need something to mark in your calendar, however, the May 7th pre-sale date seems a pretty good place to start.

by Brian Heater Engadget Apr 4, 2012


Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE preview (video) -- Engadget

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