HTC Evo3D review

Posted by Dan Mousavi On August - 23 - 2011

Last week the Evo3D launched officially in Germany, a lot has happened since I checked out the first 3D phone from LG at MWC earlier this year and with Sense 3.0 and the new mobile display resolution the HTC Evo3D looks like a evolution of the Optimus 3D on paper. Let’s find out, if the last 6 months were kind to mobile 3D gaming and if such a device is worth to have now.

Let’s take a look at the Hardware first.
I really like the HTC phones, they always feel sturdy and robust. The phone has a decent weight to it and could be too heavy for some, but I prefer phones with a little weight to it over cheap plastic.
The backside comes off easily when you need it to and won’t pop off by itself. There is a real camera button on the device, that is at the top of it’s class. It just feels right to have a dedicated metal camera button on the lower right of the phone.
Sadly that’s the only good thing when it comes to buttons. The system buttons are all touchscreen buttons, that are often pressed by unintended clicks if you just hold the phone in landscape mode. My biggest gripe with the phone is that it doesn’t have a trackpad or a trackball. I’m so used to this navigation that every phone without a trackball + touchscreen just feels crippled and I will probably cry crocodile tears if the Nexus Prime is announced with only software buttons.

The processor and GPU are top notch, you have a dualcore 1.2 Ghz processor and the Adreno 220 GPU inside, which should be way enough to play all the games in coming 12 month.
But the real highlight is the display, the higher resolution (960◊540) makes the display look sharper than all the other Android phones that usually come with a 480◊800 resolution. When you put the display in the 3D mode, you’ll lose half of the pixel density, but it still looks much sharper then a 3DS screen. I have to say that now, where I’ve spent a while with a 3D phone as my main phone, my concerns about the usefulness of the 3D effect are shrinking. First and foremost, it’s just a lot of fun to shoot in 3D. Your pictures are more interesting in 3D and while I’m sure that the genuine effect of the pics will fall off after a while, they are just more fun to watch, because there is more information. It also records really good videos, especially the sound gets recorded much clearer, I was surprised how good the recording of a concert was, that I attended.

Another great hardware feature is the speaker. The newer HTC devices don’t just use their inner speaker. If you lay them on a flat surface, they will use the underground to improve the bass.
I was intrigued by this technique and had to check out a special user case and since it worked, I have a secret tip for you, that hardware manufacturers won’t advertise out of security concerns.
If you have a bathtub, lay your phone on the porcelain and play some music/audiobook/etc. If you are lying in the bathtub, you will hear the music much clearer underwater and when you touch the porcelain with your head, the sound is getting pretty acceptable, since the sonic waves can then directly wander from the phone through the porcelain to your ears. I am no sound engineer, so excuse any technical mistakes in my description. I can just tell you that it works, don’t ask me why.

So now that we got the hardware out of the way, let’s get to the interesting part, the software.

On the software side 3d phones are a pure desaster at the moment. There is nearly 0 software available that actually works in 3D and the only piece of free software is also the most impressive one.
The swiss Unity developer Sven Herrmann is developing a plugin for Unity, that will give you a stereoscopic view in Unity games. He published the new Unity 3.4 demo Angry Bots as an example and it is the hottest thing I have seen in 3D yet. Since the Angry Bots demo has a lot of “in your face” items to demonstrate the new depth of field effects and other postprocessing filters, it is perfect to demonstrate 3D.

Besides this short Unity demo, there are a few Gameloft games available in 3D, but they are usually very hectic and because of that not really well playable in 3D, I can still only recommend Let’s Golf.
At the android market it looks totally bleak. I borrowed the handset, because I wanted to review Silpheed Alternative, a new japanese game that had a 3D mode, but 3D is only available with a japanese 3D handset. Somehow the game got patched and now there is no 3D mode to select in the options anymore.
The other 3D game in the market is SpeedX, but the free version doesn’t suport 3D because of the ads and the 3d is anaglyphic (you know, the red/green glasses), not stereoscopic.

So at the moment the only chance to get 3D games is to beg your favorite Unity developer to implement the homebrew solution by SRH. HTC also delivers a basic tutorial on their website for developers.
I can see some special ports for 3D games like Diversion or Skeeball in the future, where the 3D effect would be nice for the game, but besides that there won’t be that many games for 3D mobiles. There’s just not enough reason to invest a lot of time in such a mode, because the 2 devices that can use 3D out of the box at the moment won’t sell enough on their own.

While gaming is disappointing on the phone because of the lack of software, Sense 3.0 is a real surprise. No longer is it a shitty interface that no one wants, but now it actually makes your Android phone better by implementing smart solutions, which they copied together from different rom cooks. The bloatware won’t disturb you as much now, because the phone has enough ram and some of it is really nice, e.g. the animated weather app that get’s activated in dock mode, which you can also use as a nice live wallpaper. Without Sense 3.0 I would’ve hated the phone, because writing something without a trackball is a nightmare, but Sense gives you a better adjust tool to position your cursor. And besides all the reports I heard from prerelease users, Sense 3.0 runs rock solid for me, I only had to reboot the phone once after I recorded a half concert in 3D, because it hung in the camera app.

The biggest reason to not get a Evo3D is the same reason why you shouldn’t get a Android phone at all- battery time. To achieve the 3D effect, there’s another layer between the display and the glass, so the phone has to burn way brighter to deliver the same contrast as on other phones that don’t have to shine through this additional layer. Because of that every 3D phone needs more power even in 2D mode and power is the most important thing in a mobile device, that we really don’t want to burn carelessly away. So if you really really want a 3D phone, you should be aware that the 3D gimmick that you will use only sporadically will just bother you in the long run, because it always kills your battery, no matter what you do.

All in all, if you are a gamer, you are better off waiting for another month and check out, what Ice Cream Sandwich and the next Nexus will have to offer to gamers.