We are very sceptical when it comes to 3D smartphones, but manufacturers are keen to get them on the shelves. LG was the first to market with its Optimus 3D and HTC has now followed suit with the EVO 3D — available through Telstra and Vodafone in Australia. The HTC EVO 3D isn't a bad smartphone by any means, but the extra bulk it carries to support the 3D camera function just isn't worth the outlay.
HTC EVO 3D: Design and display
The HTC EVO 3D is definitely a chunky phone, largely thanks to its dual-lens camera. The addition of a camera with two lenses allows the HTC EVO 3D to capture 3D images and videos. The 3D effect is initially impressive but we feel its novelty will soon wear off: when it does, you're left with a smartphone that's bigger and heavier than most of its competitors. The camera lenses also protrude from the back of the phone, so the EVO 3D annoyingly doesn't sit flat on a desk or table.
There are plenty of positives that come with the HTC EVO 3D's bulky frame. The dark black edges are made from aluminium and give the phone a sturdy feel. The EVO 3D is a little heavy at 170g (slightly heavier than the LG Optimus 3D), but the weight makes it feel well constructed. The power and volume buttons are well positioned, the rear battery cover has a grippy, plastic surface that makes the phone slip-resistant, and the touch-sensitive shortcut buttons below the screen are both responsive and backlit. We also like the metallic red edging that accents the two camera lenses and dual-LED flash.
Perhaps the classiest touch of the HTC EVO 3D's design is its excellent, dedicated camera shutter key. HTC says it's made from machined aluminium and it provides near perfect tactility when taking photos. A note to all other smartphone manufacturers: this is how any camera button should feel.
The HTC EVO 3D has a 4.3in LCD screen, so it's a similar display to the one used on the HTC Sensation. The big draw card here, aside from its 3D capabilities, is the resolution — the 540x960-pixel resolution makes it a quarter HD (qHD) screen. In general, the higher the resolution the better, as it increases the pixels per inch on the display. The EVO 3D also has impressive viewing angles and displays crisp text. However, its glossy surface attracts plenty of fingerprints and it also has very poor sunlight legibility.
HTC EVO 3D: The third dimension
The HTC EVO 3D's screen can produce 3D images without the need for special 3D glasses. It works thanks to a series of slits on the front of the LCD screen that block light, meaning that your left and right eyes see different images. This creates a 3D effect without glasses — it's the same technology that is used on the Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming console, as well as the LG Optimus 3D Android phone.
The 3D effect is definitely a gimmick but it's hard not to be impressed when it's in action. At various times the content on the screen clearly pops out at you. It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the movement at first, and it can become a blur if you watch it for too long — 20 minutes of gaming or video at a time was more than enough for us. The image quality is also noticeably inferior in 3D compared to 2D.
HTC's implementation of the 3D technology is less impressive than LG's. The LG Optimus 3D has a dedicated 3D menu (including a 3D gallery and an excellent 3D user guide), but the HTC EVO 3D doesn't utilise something similar: instead, the 3D functions aren't easily identifiable and are just in their regular places like any other non-3D Android phone.
In addition to HTC's less than stellar presentation of the EVO 3D's functions, the lack of available 3D content is also a downside. As an example, YouTube's 3D channel has limited content with many of the favourite videos uploaded more than a year ago, while there is also a lack of 3D games and apps built purposely for the EVO 3D's display. HTC has pre-loaded three 3D games — Need For Speed Shift, Spiderman 3D, and The Sims 3 — all three are genuinely impressive but they still leave you longing for more. This may change when the HTC Watch video streaming service is released in Australia "later this year". The download service promises more 3D content for EVO 3D users.