HTC Evo 4G LTE Hands On: One Serious Piece of Slick

When Sprint launched the original HTC Evo 4G, in the spring of 2010, it was arguably the best Android phone money could buy. Flash forward two years, and here comes the HTC Evo 4G LTE. Once again, it might just enter the market as the best Android phone money can buy.

Remember how excited we were about the HTC One X? Well, here's the secret: the Evo 4G LTE is the HTC One X... but a little bit better.

What's the Same

The Evo 4G LTE reuses the One X's 4.7-inch HD Super LCD 2 screen, which is still one of the best-looking screens on any phone today. It has the same 8MP camera, with HTC's ImageSense chip, which opens up to f2.0 and can capture still shots while recording video. The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor is the same engine behind the U.S. version of the One X. Combined with 1GB of RAM, the new Evo absolutely flies.

It runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) paired with HTC's own OS user interface, the nimble Sense 4.0. It has Beats by Dre audio enhancements, an NFC chip to add Google Wallet capabilities, and an HDMI MediaLink that can stream video/audio straight to a TV. That's all carried over from the One X, and it's all a welcome reprise.

What's Improved

The One X was plastic. The body of the Evo 4G LTE is a single piece of anodized aluminum. It's nice. The back has a soft, brushed texture, and HTC machined off the edges to give it a little bit of shine. The famous Evo kickstand is back, and better—it now works at three different angles, and this time around, you can actually charge the phone while it's propped up.

The phone has a dedicated camera button, which all phones should have. Hitting the camera button instantly opens the camera app even if the phone is locked (the rest of the OS is locked off until you enter your password). Really smart.

On the inside, the battery gets a nice boost, from 1800 mAh on the One X to a beefier 2000 mAh in the Evo 4G LTE. The phone has dual microphones, and it's Sprint's first to be HD Voice compatible. That should mean greatly improved audio fidelity in phone calls once Sprint rolls out its new voice over data (3G) service later this year. Sprint had two sound-proof booths at the event in order to demo HD voice and indeed, it sounded much, much clearer, louder, and more lifelike in general. The noise canceling worked exceptionally. We'll see if it works this well in the real world, but we're cautiously optimistic.

Like the One X, the Evo will have 16GB of built-in storage, but unlike most versions of the One X, it will feature a Micro SD card slot to expand capacity by another 32GB.

There's also a "smart flash" that automatically adjusts to five levels of brightness, so your photos won't blow out if you're doing an extreme close-up.

First Impressions

Using the phone was a very nice experience. Sense 4.0 is much less in-your-face than previous versions of HTC's custom skin. Some changes, like the updates to the calendar app, are not for the better.

The Snapdragon S4 is a muscular processor with imperceptible lag. The camera app opened quickly and fired off a burst of photos. They looked great on that incredible screen—and the screen really is among the most noteworthy features. One aside on that topic, for context: Despite having a far bigger screen than the iPhone 4S, the HTC Evo 4G LTE's screen is actually thinner (8.9mm to 9.3mm) and lighter (133g to 140g). Impressive.

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The HTC Evo 4G LTE will be out in Q2 of this year, which is timed perfectly for anyone who bought the original Evo on a 2-year contract that's now approaching expiration. It'll run you $200, with a new contract, which is a steal for a device this beastly. Pre-orders begin May 7th.