HTC EVO 4G LTE Lightning Review: The Phone That Would Be King (But Isn't)

HTC's new line of phones is kinda, like, the best. The One S (on T-Mobile) is good. The One X (on AT&T) is very, very good. The latest addition is the EVO 4G LTE. Can it hang with its brothers?

What Is It?

Remember the One X we liked so much? It's basically almost exactly the One X, but for Sprint. (Read that full review for way more details.) Gorgeous 4.7-inch screen, Snapdragon S4 processor, etc.

Who's it For?

It's for people who want a top-of-the-line Android phone on Sprint.

Design

It's definitely not the beauty that the One X is, but it's extremely solid. Most of the back is aluminum (the One X is all polycarbonate), but the top of the back is plastic—the metal/plastic combo makes it look and feel kind of disjointed. Also, this thing has a thin kickstand, which actually works very well. It's the only one of the new HTC phones that has a physical camera button, like all phones should have.

Using It

In general the EVO is a fun, pleasant experience. It's very zippy and everything looks great on the screen. Using it is essentially the same as using the One X, with the exception of the radios. (More on that in a sec.)

The Best Part

As with the One X: the screen, the screen, the screen. The 4.7-inch Super LCD2 is literally the best screen on any mobile device. It's delicious.

Tragic Flaw

There are some radio problems, and they're major. Most obviously, there's no LTE in the LTE, yet. Sprint's LTE network won't be rolling out until later this Summer. In the meantime, the EVO is stuck with 3G over CDMA, but it's not even good for 3G. We averaged just over 0.5Mbps download speeds in several NYC locations. Compare that to well over 20Mbps on the One X, and it feels like you're crawling. And, it has a lot of trouble locking onto a 3G signal; it kept thinking that I was roaming, and text messages sometimes arrived hours late. All that searching for a signal sucks the battery as bad as a phone that's actually using 4G LTE. It's possible that all of these problems may disappear once Sprint's LTE rolls out, but for now, yikes.

This Is Weird...

At times there is some stuttering during gaming which can, y'know, kill you. We observed the same phenomena after spending more time with the One X (see updated review). We think it may be the S4 processor struggling under the weight heavy graphics processing on the hi-res screen. We're looking into it.

Test Notes

• Same terrific camera as the One S and One X. Takes very nice photos. The video isn't the cleanest, but it's not bad.

• The screen is bright enough to be visible even in bright sunlight, but the blacks are still very deep.

• It has an NFC chip and Google Wallet pre-installed, but it was not yet working on our review unit. Sprint assured us that it would be up and running by the time it hit retail stores.

• The kickstand is very nicely designed. It's strong enough to hold the phone up on either side, but it's slim enough that you won't really notice it when it's folded in.

• Call quality was very good as is, but this is the first phone that will support Sprint's HD Voice which is also rolling out later this year. I got to test-drive HD Voice and it sounds fantastic.

• Despite this phone having a larger battery than the One X, battery life was actually slightly worse. We chock this up to the radio problems. It made it through to the end of the day most of the time, though.

• One of the big pros this one has over the One X is a micro SD slot so you can expand your storage an additional 32GB (or 64GB, theoretically).

Should You Buy It?

HTC EVO 4G LTE Lightning Review: The Phone That Would Be King (But Isn't)

Wait and see. The phone is so good, but the radio situation is so bad. Deal-breaker bad. That said, it's built for a data network that doesn't exist yet. When Sprint's LTE goes live, these problems may disappear, and if they do, this phone would be right at the top of the Android pyramid with the One X. Hold off until you know if/when LTE is coming to your area, and until it's been tested on that network.

View gallery »

HTC EVO 4G LTE Specs

OS: Android 4.0
Screen: 4.7-inch Super LCD2
Processor and RAM: 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 / 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB + micro SD slot
Camera: Back: 8MP, Front: 1.3MP
Weight: 4.73 ounces
Battery: 2000 mAh Li-Po
Price: $200 w/ 2yr contract
Giz Rank: 3 Stars


You can keep up with Brent Rose, the author of this post, on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.