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HTC Evo 4G Sprint review: HTC Evo 4G Sprint

In addition to an 8-megapixel camera on back, you get a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera that you can use for video calls.

Other voice features include a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, and integrated Wi-Fi are also onboard, and you can use voice and data simultaneously, provided you're in a 4G market.

As a Sprint phone, the Evo supports a number of the carrier's services, such as Sprint TV, Sprint Football Live, Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile, and Sprint Navigation. HTC also throws in a few of its proprietary apps, including the Peep Twitter client and Footprints, which uses the phone's GPS to capture favorite locations and lets you chronicle trips with geotagged photos and notes. Of course, additional apps are available in the Android Market. As with all Android phones, you can only save apps to the phone's main memory. The Evo 4G offers 1GB of internal memory but the microSD expansion slot can accept up to 32GB cards.

4G and Mobile Hotspot
It's clear that the HTC Evo 4G is one of the most powerful Android smartphones on the market, but what makes it different from the rest--and we're talking all smartphones, not just Android--is the 4G capabilities.

Our 4G wireless resource guide provides a more in-depth explanation of the technology, but in short, what this means for you is faster data speeds for Web browsing, downloads, streaming media, and uploading photos--all from your smartphone. In addition, the Evo lets you share these speeds with up to eight devices using the mobile hot-spot feature. What kind of speeds are we talking? Well, Sprint says its 4G WiMax network can provide wireless speeds up to 10 times faster than today's 3G, with average download speeds ranging from 3Mbps to 6Mbps and peak download speeds of up to 10Mbps and upload speeds of 1Mbps. Compare that with 3G's average download speeds of 600kbps to 1.4Mbps and peak download speeds of 1.3Mbps.

Sounds great on paper, but what about real-world results? Since 4G isn't yet available in New York, we ventured down to Philadelphia to get a taste of what Sprint's WiMax network really has to offer. We were able to get consistent 4G coverage throughout the city, though signal strength varied. CNET's full site loaded in 19 seconds, whereas CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 5 seconds and 4 seconds, respectively. Downloading apps from the Android Market took just a few seconds, and downloading individual tracks from the Amazon MP3 averaged around 15 seconds or less; an entire album took 7 minutes to download.

We also streamed shows from Sprint TV, but the experience was disappointing. Despite having a 4G connection, there were some breaks in the clips and audio and videos weren't always synced up. On a brighter note, we had better luck with YouTube videos; playback was continuous and there was only one instance when we noticed a slight gap between audio and video.

To get a better measure of speeds, however, we tried out the mobile hot-spot feature and used the Evo 4G as our only source for getting online during our time in Philadelphia. Setup was a breeze with the preloaded Sprint Hotspot app, allowing us to connect the Evo to our Lenovo T61 laptop and iPod Touch with no problem. We used to measure the Evo's download and upload speeds throughout the day, and the Evo averaged download speeds of 3.42Mbps and upload speeds of 0.93Mpbs and reached a peak speed of 4.76Mpbs. Using a 4G connection, we were able to upload a 2MB picture in 18 seconds, and a 93.9MB zipped music file took 5 minutes and 20 seconds to download. We also watched a couple of Hulu videos, which required a few seconds to load, but played back without interruption; it was the same with YouTube videos, and the difference between YouTube HQ and standard definition videos is noticeable and much appreciated.

If you're in a 4G market, you can use simultaneous voice and data, so the mobile hot-spot function should keep its connection even if a call comes through. Though this scenario never presented itself during our testing period, we were able to make a call on the Evo while still surfing the Net on our laptop. That said, during peak hours, the Internet connection dropped several times in an hour and though it would reconnect within a minute or two, it was nonetheless frustrating.

For comparison, we switched to 3G, ran the same test, and averaged download speeds of 0.77Mbps and upload speeds of 0.35Mbps. The same 2MB picture we used for our 4G test took 56 seconds to upload over a 3G connection, so you're definitely getting a nice bump in speed. If there's no 4G available, the Evo will automatically revert to Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network, which might happen more often than not, since Sprint's 4G is currently live in only 32 cities, covering around 41 million people. Sprint said it will expand the service with partner Clearwire to Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of this year, at which point Sprint says its 4G network will cover 120 million people (44 markets in total).

Returning to the hot-spot feature briefly, it does come at a cost of $29.99 per month, which hurts when you add that to the $80 you're already paying for the data plan and Premium Add-on, but at least there is no data cap. Still, don't think of this as your only choice. We'd recommend doing a little online research and checking out the Android Market for some free tethering utilities, such as PDANet from June Fabrics Technology.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Evo 4G in New York and Philadelphia using Sprint service and call quality was great. Our friends' voices came through loud and clear, with little to no background noise. On one occasion, we made a call using the AT&T BlackBerry Curve and were met with static and patchy audio, so we called back using the Evo 4G and it was like night and day. Our callers also reported great results, noting in particular that there was no kind of voice distortion and plenty of volume. Speakerphone calls were decent. Though there was plenty of volume to hear our buddies even in louder environments, there was a bit of tinny audio quality.

HTC Evo 4G call quality sample Listen now:

We had no problems pairing the device with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. We also plugged in our Bose On-Ear Headphones and enjoyed rich-sounding tracks with a nice balance of treble and bass.

The Evo 4G's 8-megapixel camera took excellent photos.

CNET's Jeff Bakalar took a closer look at the Evo 4G's HDMI-out capabilities, and you can read his full hands-on report here. And what about video recording? After all, the Evo's 8-megapixel camera can capture video at 720p HD quality. We wouldn't go ditching your camcorder just yet, though. The Evo certainly did a better job than most camera phones, capturing action with minimal blurriness or pixelation. That said, there's still a slight grainy quality to the videos. Picture quality, on the other hand, was great, whether we were shooting indoors or outdoors. Images were sharp and color tones were pretty true to life.

Hands-on look: HTC Evo 4G's HDMI-out (photos)

Equipped with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8650 processor and 512MB RAM, the Evo 4G was able to keep up with our demands for the most part. It wasn't nearly as zippy as the Droid Incredible, but we were still able to launch and work in apps with minimal delay. That's not to say that it was all roses and peaches. The phone did have to be reset twice during our testing period. Actually, the first instance wasn't even our doing; we went to launch the Sprint Hotspot app and it just decided to power down. The other time was when we were downloading a song from the Amazon MP3 Store. The backlight had timed out during the download process, so when we went to go unlock the screen to check on the status, the display froze and we had to remove the battery to reboot the phone. We haven't had any mishaps since, so hopefully, they were just isolated incidents.

Performance tests from CNET Labs
Test HTC Evo 4G iPhone 4
Phone boot time test 47.1 seconds 29.4 seconds
Talk time battery life 3G 5.5 hours 7.76 hours
Audio playback time 18.2 hours 59 hours
Video playback time 5.9 hours 6.9 hours
Browser load speed on Wi-Fi ( 20 seconds 15 seconds
Camera app load time 2 seconds 2 seconds
Camera reshoot time 3 seconds 1 second

The HTC Evo 4G ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery, but Sprint did not release its estimates for talk time or standby time. But with moderate use and a 4G connection, we were able to get the smartphone to last about 12 hours before needing a recharge. With heavy usage, we were running for an outlet within about 4 to 4.5 hours, and the mobile hot-spot feature definitely drains the battery quickly, so keep your charger or extra battery handy. In our battery drain tests, the Evo 4G provided 5.5 hours of continuous talk time over 3G. According to FCC radiation tests, the smartphone has a digital SAR rating of 1.03 watts per kilogram.

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