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HTC Evo Shift 4G (Sprint) review: HTC Evo Shift 4G (Sprint)

HTC Evo Shift 4G (Sprint)

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
6 min read


HTC Evo Shift 4G (Sprint)

The Good

The HTC Evo Shift 4G has a solid design with a comfortable physical keyboard. The Android 2.2 smartphone is 4G capable and can be used as a mobile hot spot.

The Bad

Lacks a front-facing camera and HDMI port.

The Bottom Line

For those who crave a physical keyboard, the HTC Evo Shift 4G is a solid choice with a more wallet-friendly price than its 4G competitors, and it doesn't sacrifice too many features.

Debuting just before CES 2011, the HTC Evo Shift 4G is Sprint's third 4G smartphone and also the most affordable one in its lineup. At $149.99 with a two-year contract, it's $50 less than the Samsung Epic 4G and the HTC Evo 4G and sure, the cheaper price comes with some trade-offs--smaller display, 800MHz processor (versus 1GHz), no front-facing camera or HDMI port--but the Evo Shift still has plenty to offer. Running Android 2.2, the smartphone has 4G support and solid performance. It also combines an easy-to-use physical keyboard in a more compact and solid design. If you're counting your pennies or prefer your devices on the smaller side, the HTC Evo Shift 4G is a great alternative to the Epic 4G.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G takes some style cues from its eye-catching, touch-only sibling, the HTC Evo 4G, but the Shift stands out on its own, as it combines high-quality look and feel. At 4.6 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 5.9 ounces, the slider smartphone is much more comfortable to hold than the larger and wider Evo. In addition, the soft-touch finish and aluminum accents give it a more premium feel than the Samsung Epic 4G, which felt a bit plasticky and slick.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G is more compact and solid-feeling device than the Epic 4G.

Of course, with a more compact design, screen size is going to be a bit of a trade-off. Measuring 3.6 inches diagonally, the Evo Shift's display is a bit smaller than the ones on its keyboard-equipped competitors--the Epic 4G has a 4-inch touch screen, whereas the T-Mobile G2 has a 3.7-inch display--so you don't enjoy quite as much screen real estate while browsing the Web or viewing multimedia. However, the display is sharp and clear with an 800x480-pixel resolution. It also has a proximity sensor, a built-in accelerometer, and pinch-to-zoom support, all of which were responsive during our testing.

Of course, for some, the main draw of the Evo Shift's design may be the physical keyboard, and we don't think it will disappoint. The four-row keyboard features rectangular buttons that are a good size and have a decent amount of spacing between them. The Epic 4G's keyboard still takes the cake for comfort and ease of use, but still, we had very few mispresses on the Evo Shift. The buttons also have a nonslippery texture, and though they're a bit flat, they provide nice, tactile feedback.

Overall, we thought the Shift's keyboard was easy to use.

There is no dedicated number row; instead, they share space with the letter keys on the top row. You do get a D-pad on the lower right-hand side, but it's small enough that it doesn't interfere with the overall ergonomics of the keyboard. There are also several handy shortcuts on the bottom. We should note that the slider mechanism on the Evo Shift is quite strong. The screen locks securely into place, and unlike on the T-Mobile G2, the hinge feels sturdy enough to hold up over prolonged use.

Like the Evo 4G, the Shift features four touch-sensitive controls below the display for the home screen, menu, back, and search functions. On the left side, you'll find a volume rocker and Micro-USB port; the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are located on top. The camera and flash are on back. To access the microSD expansion slot, you have to pull out the battery, which is inconvenient, but to make matters worse, it's rather difficult to remove the media card.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, and reference material.

To offer a more budget-friendly price tag, there were some functions that were sacrificed in the making of the HTC Evo Shift 4G, but it's still a very full-featured smartphone. First, as its name suggests, it is a 4G device and also offers 3G/4G mobile hot-spot capabilities for up to eight devices.

Sprint's WiMax network is currently available in 71 markets, including New York, where we tested the Evo Shift. We were able to get a 4G connection in most parts of Manhattan, though the signal was quite weak in Midtown. We averaged download speeds of around 4.57Mbps and upload speeds of 0.90Mpbs, peaking at 6.99Mbps down, 1.02Mbps up. CNET's full site loaded in 18 seconds, whereas the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 3 seconds and 4 seconds, respectively. By comparison, the same sites loaded in 50 seconds, 20 seconds, and 22 seconds, respectively, over 3G.

We also streamed video from Sprint TV, as well as high-quality YouTube clips and Flash content from the browser, over 4G and load times were noticeably faster and playback was smooth. Over 3G, the Sprint TV clips were pretty murky and stuttered often, almost to the point of being unwatchable. Using the smartphone as a 4G hot spot for our MacBook Pro, we were able to upload a 4.1MB photo album in 40 seconds. Note that there is an additional monthly fee of $29.99 for the mobile hot-spot plan, but there is no data cap. Also, like Sprint's other 4G devices (and now 3G smartphones), there is an additional monthly $10 Premium Data add-on charge.

Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth, and GPS are also onboard, and voice features include a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, voice dialing over Bluetooth, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view.

The Evo Shift 4G ships running Android 2.2 with HTC Sense. The latter gives you seven customizable home screens and various widgets, including HTC's Friend Stream and Group Contacts, which you can read more about in our review of the HTC Evo 4G. Aside from the Google services and Froyo features, the Evo Shift comes preloaded with a number of HTC and Sprint apps, such as Peep (HTC's Twitter client), Sprint TV, Sprint Football Live, and TeleNav GPS Navigator; these cannot be uninstalled from the device.

The camera had some troubles with indoor shots, but overall we were happy with the picture quality.

Other diversions include the Amazon Kindle App for Android, an FM radio, access to the Amazon MP3 store, and a built-in media player. The Evo Shift 4G also has a 5-megapixel camera, but it loses the front-facing camera, HDMI port, and kickstand that the Evo have.

The camera offers numerous editing options, including brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness controls, effects, and ISO settings. Picture quality was mostly good. Outdoor and nighttime shots came out sharp and bright, but there was a pinkish hue that plagued some indoor shots. The camera can also record 720p HD video, and we were impressed with the clarity and lighting of the clips.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) HTC Evo Shift 4G in New York using Sprint service, and call quality was good. On our end, the audio was clear with very little background noise or voice distortion. Friends also reported good sound quality.

HTC Evo Shift 4G call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was OK. The sound was mostly clear with just enough volume to hear callers in louder environments, but the audio was a bit tinny. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G has 2GB ROM/512MB RAM and like the T-Mobile G2, the smartphone is equipped with next-gen 800MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7230 processor. Though most high-end smartphones are running 1GHz processors, we didn't find any negative effects to performance. The Evo Shift was responsive throughout our review period. Apps launched almost immediately, and we didn't experience any significant delay when switching between tasks.

The HTC Evo Shift 4G ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours. We were able to get 6.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge in our battery drain tests. In general, we were able to get about a day's worth of use with 50/50 3G and 4G use. We definitely noticed that battery life was better than the Evo 4G. According to the FCC, the Evo Shift 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.72W/kg and has a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T3.


HTC Evo Shift 4G (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8