Editors' note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Evo View 4G has been adjusted down from 7.3 to 6.
While the rest of the industry is rushing to produce 10-inch tablets that compete directly against the Apple iPad 2, HTC and Sprint are throwing out a curveball called the HTC Evo View 4G. Using a 7-inch screen and running Android 2.3, the HTC Evo View 4G is nearly identical to the HTC Flyer we reviewed in May, only with Sprint's 3G/4G cellular data under the hood, along with some extra services.
At first blush the pricing seems reasonable, with a 32GB model going for $399. But don't forget to factor in a two-year commitment to Sprint's 4G data plans, which start at $34.99 per month for 3GB of 3G data and unlimited 4G data use (where available). Also, if you want to use GPS navigation, that's another $2.99 per day or $10 per month. Activating the Evo View 4G's Mobile Hot Spot feature (allowing up to eight connected devices) will stick another $29.99 per month on your bill. In other words, this is not a cheap device. If the 4G wireless connection isn't a big deal to you, you may be better off with the Wi-Fi-only HTC Flyer, or any number of excellent tablets currently on the market.
Does the Evo View 4G have its head in the sand, or is this portable 7-inch tablet worth every penny? Let's take a look.
The Evo View 4G looks and feels like a high-end take on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The 7-inch screen size and surrounding bezel are identical, but HTC wraps its tablet in black aluminum with two strips of rubber padding on the back. With a little brute force, the topmost rubber fitting can be removed to reveal a microSD memory expansion slot, which is a convenient design trick adopted from the world of smartphones.
Across the bottom of the screen you'll find the typical trio of Android smartphone navigation buttons (Home, Menu, and Back) along with an illuminated button that responds only to HTC's Scribe pen accessory (included from Sprint for a limited time), which we'll explain in the next section. One impressive feature of the navigation controls is that they'll reorient to the bottom of the screen regardless of whether you're holding the tablet in portrait or landscape. It's a neat and practical trick, and one we haven't seen before. That said, it's a trick that today's Android 3.0 tablets don't need to employ, since all navigation is moved to the screen.
On the top edge of the Evo View 4G you'll find a headphone jack and a power button/screen lock. The right edge offers an amply sized volume rocker along with two pinhole microphones. The back holds a pair of small speaker grilles and a 5-megapixel camera lens capable of HD video recording (though lacking an integrated flash).
On the bottom edge of the Evo View 4G is a unique 12-pin Micro-USB port, compatible with the included USB sync cable and charging adapter. At first, we found it annoying that HTC would use a specialized connector for syncing and charging, but it turns out that our old trusty 5-pin Micro-USB (type B) cable works just fine, too. All those extra pins are just there for HTC's line of audio/video output accessories. In the end, it's a model example of how manufacturers can maintain basic connection standards, while still incorporating specialized accessories.
Overall, the HTC Evo View 4G is a solidly built little tablet with a lot of attention paid to details. But in comparison with Apple's highly successful iPad 2, the HTC Evo View 4G is relatively thick and its screen area is approximately half that of the iPad. There's an argument to be made for tablets with the Evo View 4G's smaller, more portable screen size, but for us, the experience often overlaps too much with using a smartphone and still feels constricted for Web browsing.
As a 7-inch tablet running Android 2.3, the Evo View 4G doesn't show us much we haven't seen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab running Android 2.2. Granted, we do appreciate HTC's Sense UI customizations for social network feeds and commonly used applications (Mail, Internet, Stocks, Weather, Reader), but that doesn't quite make up for the fact that T-Mobile's excellent G-Slate (also 4G, but running Honeycomb) is selling for the same $399 price (after a mail-in rebate).
There are a few little things that made us smile. For example, Adobe Flash 10.1 is preinstalled, and the browser's default setting loads full sites instead of their mobile-optimized versions. HTC's refinements to the stock Android Mail and Calendar apps add split-pane views similar to on the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. Android's text messaging app is also included, as well as Qik video chat, Polaris Office, and Sprint's own suite of apps, such as Sprint Radio, Sprint Zone, and Sprint Mobile Wallet.
As far as hardware features are concerned, the EVO View 4G's most impressive spec is its 4G network compatibility. Assuming you have Sprint's 4G coverage in your area, the Evo View 4G offers an incredible range of ways to stay connected and pull down content quickly. Other specs, such as a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth 3.0, and 802.11n Wi-Fi, are par for the course these days.
The Evo View 4G uses a 1.3-megapixel front camera (same as the Galaxy Tab) and a 5-megapixel camera on the back. By comparison, the Tab's rear camera is limited by a 3-megapixel sensor, but has the advantage of an integrated flash. If you ask us, cameras on tablets always feel a bit awkward, and tend to only come in handy for video chat. The Evo View 4G does come with Qik's two-way video chat software preinstalled, but doesn't include the video-enabled version of Google Talk found in Honeycomb.
Aside from HTC's unique take on the Android interface and Sprint's 4G network speeds, the Evo View further differentiates itself with its Magic Pen or HTC Scribe technology (provided by N-trig). Using a combination of screen sensors and digital pen technology, the HTC Evo View 4G can be used to scribble detailed notes, highlight text, make annotations, sign digital documents, and create intricate, multicolored drawings. For a limited time, Sprint is including the digital pen with the Evo View 4G. If you lose it, though, a replacement will set you back $80.
There's a lot to be said about the pen's usefulness, but it also introduces an extra layer of complexity that not everyone will appreciate. For example, you can't actually operate the tablet with the pen. When you tap the pen on the screen, it inexplicably snaps a screenshot of whatever you're viewing and allows you to mark it up with virtual ink. Any navigation, page scrolling, or app launching still requires your fingers, which leads to a back-and-forth dance between fingers and pen. Put the pen down, and it rolls right off the table. Put the pen in your pocket, and its clipless design is likely to tumble to the floor if you reach down to pick something up. If this were a $2 pen, we wouldn't complain so much--but again, these pens are $80 each.
The HTC Evo View 4G is undeniably fun to use. The interface is fast and responsive. HTC Sense puts an emphasis on connecting with your friends and social networks. Google's excellent core apps are included, such as Gmail, Calendar, Gallery, Maps, Latitude, Navigation, Places, Talk, and, of course, Marketplace. The onscreen multitouch keyboard is excellent and easy to type on using your thumbs in both landscape and portrait orientation. Apps (including the camera) launch within seconds. The Web browser is lean and powerful, with an impressive selection of advanced settings that can be adjusted. All in all, it's everything you'd hope for from a first-class HTC smartphone.
Unfortunately, we can't help but feel that the tablet-as-giant-smartphone concept already wore out its welcome in 2010, with the launch of products like the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab. It's a given now that consumers already own a smartphone and expect a tablet to offer something different beyond a bigger screen. The closest the HTC Evo View 4G comes to achieving this is the inclusion of the Scribe technology, but we're not convinced that's a feature most people are looking for, and as a selling point it's hampered by the confusion over the pen's limited-time-only inclusion and prohibitively expensive replacement price.
That said, as the rich man's Galaxy Tab, the HTC Evo View 4G has plenty to brag about. The 1,024x600-pixel-resolution LCD panel quality is beautiful and offers excellent viewing angles and brightness. Image and video capture quality are adequate, though not exceptional. And if you've been looking for a tablet with sophisticated tools for note taking and document annotation, the Evo View 4G's Scribe technology is the best game in town.
Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)
|Maximum brightness (in cd/m2)
|Default brightness (in cd/m2)
|Maximum black level (in cd/m2)
|Default black level (in cd/m2)
|Default contrast ratio
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)
|HTC Evo View
The HTC Evo View 4G is a beautiful little tablet that resembles HTC's celebrated line of Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the Evo View 4G is still a 7-inch Gingerbread tablet living in an increasingly 10-inch, Honeycomb world. HTC may eventually be able to carve out a niche for the 7-inch pen-enabled tablet, but Sprint's choice to go with two-year contracts and pricey data plans isn't going to help matters.