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HTC Evo 4G LTE hands-on: Sprint's best Android device ever

Is it possible to outdo the legendary Evo 4G? After looking at the new HTC Evo 4G LTE, the answer is yes, absolutely.

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Sprint is the latest U.S. carrier to jump on the HTC One X bandwagon. The cellular provider will offer its own version of HTC's flagship device rebranded as the HTC Evo 4G LTE. I managed to spend some time with the phone and can say it's simply gorgeous and a worthy successor to the Evo 4G legacy.

When the Sprint and HTC representatives I met dropped the Evo 4G LTE on the table, my first thought was, "Well, that looks familiar." In fact the phone's silver aluminum trim, which rings the handset's edges, is a page right out of the BlackBerry Bold's playbook (forgive the pun). Of course the iPhone 4 was the first to popularize that metal band, so perhaps HTC is really biting from Apple. My second thought was, "Wow, that's one seriously thin phone." The device looks breathtakingly svelte, less than its claimed 0.35-inch thickness.

In any case, the Evo 4G LTE is indeed lovely and has a very premium feel. Black anodized aluminum on the device's lower back contrasts both the silvery ring circling the phone's edges and a bright red stripe bisecting the handset's rear. This anodized metal area is right where most of my fingers naturally formed a grip around the Evo. Thankfully the surface is matte and textured to repel prints and grease. I can't say the same for the glossy plastic cover that shields the microSD memory card storage area, though.

The new HTC Evo 4G LTE is trim, elegant, and, best of all, fast. Brian Bennett/CNET

Hidden in the Evo 4G LTE's striking red stripe on back is a trim kickstand. Since my nails are pretty short, I found it tricky to flip the thin stand out of its slot. Still, I'm glad that the kickstand is there. Over the years I've wished my handset had a way to prop it up more times than I ever expected. Coupled with this new Evo's planned access to Sprint's 4G LTE service, that kickstand might come in really handy.

Boasting a big 4.7-inch Super LCD 2 (720p) resolution screen, menus, Web sites, and apps practically leaped off the Evo 4G LTE's display. Perhaps that's because the phone uses smaller icons to indicate Android Ice Cream Sandwich's virtual menu buttons compared with the buttons I'm used to, like on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The display looked bright as well, but to be fair, the demo I was treated to was in a room with very weak lighting. I'd love to see how this display stands up to phones with OLED screens and in strong sunlight.

Speed delivered smoothly
A lot of people have been crying foul since they learned that the AT&T and rumored (until now) Sprint variant of the HTC One X lack Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chip. I admit I did, too, but after playing with the HTC Evo 4G LTE, it's clear that my misgivings were unjustified. This phone is fast, and by fast, I mean it zooms. Applications fired up almost instantly; flipping through the app tray and various menus was effortless. Android 4.0 on the Evo 4G LTE flowed with buttery smoothness.

Sense gets smarter
A good deal of this nimble performance could be because of HTC's less intrusive Sense 4.0 UI. HTC told me the latest iteration of Sense has toned down some of the more flashy eye candy found on previous models with Sense 3.0. I can confirm that the circling home screen carousel is gone as well as the overbearing 3D weather animations.

This all adds up to a device I'm frankly a bit jealous of and will envy Sprint subscribers for. I can't wait to review in earnest. Be sure to check back soon for our full review.