HTC Evo 4G LTE review: Almost great

HTC’s Evo 4G was one of the first breakout smartphone stars. Now, after some lackluster follow-ups, the vendor is hoping to bring the sizzle back to the Evo name with its HTC Evo 4G LTE.

The new device is based on HTC’s critically acclaimed One line of smartphone devices, but it’s no mere copycat: The phone combines the One’s standout qualities with features that made the first Evo shine, resulting in a new yet somehow familiar piece of technology.

While impressive at first glance, however, the Evo 4G LTE has some serious issues that keep it from achieving true greatness. After using the phone as my own personal device for several days, I find it difficult to recommend.

On paper, the Evo 4G LTE seems quite similar to HTC’s One X: The phone is basically the same size — 5.3 x 2.7 in., with a thickness of 0.35 in. — and shares the same 4.7-in, 1280 x 720 Super LCD display. (It has a lot of the same internal hardware, too; we’ll get to that in a moment.)

Make no mistake about it, though: The new Evo doesn’t look like a One-series phone. The device follows the original Evo’s design, with a dark gray and red color scheme and a bright red kickstand on its back. The kickstand may seem like a gimmick, but it’s actually a nice little touch — and a sturdy one, too: I found it to be quite useful for propping the phone up on a desk or coffee table for easy hands-free viewing.

The Evo 4G LTE trades the One X’s unibody design for a two-toned type of casing: On the top part of its back, the phone has a shiny plastic material that houses the camera lens and leads up to the kickstand. Below the kickstand, the device uses a matte aluminum material. The contrast certainly makes the phone stand out, but I found myself wishing HTC had just gone with aluminum for the entire rear casing; the plastic material looks somewhat cheap in comparison, and it’s horrible about showing every single fingerprint and smudge.

The HTC Evo 4G LTE is a premium phone with plenty of positive qualities. It has a gorgeous display, a fantastic camera and impressive system performance. The device has a solid build with a distinctive kickstand that’s both cool and convenient. It also offers support for external storage — a feature missing from most recent smartphones and one that’s sought after by many users.

For all its positives, though, the Evo has several negatives that are impossible to ignore. The phone’s current lack of LTE connectivity is the biggest one; with Sprint’s LTE rollout still pending — and expected to spread across the country rather slowly — the Evo is stuck using a dated 3G network that’s absurdly slow by today’s standards. Compared to other smartphones, the phone is also somewhat uncomfortable to hold while talking, its top-rear casing is extremely prone to visible fingerprint smudges and its heavily modified software lacks the visually pleasing sleekness introduced in Google’s vanilla Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS.

Ultimately, while the Evo 4G LTE has a lot of good things going for it, its weak points allow it to be outshined by other devices. The Evo is almost an awesome phone — but whether you want a pure Android 4.0 experience or an HTC-flavored ride, there are other handsets out there that’ll serve you better.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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