Sprint took the wraps off of its EVO View 4G tablet during CTIA 2011 in March — the device is nearly identical to the HTC Flyer, save for its support for Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network. As an Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) tablet, the View 4G is a bit less versatile than Honeycomb products from Asus, LG, Motorola, and Samsung, but it does offer HTC’s custom Sense user interface catered to tablets, and support for HTC Scribe stylus input. I thought the Flyer was lacking in a few areas when I reviewed it, but has time with Sprint’s 4G version changed my mind? Read on to find out!
Editor’s note: We’re running this review ahead of schedule thanks to a broken embargo (WSJ). Photos and gallery will be up shortly! ^ze
The View 4G’s hardware is nearly identical to the hardware on the Flyer, so I won’t repeat myself too much. The device looks like a giant EVO or Inspire, complete with its aluminum unibody design and colored accents. It’s heavy at 15 ounces, but feels extremely sturdy in the hand. The back of the View 4G is home to a 5-megapixel camera, but it lacks a flash. There’s a power button on the top right-hand side of the side, a 3.5mm headphone jack next to it, volume buttons on the upper right side, and a microUSB port on the bottom. You can remove one of the plastic edges at the bottom of the View 4G to insert a microSD card, although the hinge felt very weak and I expect this will snap on some users.
The View 4G has a nicely sized 7-inch display with a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution. Everything looks clear and sharp for the most part, but it wasn’t anything to write home about — it reminded me a lot of the display on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab. I do love that the top and bottom of the View 4G are concave as to prevent the screen from touching the surface of a table if it’s ever placed face down.
I said this in my Flyer review and I’ll say it again for the View 4G: you know those three Android buttons for menu, home, and search that are on every Android phone and tablet? HTC did something amazing with them. When the tablet is in portrait mode, those three buttons — as well as the stylus key — are on the bottom of the display. Tilt the Flyer into landscape mode, and they suddenly reappear below the screen. Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?
While the View 4G currently runs the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system designed for phones, HTC has said that it will deliver an Android Honeycomb update to the tablet at some point in the future. However, it’s unclear when that will actually happen. Nonetheless, HTC did a solid job with the custom Sense user interface on the View 4G and it runs at a snappy clip thanks to the 1.5GHz processor. The only time it slowed down during my tests was when I was leaving the lock screen, oddly enough.
From the lock screen you can drag an icon out to a circular ring area and that application will automatically launch. There are eight different home screens to customize, and HTC has included a bunch of widgets ranging from a photo gallery to weather to an eBook bookshelf that all look and work very well. HTC has also included a fun “Snapbooth” application that’s very similar to Photobooth on a Mac. Sense has been updated a bit, too, when you rotate the home screen carousel it now makes a full loop, which means you can jump from your far left home screen panel to the right one with a quick flick across the screen.
My biggest complaint with the software on the View 4G is the wasted space on the home screen. I understand that it was necessary for HTC to allow enough space for icons to fit in both landscape and portrait view, but you simply can’t fit enough on the screen because of the wasted space around the edges. Plus, we all love widgets, and it’s hard to fit more than just a few before all of the screen real estate has been consumed.
Just like the Flyer, the View 4G supports HTC’s Scribe technology if used with an optional, and overpriced, stylus accessory. Simply tap the bottom right hand-side of the screen and you can start taking notes anywhere — even on the home screen wallpaper. Notes automatically sync up with Evernote, which is useful if you use that service on your computer or phone, too. Unfortunately, I just can’t see myself ever spending $80 to take notes in this fashion. It works well, sure, but HTC and Sprint definitely should have bundled this accessory with the tablet. For full time students it might be worth $80, but not for me.
The 5-megapixel camera on the View 4G takes satisfactory photos, but I wasn’t particularly blown away by any of them. It can also record 720p video, and a few clips came out just fine with mild distortion. Unfortunately, the camera isn’t capable of continuously auto-focusing while recording. This is a feature that’s available in higher-end smartphones, and I’d love to see it trickle into tablets as well. The front-facing 1.3-megapixel video camera for video chats worked just fine during a quick test call with a friend.
Data speeds in NYC were solid on the EVO View 4G. I love that there’s an option to turn 4G on and off, which means you can save some battery life when you don’t need that extra speed boost. In preliminary tests I was getting download speeds in the 3Mbps range and upload speeds around 1Mbps, which isn’t too bad.
After preliminary usage, however, we can definitely say that the 4G WiMAX radio impacts the battery life. Compared to the EVO View 4G’s twin brother, the HTC Flyer, the battery probably takes a 10-15% hit with 4G enabled. This is bad news considering the Flyer didn’t have great battery life to begin with. I haven’t been able to get two full days of usage out of the View 4G unless I disable cellular data, which is not great compared to other tablets on the market, some of which can go for a week on a single charge.
I love the form factor and absolutely solid build quality of the View 4G. It’s a top notch tablet, the size is great, and it’s lovely having 4G WiMAX data speeds wherever I go. My biggest gripe is that it doesn’t run Honeycomb yet. When it does, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be one of my top tablet picks, but it’s still unclear when exactly Sprint and HTC will apply the update. If that doesn’t bother you and you want a fast tablet that’s more portable than the larger Honeycomb tablets and more powerful than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, than the EVO View 4G should top your list.