When you're trying to choose a smartphone, there are a lot of variables to consider. Which features are the most important to you? Is voice quality the most important thing, or are you a texting fiend who rarely talks on the phone? Are you a shutterbug who photographs everything
Sometimes it can hard to be tell which is the better device, especially if you're looking at little more than the specifications listed on your wireless carrier's web site. Fortunately we've road tested all of the top mobile handsets and can provide you with the insight you need to make the best possible decision.
Today we're looking at two smartphones from Sprint, the HTC EVO 3D and the Samsung Epic 4G Touch. They are both cutting-edge units running Google's Android OS and 4G WiMAX, so the competition is going to be a tough one.
Design and Portability
Both of these devices look very similar, mostly black without any major or distinctive design elements worth nothing. When it comes to size, the Epic Touch takes the advantage here by a relatively small margin. The thickness of both phones is virtually identical, but the Epic Touch (5.1 X 2.7) is very slightly shorter and narrower than the EVO 3D (5.0 x 2.5)
However, the EVO 3D is significantly heavier than Samsung's offering, weighing in at six ounces while the Epic Touch is just 4.6 ounces. That doesn't sound like much of a difference until you actually use both devices on a daily basis. The Epic Touch is a great weight for everyday use, neither too heavy or too light. But the EVO 3D was heavy enough that I felt a bit weighed down when it was in my pocket, and it was uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time when I was tapping out email messages using the virtual keyboard
The HTC device also has a slight advantage when it comes to button placement, as those who have ready my Epic Touch review know just how frustrated I was with the placement of the power button on that device. In all other respects relating to buttons and ports, the two are rather evenly matched.
Display and Keyboard
If you want the largest and the brightest screen available, the Samsung smartphone is the clear winner here. It has a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen, which is slightly larger than the EVO 3D's 4.3-inch one. Of course size isn't everything, and only the EVO 3D can display the amazing images you can capture with the phone's 3D camera. At the same time, the Samsung display offers very vivid colors -- better than the ones on its rival.
Of course that larger screen means that the virtual keyboard (neither of these phones has a physical keyboard) on the Epic Touch is going to be slightly larger and just a little bit easier to use, but other than that small variance, this is basically a dead heat and either one will suit your text-entry needs
Features and Capabilities
If you want pure speed, be that processing power or blazing fast downloads, then the Epic Touch is again the clear winner. This is a bit surprising because both of these handsets have a 1.2 MHz dual-core chip. Nevertheless, when tested with Quadrant, the Epic Touch benchmarked at 3256 compared to 1954 for the HTC device.
The same is true for network speed testing, even though the results weren't quite so dramatic. For the Epic Touch, 3G download results were between 351 to 706 kbps and uploads were 134 to 462 kbps. 4G downloads were 1831 to 2372 kbps and 49 to 214 kbps upload
The EVO 3D didn't test nearly as well, even though it's from the same carrier and was tested in the same locations as the Epic Touch. Its 3G scores ranged from 172 to 256 kbps for downloads and 91-107 kbps for uploads. When using the 4G network, speeds ranged from 1139 to 1170 kbps for downloads and 60-61 kbps for uploads
When it comes to call quality, neither device was particularly impressive, but the Samsung handset does finish ahead. There were issues with both devices, but the EVO 3D suffered from more distortion in people's voices, and everything seemed just a bit "off" from how things should sound
On the Epic Touch it was obvious to my callers that I was using a cell phone, but there weren't any major issues with distorted voices, background noise, etc. I could understand and be understood, and everyone basically sounded like themselves.
Productivity and Entertainment
This category is a difficult one to judge, partly due to a toss-up between the two devices because it's software that makes the difference more than the actual devices. Anyone who has been following my reviews for a while knows that I'm a big fan of HTC's Sense UI, as well as this company's Friendstream and Peep apps for social networking. HTC certainly knows how to do interfaces, and I really appreciate all of the extra touches they add on top of the Android OS to make everything smoother, prettier, and a downright joy to use.
I'm less fond of Samsung's TouchWiz UI. It's less extensive and mostly concentrates on improving the homescreen. The addition of a file manager and an app for controlling running apps is welcome, however.
Both devices come with Microsoft Office-compatible software suites, the Epic Touch with Polaris Office and the EVO 3D with Quickoffice, though if you don't like what comes with your device it's easy to get what you want from the Android Market. The same is true of entertainment apps, games, music players, ebook readers, and the like.
The only major difference in this category is the extra 3D capabilities of HTC's entry. The 3D games look really nice, and they're fun to play. There is, however, a relatively limited selection of games available at this time, and there's no way to know how widespread 3D gaming support will be.
Battery and Camera
The HTC Evo 3D has the edge when it comes to battery life, with the ability to last a few days on a charge, even with relatively heavy usage. The Epic Touch's battery life concerned me several times, with low battery warnings at the end of the day, though it never actually died on me. Granted I used it even more heavily than the EVO 3D since the review period coincided with a business trip, but there's no question that it need to be charged every night.
The camera portion of this category is much harder to judge, because we're comparing apples and oranges here. On paper Samsung has included the better camera, since it's an 8 megapixel shooter as opposed to the EVO 3D's top resolution of 5 megapixels. However, the EVO 3D's dual cameras are capable of capturing 3D photos and videos, which is a lot of fun.
The real question is how long it will take for the novelty of 3D to wear off, leaving the user wishing for a better overall everyday camera. I personally prefer the Epic Touch in this regard, because it's much harder to share 3D photos with family and friends than 2D ones, and sharing pictures is more important to me.
This is a non-issue, since both devices are selling for the same $200 price subsidized by the carrier. That means you'll have to sign up for a new two-year contract, but there's no particular financial incentive for choosing one over the other.
Picking a winner isn't as clear-cut as it often is, because both the Samsung Epic 4G Touch and the HTC EVO 3D have shortcomings, and one of them adds a whole new category of capabilities into the mix with the addition of 3D gaming and a 3D camera.
That said, if you want a great all around device and you aren't concerned with having bleeding edge 3D in your pocket, the Epic Touch is a great choice. While I do have some issues with its battery life, I do have to be honest and acknowledge that whatever smartphone you get will likely need to be charged every night just to make sure that it will always be ready to go when you need it. In every other respect it performs well and is a true workhorse, ready to handle whatever you need it to do
If however you like the idea of 3D gaming and having a 3D camera in your pocket, the EVO 3D is still a solid choice. It's heavy, it can be uncomfortable to hold for a long period of time, and it doesn't have the voice quality that I have come to expect from HTC, but it's still a nice phone. It's hard not to be attracted to the first 3D phone just because it's on the bleeding edge, but when comparing devices in order to make a purchase decision, it's important to evaluate your needs carefully.
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