Your local cinema has 3D, it’s invaded the home, and now it is going for your mobile phone. Both LG and HTC have 3D-ready smartphones on the market: the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC Evo 3D.
They both profess to offer you the ability to capture 3D images and video on the go, and more importantly, both let you play them on the handset without having to wear silly glasses.
So if you’re a fan of 3D, which should you go for when it comes to capture and playback? We decided to put the two together to find out.
The HTC EVO 3D
The HTC EVO 3D comes with a 4.3-inch screen, runs Android with the HTC Sense UI over the top and is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core MSM8660 Snapdragon processor with 1GB RAM. On the camera front it has dual-5-megapixel rear cameras and a 1.3-megapixel one on the front. It records in 720p resolution for both 2D and 3D.
On the connectivity front, it's 3- or 4G-enabled (depending on where you are in the world), Wi-Fi, DLNA, HDMI, and Bluetooth 3.0. The EVO 3D has 4GB of storage and a microSD slot to expand things further but you can read more about this in detail in our full HTC EVO 3D review
The LG Optimus 3D
The Optimus 3D also sports a 4.3-inch screen, runs Android with LG's custom skin on the top and is powered by a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP4430 processor with 512MB RAM. On the camera front it has dual-5-megapixel cameras at the rear and a 0.3-megapixel camera on the front. It records in 1080p (2D) and 720p (3D).
Connectivity wise it has 3G, Wi-Fi, DLNA, HDMI, and Bluetooth 3.0. Beating the HTC EVO 3D it has 8GB of onboard storage but, again, if you want the full low down on the handset as a whole, then read our full LG Optimus 3D review.
Testing the 3D cameras
To test the two cameras we took them to the Earls Barton Steam Rally in Northamptonshire, to see what it would be like using them in the field. We'd take a series of photos and video and then enjoy them in the field (literally) as well as back home on an LG LX9900 3D television via the USB-out socket both of them sport.
We haven’t benchmarked them, taken pictures in a controlled environments, or subjected them to the same test after test, because that’s not how you use your phone or your phone's camera in everyday life. This is how they perform in the real world.
Test 1: Using 3D on the go
With both phones, accessing the 3D camera is very simple. HTC has gone for a hard sliding switch, while LG has picked a hard button. Both are clearly marked, however; HTC’s approach of a 2D/3D switch is clearer in allowing you to see what mode you are in at a glance, even though in reality just looking at the screen is going to tell you.
In addition to pressing the hard 3D button to launch the 3D services, LG has opted for that button to either let you switch from 3D to 2D in the camera mode or via a further software button in the camera app that you can toggle on and off quickly and easily.
Test 2: 3D glasses-free viewing
Before we get to the capture elements, it’s worth covering the screen. After all, that’s what you're going to be viewing your content on, on the go. Both come with a very glossy 4.3-inch display each of which we struggled to view in bright sunlight - especially when in 3D mode.
According to the spec sheets, the HTC screen sports a higher resolution; however, in practice we found that the LG screen, when it came to 3D playback, offered a more rich colour experience. The whites are more yellow compared to the HTC’s bluer tones.
Additionally the LG Optimus 3D has a wider sweet spot that means we found there was greater room for moving your head while watching your captured 3D without losing the effect. That’s something that wasn’t as easy on the HTC Evo 3D.
Interestingly, in 2D, the HTC Evo 3D screen resolution and quality is noticeably sharper and crisper.
Test 3: 3D camera stills performance
Again, the quality of the shot varied massively depending on the photograph. Clean portraits with little in the background proved best on both handsets with the EVO 3D giving a more natural look to the LG's rich colours. Think creams compared to blue whites.
Which one you prefer will depend on whether you like cold or warm photos because, while you can change both to suit your needs (white balance etc), you'll have to bury yourself in the settings panels to do so.
When it comes to settings, the LG Optimus 3D also has more "3D" options. You can change the focus of the 3D from Border to Centre as well as tinker with the strength of the 3D effect to get the best results.
The HTC Evo 3D settings don't offer any of this. However, it does let you decide from the start which 3D file format you want to save in; .jps or .mpo.
While, on the surface, you'll think that it makes no difference whatsoever, it's the one frustration we did have with the LG Optimus 3D. It doesn't give you the option to choose which file format to save on the first save, opting to save its 3D stills in the .jps file format rather than .mpo.
What does that mean? Well when it came to viewing the images on our 3D TV we weren't able to see the ones taken on the Optimus because our LG TV, strangely, couldn't see that format. Bonkers, we know. The only way we could get it to work was via an HDMI cable as even DLNA between the two didn't work either.
That's likely to be a shame for those keen to share their images on the big screen quickly. With a bit of fiddling - like saving the files to the .mpo format on your phone or your computer within the gallery - you'll get around the problem, but it's annoying that you can't just change the file format and save settings like you can with the HTC EVO 3D at the start. Very silly.
Test 4: 3D video performance
The results of the EVO 3D on a 47-inch television are very much like the results we witnessed on the back of the phones 4.3-inch screen. The recording was cooler in colour than the LG Optimus 3D, and while that gave us a more natural, honest look, we have to say that we preferred the richer tones and colour of the LG 3D smartphone.
Aside from that, though, the quality of both was good. However, both showed plenty of ghosting to the image. This could be, and we suspect it is, down to what and how we filmed. The scene was crowded with plenty of people walking about and, apart from a fence post in the foreground designed to hopefully give a better sense of 3D to the overall footage, we didn't really give the rest of the framing much thought.
That means that the crowd of people standing by the tent is a bit cluttered and certainly for us doesn't work that well in 3D. That said, what does work are the big steam engines slowly rolling past.
On the sound front both phones coped well on what was basically a fairly noisy, windy, wet day, but you'll need some 3D kit if you're hoping to appreciate our test videos.
Test 4: 3D extras
Aside from the capturing of 3D images, the LG Optimus 3D also comes with a greater emphasis on 3D than the Evo. There is a dedicated 3D menu system designed to highlight the 3D content. There are three 3D games from Gamesloft bundled in for free, direct links to YouTube’s 3D video area and even a 3D book - Gulliver’s Travels. Even the Android applications menu has been changed to show the 3D elements the phone has to offer. HTC’s approach is you get a 3D camera and that’s it.
From a quality perspective, we have to say that we prefer the LG Optimus 3D. The colours are richer and the viewing experience on the phone is better and wider. What lets the Optimus down, however, is the inability to save as a .mpo file from the beginning. While this won't affect your playback onscreen on the phone itself, it did mean that sharing the results with a TV, an LG TV even, was harder than with the HTC Evo 3D.
We also preferred the additional 3D content that LG has provided here, making you really feel like you've actually bought a 3D device. The HTC Evo 3D outside of the camera is just a standard, if not very nice, Android smartphone.
It's worth pointing out while the LG Optimus device was superior at 3D the Evo 3D's 2D screen is better. So, which should you buy as a better 3D phone? The LG Optimus 3D, hands down.