(Pocket-lint) - If the HTC 10 Evo looks familiar, that's because it was recently launched as the HTC Bolt as a Sprint exclusive. Well, it's exclusive no more, as it lands in the UK under a different name.
The Evo recycles a name used by HTC in the past. There was the HTC Evo 4G, launched in 2010, which at the time was designed to push Sprint's new WiMAX 4G network. You can see where the idea for the name came from, jumping on the HTC 10 line and presenting much the same look.
The HTC 10, however, makes some compromises along the way, balancing some important points of progress, with some strange spec choices, resulting in a phone that's a sub-premium fusion.
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HTC 10 Evo: Metal, waterproof, solid
- 153.92 x 77.22 x 8.13mm metal unibody
- IP57 water resistance
- No 3.5mm headphone socket
Carrying HTC's signature metal build, the Evo is every inch as solid as the HTC 10 launched in the early stages of 2016. There are the serious lines, with deep chamfers front and rear, on a body that's all aluminium.
That gives the 153.92 x 77.22 x 8.13mm phone a very solid build. We loved the result on the HTC 10 and that's replicated here, with a serious feeling in the hand. It's not as exciting as the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, but it's perhaps a little more interesting than the Google Pixel XL, as well as being a dab more conventional.
The big story here is that this is an IP57 rated handset, with HTC claiming it's the first all-metal handset of this type to make that move. Exactly where that leaves the iPhone 7 we're not sure - but this is one area that the new 10 Evo outshines the normal HTC 10, providing a little extra protection.
This 10 Evo is flat across the back, rather than curved like the regular 10, with HTC telling us that this is because of the size. Now with a 5.5-inch display, the 10 Evo is a bit more of a handful and the flat back makes it easier to grip.
Despite being a larger phone, however, weighing some 170g, it still has a camera bump on the rear. It's a small point, but we'd rather it was flat. You'll also find that HTC has jumped on the courage bandwagon and removed the 3.5mm headphone socket. That means you'll be using the USB Type-C socket on the bottom, perhaps a strange play in a device that isn't hugely skinny, like the Moto Z.
Overall, the HTC 10 Evo is a design that works if, like us, you were a fan of the HTC 10. There's no compromise here, it's a very high quality phone.
HTC 10 Evo: Display
- 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixels, 534ppi
- Super LCD 3 panel
The biggest thing you'll notice about the HTC 10 Evo is that display. At 5.5-inches, the Evo pushes into big phone territory, matching the likes of the SGS7 edge and Pixel XL, the devices that undoubtedly rule Android at the moment. HTC here also offers Quad HD resolution - 2560 x 1440 pixels - spread across that big display for 534ppi. That means detail across that expanse, but this isn't a great display overall.
HTC has opted for a Super LCD panel on the 10 Evo, rather than AMOLED as found in those other big devices we've just mentioned. AMOLED is known for offering more punch and vibrancy, and deeper blacks, but HTC has had some great LCD panels in the past. Unfortunately, this isn't one of them.
One point that you might have noticed is that HTC is calling this display Super LCD 3, whereas the HTC 10 has a Super LCD 5. Basic arithmetic suggests that this is lesser than the HTC flagship and that's true in practice. The colour tone of the HTC 10 Evo isn't good. There's little vibrancy or excitement to the visual, it looks weak when viewing anything that you'd expect to be colourful and that's made more obvious by this display's large size.
You can tweak the temperature of the display slightly, but it doesn't go far enough to pull the colour tone in the right direction. This could just be a problem on the sample we have, so it's worth reading around to get a wider opinion of the display before buying, but it's not as good as the display on the HTC 10 and it's no where near as good as the display on the Google Pixel XL or Samsung rival devices.
HTC 10 Evo: Hardware and performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 3GB RAM
- 32 or 64GB storage, microSD card slot
So far the story of the HTC 10 Evo's specs has been one of a flagship-level device, more or less. That metal body, waterproofing, a huge Quad HD display. However, drill into the hardware at the core of the 10 Evo and the picture starts to change.
The HTC 10 Evo is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with 3GB of RAM. That was the defacto standard for 2015's flagships, with the quad-core SD820 powering more recent devices, and the SD821 picking up after that on even newer phones, like the OnePlus 3T.
Let's not mess around here: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 is a powerful chipset, more than capable of running the latest apps and games and it was perfectly good for the last generation of flagships. But it was also a chipset that was mired in controversy around its thermal management.
That's something you immediately notice with the HTC 10 Evo compared to the HTC 10: it runs hotter, it plays hotter, it gets hotter when it charges, which the HTC 10 doesn't. Side by side, the HTC 10 feels like the better device as a result, seeing the 10 Evo slip into that sub-flagship position.
That's likely to be reflected in the price, although HTC has yet to disclose exactly what that's going to be. It will only be available through HTC.com as an unlocked device, rather than from a network, so price will very much be key.
A short session playing Real Racing 3 sees the phone warming to the touch, although the performance is perfectly smooth, not something we'd complain about. Day-to-day use has been smooth too so for many users, those looking for a great looking phone, the HTC 10 Evo will likely offer all the performance they need. But moving forward into the next few years, you're starting a step behind the latest devices, so that's something to bear in mind.
One of the advantages you have over some devices is the inclusion of a microSD card slot, with full support for Android's adoptable storage feature, meaning you should opt for the 32GB model, buy a large card and integrate that storage too, so you have plenty of space.
There's a fingerprint scanner on the front, flanked by capacitive backlit control buttons. The scanner is nice and fast when unlocking the phone, as well as doubling up as a tap button to take you home.
HTC 10 Evo: Battery performance
- 3200mAh battery
- Quick Charge 2 charger included
With a 3200mAh battery and Quick Charge 2 support, the HTC 10 Evo is off to a good start. That's not the largest battery capacity at this size - the OnePlus 3T is 3400, the Pixel XL is 3450 - but we've been impressed with the performance. The HTC 10 Evo will typically get through the day without too many problems and we suspect a lot of that is down to the efficiencies that come from HTC's long experience.
There's an effective battery saving mode that you can engage to increase endurance, although this might lead to screen dimming that makes it difficult to see the display in sunshine. That's fairly common on HTC devices and you might have to manually bump it back up again. As the Evo launches on the latest version of Android and the latest version of HTC Sense, there's plenty of power saving benefits there too, from Adnroid's enhanced Doze features through to HTC's Boost+ app.
Overall, the HTC 10 Evo is a good performer. With the advantages of carrying a slightly larger battery, but plenty of optimisation and efficiencies, this is a device that will get through most days without falling flat.
HTC 10 Evo: Sweet Nougat software
- Android 7.0 Nougat from the box
- HTC Sense tweaks
One of the areas where HTC is likely to be praised is in offering an Android 7.0 Nougat device, bettering some rivals who are launching on Marshmallow still. Launching on the latest version of Android's software, it has been lightly tweaked by HTC Sense.
HTC has been changing less and less of Android in recent times and the result is that the HTC 10 Evo feels like a Nougat phone. There's still HTC's BlinkFeed launcher - although you can switch off BlinkFeed if you don't like it. There's still a full set of HTC Themes available to customise your device, and the preloading of some key social apps from Facebook, but apart from that, it's Google's core apps for most things.
There's a range of options to tweak the device, including the ability to opt for large or small display. This will let you have big or smaller icons, the latter meaning you can get more on a screen - we also saw this in the Pixel XL and we really like it.
There's one area that doesn't quite work and that's in the apps drawer. Here you'll see all your apps, with the option to change the grid size. But even on the denser grid size, there's so much wasted space if you've opted for the "small" display option. The 3 x 4 apps grid is a joke on a phone this size, the 4 x 5 is a little unambitious - you could have an extra row of apps on each screen, for example. Stick to the normal sizing and it all looks fine, but it seems that these two options don't quite work together yet.
Importantly, things run nice and swiftly around the Evo. This might not be the latest hardware, but there's a feeling that the software that HTC has put in place, combined with a chipset that's familiar results in good performance.
As for the Nougat side of the experience, you'll find that the HTC 10 Evo offers some of those applications of polish that make Nougat nice, like the settings menu that's a little more detailed so you spend less time searching. The HTC 10 Evo also supports Nougat's split screen feature (as long as the app supports it), meaning you can make better use of that display.
Then you have things like night mode, meaning that the screen changes to a warmer hue in the evenings so that you're not subjected to a bombardment of blue light. This can be accessed through the quick settings pane, which in this version of the software is also customisable, so you can get to the things you want more easily.
Unfortunately, as those who have been following the Android Nougat story closely will know, there's no sign of Google Assistant on this device, leaving Google's latest AI experience to the Pixel handsets. You still have the full range of Google voice controls, however.
If you're an Android fan, HTC Sense a great dab of customisation on the top of Android, it's not wrenched away visually like Samsung, LG or Huawei, so it maintains a purity, with the launcher being the biggest change. If you don't like that, you've got plenty of options to switch that out for a different experience, and we can't help feeling that, through offering size options on the screen, HTC could have done a better job of making the apps tray more useful.
Importantly, we've found it to be slick and fast, as well as being stable, for a good software experience.
HTC 10 Evo: Audio prowess
- Hi-Res audio support
- Hi-Res headphones included
- Adaptive audio
- No 3.5mm headphone socket
HTC has been making a lot of noise about audio recently. Some of this comes about as a way of offsetting the move on from the front firing speakers. On the HTC 10, this resulted in BoomSound HiFi, which used the bottom speaker and the ear speaker to create that stereo effect.
On the HTC 10 Evo you don't get that feature, audio only plays through the bottom speaker. It isn't as accomplished as the HTC 10 in that respect and when you're playing games or watching YouTube, the sound is thinner, less defined and less bassy.
However, HTC 10 Evo is an accomplished audio device as soon as you plug in the Hi-Res headset that comes in the box. Offering the same design as the HTC 10's wonderful headset, only using USB Type-C rather than 3.5mm, it offers great in ear performance, and customised to you.
Previous HTC devices have allowed you to tune the headset to your hearing, not using an equaliser, but through a serious of tones and taps so that it knows what you can hear and what might need boosting. On the HTC 10 Evo, this is now automatic.
This is called "adaptive audio" and you'll need to use HTC's headset to make this work. You simply plug it into the phone and your ears, press the button and it tests and sets the levels based on your ears, giving you a personal profile. This can also be updated in different locations to help reduce outside noise, so if you're on a train or plane, for example, you simply swipe down the notifications and tap to update, which happens in a few seconds.
It's very clever, meaning that there's really no compromise. Except, of course, that you don't have 3.5mm headphones anymore, which might be a problem for some.
With many devices sticking to conventional 3.5mm connections, making the jump to one without might be a barrier. HTC's bundled in-ear headphones are very good, but if you want to stick to your existing headphones, you'll either need a new cable or an adapter.
HTC 10 Evo: Cameras
- 16MP, f/2.0, PDAF rear camera
- 8MP with panoramic selfie front camera
The HTC 10 Evo has a 16-megapixzel camera on the rear, offering optical image stabilisation, f/2.0 aperture and phase detection autofocus. There's dual-tone flash, RAW capture is offered through a Pro mode and you get 4K video capture too.
The regular camera will offer auto HDR, helping level out tricky shots and we've found this to be pretty good in the past and we'd rather have it than not. The Pro mode gives control over a full range of settings - ISO, shutter speed and focus are useful for deliberately composed photos, for example lower light, where there's the option to select a 16-second exposure for light trails in the dark and so on.
There's also a quick selection option in the Pro mode so you can jump to settings for macro, sport or night with one tap - and tweak as you need it - meaning that the Pro mode isn't just for experts, it gives everyone a little more control.
The rear camera is fast to launch and fast enough to focus, offering touch focusing of focus and metering lock, if that's what you want. The performance is reasonable, but it doesn't challenge the established camera leaders. Photos are often a little flat, they don't really get that exciting and offer the vibrancy you'd expect. There's no pop, even if there's clear enough details.
That applies to low light performance too, where the 10 Evo doesn't really excel, with raising ISO bringing with it noise. That's not uncommon, but we've seen better experiences overall from 2016's best devices.
The front camera is an 8-megapixel sensor offering selfie flash and a range of modes for selfies, including panorama and the option for make-up style smearing. Selfies offer plenty of detail, but we found them to be a little cold. We've seen some HTC devices giving selfies something of a pink hue recently. Although this has gone, you might find you look a little pale.
Overall, it's not a strong camera experience, even if they are capable enough. The display's problem with colour makes this a little worse - because once the slightly flat photo has been produced, the display then makes the colours less interesting.
There's video capture up to 4K, as well as interesting features like hyperlapse. Again, dark video tends to be rather noisy.
The HTC 10 Evo presents a strange combination of specs. On the one side there's stellar audio performance, hampered by the lack of a conventional 3.5mm headphone socket, there's great performance, but with and older chipset that does still seem to get a little warm.
Then you have a big display, packed with detail, but not really very well balanced when it comes to colours, which sells this phone a little short.
Undoubtedly the HTC 10 Evo is one of the most solidly built handsets on the market. We like that design, as we liked the HTC 10 and the IP57 water resistance brings this handset into competition, taking away that worry about using it in the rain.
The software has plenty of refinement and everything runs smoothly enough, but there could be some tweaking to make things work better on the large display. The camera isn't the best out there and still seems to represent something of a challenge to HTC, despite offering a full run of features in the app.
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The HTC 10 Evo faces tough competition at this size - Samsung, Google, OnePlus - and all these rivals offer advantages - design, performance, price - which the HTC 10 Evo has to overcome to be in contention. We're still awaiting the price and that's a huge factor here: priced correctly, you're getting a substantial device for your money, but creep too high and it won't deliver enough bang for the bucks you pay.