Side view of the EVO reveals its just slightly "fatter" than the HD2 or Nexus One. It's also slightly heavier.  (Source: Engadget)

Naked, it looks a bit like the HTC Incredible, but packs slightly better hardware.  (Source: Engadget)

Connecting to the phone's hotspot via the built in app is super easy. The phone offers unprecedented speeds on the handful of Sprint 4G (WiMAX) networks across the country.  (Source: Engadget)
Sprint's latest smartphone is a speed demon, but has a few shortcomings

The HTC EVO 4G is about to hit Sprint's network on June 4 and will be the first 4G smartphone.  That impressive distinction and its stellar hardware spec have earned it the reputation of being the smartphone of the summer to buy.  Pre-orders for the phone just began at Best Buy and Radio Shack, but already a couple of early reviews by Engadget's Chris Ziegler and All Things Digital's Walt Mossberg (who also writes for The Wall Street Journal) have shown up on the internet.

The basic summary of the early reviews is this.  The 4G is faster than anything you've seen, but it's spotty and a battery draw.  The phone is overall above the competition with its super fast data speeds, simultaneous voice/data when on 4G, huge screen, mini-HDMI connector, and impressive camera.  However, there's some minor quality concerns.  But a couple of special features -- Wi-Fi connectivity, high speed YouTube, and video chat elevate the phone potentially to must buy status.

Turning first to the packaging which is "resembling a microwaveable meal", according to Engadget, green shoppers will enjoy that the packaging is recycled and comes with a recycling envelope.  Also packed inside is the Micro-USB cable, USB wall charger, a 1500mAh battery, 8GB microSD card and the phone itself.  

Turning to the hardware and build quality, both reviews praised the massive 4.3" screen, which is only matched by HTC's own HTC HD2 (powered on the stale Windows Mobile 6.5).  That lead might not last for long, though given that the Motorola Shadow/Mirage phone is supposed to pack a 4.3" screen and be released by mid-year.  Still for now, the screen is about the best you'll get -- better than the current generation iPhone, certainly.

Engadget complains that the phone is "beefier" than the HD2 or Nexus One.  And Walt Mossberg gripes, "The phone is heavy."

There's also some light leakage out the bottom of the phone and HTC strangely has designed the phone to rest directly on the camera lens glass, which could lead to scratches for those who do not protect their phones in a case.  Inside, the memory card is a bit hard to replace as its under the battery and uses a strange latching mechanism.  The EVO shares the fire engine red underbody of the HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon.

Overall both reviewers said the build quality, despite the minor shortcomings, is excellent.  Among the hot features is the kickstand, which Engadget lauds "positive (sic) spring loaded action and feels like it's made of solid metal"

Turning next to the camera, it receives a lot of praise in the Engadget review, which says that it features an extremely fast shutter speed, even with auto-focus.  They like that you can switch between MPEG4 and H.264 video modes, but criticize HTC's liberal compression of high-def video.

One app that raised the phone up a notch was the YouTube HQ app which features impressive full-screen videos that are loaded fast, thanks to the speedy network.  Another highly valuable app is Sprint's Hotspot app which is extremely easy to use (more on the speed later).  Finally, Qik-powered two-way video chat app is also expected to be a hot edition, but it wasn't ready for review quite yet.

A burning question likely on your mind -- how does the 4G work?  Well apparently in the limited number of cities with coverage, its very fast if you can get it.  Endgadget reports getting "WiFi-like speed" (7.5Mbps down and nearly 3Mbps up, 3.5 Mbps average up) while being able to make calls over CDMA.

Similarly, Walt Mossberg says his tests show speeds of 1 to 4 mbps, compared to 1Mbps down for the iPhone on AT&T or 2 Mbps down for the HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon.  However Mossberg warns, "[W]hen using 4G, the EVO’s battery runs down alarmingly fast."

Battery life is a reoccurring concern.  It isn't horrible, but it apparently isn't great.  If you plan on tethering, you might want to plug in your phone to prevent battery drain over long sessions.  Another concern Engadget raises is that HTC has been slow pushing out updates so there's a chance the Flash-packing Android 2.2 "Froyo" update could be slow coming to the phone.  App memory capacity (only 358 MB of 9 GB for third party apps) is yet another concern.

Both reviews summarize the phone on a positive note.  Mossberg summarizes:

My verdict: The HTC EVO 4G, when used on Sprint’s 4G network, offers the highest consistent downstream data speeds I have ever seen on a cellular network. It also has a number of other strong features: a front-facing camera for video chatting, and the ability to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot (for an extra fee of $30 a month) that can simultaneously connect up to eight laptops or other devices to the Internet.

And Engadget comments:

Let us be crystal clear: we love this phone. Nay, we adore it. But the fact remains that it's still very much an Android device -- which means that if you don't like Android now, odds are good that even Android executed on the most amazing hardware to date won't do much to change your opinion of it.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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