Matt Myftiu reviews mobile technology for the Oakland Press. He can be reached at matt.myftiu@oakpress.com; Twitter: @MattMyftiu; or his Facebook page “OPTechTime." Check out his blog at realtechtime.blogspot.com.

Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G LTE: With a couple big name phones from Samsung and Apple currently hogging all the media spotlight, it’s easy to forget that there are other players in the smartphone business that are also making pretty impressive products, too.

Sprint s HTC EVO 4G LTE
Sprint s HTC EVO 4G LTE

HTC has never had huge sales numbers in terms of the overall market, but their phones – especially their long-standing EVO line for Sprint – are very good machines that can hold their own with the best of their competitors. I recently tested out the latest EVO phone – Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G LTE , and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS: Keeping with the trend of recent phones, the HTC EVO 4G LTE is big. It’s not Galaxy Note or LG Intuition big, but it’s got a 4.7 inch screen – putting it in a class with the Galaxy S3 from Samsung and towering in size over the 4-inch iPhone 5.

I found it to still be small enough that I could hold it comfortably in one hand, but texting will take both hands. I like this size, and the sales numbers on this category of phones prove that millions of others do too. Once you get toward 5 inches and up, it’s too much for me. But 4.7 is just fine. Overall dimensions on the phone are 5.3 inches tall, 2.7 inches wide and a measly 0.35 thick (or more accurately, 0.35 inches thin). So it’s big, but it’s light at just 4.7 ounces.

Overall, the materials are sturdy and don’t feel cheap.

KICKSTAND: One very nice feature on the newest EVO is the return of the kickstand. This allows you to prop the phone up and view media, something that’s hard to do on most phones. The kickstand is even a stylish red color.

This might seem insignificant to some folks, but if you watch videos or movies on your phone, the kickstand is a very convenient feature to have, and you won’t find anything like it on most phones.

BATTERY NOT REMOVABLE: One thing that is annoying about this phone is that the battery and SIM card are not removable. Only the top half of the backplate opens up, so you can upgrade your storage via microSD card. But the bottom half with battery and SIM card are not removable. This is a trend in phones I don’t like, and I wish HTC hadn’t gone this route.

Sprint s HTC EVO 4G LTE
Sprint s HTC EVO 4G LTE

DISPLAY: If you’re looking for a nice view on your phone, you’ve come to the right place with the HTC EVO 4G LTE. You’ll get an HD 720p Super LCD screen, and the 4.7 inch size of the screen makes it ideal for viewing games, video and movies. The screen is also very responsive to the touch.

PROCESSOR: You’ll need some power under the hood to be considered a great smartphone these days. And with its 1.5GHz dual-core processor, the EVO 4G LTE is up to the challenge. It was great at multitasking; and at no time did I use the word slow to describe what was happening on the phone. That’s a good sign.

MEMORY: You’ll get 16GB of storage on the phone, with the option to upgrade to 32GB if you like via microSD, but 16GB should be plenty for most people. There is 1 GB of RAM, the norm for most top smartphones.

OPERATING SYSTEM: All the EVO phones fall under the Android banner. This particular phone runs Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich). There are some nice upgrades here from previous versions of the system, it’s very easy to learn the system and customize your screens, you get great Google integration, and the overall experience of using this phone is very seamless and uncomplicated.

4G LTE: As the name indicates, the HTC EVO 4G LTE is capable of 4G LTE speeds via Sprint’s new 4G LTE network. There’s a catch though; Sprint’s 4G LTE network is not really out there too much yet, so you probably don’t have access to the network.

See sprint.com/4GLTE for more info on where the network is.

I only had access to the 3G network from Sprint, which is far behind the speeds you get when you are using any 4G network.

Until the network grows, this will be a big concern for Sprint, and could drive customers away. If I were them, I’d do it as quickly as possible – they have a long way to catch up to the competition in this area.

OTHER FEATURES: The HTC EVO 4G LTE features Bluetooth access, WiFi capability, and it can be used as a Mobile Hotspot for other devices (for an extra monthly fee)

It also features NFC (near-field communications), which means you can use it together with other NFC-enabled phones to share data with a tap, or make purchases via Google Wallet.

You get navigation capability too, via Google maps of course.

KEYBOARD: The EVO 4G LTE’s large screen means there is a large keyboard for easy text messaging. There will be no hunting for tiny keys, especially in horizontal mode, even if you have huge fingers.

CAMERA: The rear-facing camera features an 8 megapixel shooter that was pretty impressive, though not the best I’ve seen on a smartphone. I got some great shots, but I also got some blurry ones.

The front-facing 1.3MP camera does what it’s meant to do – primarily video chat and self portraits.

There are a ton of photo styles and editing options (panorama shots, burst shot, and much more).

Video was a home run, as the 1080p high-def video I shot was clear as crystal and very lifelike. Phone videocameras have come a long way, and this one is near the top of the list.

If you like to take pictures with your phone, for the most part you’ll be very happy with the EVO 4G LTE.

BATTERY: The included 2000 mAh battery (which, as I mentioned, is not removable) was overall very impressive. I got through each day, at least, before having to charge. That can’t be said for all 4G smartphones. This is an improvement from earlier versions of the EVO, which weren’t known for their battery prowess.

TONS OF APPS: One of the best benefits of an Android phone is the Google Play market, which offers pretty much any kind of app you might want. It once lagged behind Apple’s App Store, but those days are gone. They are neck and neck at this point.

SOUND: This is the latest HTC phone to feature Beats Audio, which offers slightly better sound quality, but only if you are using headphones. Otherwise, I couldn’t tell the difference.

PRICE: The HTC EVO 4G LTE costs $199.99 out of pocket with a 2-year contract; the standard for top new phones. I would bet that if the competition gets too hot, they might knock the price down a little bit in the near future.

BOTTOM LINE: There’s a ton of big name competition out there in the smartphone market right now, but to paraphrase a character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “HTC’s not dead yet”.

HTC is still making very competitive phones, and Sprint is the only one with the EVO line, which has its share of fans. If you are a fan of this line, you might want to stay loyal to it when you upgrade, and they’ve given you a lot to like with the new model.

Still, grabbing new customers is going to be hard with all the heavyweights out right now. And the lack of 4G LTE coverage in most places hurts Sprint overall as far as attracting customers.

Despite these concerns, there’s no denying, though, that the EVO 4G LTE is very fast, has a solid camera and a lot of other features to like. Whether it worth picking up instead of the bigger-name competition is something each buyer will have to figure out, but one thing’s for sure – HTC has made a phone strong enough that Sprint customers making a choice will have to spend some time thinking about it.

On the Web: For more information on the HTC EVO 4G LTE, visit www.sprint.com.