Palm Pre vs. Evo 4G: Hardware

OK I’m late to the game but hey I do finally have a Palm Pre to compare against my Evo 4G. Today I’m going to compare the hardware of the two devices. Obviously being a newer device the Evo is going to have a faster process and more RAM so I’ll not concern myself with those. I’m also going to ignore the 4G radio in the Evo as that wasn’t available when the Pre was released.

Both phones have 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios built-in. Likewise both of the phones I have are CDMA meaning they’ll work on Sprint and would work on Verizon if they were unlocked. All the radios on both phones work well so I can’t say much here.

Let’s start off with overall build quality. One thing that I like about HTC’s phones is that they are usually built pretty sturdy. The Evo is a pretty tough customer and I haven’t had anything on it break yet (keyword being yet). While the Pre has a plastic screen that scratches easily the Evo has a glass screen that is pretty damned scratch resistant. The default back cover on the Pre is a shiny plastic making it slippery and a fingerprint magnet while the Evo has a nice rubberized backing which improves gripping.

The Pre I purchased was used and it came with a blown out speaker and a bad power button (the power button sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, you really have to press it hard to ensure proper operation). I did a little searching online and both of these issues are common as is another issue called Oreoing. Oreoing is where the screen can not only slide up from the keyboard but also rotate around. Why is this a problem? Because the phone wasn’t designed to do this. An additional issue that appears common are the volume buttons breaking. Did I mention the fact that the little cover over the micro USB port have a habit of snapping off? I didn’t? Well they do and to rub salt in the wound the cover prevents many standard cables from fully plugging into the Pre (the corner of the tab obscures the edge of most cables from fully seating). Yeah the Pre has a lot of issue on the hardware side of things.

Palm built the Pre on a fairly shoestring budget and you can tell in the lacking quality of the device. One the other hand HTC built the Evo has a flagship device and spent an amazing amount of time making sure all the little details were covered. The one hardware feature I absolutely love on the Evo is the kickstand. Yes HTC realized the Evo would benefit from having a kickstand and tossed one on. It’s not a flimsy piece of plastic either, it’s a fairly substantial piece of plastic. Really the hardware on the Evo just screams quality build with the only real issue is some light leakage between the outside frame of the phone and the lit touch buttons at the bottom. The Evo’s build quality is far and beyond the Pre’s.

While the Pre has a built-in 8GB flash card for storage the Evo has a removable microSD card. The stock card that comes with the Evo is 8GB in size giving these phones the same amount of storage space out of the box. Unlike the Pre’s storage the Evo’s can be increased (which I did the day I got the phone) up to 32GB (32GB being a limitation of the microSD specification not of the Android operating system). The 8GB of on board storage in the Pre is pretty small by today’s standards and was out shined by the iPhone as that had up to 16GB when it was released. I stated that because the Pre was primarily competing against the iPhone and Palm had said some pretty antagonizing things about Apple’s pending phone release. If you’re going to say antagonizing things to your competitor you should be able to produce a product that is superior in every way. I like removable storage (if my computer had a fixed hard drive I’d be pissed) so I’m giving this to the Evo.

The Pre is a slider phone while the Evo is a monstrous slate phone. I’m pretty sure the Evo is such an advanced black rectangular object that throwing it into the monkey pen at the zoo would cause them to learn the use of weapons. The Pre has a much smaller profile than the Evo which comes at the cost of having a noticeably smaller screen. One thing I love about the Evo is the 4.3″ screen. In my opinion the Evo right on the border between being too large for a phone. The Pre is comfortably pocketable.

Being a slider the Pre actually has a physical keyboard. I’ve become accustom to the Evo’s on-screen keyboard but have to say I’ve always preferred having a hardware keyboard if all other things remained equal. The on-screen keyboard on the Evo is damned good so I don’t really mind the lack of a physical keyboard (honestly I’m glad it doesn’t have one otherwise it would be thicker than it is). I came from a Palm Treo 755p which has the ultimate in phone keyboards in my opinion.

The keyboard on the Pre is slightly smaller making it slightly harder to use than the Treo’s keyboard. Adding to the difficulty is the fact the keyboard is sunken into the phone leaving a lip under the keys which can cause some slight annoyance at times. One thing I really dislike about the Pre’s keyboard is the fact it’s a membrane board meaning instead of individual keys there is just one membrane covering all of the keys. These membranes have a habit of developing tears. One downside of a physical keyboard is the inability to type while holding the phone in landscape mode. This wasn’t an issue with the Treo as it had a square screen thus there was no advantage gained in holding the phone sideways. On a phone with a rectangular screen such as the Pre not being able to type while holding the phone in landscape mode is a pain. I actually have to give the Evo the win in this category even though I’ve always been a fan of physical keyboards.

With the keyboard out of the way let’s talk screens. The Evo wins here, hands down. The Evo screen is larger, brighter, and higher resolution. There really is no competition.

Both phones come equipped with cameras. I’m not really doing to say much on this because the camera on the Pre was standard affair when the phone was released. The Evo has an 8.0 megapixel camera (meaning the censor is too small for the number of pixels crammed on there and you get a TON of noise unless there is really good lighting) which is capable of taking 720p video (which ends up looking like shit due to the censor being too small). There is a flash capability on both phones which means you can have washed out shitty looking pictures regardless of the phone you used to take it.

How about the battery life? Both phones are pretty neck-in-neck here, which is to say they both have shitty battery life. Both phones can’t get you through the day with moderate usage of texting and web browsing so long as you’re in a good signal area. Unfortunately the second your signal quality turns to shit so does your battery life. Down in my hometown Sprint has pretty abysmal coverage (while there is zero GSM coverage). The last time I was there I noticed the battery life on the Evo went from acceptable to dreadful as it couldn’t get through the day (not that big of a deal for me as I carry an additional battery just as I can an additional magazine for my carry gun). The Evo can talk all day without any real drain to the battery which is nice. I’m not sure on the Pre’s talk time as I’ve not actually had a long conversation on the device. Both phones are tied for battery life, and by tied I mean they both suck.

One feature the Pre has available (for additional cost) is the Touchstone. The Touchstone is an inductive charger which means it charges the Pre simply by placing the phone on the charger. There are no cables to plug in, just a new (rubberized thankfully) back cover to clip onto your Pre. There is a magnet in the Touchstone that ensures the attached Pre won’t fall off. It charges pretty quickly to boot. I want to be perfectly clear on this, these types of chargers should be standard on every phone produced from here on out. This is one innovation Palm really did right and I wish every other phone manufacturer would copy them. Sure plugging a cable in isn’t too much of an inconvenience (unless it’s the Pre and you have to open that fragile tab every time) but damn it we don’t need to anymore so why are we doing it?

Hands down I prefer the Evo’s hardware without even considering the processor, RAM, or 4G radio. HTC can build nice phones and really pulled out all of the stops when they constructed the Evo. Palm has had slight hardware issues with most of the products they’ve released (for example I have a Palm T|X with a broken power button, a very common issue with that PDA). The Pre has a lot of known issues and suffers from a general cheapness of the design. One the other hand the Pre is much easier to fit into a pocket and has a physical keyboard which many people far prefer.

I’ll write up a comparison of WebOS and Android at a later date.