Review: HTC Thunderbolt

The HTC Thunderbolt marks the next representation for Verizon on its conquest for 4G dominance. Verizon built a legacy on a network that is rock solid and you can bet that they will work to spread their 4G as fast and as far as possible.

The Thunderbolt on the cover looks like any other Android device on the market. But aside from looking like a device you have already seen, this is Verizon’s first 4G phone that was initially announced back at CES in January.

Specs:

The Thunderbolt specs out at 4.75 x 2.44 x .56 inches, runs Android 2.2, 4.3in 480x800 WVGA display, 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front facing camera, 3.5MM audio jack, 1 GHz CPU, and weighs in at a hefty 6.23 ounces (with battery)

Build:

There is something that you can’t ignore as soon as you pick up this device; the device feels big and heavy. While not so heavy that you don’t want to use it, if you are coming from anything other than a 4.3in device, it will take some getting used to.

The unibody metal design feels great in your hand, you won’t pick up this device and think it feels cheap and the included kickstand is useful, although it’s a feature most probably will not use all that often (much like the front facing camera).

4G:

The big draw to this device over others on Verizon is the 4G connectivity. Fortunately, Verizon graced the airwaves in my location with 4G goodness and I was able to get, on average, 9.23Mbps down and 4.35MBs upload. These speeds are far and above what you actually need on a mobile device but when tagged with the Hotspot feature, you have a powerful device that finally offers true mobile broadband to more than one user at a time. 

Phone:

All importantly, when using this device as a phone, it works plain and simple. If you have used an Android phone in the past, there is nothing ground breaking here. The audio quality is above average and the speakerphone is, for the most part, loud and clear. Two little sticking points, the volume could be a touch louder on the headset portion and using the speakerphone on max volume with the kickstand in the way, can produce some unwanted interference.

Battery:

The battery, this is a crucial feature of any smartphone and unfortunately, the Thunderbolt suffers on this front. We actually had two test units, one provided by Verizon, and another provided by a third party vendor, and after a few days use, it was hard to pull a full working day out of the device. Now it is fair to say that I was using the device on heavy basis, but compared to the iPhone 4, the battery fell flat. Three days use with approximately 50 minutes of calls and 30 minutes of heavy LTE usage, the battery would last around 5 hours. It seems that HTC already knew this might be an issue as there is already an extended battery on the market.

One interesting quirk over the Evo is that you cannot turn off the 4G radio. On the Evo, you can manually turn off radio to preserve battery, something you can not do on the Thunderbolt.

Camera:

The cameras on the unit are remarkably well rounded. The 8MP shooter scores high marks for its picture quality and response time. The tap to focus feature works well but a lack of camera modes is a bit disappointing. It is quite hard to take close-ups with the camera because HTC omitted a macro mode.

Video quality matches that of the picture quality, you will not be disappointed by the results and the dual LED flash has no problem lighting up even the darkest of environments.

Software:

The software on this beast is Android 2.2.1, and is exactly what you would expect from Sense running on 2.2. This is a love/hate relationship. If you like Sense, then this will not be a barrier, if you wish for a more stock look, well, you will have to result to one of the many other launchers that you can download from the marketplace.  

Like every other Verizon device with the mobile Hotspot feature, setting it up was a breeze and connecting other devices was not a barrier either. If you have used a mobile hotspot device, the functionality is very similar and you won’t have much of an issue connecting to the device.

Conclusion:

Overall this is another tier 1 device on Verizon. Despite being the first 4G phone, it doesn’t feel like it was first to anything from a quality standpoint. The OS has been cooked thoroughly and the only new addition is the 4G connectivity. While the device is a bit cumbersome in weight and size, this is by far the best Android device in Verizon’s portfolio as long as you're willing to carry around a cord to charge the device.

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