It’s been close to a week in the making, but I’m finally ready to present my review of the HTC Thunderbolt Smartphone that is available from Verizon to use on its LTE network. While there are both pros and cons to this speedy phone I’m mostly pleased with it. It’s definitely an upgrade from the Motorola Droid X, which I owned before the Thunderbolt. Overall, I’m happy with my purchase, so if you need a little nudge in one direction or another, I hope my review will help you out. The HTC Thunderbolt truly lives up to its name.
EB – 8/10
The Awesome – Beautiful 4.3″ screen, Blazingly fast browsing speeds with 4G, Sense UI, Keyboard, Look and Feel, Android OS, Kickstand, Storage, Camera
The Not So Awesome – Battery Life, Battery Life, and Battery Life, Glitches with Text Input, No Video Chat Support, Sense UI Glitch
As always I’m going to start with the great aspects of this device beginning with the most obvious pro, which is the 4G network. Make no mistake, Verizon’s LTE network is a thing of beauty. The 4G connection on the HTC Thunderbolt is out of this world. I have found myself not needing Wi-Fi anymore except for when I’m hunkered down in the man cave for hours on end. I get amazing download and upload speeds, which reflect the studies released by RootMetrics test of the major 4G networks and devices. Browsing has never been better on a smartphone, especially if you have the patience of an amoeba like myself. 3G was OK, but I usually found myself flicking on the Wi-Fi connection on my Droid X to achieve more adequate browsing speeds. This is not the case with the HTC Thunderbolt and its 4G connection to the Verizon LTE network. If you’re all about getting on the 4G bandwagon this is definitely the phone for you.
Look and Feel
The HTC Thunderbolt is LTE fast, which goes nicely with its lovely 4.3″ screen and manly design. Even though the screen’s resolution is only 800×400 it still looks HD enough for me. I also like the heavy feel of the phone and metal chassis. Compared to the Droid X the Thunderbolt feels durable and less like a piece of plastic. I could see the weight giving some wimps a problem, but for a manly man like myself I prefer the extra weight. The gun metal finish on the front of the phone is a nice touch as well. It meshes very nicely with the matte black battery cover and steel kickstand on the back of the phone. I don’t find the phone to be too bulky like other sites have been claiming, but again, I’m a tough guy, so there may be some validity to their claims. I like having a phone that fills up my palm but still allows me to operate it with one hand, which the Thunderbolt does afford. Overall, the hardware looks great and feels like a $600 device.
The Thunderbolt is a great looking phone, but what about its guts? Well, they’re equally as impressive as the chassis even if they don’t contain a dual core CPU. Unlike most other smartphones out there the HTC Thunderbolt comes with 40GB of storage right out of the box. It sports 8GB of internal memory (about 3 GB available) with a 32GB SD card installed by the MFG. If you’re a multimedia ho then this phone is great for storing your music, movies, games, ringtones, wallpapers, etc..
The TB also sports 768MB of RAM, which in my opinion is more important than a dual core CPU. Sure, I’m jealous that I don’t have a dual core, but I’m more than pleased with the phone’s performance due to its RAM capacity. I run around 17 widgets on my custom scene and have yet to see my available ram drop under 150MB. Typically the free RAM hovers around 190-225MB, which is plenty to run all of the apps I have downloaded. In fact, I’d say a normal user will probably see even better RAM management with their HTC TB, because I’m guessing most of you don’t download the kitchen sync to your phone when it comes to 3rd party apps.
Having some decent RAM only adds to the much improved Sense UI, which HTC overlays on top of the stock Android OS. I’m so glad to be using Sense again versus MotoBlur. I found Blur to be a less than stellar UI on the Droid X, and it didn’t really showcase the wonders of the Android OS. This is not the case with Sense, which does a great job of sprucing up the stock Android experience. It allows for increased customization when it comes to how your screens look (Scenes), as well as how the windows and nav bars look (Skins). For someone who likes to express their style on their gadgets this is a big plus. It can also be a big curse if you’re an obsessive compulsive about creating the ideal environment for your phone like myself. But I’d rather have the ability to customize my scenes versus not being able to, so I’ll deal with my own issues.
Not only does the HTC Thunderbolt look great and blaze on 4G, it has a surprisingly decent camera for a smartphone. I’ve never really had a great experience with a mobile phone’s camera until now. The TB sports an 8MP rear camera as well as a 1.3MP front facing camera. The rear camera is the real winner here. I’ve taken a few sample pics using the highest quality setting for the camera, which you can see after the break. I found it to perform admirably in both outdoor and indoor shots using the still camera and the video camera. Unlike other smartphones the Thunderbolt doesn’t seem to produce those shaky looking images that I experienced with the Droid X. At times I felt like I had an early onset of Parkinson’s Disease while using other smartphone cameras, but that is not the case with the HTC Thunderbolt.
Indoor Shots Set at Highest Quality Setting with Various Effects Applied
Outdoor Shots Set at Highest Quality Setting with Various Effects Applied
The still pictures look really nice on this phone, and so do some of the video settings. Below you’ll see various examples of the video quality that the TB can put out. I found the Online HD Setting to be the best, and surprisingly the actual 720p setting to be the worst. You can decide for yourself after checking them all out, but I just felt like the full 720p shots looked kind of choppy. Either way the camera on this phone is stellar for what it is. I mean, it’s a phone not a camera, so the fact that I can produce images and videos with certain stylized looks that are actually pleasing to the eye is good enough for me. Please note that I’m a big fan of Star Wars, and I just got a robotic R2-D2, so he appears in most of these demos. He was a great subject to work with by the way!
Online High Quality Video Setting
Online HD Quality Video Setting
720p Quality Video Setting – Indoors
720p Quality Video Setting – Outdoors Pt. 1
720p Quality Video Setting – Outdoors Pt. 2
The Not So Awesome
The one glaring issue with the HTC Thunderbolt that even Fandroids can’t deny is the battery. With moderate to heavy use don’t expect the battery to last much longer than 8 hours. The longer you have this thing on with its lovely 4.3″ screen the quicker the battery dies. The display is by far the leading culprit when it comes to what’s eating up your Thunderbolt’s battery. It continues to be the number 1 offender when I check which apps are draining my juice.
When you use the TB like a normal person for some calling and light browsing, the battery seems to last upwards of 12-14 hours. Still not great considering heavy users like me will never use this device like a normal person. In fact, my smartphone has become my number 1 form of entertainment, call it a geek pacifier if you will, so the battery is definitely a negative for those of us that are on these things for a couple of hours a day. Luckily there’s an extended battery from Seidio, which boasts 1600 mAh versus the 1400 mAh provided by the OEM battery. This won’t increase the phone’s form factor unlike the 2750 mAh extended battery from Verizon and HTC, which turns the TB into a brick.
Keyboard Input Glitch
Honestly the battery is the only negative about the HTC Thunderbolt, but there are some little glitches that affect the experience. I’ve noticed an occasional glitch when it comes to inputting text into random apps, or the messaging apps. Sometime when I click into the input box and begin typing nothing gets entered into the box. I have to close the app and re-open it to regain the ability to type text into the input box. It’s a slight pain in the as* that I hope will be corrected in a software update. This is a shame too because I really enjoy the keyboard on the Thunderbolt namely because it has arrow keys for simplified navigation, as well as a great copy and paste function.
Sense UI Glitch
I have also ran into what I’m calling the Sense UI glitch, which exhibits itself randomly. I may be causing it myself, because it only shows up when I go into my ATK and force kill sh*t, but when it happens I only see the HTC splash screen for a moment and then it reloads my selected scene. If any of you have seen this please let us know in the comment section below. Again, this could be easily be addressed in a software update, but it’d be nice if the Thunderbolt shipped glitch free.
Lack of Front Camera Support
This negative is really stretching it, but I don’t want to come off as a Fandroid, so I’m showing my objectivity. At this time there really aren’t any apps for the front facing camera to use for video chats. Not that I really want to look at everyone I talk too, but it’d be nice to have the option. I don’t understand why HTC would include a front cam and not have the Skype client ready to work with it on day 1. Oh well, I guess it’ll be available soon, but again that’s what, 3 software updates now? It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but if you’re expecting to show off to your Fanboy friends don’t expect to do it with a video chat.
Final Verdict – EB 8/10
Just like I mentioned in the beginning of this review I’m completely content with my HTC Thunderbolt. The 4G speeds are something to experience and offer a look into the future of the mobile cloud. Even with a single core CPU the TB still plows through any apps I’ve thrown at it, which I credit to the beefy 768MB of RAM. The Sense UI showcases the wonders of the Android OS in a magical way that will keep obsessive tinkerers customizing the sh*t out of it. For those of you that want a decent camera phone the Thunderbolt will definitely satisfy your needs.
It’s a bummer that the battery can’t make it a full day without charging it for us moderate to heavy users, but so far I don’t find it to be that limiting. These things are mobile computers with beefy connections, so it’s not a surprise that the battery takes a beating. Although, I’d like to see something closer to the iPhone 4 when it comes to battery life, but it’s not worth switching my allegiance to Apple nation.
In the end I give the HTC Thunderbolt a solid EB 8/10. If you’re itching to get in on some 4G action then this is a great phone to become an early LTE adopter with. The TB with its Sense UI makes the Android experience even better than it is. There are a few glitches that can be addressed with some software updates, but the only thing that should truly concern you if you’re on the fence with this phone is the battery. Hopefull, my time with the Thunderbolt will be long, because I absolutely enjoy it. Once I score the extended battery I don’t think I’ll have any complaints. So what are you waiting for? Trade in that old POS and get yourself on the LTE with HTC’s Thunderbolt. Check out the hands-on demo below if you still need some more convincing. You’ve been impressed, I hope…
HTC Thunderbolt Hands-On Demo
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