ThunderBolt Review - by Daniel C. Slagle (Keeper of the XoomFAQ.com)
Edited by dgstorm
I have been using the Droid X since it came out, so it is the standard by which I judge all smartphones. During the review I will make valid comparisons to my experiences with the Droid X. At the end of the review, I will detail the specs of the phone.
First, I unboxed it and powered the phone on. Even though the phone powered on right away with a dramatic Thunderbolt boot animation, (insert lightning sound here) it still seemed to take quite a while to boot. In fact, the phone was taking so long, I actually thought it locked up! Eventually, my patience was finally rewarded, and we were in business.
The first thing I noticed was the amazing display. WOW! I never thought my Droid X looked bad, but the colors on the Thunderbolt actually have more depth. I also immediately noticed I was dealing with a very fast UI (user interface). The UI is very similar to Launcher Pro. The phone really is "lightning fast". I poked around the the phone, logged in to my Google account and let my contacts and Market apps sync. Since Amazon just opened up its market I downloaded their market app and Angry Birds Rio for "testing". The speed at which the phone did this was exactly the same as all my other 3G phones. I can only test 3G because it is all I have for internet service at this time. Unfortunately, 4G capabilities mean nothing if you cannot take full advantage of them.
From my testing, this device has just about everything you could possibly want in a smartphone. The interface is intuitive. The only thing that kind of confused me was 'Personalize' vs. 'Settings'. 'Settings' is your standard Android setting like USB preferences and account information, while 'Personalize' is more of a theme manager for your style, wallpaper, ringtones, etc. With a phone like my Droid X, theme developers go to great lengths to provide customization that the Thunderbolt already has built-in. Nice!
I shared the phone with quite a few smartphone users and, amazingly, almost everyone said the same thing that I thought when I picked it up; "This feels nice in my hand". I am unsure if it is the curved body or how it is weighted but regardless, it feels "natural" but also a bit "heavy".
I think the best audio feature about this phone is the kickstand that allows the audio to come out of the phone without having it muted by whatever surface it is resting on. The sound quality is nice and has a fair amount of loudness for a phone.
As you would expect with a large TFT display, videos look stunning. This phone supports Windows audio and videos files. This will be a HUGE plus for those of you with large collections of media in that format. Just out of curiosity, I took some 5 year old WMV files and put them on the phone. The Windows movie files looked better than I remember! The one thing missing on this phone is an HDMI port to watch my videos on the BIG screen.
There was really nothing of particular note in regards to the camera or the camcorder. It seems on par with my iPhone, Droid X, or Xoom. The flash seemed brighter, but I did not have a light meter to test with. The photos I took inside seemed somewhat clearer than my other devices and I attribute that to a good flash.
While I am not a huge gamer, I know many people are stuck on mass transit with time on their hands and you can not read a book everyday. So, I handed the phone off to a friend of mine that plays games on her LG Ally. One of her favorite games is Dinner Dash and she was impressed! She quickly acclimated to the phone and started playing. She noted, as she started getting up in the higher levels, that there was no lag like she experienced on her phone. When I asked if she would trade her phone for the Thunderbolt... "Damn skippy," was her answer.
Even though I am a Mac user, the phone easily connected to my machine (I would get a warning about it every time I connected in disk mode, but ignoring the mounting error did not seem to affect it in any way). The Thunderbolt easily moved files to and from the Mac via the USB interface. I fired up the Android SDK to look at the device and get a few screen shots. Again, no notable issues. From what I've seen on the forums, the Thunderbolt has already been rooted, and it has been successfully over-clocked to a stable 1.8Ghz. Unlike my Droid X, I did not really feel the need to over-clock it, as it was fast enough for my needs.
- Fast. I do not know if it is because of the Snapdragon processor or the HTC UI, but this phone "feels" a lot faster than my over-clocked Droid X. While the Thunderbolt does not score that much higher than my Droid on benchmarks, like Quadrant or Linkpack, it just feels all-around faster.
- Feel. The Thunderbolt "feels nice" in your hand. I just do not know another way of saying it... like it belongs there. Plus, if you are a fan of the vibrating keyboard, it really seems like you are typing on a reactive surface... unlike the X that just feels like it is buzzing in your hand.
- Integration. On my Droid X, many people go out of there way to remove the MotoBlur. We remove them because they are typically so poor in functionality and slow the phone down. When using the built-in Sense UI on the HTC, I felt no desire or need to do that. Everything seems well integrated.
- The dialer. I really wish I had this dialer on my current phone. It has more options, and a much nicer speed dial. I also like the way it separates your contacts when you list them.
- The kickstand. I found myself using it a lot. It works in either orientation, so it is convenient. Yes, it adds a bit of weight, but in my mind, it is worth it.
- Battery life. At first the battery life seemed pretty good, but when I started pushing it and queuing up tasks, it reminded me of one of those big-block 1970's cars where you could actually watch the fuel gauge go down as you mashed the throttle. I saw it go from 80% battery to 50% battery in about 20 minutes of hard use. I have seen no reports, of anyone, successfully using the phone for a full 8 hour day without having to put it on the charger. If you do not plan on dragging a charger around, you will want to buy the extended battery for this device.
- The speaker phone microphone. I attended a few conference calls on this phone, and used the speakerphone, as I do not like a bluetooth headset stuck in my head for an hour. On all the calls, when it was my turn to speak, people had problems hearing me and actually talked over me while I was speaking because they were unaware I was talking.
The Ugly - (Not much)
- Long boot times. This seemed pretty consistent. I do not typically let my devices go to 0% battery too often but, the start time certainly is noticeable when you have to restart the Thunderbolt.
- Weight. It is a tad on the heavy side, but I would not give up the kickstand to make it lighter, so it isn't really that bad.
- 4G in a 3G world. If you are lucky enough to be one of the 175 cities getting 4G this year, then the fact that this phone has 4G will mean a lot more to you. For me, I am not going to See 4G this year. Of course, that isn't really the phones fault.
- No HDMI Out. The lack of HDMI has me scratching my head, since this phone is of similar design to the HTC EVO which has an HDMI port. It makes me wonder why they didn't or couldn't include it.
The question remains, "Would I buy this phone if I were not under contract with my Droid X?" The answer is, maybe. Lack of HDMI is not a deal breaker for me, but I do feel like I would be giving something up. If I take that out of the equation I would most certainly want this phone. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
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Written By: Daniel C. Slagle (Keeper of the XoomFAQ.com)
Edited by dgstorm
Marketing Stuff and Specs:
• A Mobile Hotspot for up to 8 devices
• Take gaming to the next level with access to Android Market’s best games
• Entertainment is at your fingertips with easy access to movies, TV shows, music and exclusive content
• Instant NHL and NCAA stats and games for mobile fandom
• Scorching fast 1 GHz processor for fast access to apps, gaming, entertainment, and more
8.0 MP rear camera
Dual LED Flash
1.3 MP front camera
HD Video Capture
Image & Video Formats Supported: JPEG / GIF87/ GIF89a / PNG / WBMP/ MPEG4 / H.263 / H.264 / WMV9
Create and Manage Playlist
Headset: 3.5mm Audio Jack.
Audio Formats Supported: MIDI / M4A / QCP / AMR / AAC / AAC+ / eAAC+ / WAV / WMA9 / MP3
MS Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL, Verizon.net, etc.
HTML Browser: Adobe Flash Player 10.1
Backup Assistant, Android Market, Google Talk, Amazon Kindle, Google Maps, Mobile IM, Visual Voice Mail, Verizon Single Sign On, Blockbuster, Slacker, Sling, My Verizon, VZ Navigator, Let’s Golf 2, Rock Band, TuneWiki, Vz Web Portal (Browser favorite), eReader, SSO, VCast App Store, Data Meter 4G, City ID
Supports 18 languages
Advanced Speech Recognition
Embedded ringtones, vibrate alert and silent
Phonebook capacity dependent upon available memory
Hearing Aid Compatibility = M4/T3
Device Software Update – upgrade software over the air
Bluetooth® Profiles Supported: HSP, HFP, A2DP (Stereo), PBAP, FTP, AVRCP
4.75? x 2.44? x 0.56? inches
Weight: 6.23oz (with standard battery)
Android 2.2 with HTC Sense 2.0
4.3? capacitive touch screen
480×800 WVGA display
Orientation in portrait and landscape
Touch screen QWERTY Keyboard
Talk: 378 mins
Standby: 330 hours
Memory / Processor
68 MB RAM
Actual formatted capacity will be less
Qualcomm® MSM8655 1Ghz