Thursday, March 31, 2011

HTC Thunderbolt Review

   The HTC Thunderbolt is here, and it didn’t come quietly. It is Verizon’s first LTE device. This phone has received a lot of hype in the months leading up to it’s release. With the expectations high, the burning question is whether it lives up to the hype or not. Is this a must have device worthy of being Verizon’s flagship LTE device? Read on to find out.


While not cutting edge, considering the dual core phones coming out now, the Thunderbolt does have an impressive spec list.

LTE 700, CDMA EvDO revA
Operating system:
Android™ 2.2 + HTC Sense
4.3” WVGA TFT capacitive touch screen
8MP with autofocus, LED Flash (2x LED), 1.3MP front facing camera
8GB emmc + 768 RAM Memory card, preinstalled 32 GB microSD™
802.11 b/g/n
2.1 with EDR (3.0 when available)
1400 mAh
Special features:
Dual mics with noise cancellation, Surround sound, Compass sensor, G-Sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, 3.5mm audio jack, MicroUSB, FM radio, LTE SIM slot , TI audio DSP
Qualcomm® MSM8655, 1GHz, Qualcomm MDM9600

The first thing you notice after unboxing the Thunderbolt is the size. This thing is huge. For some, this may be a deterrent, but I think it is just right. The 4.3” display is perfect for web browsing and watching movies. When you pick it up, it feels great in your hands. This is a very well built phone. HTC used quality materials all around. While the phone is very large, it isn’t too thick. It is thicker than the iPhone 4, or the Atrix, but not so much that you feel like you are holding a brick.

The sides of the phone are very clean. There are no buttons on the left side, only the micro-usb port. On the right side, you will only find volume control buttons. The power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack sit atop the phone. There are no buttons or inputs along the bottom. Along the bottom of the display are 4 touch sensitive buttons, which are standard Android fare. They work flawlessly.  On the back of the phone is an 8MP camera, which actually performs pretty well. Sitting next to the camera is a dual LED flash. Below that is the kickstand. Anyone who has messed with the original EVO will appreciate this addition. If you plan on watching movies on the gorgeous display, you’ll be thankful for the kickstand. Comes in handy for alarm clock functioning too.

The massive 4.3” display isn’t the main attraction here, but it’s pretty high up on the list. It provides crisp colors and deep blacks. The viewing angles are great. Web pages look very good rendered on this screen, and the text is easily readable.


The Thunderbolt ships with Android 2.2, and has HTC Sense running on top. As expected, you’ve got your usual carrier bloatware pre-loaded onto the phone as well. Unfortunately, Verizon has made it impossible to remove some of this, which may prompt users to root.

One of the nice features is the mobile hotspot app, which allows you to share your data with up to 8 devices. Verizon is generously giving everyone this feature for free until mid-May, which is a great deal. If you are in a city with 4G, then you’re sure to be excited the first time you tether with your phone. The speeds you’ll be surfing at are likely to be as good, or better, than many people’s home DSL connection.

There are several other apps pre-installed as well:

 Peep – A Twitter app
 Quickoffice – A mobile productivity suite. You can create and edit excel and word         
 Rock Band – Actually just a link to go download the free trial of the game. Weak, if you ask us.
 Slacker – A music streaming app which you are probably familiar with.


Depsite being a single core phone in an increasingly dual core market, the Thunderbolt is no slouch. We have to keep in mind that specs aren’t everything. The most important aspect of an electronic device is neither the hardware or the software, but the harmony between the two. This is evident in the Thunderbolt. HTC has fine tuned it for top notch performance. The phone is incredibly responsive, and quick to open apps. Side by side with the Atrix, you are hard pressed to notice a difference during regular use.  We got a 1750 in Quadrant, which is pretty good, but it doesn’t touch the 2700+ of the Atrix. Like we mentioned before though, specs aren’t everything.

We went to some flash based sites, and watch some videos online, and Flash 10.2 performed great. Videos loaded very fast, thanks to 4G, and they were rendered beautifully on the screen, with nary a hiccup in sight.

Now on to the network side of things – the main attraction. Being Verizon’s first LTE device, the pressure is on. People have been hyped to expect great things from this phone, and we can tell you that it delivers. After using the Thunderbolt in a 4G area, we wonder how the other guys can call their networks 4G and keep a straight face. The absolute slowest results we got we over 6Mbps. We consistently got between 9-13Mbps, tested several times a day, in many areas. This is the 4G experience. We got 14-20Mbps during some tests as well, though we can’t expect those speeds once more 4G devices jump onto the network. Right now it is relatively empty in most places.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news too. With great power comes great battery drain. As many users are finding out, the Thunderbolt has bad battery life. Depending on how you use it, the battery can die in 4-5 hours, or you can get a day out of. We warn you though, a full day of life isn’t typical for those that use their phone a lot. Verizon is well aware of this, and they are selling an extra large 2750MAh battery. This is nearly double the battery power, but it is somewhat unsightly. It interrupts the aesthetics of the back of the phone, sticking out further than most. If you thought the Thunderbolt took up a lot of pocket space before, try getting it to fit in there after putting on the extended battery. It is a nice option to have, though, as some people rely on their phone for work.


The Thunderbolt is a great phone. It offers exceptional hardware performance, and blazing fast network speeds. The only real drawback to the phone is the battery life, but there are ways to squeeze more life out of it. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this phone to anyone, especially right now while VZW is offering unlimited LTE and free mobile hotspot. If you want the fastest mobile speeds available, it may be the right time to take the jump. We give it an 8/10.



  1. Good review keep it up. I want to get a htc thunderbolt case now

  2. We appreciate the feedback, thanks for reading!


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