The HTC Thunderbolt, Verizon's first 4G LTE, lives up to its name as a lightning fast, high-end smartphone.
Introduced at CES 2011, the Thunderbolt is a large, solid phone -- the first thing you'll notice about the Thunderbolt is its size. It's almost 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide, and heavier than many other similar phones. However, it has a soft-touch finish and a handy kickstand, so it's easy to hold and feels very solidly built.
The solid feel extends to the 4.3-inch WVGA touch screen. At 800-by-480 pixels, you can find phones with higher resolutions, but the Thunderbolt has a clear, bright picture quality and web pages look great, so you won't notice the difference. In addition, the display is very responsive, with a proximity sensor and built-in accelerometer to change the viewing orientations.
Like most high-end phones, the Thunderbolt features an 8-megapixel camera and flash. It doesn't have a dedicated button, so you'll have to use the touch display to take photos -- but that's a minor inconvenience. The lens takes sharp photos and records 720p high-definition video. Unfortunately, the phone doesn't come with a video chat, a shame for a device with a 1.3-megapixel front-facing lens. But there are several ways to share your photos and videos including DNLA support to wirelessly stream media. No HDMI port here, though.
The Thunderbolt runs on a customized version of Android 2.2 software, using HTC's Sense interface. Sense adds a few camera tools and makes the phone boot up faster, but also includes a frou-frou: you can make "Scenes," or different homepages, for various areas of your life. So during your workday, you can put on your work scene -- with the appropriate apps -- and afterwards you can switch to family or happy hour scenes, depending on your personal preference. It comes preloaded with apps from HTC and Verizon, including Peep Twitter, Footprints, Rock Band and more. But they take up a great deal of room. If you don't like them, too bad, you can't uninstall them.
The real draw, though, is its speed. Verizon boasts top 4G speeds, but the services hasn't been expanded everywhere, so the Thunderbolt switches to 3G if 4G coverage is lacking, but it does that seamlessly. You can't manually switch from 4G to 3G, though, which would save some battery life. But the Thunderbolt does simultaneous voice and data over 3G and 4G connections, thanks to a special chipset.
The battery is its biggest drawback, rated at around six hours of talk time. But 4G drains uses up a signification amount of power, and even with moderate use, you'll need to recharge the phone just a few hours -- or spring for the second battery.
Overall, the Thunderbolt 4G speeds are amazing. You can turn it into a hotspot and connect your Wi-Fi devices. But the battery drains too quickly. The single-core processor works quite well, but dual-core phones are hitting the market, so you may want to wait for a more powerful device. ♦
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