The rear of the Thunderbolt is divided in two. The top battery cover area is coated with HTC’s favorite black soft touch material, and down below is a beefy kickstand that seems at least twice as wide as the EVO’s. Underneath the kickstand is the Thunderbolt’s speakerphone grille.

Further down is a small rubber plug dead center in the back of the phone. If you can manage to wry it loose, underneath is what looks like a test port for the CDMA RF path rather than an external antenna connector. It’s difficult to get out, and even more difficult to get back in straight. 

Kickstands (Left to Right): HTC EVO, HTC Thunderbolt, HTC Inspire

The kickstand seems to be something HTC always does on its absolute latest and greatest, and clearly alludes to HTC’s other 4G first with WiMAX. The EVO and Thunderbolt both have kickstands, though I have to admit that I like the Thunderbolt’s better. It works in landscape and portrait, though landscape is clearly the intended orientation. It’s bigger and beefier, and feels more secure in both orientations than the EVO’s does as a result.

My only complaint is that there’s some sort of coating material on the kickstand metal which has begun chipping off, making a weird discolored pattern right where the kickstand contacts the surface it rests on. Likewise, on the rear where it is coplanar with surfaces, it has begun chipping off. I’m not abusive with my own devices (nor review units), it’s just seriously peeling off. 

The design language of the Thunderbolt is clearly inspired by the HTC Desire HD (and its AT&T variant, the Inspire 4G, which I picked up for personal use). Side by side, it’s obvious that these two share a ton of industrial design notes.

The recessed chrome earpiece grille with notification LED below, button schema, and edge curvature radius is all the same. I can see how the recessed notification LED could be a huge pain. Green is a bit hard to see, orange for charging seems much easier. To me this looks about the same between the Desire HD and Thunderbolt.

Where the two differ most notably is construction. The Desire HD is primarily metal of the same sort the Nexus One came clad in, HTC’s favorite purple/grey material. Unlike its cousin, the Thunderbolt is almost entirely plastic, though the rough matte polish of the device cleverly disguises this concession. HTC is clearly marching in the direction of unibody metal phones, as evidenced by the Sensation/Pyramid. 

So why plastic for the Thunderbolt? The reason might be RF, as the Deisre HD leverages the battery compartment door’s RF window to hide a WiFi antenna, and the SIM card slot at the bottom for cellular (as does the Sensation). The Thunderbolt can’t make any such concession, being literally stuffed full of antennas. Likewise, perhaps sheer size also necessitated plastic to keep mass reasonable. Either way, the Thunderbolt scuffs and deforms like plastic if you drop it, I’ve had it in my pocket long enough that I’ve dropped it twice already, creating such scuffs.

Button placement and responsiveness are totally fine. The power button is up at top and protrudes enough for easy location with the index finger when held in either hand. On the other side is the headset jack, and next to it is a noise cancellation microphone.

On the far right is the volume rocker which is adequately clicky. Subjectively, the Thunderbolt’s volume buttons seem far easier to manipulate than the Desire HD’s, whose buttons blend into the battery cover door and are far too smushy. (As an aside, HTC supposely knows about this problem and is redesigning the battery door and offering replacement doors if you’re an Inspire/Desire HD owner.)

The Thunderbolt’s microUSB port is on the bottom left of the device. The only thing on the far bottom of the phone is the microphone port.

Overall construction of the Thunderbolt is good, though I still think the Desire HD’s real metal unibody design is far more rugged. HTC industrial design seems to be headed squarely in the metal-unibody route if designs like the Sensation and others like the Desire S or Incredible 2 say anything. I’m definitely excited about those, going forward.

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 LG Optimus 2X HTC EVO 4G HTC Thunderbolt
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 123.9 mm (4.87") 121.9 mm (4.8") 122 mm (4.8")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 63.2 mm (2.48") 66.0 mm (2.6") 67 mm (2.63")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 10.9 mm (0.43") 12.7 mm (0.5") 13.2 mm (0.52")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 139.0 grams (4.90 oz) 170 g (6.0 oz) 183.3 g (6.46 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-Core Cortex-A9 (AP20H) @ 1 GHz 1 GHz QSD8650 65 nm Snapdragon 1 GHz MSM8655 45 nm Snapdragon
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 ULP GeForce Adreno 200 Adreno 205
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR1 768 MB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 8 GB integrated, up to 32 microSD 1 GB integrated, 8 GB microSD preinstalled 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP with autofocus, LED flash, 1080p24 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8MP with dual LED Flash and 1 MP Front Facing camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4” 800 x 480 IPS 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT
Battery Integrated 5.254Whr Removable 5.6 Whr Removable 5.5 Whr Removable 5.18 Whr

The Thunderbolt's packaging is a bit of a departure from the rest of the Verizon 4G LTE box artwork. It's a striking black affair with embossed Verizon and HTC lettering. The inside is blood red Verizon color. Inside is the phone with microSD card preinstalled, USB cable, charger, and manuals. 

I've also put together a rather long video review of the HTC Thunderbolt with a demonstration of practically everything, though I'll link to pertinent parts throughout this review. 

Introduction and Physical Impressions Dual Cellular Radios: MSM8655 and MDM9600
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  • deadsix - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    First of good review well done. I'm an Incredible 1 owner do you think I should wait for a the Droid Charge or the Bionic or snag a T-bolt now. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Hard to say honestly - dual core (Tegra 2) will come with the Droid Bionic, and the Droid Charge we will have a review of shortly is Hummingbird + MDM9600. We'll also have the Incredible 2 piece up later this week. Lots of choices coming up!

    -Brian
    Reply
  • michael2k - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    How the heck do you live with that kind of battery life? Reply
  • sooper_anandtech12 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    You don't. Nearly everyone I know has returned the device. They're either rocking the LTE OnOff app to manually switch back and forth. Or it's sitting on a VZW shelf ready as a refurb device. Most people can't live with this kind of battery life. The guy who works in my office went off and bought an extended battery. It's seriously JITT. Makes a heavier and fat phone even more heavy and fat. Reply
  • hans007 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    i've had the tbolt for almost a month now.

    the battery life is really not that bad, i don't even turn off LTE and it makes it easily through a day.

    you do have to charge it every day, but if you don't have like 700 widgets running it seems fine.

    I had a G1 and a ton of other android phones. It really doesn't do much worse than the G2 I had, and it gets i'd say much better battery life than the G1 did. The only phone i've owned tha twas a lot better battery wise were a mytouch 3g slide and a optimus V which both happen to have basically the same arm11 600mhz "budget" 45nm cpu and much smaller screens.
    Reply
  • HangFire - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    I have a Thunderbolt. If I start the day with a full charge, make and take several calls, check e-mail and read e-mail hourly, and do a little surfing after dinner, the battery indicator is still green when I plug it in for the night.

    I took a trip to a neighboring city, forgot my charger, used Google Navigate satnav for an hour driving, used Google maps repeatedly, made and received several calls, used satnav an hour on the way home, after 9 hours it was just getting into the yellow.

    Battery life is not ideal or a selling point, but it is a usable phone.
    Reply
  • guoxing - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    it's really a good cell phone if you want to buy it i suggest you go http://www.2011bestphone.com/?p=95 to know Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Why are so many smartphones advertised with that stupid huge flip clock... Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    It's standard on HTC phones that's why. It's part of the UI they build into the base OS. If I am not mistaken it's a widget that you can turn off if you prefer. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    So it's a first-gen phone with some nice hardware, but ultimately something you wouldn't want to stick around with too long after 2nd and 3rd gen chipsets arrive with integrated GSM / CDMA / LTE solutions.

    My personal opinion? LTE is nice, but I'd stick to USB modems and mobile hotspots and go from there. Transition over to an integrated LTE smartphone once a) the OS fully supports it and b) there isn't crazy power drain.
    Reply

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