HTC Thunderbolt Android Smartphone Speed Lives Up to Its Name

HTC's Thunderbolt on Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network is the fastest phone eWEEK has tested yet. The company needs to bring 4G to more states across the country to make it worth the $249.99 price tag with contract.

When I first flipped on the HTC Thunderbolt and heard its little signature shout-out, I laughed. The crash of thunder accompanied by the lightning bolt graphic caught me by surprise.

It's pretentious, right? The phone launches, not with a geeky Droid pronouncement, but with one of the most terrifying sounds nature can muster. Guess what? The joke was on me because the Thunderbolt is frighteningly fast for a compact, albeit hefty gadget with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

The Thunderbolt stands on its own as king of the speed mountain. While I normally grimace at the thought of paying $249.99 for a device plus a two-year data contract, the speed of the Thunderbolt was awesome enough to make it worth it. I'll circle back to specifics on the speed later.

First, here are some noteworthy specifications. The device, powered by the familiar Android 2.2 operating system, features a comely 4.3-inch, touch-screen WVGA display with 480 by 800 resolution.

The Thunderbolt is 4.75 long by 2.44 inches wide by 0.56 inches thick; it's thicker than the normal cell phone. However, at a hefty 6.23 ounces, the gray, plastic-covered device with a glass screen will weigh a hole in all but the toughest of pockets. Blame the heavier battery used to supply the power demands of Verizon's speedy 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network.

Like its HTC predecessor, the EVO 4G has a cute little kickstand to let users watch videos and other content with others.

The call quality was fine. There was no tininess or echo. However, I'm more of a text guy, so the user interface is more important to me than the calls or even the dialer.

To that end, the more I use HTC Android phones, the more impressed I become by the HTC Sense interface; the keyboard is a delight to type on.

The device has big, beautiful buttons that are well-placed for the most part. I don't like how the voice search button is next to the comma button when I type a text message, but that's a minor quibble. Thunderbolt employs Sense 2.0, with the lovely FriendStream social-network account aggregator.

The 8MP camera yielded crisp, clean photos without the delay I experience on my Motorola Droid X. Video recorded well in HD 720p. The 1.3MP front-facing camera enabled solid video chat.

I downloaded the Qik Video application-within 10 seconds-to begin video chatting. This application worked wonderfully, with no shakiness or delays.

The Thunderbolt is all about the network. When Verizon executives touted their 4G LTE network at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, their oft-repeated refrain was that it was 10 times faster than 3G.

It was faster. I'm talking 11-plus M bps for downloads and 4-plus M bps for uploads, both at the high range of the carrier's promise for 5 to 12M bps down and 2 to 5M bps up.

Whether it was basic Google searches or multiple YouTube videos or games launching back to back to back, the software danced and sparkled on the screen, thanks to Verizon's 4G LTE. I downloaded a dozen applications, all just to watch them land from the Android Market to the Thunderbolt in 5 to 10 seconds.