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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  • cmdrdredd - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Or if you're stuck on an old android phone that has no memory, hardly any cpu or gpu power, and bogs down heavily all the time thanks to the new OS revisions not being highly optimized for slower phones (no upgrade path even for some too), and you decided you don't want to be a slave to Apple and what they decide you can and cannot have/do with the device, you might look at this for your upgrade if you were itching right now. Why wait for June to see the new Droid Bionic when you need a phone now that works properly and is faster?
  • deputc26 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Now THIS is a smartphone review. This is the meticulous quantitative data that I keep coming back to Anandtech for. Would like to see real world load times of real web sites though.
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Seconded. I'm not a huge fan of smartphones (I don't own one and normally just skim the reviews for hardware/OS information) but this one reminded me of old-school Anandtech. Nitty-gritty detail and substance that anyone can tell required a LONG time to write.

    And factoring in the legitimate excuse of being ill made it all the more impressive.

    Great job again Brian.
  • kurt-o - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    The article stated "Remember that although the HTC EVO 4G could have conceivably supported simultaneous 4G WiMAX and 1x voice, the feature was disabled and to my knowledge hasn’t ever been enabled. It’s for this reason - until the Thunderbolt no proper procedure for characterizing dual transceiver phones existed."

    Unless I'm confused here, the article appears to have a blatant error. The HTC EVO 4G supports simultaneous 4G WiMAX and 1x-Voice. Has since day 1.
  • metafor - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    I think what's meant is that it can't do simultaneous voice and data over 3G, which is true. If you are in a 4G area, I believe the Evo can use WiMax for data and 3G for voice.
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Are you certain? Although I have an EVO I'm not in a WiMAX market, so I can't test for certain. I know that WiFi + 1x voice is a definite go, 1x voice + EVDO is a no, but I was under the impression again that 1x voice + WiMAX is also a no.

    From the user manual:

    "Can I make calls and use data services at the same time?

    You cannot use voice and data services simultaneously. If you receive a call while data service is active, your device forwards the call to voicemail. You can place an outgoing call anytime, but it will interrupt any in-progress data session."

  • privater - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Does this phone have a nuclear battery as accessory?
  • ompaidjo - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    I kept thinking about the same thing, since I bought this phone..
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    It isn't great, but then again I'd say that if you need several hours of web browsing time per charge a smartphone is probably not the right device for you anyway.
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    4G brings better speed for the end user, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be more worthwhile to invest instead in existing 3G infrastructure to ensure wide area, consistent 3G coverage at the upper speed spec of 3G rather than focus on 4G peak speeds in some areas. I guess 4G is more worthwhile on CDMA networks where the speed disparity is greater than on GSM networks where up to 14Mbps HSPA vs LTE isn't as big a difference in usability.

    On an unrelated note, your benchmark charts don't seem to include the updated iOS 4.3 results that say the previous Dell Venue Pro review had. The updated browser in iOS 4.3 compared to iOS 4.2 makes a material difference in the benchmarks.

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