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How Does the HTC Thunderbolt Compare to the Droid X?
Ever since it was officially announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the HTC Thunderbolt has been one of the most talked about devices in consumer electronics, except maybe for the new iPad. While the Thunderbolt’s spec sheet looks impressive, those specs don’t always turn into great devices. Sometimes, the best way to look at a new device is to compare it to a device that you already know is good. The Motorola Droid X may be a few months old, but it still ranks as one of the best smartphones on the market. A Verizon customer looking for a new smartphone could quickly narrow the desirable phones down to just these two, and this article looks to answer the question of how does the HTC Thunderbolt compare to the Motorola Droid X? While at first glance the Thunderbolt would be an obvious choice, as the Thunderbolt uses a faster data connection and much newer hardware, it wouldn’t be the first device to fail despite having great components.
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Thunderbolt vs Droid X – Design
The HTC Thunderbolt is a big device, modeled after the Evo 4G and Desire HD, but it doesn’t quite have the size of the Droid X. There isn’t a big difference in the size of the devices, but it may be enough to make the Droid X uncomfortable to hold if you have small hands. Both devices have 4.3-inch touchscreens, but the Droid X has a slightly higher pixel count, by just a handful of pixels, giving it a true 16:9 aspect ratio. I felt that while both screens look excellent in low light and decent in bright light, the Droid X screen looked a little crisper and sharper overall.
Although smaller, the Thunderbolt is also a little bit heavier, making it feel a little more solid in your hand. Both devices have the same standard Android buttons below the screen, although the Droid X’s are hard buttons while the Thunderbolt’s are soft buttons. The hard buttons generally feel better, and make it less likely that you'll press the wrong option. The rest of the designs are very similar, except that the Droid X has an HDMI port, while the Thunderbolt has a kickstand.
Both devices are sweet to look at and solid in your hand, but I have to give the design edge to the Droid X. Even with the bump in the back, I just prefer the shape, look and LCD of the X.
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Thunderbolt vs Droid X – Interface
Both the Thunderbolt and the Droid X run on the 2.2(Froyo) version of the Android mobile operating system, so they aren’t completely dissimilar. The Thunderbolt runs the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI overlay, while the Droid X runs on the latest incarnation of the Motoblur. The differences between the two overlays are minor, and personal preference will determine which one you like better. The Sense overlay seems better thought out, at least as far as I’m concerned, but Motoblur has a few more customization options.
The differences here come down to personal opinion. I like the Sense UI, and coupled with the performance differences mentioned later, I give the Thunderbolt the edge.
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Thunderbolt vs Droid X – Features
There aren’t numerous differences between the features on the Thunderbolt and the Droid X, but there are enough to draw some distinctions between the devices. The aforementioned HDMI port on the Droid X allows it to output video to an HDTV or other DLNA-compatible device. The Thunderbolt can send information to a DLNA device, but only wirelessly. Both devices have 8 GB of onboard memory and room for a 32 GB card, but the Droid X only ships with a 16 GB card. A minor point, but a difference nonetheless. Both the Thunderbolt and Droid X have 8 MP cameras, capable of recording high-definition video in 720p. To my eye, the Thunderbolt camera performed better in both picture and video quality, although I did not get to test it in a wide variety of lighting conditions. I am, however, confident in the Thunderbolt having the slight edge in most common lighting conditions, and if you need minute control over exposure settings, go buy a Nikon.
The Thunderbolt really separates itself with the inclusion of a front-facing 1.3MP camera for video chatting. Interestingly, I couldn’t find a preinstalled video chatting application, and Skype isn’t currently supported, even though it was touted at CES. The Thunderbolt is also the first Verizon device to offer simultaneous voice and data, which you can use on both 3G and 4G.
The Thunderbolt starts to pull away here, with a couple of features that the Droid X can’t match. Unless you really need an HDMI output port, the Thunderbolt is the much better choice.
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Thunderbolt vs Droid X – Performance
This is the big category, where we see if the enhanced specs of the Thunderbolt result in a better overall smartphone experience. Both devices sport a 1 GHz processor but the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor of the Thunderbolt tested much faster than the OMAP processor of the Droid X. Benchmarks aside, the Thunderbolt performed better in real-world usage as well. Navigating around the Thunderbolt was a breeze, with very little noticeable lag. The Droid X performance was good, but not quite at the same level as the Thunderbolt.
The big deal is the Thunderbolt’s 4G technology, which performs as advertised. Download speeds ranged from 5Mbps to 15Mbps whether using the device by itself, or using it as a modem with the hotspot feature. The Droid X, and really any other device currently available, just can’t compete with these types of speeds. Granted, Verizon’s LTE network is brand new with almost no current traffic, so these speeds are expected to drop off. Also, Verizon’s LTE network is only available in about 40 markets, with the company expecting to reach 285 million people by 2013, so there is no guarantee that you will have access to 4G speeds for at least a few years.
Whether you are navigating around the device, or on the web, the Thunderbolt wins this category, hands down.
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HTC Thunderbolt vs. Motorola Droid X – The Verdict
Of course, price has to be a factor as well. The Droid X is currently available for $149.99 online with a 2-year contract, while the Thunderbolt goes for $249.99. $100 is a serious amount of extra cash for a smartphone, but in this case, I believe it is worth it. Both HTC and Motorola have some serious upgrades coming out over the next year, but as it stands right now I’m not sure if there is any device that can really beat out the Thunderbolt. Some people might prefer the Droid X, but overall, in the battle of the HTC Thunderbolt vs the Motorola Droid X, the Thunderbolt comes out on top.
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References and Images
HTC - http://www.htc.com/us/products/thunderbolt-verizon#overview
Motorola - http://www.motorola.com/Consumers/US-EN/Consumer-Product-and-Services/Mobile-Phones/Motorola-DROID-X-US-EN
Images taken from the manufacturer's website