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A Comparison of the HTC Thunderbolt and Samsung Galaxy S II

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/20/2011

The HTC Thunderbolt and the Samsung Galaxy S II are among the hottest Android phones around today. They have a lot in common, but which is superior?

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    An Epic Showdown

    The HTC Thunderbolt is one of the current flagship phones on Verizon (it's now joined by the Samsung Droid Charge). It offers a fast single-core processor and Verizon's latest network technology known as 4G LTE.

    Samsung's Galaxy S II is a dual-core phone, but it's not capable of 4G LTE. Instead, it uses a GSM radio that makes it compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T.

    Which of these modern phone titans is superior? Let's find out.

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    Design & Ergonomics

    HTC Thunderbolt vs Samsung Galaxy S II The Thunderbolt is a typical HTC design. It's simple, a bit blocky, but gets the job done. Its most noticeable dimension is its thickness, which measure in at just over half an inch. Obviously the other dimensions are large, as well, as the phone has a 4.3" display. The Samsung will be even larger in your hand, however, as it's slightly taller and wider, but it's thinner, at just .33 inches.

    Neither of these devices is particularly easy to use with a single hand, but the Samsung Galaxy S II is undoubtedly more difficult to wield due to its slightly large width. When it comes to placing the phones in your pocket, however, the Galaxy S II wins.

    Verdict: Tie. Both of these phones are large and difficult to wield one-handed, but they're also solid and attractive. Neither has a clear advantage over the other.

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    Display

    HTC's Thunderbolt uses a boring but effective Super LCD display. This has the advantage of great color reproduction and an extremely sharp reproduction of text, but the downside is a glossy exterior that makes the phone hard to use in direct sunlight.

    The Galaxy S II, on the other hand, uses a much more exciting AMOLED display. These are Samsung's speciality, but in the past they've used a "pentile" pixel arrangement that made fine text difficult for some readers. The Galaxy S II, however, has a new display that drops the pentile for a traditional pixel arrangement. It's also brighter, and like most AMOLED displays, does not rely on a glossy finish. This makes use in direct sunlight more manageable.

    Verdict: Galaxy S II Wins! The display on the Thunderbolt is excellent, but the one on the Galaxy S II is cutting-edge. In fact, it's arguably the phone's greatest strength.

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    Hardware Performance

    Samsung Galaxy S II vs HTC Thunderbolt This category is really no contest. The HTC Thunderbolt is well equipped with a modern single-core 1 GHz Snapdragon processor and 768MB of RAM, but the Galaxy S II brings a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor to the table along with 1GB of RAM.

    With a difference in hardware of this magnitude, it's no surprsie that the Galaxy S II beats the Thunderbolt time and time again. It should be noted that this performance difference probably won't be noticeable in standard use, but if you want to be able to play the latest 3D games and hardware-intensive apps on your Android, the Galaxy S II is a better choice.

    Verdict: Galaxy S II wins! A 1 GHz single-core is no match for the 1.2 GHz dual-core tag team.

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    Network Performance

    Verizon 4G LTE Although the Samsung Galaxy S II clearly has the better hardware, network performance is also important. The Galaxy S II is a GSM phone, which means it will work only with AT&T and T-Mobile. Both of these carriers have 4G solutions, but are generally regarded as behind Verizon when it comes to call quality.

    HTC's Thunderbolt of course has access to the Verizon 4G LTE network - that was its main feature at launch. This network is currently the fastest available in North America, although it is limited to certain large cities, with new cities being rolled out gradually. If you live in a 4G LTE area, the Thunderbolt's download speeds may be able to exceed those of your landline Internet connection.

    However, Verizon is a CDMA network, which does not have the global reach of GSM. Those who want to use their phone in multiple countries should be headed for the Galaxy S II.

    Verdict: HTC Thunderbolt wins! Although it lacks global reach, the Verizon 4G LTE network is insanely quick.

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    Verdict

    Both of these phones are very competent, and since the Thunderbolt uses CDMA and the Galaxy S II uses GSM, they're not necessarily in direct competition. That is to say, you can't use the Thunderbolt on the same networks you can use the Galaxy S II on, and vice-vera.

    However, if you're not currently bound to any network and the phone is your greatest concern, the Galaxy S II is probably the better choice. There are just two potential problems with the Samsung Galaxy S II. First, it uses the TouchWiz UI, which in my opinion is the worst of the custom manufacturer interfaces. Second, it does not have access to Verizon's excellent 4G LTE network. This means that you will have a very fast phone, but the download and upload speeds of phones that are not as quick as yours in terms of hardware may be superior.

    These are the only issues. If neither of those sound like a big deal for you, the Galaxy S II should be your next phone.

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    References

    • Phone Arena: HTC Thunderbolt Specs, http://www.phonearena.com/phones/HTC-ThunderBolt_id4985
    • Phone Arena: Samsung Galaxy S II Specs, http://www.phonearena.com/phones/Samsung-Galaxy-S-II_id5106
    • All images are provided by manufacturer press materials.