HTC Vivid Review: An LTE Android on AT&T

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HTC Vivid

Verizon definitely got the jump on AT&T when it comes to high speed data on the new 4G networks. They have already released a number of phones that run on their 4G LTE network while AT&T has been languishing on HSPA+. AT&T is now looking to play catch up and they’ve secured a couple of top Android smartphones to help them. The Skyrocket is their version of the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Vivid is the new release we’re going to look at here.

Design (3 out of 5)

HTC Vivid Back

The first thing you’ll notice about the HTC Vivid is that it’s big. The phone measures 5.07 x 2.64 x 0.44 inches and weighs in at 6.24 ounces so it’s no lightweight. Those dimensions support an impressive 4.5 inch Super LCD capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. The form factor is the standard candy bar, but the Vivid isn’t a typical HTC release.

It looks and feels like a hefty slab of smartphone and the angular back plate is not a typical HTC look. This isn’t the usual aluminum unibody design, it is a glossy, piano black (or white) plastic casing. The back tapers in and there’s a metal plate with a slightly dotted texture on the bottom half, presumably to provide some grip. At the top you’ll see the camera lens and the dual LED flash.

On the front, above the screen, there’s the LED notification and the front facing camera. Beneath the screen you’ll find touch sensitive buttons for the usual Android controls – Home, Menu, Back and Search. The top houses the power/lock key and the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The volume rocker is on the right side and you’ll find the micro USB port on the left. The power key and volume rocker are highlighted in silver and they are almost flush with the body of the device.

User Interface (4 out of 5)

The phone is running Android 2.3.4 with HTC’s Sense 3.0 user interface. It will be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich update, but there’s no word on exactly when. The user interface is easy to get to grips with. Your standard shortcuts sit at the bottom of the screen and you can drag them onto the ring at the very bottom to quickly access them. The Sense UI offers smooth animations and transitions and there are some handy widgets to choose from. You can also access all sorts of customization options via the personalize button at the bottom right. You have the usual seven home screens to fill and they carousel around or you can pinch to choose one quickly.

Features (4 out of 5)

HTC Vivid White

The HTC Vivid has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor with 1 GB of RAM and it comes with 16 GB of internal storage (about 12.5 GB free). There’s a microSD card slot so you can boost that by up to 32 GB if you feel the need.

It has all the connectivity options you could want and of course support for that super-fast 4G LTE network (assuming you are in an area with coverage). There’s also Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b,g or n and GPS support.

The main camera is an 8 megapixel shooter and you’ve got a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera as well. You can also record video at 1080p and 30 FPS or 720p and 60 FPS. The HTC camera app offers a host of extras including scene modes and effects. You also have the usual options to change the resolution and tweak the ISO or white balance settings. The photos you can capture with the HTC Vivid are worthy of the name – they look vibrant with great color reproduction. The video looks great too, but the audio recording is not perfect.

You get the usual batch of bloatware in terms of pre-installed apps. There are the standard Google apps, some HTC apps and some AT&T apps, but you do have a decent amount of on-board storage so it’s not a big deal.

Email, messaging and multimedia support is good and you’ll definitely appreciate that big screen for watching movies. The browser also supports Flash and you can view full version websites with reasonable load times.

Performance (3 out of 5)

Call quality is decent. When it comes to taking advantage of the LTE network it entirely depends on where you are. AT&T’s LTE network is only available in nine cities right now and it will fall back to HSPA+ elsewhere. That’s still going to be pretty fast, but you won’t enjoy the full capabilities of this phone unless you live in the right city so check before you buy.

The battery life is a disappointment. The HTC Vivid has a 1620 mAh battery and they rate it at 4.6 hours of talk time or 293 hours of standby. If you use the features of this smartphone then it won’t last that long. The power management for standby is solid, but you’ll want to keep a charger or spare battery on you if you use your phone a lot because it could die before the day is out.

General performance for navigating around and running apps is excellent. You won’t experience any lag and the phone runs smoothly the vast majority of the time.

Verdict (4 out of 5)

If you sign up to a two year contract with the $100 online discount then you can get your hands on the HTC Vivid for $99.99. That’s pretty competitive, but it needs to be because the Vivid isn’t as pretty or enticing as some of your other options, most notably the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, also on AT&T. Overall this is a good, solid smartphone with a decent set of specs, but the design and the battery life let it down.