As I said in my previous article when I reviewed Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, both me and my wife decided we need larger screens than the ones our current iPhone 4 smartphones have, we were eligible for an early upgrade offer from At&T and it really made no sense paying again for iPhone 4S upgrade over the iPhone 4, so we looked into AT&T’s new 4G LTE capable smartphones based on Android OS, especially since AT&T run a pretty cool promotion. We got to buy the HTC Vivid for only $99 and I choose the Galaxy S2 Skyrocket for myself, the HTC Vivid going to my wife. We got to play with them for a couple of day and the experience is described in detail in this review. Beside references to the Galaxy Skyrocket, I’ll also compare HTC Vivid to my previous iPhone 4 so you can make an informed purchase decision overall.
In case you don’t know, HTC Vivid is one of the two LTE sets AT&T just launched. LTE is the new 4G communication standard AT&T is upgrading its network to, it stands for Long Term Evolution. With the current technology LTE should achieve download speeds of 20+Mbs, enough for pretty much everything including 1080p streaming. LTE sets owners report download speeds in excess to 50 Mbs / second, a quite impressive jump over the 3G technology and while LTE is not yet deployed in all AT&T markets, in the areas the technology is deployed you should be in for a treat.
The latest LTE sets should also help position AT&T as a solid Android provider considering that iPhone exclusivity for so many years helped it build a somewhat opposite image. Will they succeed? I guess time will tell.
HTC Vivid Unpacking
It looks like AT&T decided to customize the boxes to look more AT&T-ish than anything else, in an obvious effort to set their brand. The boxes looks almost identical across the products, with some small branding difference. I couldn’t stop thinking that Apple will never allow such “atrocity”.
Inside the box you’ll find the handset itself, battery, SIM card, USB cable / charger and a simple manual, but interestingly, no headphones, which was quite disappointing. Not really sure if my box (obviously opened by AT&T to add the SIM card) just didn’t have them or Vivid doesn’t ship with a set.
HTC Vivid Design
In terms of pure build quality, HTV Vivid feels somewhere between iPhone 4 and Galaxy S II Skyrocket, with the Skyrocket at the bottom between these three sets in discussion. While not up to the elegant simplicity and industrial design of iPhone 4, it does feature a quite attractive but plasticky case and a metal back, compared with the all plastic case of Galaxy S II. Unfortunately in HTC Vivid case the metal (and probably some internal parts) significantly increased its weight (6.24 ounces or 176 grams), to the point it actually feel too heavy. But more about this later.
HTC Vivid comes in two colors, black and white (we got black) and both look quite well, especially the piano black in my opinion. The glossy finish is an obvious fingerprint magnet which became apparent in the first 30 seconds of handling.
What really sets aside this handset design wise is the rather weird body shape, somewhat like a flattened pyramid. The edges are not very rounded and it actually feels quite awkward to hold. My wife didn’t really like the weight, nor the shape, but her main complain as about the eight compared with her current iPhone 4.
Weight aside, HTC Vivid is also the thicker from the group, although not by a large margin, at 0.44 inches or 11.2mm. In comparison, the Skyrocket measures 9.49mm and is significantly lighter at 130g vs 176g. Believe me when I say it, the extra weight is extremely obvious.
Altough HTC Vivid is significantly thicker and heavier than Skyrocket, the battery is actually smaller, at 1620 mAh vs 1850mAh for Skyrocket. You would have to ask yourself how can that be and where exactly the extra weight is coming from at this point. I think design wise, the increase thickness, weight and smaller battery is a significant blunder on behalf of HTC Vivid. In out tests, HTC Vivid also scored significantly worse than both iPhone 4 and Skyrocket. I commute by train/bus and the whole trip lasts about 1.5 hours each way. During this time, the phone is used quite heavily and without charging in between, the battery doesn’t last enough to complete the return trip, so be sure to get a charger at work as well. The battery life varies heavily depending on your usage, so providing solid numbers is difficult. You can count on everything between 3 to 8+ hours depending on the usage. Watching Netflix on 4G will certainly drain it fast.
HTC Vivid Technical Specifications
|Data and Connectivity|
|EDGE||YesGSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA|
|3G & 4G||HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps, LTEHSDPA 850, 1900, 2100 MHzLTE 850 MHz|
|Bluetooth||v3.0 with A2DP|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support|
|Size||5.07 x 2.64 x 0.44 (129 x 67 x 11.2 mm)|
|Weight||176 grams / 6.24 oz|
|Type||Multi-touch Touchscreen Display|
|Colors & Resolution||262144 Colors & 540 x 960 Pixels|
|Input/ User Interface||Multi Touch
Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
Ambient light sensor
|Operating System||Google Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread OS|
|CPU/Memory||1.2GHz Dual-core Processor / 1024MB internal memory – Qualcomm APQ8060|
|Internal Memory||16GB Internal Memory Storage|
|Expandable Memory||microSD Card Slot For Memory Expansion Support Up To 32GB|
|Browser & Messaging||HTML, xHTML, WAP 2.0, Flash
MMS, SMS, IM, Email, RSS
|Still||– 8 Megapixels
– 3264×2448 pixels
– LED Flash
– f/2.2 aperture
– Auto focus, Geo tagging
– Digital zoom, Touch Focus
– Image Stabilization
|Secondary (Front-Facer)||– Yes|
|Video Recording||– 1080p HD video recording capable @ 60fps (720p recording available as well)|
|Bluetooth & USB||v3.0 with EDR Stereo & v2.0 Mini USB|
|Headset||3.5mm stereo headset jack|
|Radio||Stereo FM with RDS|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
|Video & Audio|
|Video Formats||MPEG4, WMV, 3GP, 3G2|
|Audio Formats||MP3, WMA, M4A (Apple lossless), M4B|
|Body Colors||Black and White|
- Adobe 10.2 Flash compatibility
- Wi-Fi Hotspot Functionality (tethering to up to 5 devices)
- Android Market, G-mail, Google Maps, G-Talk
- Skype Integration, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
- Quickoffice, Digital compass
One of the really nice things about HTC Vivid is its display, a very sharp 4.5 inches qHD with 262144 Colors & 540 x 960 Pixels. I was actually torn between HTC Vivid’s display and the Super AMOLED Plus from Galaxy Skyrocket. The display is very bright, very clear, colors are accurate and has a good visibility in daylight, much better then Skyrocket. The viewing angles are excellent and the colors feel more natural, not as saturated as the ones produced by a Super AMOLED Plus display.
While the phone itself doesn’t feel slow, the benchmarks are telling a different story. A 1998 Quadrant score versus 3000+ for Skyrocket is a huge difference, although you won’t necessary experience it in the daily usage. Antutu Benchmark, another popular suite scored around 4790 versus 5823 for the Skyrocket.
It is worth mentioning that while Vivid and Skyrocket share the same CPU, Vivid is underclocked to 1.2 Ghz, specifically to save the battery life.
Benchmark numbers aside, the phone acts with a similar responsiveness as iPhone/Skyrocket. I did not notice any significant lag and the camera application for example starts faster than on iPhone 4. Browsing does seem a tad slower, but you have the advantage of getting Flash, at least over the iPhone. Although, with Adobe recently discontinuing Flash development for mobile platforms, several years from now it Flash support might be a non-issue.
Unfortunately my area is not one of the markets where AT&T upgraded to LTE, so I couldn’t really test 4G speeds. I however seen reports around the web for speeds anywhere between 15 and 40 Mbs, a quite solid performance. Voice quality was very good, clear and with no dropped calls, but this is something that we shouldn’t really have to review in 2011.
HTC Vivid features a 1.3MP front camera for video conference and a solid 8MB camera and a dual LED flashlight. In our tests, the colors were well saturated and the exposure time properly chosen. The camera can also record 1080p video, and, while I couldn’t record exactly the same scene, I had the feeling the bitrate is lower (compression higher) than Skyrocket. The time to start is also faster than iPhone 4, and the capture time was very quick as well.
Software wise, Vivid runs Gingerbread 2.3.4 wrapped inside a Sense 3.0 UI, so no major surprises here although we would have liked to see the Sense 3.5 implementation (see Rezound and Rhyme that DO have Sense 3.5). It was announced that it will upgraded to the ICE 4.0, sometime next year, so at least from this point of view you should be assured. Whether it will be early or late next year, will depend in totality of HTC decision to ship their skin or go with the stock Ice Cream Sandwich UI.
Beside the standard AT&T crap that you can’t get rid of unless you root it, all the apps from the marketplace that are designed for Gingerbread are available. While iOS platform still leads in terms of pure numbers, Android has now everything I use on a daily base, including Netflix/Hulu Plus/Sentinel 3 (tower defense game), Skype, Yahoo Messenger, the news suite (CNN, NYT, Pulse, BBC, USA Today, NPR, LA Times, AP, CNET and Engadget), media apps (Pandora, YouTube, Plex, WatchESPN, TuneIn Radio Pro). While your needs might differ, I would say Android caught up with iOS in terms of MAJOR applications.
While the build quality feels better than average, and a worthwhile effort on HTC side, the phone falls short in too many areas including performance, battery life, size and weight. It is thicker than both Skyrocket and iPhone 4, heavier than either of them and also slower. The battery life, the major complain over the LTE sets, at least for this tear is far from stellar and it won’t take you through a full day work with moderate to heavy use. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Vivid was bought for my wife, but she didn’t like it due to its thickness and weight, and I also didn’t like it enough to switch it with her. Back to the AT&T store it went, and exchanged for the Skyrocket, even with the extra $50 in the price.
The only feature I really like is the display. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to make us keep it. If you need to get into LTE devices at this point, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is the device to get right now in my opinion.
- good quality qHD display
- solid build quality
- CPU performance
- abysmal battery life