Originally codenamed Holiday, the HTC Vivid is one of the newest 4G (LTE) devices from ATT, but not the first LTE phone from HTC. Based on specs alone, this device seems to have a lot going for it, but as we’ve discovered in the past, sometimes specs aren’t enough. And these days, it takes a lot more than blazing download speeds to impress anyone. How does the HTC Vivid stand up to the heavy (but lighter in weight) competition on the market today? Read on to find out.
As with most devices these days, there isn’t much to be said about the box or the contents therein. You get a few bits of paper, a USB wall-wart, a charging/sync cable, and the phone itself. It would be nice change to see some spectacular packaging occasionally, but I’m not holding my breath.
Powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor (with a Scorpion CPU) with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, the HTC Vivid falls in line with most of the higher end phones available on the market as of this review. We’ll get into the actual performance later in the review, but with these specs, one would certainly believe the phone had enough power to accomplish just about any task.
The standard complement of accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, are here, and while the documentation doesn’t explicitly state it, there does seem to be a working gyroscope. Strangely, there seems to be a limit of four touch points when using the screen. Compared to the ten touch points on the Epic Touch, this is quite a drastic difference.
Measuring 5.07 x 2.64 x 0.44 inches and weighing in at 6.24 ounces, the HTC Vivid is abnormally heavy for a phone of this size. The phone does feel solid, and you won’t forget that it’s in your pocket, but I’m not entirely sure where all the extra weight is coming from.
The 4.5″ qHD 540×960 Super LCD display is bright and easy to read, with no discoloration or fading when changing viewing angles. The blacks are more of a dark grey, however, and you can see the light leaking from the top and bottom of the screen just below the bezel if you tilt the device much at all.
Since the device was released prior to Ice Cream Sandwich, it should be no surprise their are four backlit buttons across the front of the device, Home, Menu, Back, and Search respectively.
Looking to the top of the Vivid, there is a standard headphone jack and power button which sits almost flush with angle of the plastic casing. Once you are used to the location, it’s no problem at all, but starting out, it took some effort to locate without fumbling. There is also a small ATT brand symbol near the top of the screen, along with the proximity sensor, a long mesh and chrome ear speaker plus the 1.3MP front facing camera.
On the left side of the device is the microUSB cable which can also provide HDMI out with the appropriate cable. Interestingly enough, the jack is upside down in comparison to the other devices I own (prongs on the cable point up for this phone).
To the right is the chrome single button volume rocker. It extends beyond the case just slightly more than the power button and like the power button feels cheap compared to the solid construction of the case. Volume levels seem to be a bit quiet on this device out of either speaker, with the rear speaker being one of the quietest I’ve heard in some time. Thankfully, if you are willing to use a custom ROM from the devs over at XDA, it seems this volume can be easily increased.
The back of the device shows how beveled the edges of the HTC Vivid really are. As if the initial bevel out from the top isn’t enough, HTC then has a major bevel to the back cover. With the glossy piano black finish, it is a real fingerprint magnet as well. This is simply an unremarkable looking device that is awkward to hold, even with my large hands.
Black plastic then transitions to an almost out of place metal battery cover with an inset HTC logo which has already started to gather up gunk and dirt in its corner recesses. Gross is the term I’m looking for here. The lower right corner of the plate gets extremely warm with moderate device use as well.
The 8MP dual-flash camera is at the top (more detail below) along with the chrome mesh main speaker which we’ve already discussed above.
Normally, one would put slight pressure on the top of the plate and push up towards the speaker to reveal the battery. But drop the phone with the top hitting first, and the metal plate will pop right off – from as low as three inches. More often than not, the battery will pop out as well. The metal bends and flexes very easily, allowing all sorts of dirt and dust into the battery area. You can see a little of this in the picture above and some in the photo below (what I missed in the initial clean).
The HTC Vivid has a 1620mAh battery, rated for 7.6 hours of talk time and 12.2 days of standby (more on this in the battery life section below).
Near the bottom of the device is the microSD slot (none included, but expandable up to 32GB) and the SIM card slot. Neither of which are accessible with the battery in place.
Running HTC Sense 3.0 on Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), the HTC Vivid still seems pretty snappy.
There is the typical bloatware installed on the device, some of which can be removed, while others can’t, with no discernible reason between them. Of course, a custom ROM could easily fix those issues, and probably turn the HTC Vivid into a real powerhouse.
Occasionally, we experienced what seems to be a Sense crash or restart, where the device will flash the HTC logo on the screen but not fully reboot. Thankfully, these blips (outside of the loss of service at one point) did not affect the day-to-day use of the device in any meaningful way other than to annoy the user.
An ICS upgrade should be forthcoming for this phone early 2012, and it will be interesting to see how much of a performance increase is gained with the OS update.
The 8MP dual-flash rear camera can actually take some decent photos. Color representation is neutral, and the contrast is pretty good right out of the device. The f/2.2 lens allows for a decent amount of bokeh, but if you start looking too closely, the .jpg artifacts and compression are very obvious. For an example, take a look at the cup picture above. Plenty of excellent detail in the foreground (with even a water droplet nicely preserved), but as you look to the cup in the background, the image gets ugly fast. On screen, this is barely noticeable, however. So for general use, this is still superior to most devices on the market today.
There are effects you can add to the photo as you take them (example above), and additional effects which can be applied to a photo, Instagram style, after the fact. But sadly, the capture effects aren’t all available post-process and vice versa.
The 1.3MP front-facing camera is as decent as you would expect it to be, so we won’t dive into much detail there.
The HTC Vivid can also record 1080p video. 1080p does not necessarily denote quality, but rather the resolution. While it can capture 1080p, you probably won’t be using this for anything other than home video style captures. Volume levels are clear with a bit of unfortunate clipping. Transition time from bright to dark areas is fairly smooth, but the device does have some troubles with blown out areas if there is much of an indirect light source present and there is noticeable tearing during fast pans. Thankfully, the focus and metering point can be set on the fly by tapping on the screen, allowing for more dynamic video.
Unfortunately, while the device does seem relatively snappy on the outside, the benchmarks show the device is performing far less optimally than it could compared to other Snapdragon devices on the market today. While benchmarks aren’t necessarily a true sign of speed or efficiency, each test was run 3 times with the average posted below.
Smartbench 2011: Productivity 2075, 1638 Games
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
At the time of this review, I was unable to test 4G speeds as it is relatively unavailable in my area. I will post an update with this information once I am able to get to one of the few ATT LTE spots scattered around the country. The 3G (or faux-G) speeds are still consistently fantastic, however – especially compared to Sprint or Verizon. Speeds averaged from the low 1200kpbs to as high as 5500kbps with under 100ms latency times. Upload speeds averaged 1000kps as well.
This came in very handy even as I wrote this review, tethering various devices in a somewhat remote location where there wasn’t standard internet access and Sprint wasn’t providing enough bandwidth.
Call quality has been good, and if not for the low volume levels from the speakers, it might have been a highlight. If you purchase this device, plan on a Bluetooth headset.
Battery life on the HTC Vivid is actually quite decent – and perhaps this is primarily due to the complete lack of 4G service in my home area. I could easily last an entire day of moderate use. Others have reported LTE devices from ATT do suffer from poor battery performance. The AnTuTu battery test gives the Vivid a score of 458.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The HTC Vivid can be purchased, with a two-year contract, for $199 from ATT.
+ Crisp, easy to read qHD screen
+ Decent battery life (when 4G isn’t running)
+ 8MP f/2.2 camera
- Heat generated from back of device
- Uncomfortable and heavy form factor
- Poor speaker volume
- Light leakage from top and bottom of screen
While the HTC Vivid is a decent performer on all fronts and has 4G capabilities (where available), the price for said performance just isn’t on par with other devices on the market today. That said, some do like a little heft to their devices, and others aren’t as particular as I can be in regards to form and in-hand feel. The qHD screen is nice and easy to read, and when the 4G service works (while the battery will suffer), the speeds are blazing. Alas, it still feels like a slightly above average device, and for that, we give a slightly above average score.
We rate the HTC Vivid a 3.5/5.
Update: I was finally able to pick up a currently rare AT&T LTE signal while passing through Atlanta. As I type this update, the Vivid is clocking in an amazing 27,000kbs down and 11,000kbs up on average. Almost five times faster than Sprint’s 4G service in the same area.