You wouldn't know from its specs--a huge 4.5-inch display, a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, and an 8-megapixel camera--but the $99 HTC Vivid is the least expensive of AT&T's 4G LTE smartphones. Along with the LG Nitro and the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, the Vivid is capable of very fast data speeds in a growing number of cities. Add to that a bevy of multimedia apps, and you have a device that can keep you entertained for hours. But is the Vivid the bargain it looks like?
Save for its massive 4.5-inch display, the front of the HTC Vivid looks unremarkable--a squarish design with the standard four touch-capacitive buttons (Home, Menu, Back, and Search) lining the bottom. The back is a bit more interesting, though: A black plastic skirt tapers dramatically to a removable gray aluminum panel, which has cutouts for the camera and flash. Along one edge of the panel is a slim speaker grille that provides a nice accent.
A chrome power button and headphone jack reside at the top of the headset. The right side of the phone has a volume button, and a microUSB port sits on the lower left side. All in all, it's kind of plain-looking, but we like that it comes in white as well as black.
Unfortunately, the 6.2-ounce Vivid is noticeably heavier than AT&T's two other LTE phones, the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (4.7 ounces) and the Nitro HD (4.5 ounces)--even though all three handsets have 4.5-inch displays. The 5.1 x 2.6 x 0.4-inch Vivid has a slightly smaller footprint than the 5.2 x 2.8 x 0.4-inch Skyrocket and the 5.2 x 2.7 x 0.4-inch Nitro, but it feels bulkier in the hand.
Display and Audio
The Vivid's 4.5-inch 960 x 540p qHD super LCD display lived up to its name. On websites such as CNN.com and Joystiq, colors were bright and text was sharp. The phone's average brightness of 381 lux outshone the Nitro HD (324 lux). However, we preferred the enhanced detail on the Nitro HD's 4.5-inch 1280 x 720p display, which also had richer color. When we watched the HD trailer of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol on both devices, Paula Patton's emerald-green dress looked duller and muddier on the Vivid than on the Nitro.
While it has a lower 800 x 480-pixel resolution, the Skyrocket's Super AMOLED display turned in an average brightness of 409 lux, higher than both the Vivid and Nitro. It also offers superior contrast.
Despite the large speaker grille on the back of the Vivid, we had to crank it up to full volume to hear both movie dialogue and streaming music clearly. However, Katy Perry's vocals on "The One That Got Away" were clear, as were the guitars and drums.
The Vivid's capacitive keyboard was spacious and easy to type on, both in landscape and portrait modes. We also liked the gentle haptic feedback, as well as the Trace keyboard, which accurately predicted our words as we drew lines between letters.
Software and Interface
Running on top of Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread is HTC's Sense 3.0 interface. We like that, right from the lock screen, we could jump directly to phone, mail, the camera, and messages.
Sense also adds two home screens, bringing the total to seven waiting to be filled with apps and widgets. As with other HTC Android phones, there are three persistent tabs at the bottom for apps, the phone, and customization.
A large clock and a weather widget sit on the first screen. Mini-notifications for updates, Twitter, network, and battery life sit in the top bar. Tabs for Apps and Phone are located at the bottom, along with Personalize. Swiping down on the display pulls down the Notifications shade, which displays recently opened apps, notifications, and the Quick Settings tab.
Apps are displayed on a separate page in a somewhat crude-looking 4 x 5 grid. (Note to HTC: It's time to modernize this screen). At the bottom of the apps menu are three icons: All Apps, Frequent, and Downloaded. It would be better if we could create our own folders.
The Vivid's dual-core 1.2-GHz Qualcomm APQ 8060 CPU with 1GB of RAM gave it enough power to handle everything we threw at it. Navigating between home screens and playing games was pretty snappy. We played Need For Speed: Shift with little to no latency despite having three browser tabs open and three apps running in the background. There was about a second of lag, however, when we zoomed in and out on web pages as well as when we switched from the App page to the Home screen.
Synthetic benchmarks produced mixed results. On the CPU portion of the Benchmark app, the Vivid notched 2128, which is about 1,000 points above the category average and 600 points higher than the Nitro HD (1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm APQ8060 processor). However, on An3DBench, a synthetic graphics benchmark, the Vivid scored 6,001, below the 6,266 category average and well behind the Nitro's 7,353 and the Skyrocket's score of 7,428.
4G and 4G LTE Web Browsing
The Vivid is one of three AT&T phones capable of using the carrier's 4G LTE speeds. By end of the year, AT&T's LTE network will cover 15 markets and approximately 70 million users, in comparison to Verizon's 190 markets.
When we tested in New York, the handset achieved an average download rate of 21.6 Mbps and an upload rate of 11.1 Mbps on Speedtest.net. That's fast, but the Nitro HD averaged 27.3 Mbps down and 11.1 Mbps up. The Samsung Skyrocket averaged an even-faster 28 Mbps down, but a slower 9.5 Mbps up.
Regardless, we saw fast speeds when loading web pages. The New York Times' mobile site loaded in 2.8 seconds, ESPN mobile took 4.7 seconds, and the desktop version of Laptopmag.com took 12.3 seconds. The Nitro HD loaded NYTimes.com in 3.4 seconds while ESPN took 4.5 seconds. Laptopmag.com loaded in a blistering 11.3 seconds.
The Vivid's Wi-Fi hotspot feature lets you share your 4G LTE connection with a maximum of eight devices, provided you sign up for AT&T's pricey $45 monthly DataPro plan.
The Vivid comes pre-loaded with several apps and utilities. HTC apps include HTC Movies, which offers rentals for $4.99. There's also HTC Watch, where film buffs can rent flicks for $3.99 or download them for $14.99. (Or you can just peruse the movie section of the Android Market). HTC Likes is a mini app store that recommends apps based on their popularity in the HTC Community. HTC Hub offers a variety of ringtones, skins, and other HTC-compatible plug-ins.
Third-party apps include a seven-day trial of Mog, the music-streaming app. Adobe Reader, Facebook, Polaris Office, Qik Lite, Twitter, and YPmobile are also on board. The Vivid comes with the following carrier-branded apps: AT&T Featured Apps, Code Scanner, Navigator, and U-Verse LiveTV. Unfortunately, you can't uninstall them.
Camera and Camcorder
While the Vivid has an 8-MP camera, photos suffered from a persistent white haze. There was also a significant amount of graininess as we zoomed in. Additionally, the sluggish shutter and its second of lag prevented us from taking rapid-fire shots. However, we liked the various settings, including Distortion, Dots, Panorama, and Posterize.
The rear-facing camera on the HTC Vivid can capture 1080p video at 60 frames per second. Too bad the phone recorded grainy video of our niece indoors. The only bright spot was the lack of blurring as she danced to Dora the Explorer. We continued to experience graininess when we filmed a New York City street scene, which made it difficult to read the words on a No Parking sign that was only a few feet away. Overall, we preferred the Samsung Galaxy S II SkyRocket's 8-MP camera, which delivered a clear, bright image with bold colors and sharp detail.
The front-facing 1.3-MP camera on the Vivid captures video in 720p. When we made a video call on Google Talk, we saw our caller clearly and heard them loud and clear. Our caller reported a somewhat grainy image but with in-sync audio.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The Vivid provided solid call quality on both incoming and outgoing calls, with loud and clear audio both with the speakerphone on and off. However, we did notice a few moments of distortion when we made calls to a few different landlines.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over 4G), the Vivid's 1620mAh battery lasted a disappointing 4 hours and 21 minutes, which fell well short of the 6:38 Android phone average, but was about half an hour longer than the Nitro HD (3:53). The Skyrocket lasted a much longer 5:43.
As with the Nitro and Skyrocket, AT&T offers three data plans for the Vivid: DataPlus 200MB ($15 per month, $15 for each additional 200MB), DataPro 2GB ($25/month, $10 for each additional 1GB), DataPro 4GB ($45/month, $10 for each additional 1GB). Only the 4GB plan includes tethering.
For $99, the HTC Vivid gives you a lot for your money: fast throughput courtesy of AT&T's 4G LTE network, a big and bright 4.5-inch qHD screen, and a fairly robust processor. However, you're also getting a lot of weight; the Vivid is noticeably heavier than competing AT&T LTE phones such as the Samsung Skyrocket andLG Nitro HD. Those devices also offered even-faster download speeds when tested side by side, along with higher-quality displays. Nevertheless, Android fans looking to jump on the 4G bandwagon for less will find the Vivid to be a pretty good value.