HTC Vivid (AT&T) review:

HTC Vivid (AT&T)

The low-light sensors did their job in this shot. The elevator was completely dark, save some neon blue lighting.

The camera software itself has more options than the usual fare, thanks to HTC Sense. Extra settings include widescreen (16:9) in addition to standard (4:3) resolution, plus there's auto-focus and auto-enhancing. You can also apply one of sixteen effects before shooting, including HDR and panorama modes. Adding effects, cropping, and rotating images are all options after you snap a photo as well.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that the Vivid's 1080p HD video (60 fps) captured and played video smoothly, without any jerkiness or stuttering.

This standard shot was snapped in CNET's New York studio.

The Vivid has a lush 16GB of internal storage, with a microSD expansion slot that allows for up to 32GB more.

I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; LTE 1700, 2100) in New York using AT&T's network. Call quality was disappointing on my end, but mostly passable. Volume was strong when I tested in a quiet location, but I had a hard time hearing outside on a city street; I wish the phone had gone louder then. I heard a soft yet persistent background crackle and voices didn't sound quite rich. I also detected a high, sharp "whine" that occurred in step with my caller's words.

On his end, my test caller said I didn't sound natural, adding that my voice sounded distorted and clipped, almost garbled. However, I was loud enough if not clear.

HTC Vivid call quality sample Listen now:

For the speakerphone test, I held the phone at waist level. Volume was robust on both ends of the line, though voices sounded muddy to me. They also sounded richer than through the standard speaker, and not tinny. My test caller called speakerphone "acceptable," and noted that it retained the same poor voice quality as the standard call.

Performance on the Vivid was excellent, thanks to its speedy 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, which made navigation and program loading respectively responsive and rapid.

Speeds were a little more difficult to test, since at the time of writing, neither New York nor San Francisco were within AT&T's LTE coverage area. In the absence of LTE, the Vivid will (and did) still run on 4G HSPA+ speeds, however. While I never saw it drop to 3G, data did sometimes hang for stretches, especially when inside buildings or mysterious dead zones. I used Ookla's app to get a diagnostic reading on the speeds in Manhattan's Soho and Midtown areas--they ranged from 2-to-6Mbps down, with a mere 0.41 as the lowest dip and 7Mbps as the highest. (Stay tuned for more in real-world tests.)

The Vivid has a rated talk time of 4.6 hours and 12.2 days of standby time on its 1,620mAH battery. It has a digital SAR of 1.28 watts per kilogram.

When it comes to the HTC Vivid, I feel much like a teacher scolding a star pupil for turning in B+ work instead of a solid A. HTC dropped the ball on the handset's chintzy plastic design, especially compared with most of its other beautiful, thoughtfully crafted phones. That's a real shame because the high hardware production value and rich Sense software experience are more often HTC's most important differentiators among the ranks of Android phones.

On the other hand, the rest of HTC's work is top-notch, from the excellent 8-megapixel camera that was both simple and powerful, to the LTE support, large screen, high resolution, dual-core processor, and memory store. Plus, add in the $200 price tag for a phone that you might see on another carrier for 50 percent more, and that icky plastic stops being quite so offensive. Or does it?

I can't quite get over the ungainly design of the phone's back, that creak of the ill-fitting battery cover, and the inconvenient placement of the microSD. Once again, I'm back to the stance of that teacher who can see the obvious success of a piece of work, but who's also wary of encouraging repeat mistakes.

What you'll pay

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