HTC Vivid (AT&T) review: HTC Vivid (AT&T)

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MSRP: $549.99

The Good The HTC Vivid has a nice, large screen, an excellent camera, and great specs all around. It supports 4G LTE as well.

The Bad Mediocre call quality on the Vivid and a cheap plastic chassis dampen the experience. The battery obstructs access to the microSD card.

The Bottom Line If you can overlook the cheap plastic design, the HTC Vivid delivers an all-around excellent user experience at a palatable price.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

It's always exciting ushering in the first thing of its kind, and in this case, it's HTC's first 4G LTE smartphone for AT&T. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the HTC Sense 3.0 interface. It also comes with a hearty helping of high-end specs, including a 4.5-inch qHD (540x960 pixels) touch screen, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, a front-facing camera, support for 1080p HD video, and 16GB of internal storage. That's a pretty hefty package for $199.99 with a new contract.

Yet in the price/materials trade-off, HTC seems to have sacrificed its trademark craftsmanship and build quality when birthing the Vivid, which feels and looks notably cheap and plasticky rather than the polished premium device we've all come to expect from HTC.

I hate to say it, but with its high-gloss, black plastic body and rounded corners, the HTC Vivid resembles a Samsung device more than HTC's typical meticulously crafted designs, which is a bit of a letdown for a handset with such high-caliber capabilities. The fact that it's a jumbo phone--at 5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick (depending on where you measure it)--makes the plastic slab-iness of it all even more apparent. The Vivid still has some styling in the angles sides on the back of the phone (I'm lukewarm on the design), and it also carries HTC's characteristic metal accents and weightiness (6.2 ounces). This time, however, the metal is a thin plate of the battery cover that slightly protrudes and feels a little ungainly in the hand. The combination of slippery plastic and the phone's angles also made it a bit more difficult to pick up off flat surfaces than other phones.

The HTC Vivid has all the right specs, but one very un-HTC attribute: an almost-totally plastic body that isn't up to the phone-maker's usual standards.

I also take issue with the build quality. In addition to using cheaper-looking material than HTC usually opts for, the back cover never sat flush in my review unit, emitting creaks whenever I pressed down. And here's another demerit that HTC usually avoids: you have to remove the battery to access the microSD card slot. Sure, keeping costs down to offer a phone at up to $100 less than some of the high-end superphones we're seeing these days does require concessions, but even with its more affordable devices like the $100 HTC Evo Design 4G it's clear that the company took pains to create a polished device.

The 4.5-inch Super LCD display looked sharp, clear, and colorful with its qHD screen resolution of 540x960 pixels and support for 262,000 colors. In the screen wars, it ranks on the higher end of the scale, but it did wash out the normal amount in direct sunlight. Android 2.3 Gingerbread runs the show on the OS level, with HTC's excellent Sense 3.0 interface on top, adding extra features, functionality, and rich graphics.

Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel camera for self-portraits and video chats, and an indicator light. Below it are four touch-sensitive navigation buttons. A tall, thin volume rocker is on the right spine, with the Micro-USB charging port on the left, and the 3.5-millimeter headset jack and power button up top. The 8-megapixel camera lens with dual-LED flash is on the back.

Thanks to the uniformity of both Android and HTC Sense, the Vivid has all the smartphone essentials, and then some. There's Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and communication standards like multiple inbox support, and multimedia and text messaging. Contact importing, social networking syncing, and the works are here, as well as access to Google's usual services: Gmail, Maps, turn-by-turn voice navigation, and YouTube.

A jumbo phone, the Vivid has some large dimension, including a 4.5-inch qHD screen.

Besides that, HTC and AT&T shovel on a load of apps besides. On the HTC side of things, you have things like HTC Hub, Dock Mode, Friendstream, Watch for entertaintment, and the Footprints location app. AT&T adds branded apps like AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Family Map, and AT&T Navigator, but you'll also find Live TV, Movies, and visual voice mail.

Why stop there, when there are so many other apps to be had? The Vivid also comes preloaded with Amazon Kindle, FM Radio, MOG Music, the NFS Shift game demo, Polaris Office, Yellow Pages Mobile, and Qik Lite for video chats. Of course, there's also the calendar, clock, and calculator, the music player, and voice search, too.

This shot was taken outdoors in broad daylight and was not resized.

It's painfully obvious that not every 8-megapixel camera is created equally. Some are too blurry, with tiny sensors that never let in enough light. HTC got it right with the Vivid, which also boasts a f2.2 lens for better low-light performance. Indeed, the camera performed very well in a number of low light situations. Overall, images taken in both indoor and outdoor settings with a variety of light were generally crisp and colorful, with high color fidelity. It did well translating textures. There were a couple of off instances here and there (see the gallery for a closer look), but I found myself taking more photos with the camera phone because I could trust the high-quality outcome.

The Vivid captured the feathery details of this bizarrely Seussian lamp.

The same can even be said for the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, which produced smooth images that weren't grainy, and with correct color.

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