Motorola Atrix vs. HTC ThunderBolt

Motorola Atrix vs. HTC ThunderBolt

Not even a year ago, I had three of the top Android Phones available for testing, all running Android 2.1 Update-1, and all running on Verizon’s network, and thought it would be fun to run a couple casual benchmarks. The comparison of the three phones (Motorola Droid, HTC Incredible, and Motorola Droid X) that were cool then, can be read here. Over this weekend, I had the chance to take a closer look at two of the current top phones from Motorola and HTC, the Motorola Atrix and the HTC ThunderBolt.

HTC ThunderBolt vs Motorola Atrix

Motorola Atrix

The Motorola Atrix looks and feels sleek, light, nicely curved and rounded. It appears smaller than it actually is; its design is almost simple, there is nothing one would find disturbing or annoying.

The phone comes with front and back-facing cameras, a small fingerprint reader that also serves as the ON/OFF switch, and an HDMI output. Unfortunately, the HDMI out seems to work only with the built-in media player app but does not support mirror-mode like the Motorola Xoom tablet for instance does. The Atrix features 802.11n WiFi, 720p at 30 fps video recording and a 5 megapixels camera.

Compared to the ThunderBolt, Atrix’s display is smaller, the diagonal of the visible screen is only about 4.0″. However the very high density screen resolution makes up for that.

The Atrix comes with Android 2.2.1 installed, plenty of memory, and is really speedy quick:

  • Size 4.64 x 2.50 x 0.43 (117.75 x 63.5 x 10.95 mm)
  • Weight: 4.76 oz (135 g)
  • Firmware: 2.2.1
  • Processor: ARMv7 rev 0 (v7l) @ 1992.29 MHz
  • System RAM: 818 MB
  • SD card storage Total: 10.71GB, Free: 10.71GB
  • Internal storage Total: 1.94GB, Free: 1.57GB
  • System storage Total: 320MB, Free: 84.55MB
  • System cache Total: 620MB, Free: 596MB
  • Memory Total: 818MB, Free: 375MB, Idle: 153MB

DISPLAY

  • Size: 540×960
  • Logical Density: 1.5
  • Font Scaling Factor: 1.5
  • Pixels Per Inch X: 160.0
  • Pixels Per Inch Y: 160.0

CAMERA

  • Picture Size: 2592×1944 [5MP]

VIDEO

  • 1280×720 (720p HD) (30 fps)
  • Recording format:MPEG4, H.264
  • Additional front-facing camera: (0.3 megapixels VGA)

GRAPHICS

  • Renderer: NVIDIA AP
  • Version: OpenGL ES-CM 1.1
  • Vendor: NVIDIA Corporation
  • Max Texture Size: 2048×2048
  • Max Texture Units: 2

HTC ThunderBolt

The HTC Thunderbolt clearly shows its relationship to the EVO. Bold, wide, heavy, and featuring a kickstand – but dont worry, it’s well designed, i.e. doesn’t bother you when it is not in use.

The Thunderbolt lacks the HDMI output but just like the Atrix, comes with front and back-facing cameras; the front-facing camera has an unusually high resolution (1.3 megapixels), making this phone ideally suitable for video chatting.

The larger display size, just like the DroidX, the diagonal of the visible screen is 4.3″, combined with the kickstand transforms it into a small video player. Moreover, the Thunderbolt features 802.11n WiFi, 720p video recording and an 8 MegaPixel camera.

The Thunderbolt comes with Android 2.2.1 installed and a good amount of memory:

  • Size 4.80 x 2.60 x 0.52 (122 x 66 x 13 mm)
  • Weight: 5.78 oz (164 g)
  • Firmware: 2.2.1
  • Processor: ARMv7 rev 1 (v7l) @ 1024.0 MHz
  • System RAM: 597 MB
  • SD card storage Total: 29.71GB, Free: 29.71GB
  • Internal storage Total: 2.61GB, Free: 2.49GB
  • System storage Total: 849MB, Free: 320MB
  • System cache Total: 425MB, Free: 406MB
  • Memory Total: 597MB, Free: 191MB, Idle: 24.59MB

DISPLAY

  • Size: 480×800
  • Logical Density: 1.5
  • Font Scaling Factor: 1.5
  • Pixels Per Inch X: 217.71428
  • Pixels Per Inch Y: 216.17021

CAMERA

  • Picture Size: 3264×2448 [8MP]

VIDEO

  • Resolution:1280×720 (720p HD)
  • Additional front-facing camera: (1.3 megapixels)

GRAPHICS

  • Renderer: Adreno 205
  • Version: OpenGL ES-CM 1.1
  • Vendor: Qualcomm
  • Max Texture Size: 4096×4096
  • Max Texture Units: 2

Atrix Camera Pics

Photo taken with Atrix's 5MP Camera

Photo taken with Atrix’s 5MP Camera

Photo taken with Atrix's Camera, 6 x blown-up

Photo taken with Atrix’s Camera, 6 x blown-up

ThunderBolt Camera Pics

Photo taken with ThunderBolt's 8MP Camera

Photo taken with ThunderBolt’s 8MP Camera

Photo taken w/ TunderBolt's Camera, 6x blown-up

Photo taken w/ TunderBolt’s Camera, 6x blown-up

Benchmarks

(Click to enlarge)

Atrix Quadrant Standard Benchmark

Atrix Quadrant Standard Benchmark

ThunderBolt Quadrant Standard Benchmark

ThunderBolt Quadrant Standard Benchmark

Droid X Quadrant Standard Benchmark

Droid X Quadrant Standard Benchmark

So which one would I pick?

Choosing between the two phones is much harder as one might think. Immediately after taking the HTC ThunderBolt out of the packaging, the first impression has to be its nice fit and finish, solid build-quality. However, its weight also becomes immediately noticeable. The ThunderBolt’s comparably huge and also more vibrant display, makes it perfectly suitable for stand-alone video playback. The relatively high resolution front-facing camera makes this phone a preferred video-phone. The 8MP camera on the other hand seems to be falling a little short. The test images were taking in-doors but certainly not under low-light conditions.

On the the software-side, the HTC ThunderBolt on Verizon comes with the HTC-Sense UI and the typical non-removable crapware installed (Blockbuster App, etc) Adobe Flash 10.1 and a somewhat crippled QuickOffice 3.2 has been pre-installed as well.

The Motorola Atrix is comparably light and looks and feels much smaller when compared to the HTC ThunderBolt. Its display is noticeably smaller and despite its high resolution screen, some smaller fonts might be a little harder to read. The biggest surprise however was that the high speed dual-core processor is hardly noticeable performing day-to-day tasks. Rendering multipage PDF documents for instance takes longer on the Atrix also its camera’s shutter lag is noticeably longer than on the ThunderBolt. However, compared to the Droid X, Motorola has significantly improved the image quality of the 5 megapixels camera.

On the software-side the Motorola Atrix comes with its now-a-days very subtle MotoBlur, which is almost a poor Google Android experience, at least once all the MotoBlur Widget have been removed from the homescreens. Adobe Flash 10.1 and a full-featured QuickOffice 3.3 have been pre-installed and all the crapware like the BlockBuster app can actually be uninstalled.

In summary, it’s more the things I don’t like on the ThunderBolt than the thinks I like on the Atrix that would make me choose the Motorola Atrix. The ThunderBolt is just too bulky, a bit too heavy, and I just cannot get used to the HTC Sense UI. Non-removable crapware and the poor image quality doesn’t help the ThunderBolt either. However, the screen-size and high resolution front-facing camera make it a really good phone for demos and video viewing and chatting.

The Motorola Atrix wins because of its weight and subtly customized UI. I very much like the improved image quality, and the fact that the crapware is removable, making even more of the already huge memory space available.

What do you  think? Do you have either phone and can either confirm or deny? Let me know …

HTC ThunderBolt - Motorola Atrix

HTC ThunderBolt – Motorola Atrix

6 Comments

  1. A well written, insightful and balanced review, again!
    Good job, Wolf!

    What are your biggest impressions and/or surprises about these modern day Android phones, comparing with the last year’s top models (Droid, DroidX and HTC Incredible)?

    BTW, I observed that in photo shots, Atrix is on the right hand side, but in text, it is the left column. Guess that you want your audience to work hard, right:)?

    Ming

  2. Nice comparison Having seen the 4G side of these phones is really enticing. Every time I think I know which new phone I want, another comes out. And I still have nearly six months to wait! Calgon, take me away! here also lot of information about this Motorola DROID Bionic vs Motorola Atrix 4G Comparison

  3. Nice comparison – I do think your pixels per inch for the atrix is incorrect (ie X – 150 and Y – 150)

  4. The Atrix is definitely the better choice, it just feels better using, and it’s much more responsive once u remove the crapware. :D

  5. Hi Wolf, congrats for this great post and comparison.

    I am going to NYC and Toronto on vacation in June and I am thinking of buying a top Android phone to substitute my HTC Desire. Which one would you recommend? Is it possible to find good unlocked Android phones in any of this cities?

    Regards,
    Diego Rosa

  6. Not a big deal to some but the Thunderbolt does have the built in FM tuner which I do find myself using a lot during football season.

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