The Motorola Droid X will soon land on Verizon and the Android-powered touchscreen smartphone is packed to the gills with features: a 1GHz processor, 4.3-inch screen, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and an 8-megapixel camera that can record 720p HD video. But we’re entering a summer period where every carrier has drool-worthy smartphones coming to market and high-end specs aren’t enough to stand out from the crowd anymore. Does the Droid X do enough to make you buy it instead of the iPhone 4, EVO 4G or Samsung Galaxy S phones? Read on for our full review.
Verizon Motorola Droid X
Available July 15th for $199.99 w/ 2-year contract
Specifications (Specs – sheet)
- 4.3-inch (854X480) capacitive touchscreen
- 1Ghz TI OMAP CPU
- 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
- 720p HD recording
- 3G data connectivity
- WiFi (b/g)
- GPS (aGPS)
- microSD (support for up to 32 GB)
- HDMI-out port
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Android 2.1 with MotoBlur
- Mobile Hotspot feature
- 8 GB internal memory with a 16 GB card included
- Large 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display that isn’t unwieldy
- Sexy design that feels good in the hand
- Three mics for improved sound quality and audio recording
- MotoBlur has been tastefully scaled back
- Mobile Hotspot feature (with additional monthly fee)
- Camera’s not perfect but it’s good enough to replace your point-and-shoot device
- Multi-touch keyboard rocks and Swype’s preloaded
- Screen is good but doesn’t have the “wow factor” of iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S
- You have to remove battery to change the microSD card
- Non-standard HDMI port
- Some of the physical buttons felt cheap
- No simultaneous voice and data areas
- Despite the improvements, MotoBlur is still kind of useless
The design of the Droid X is a brilliant evolution of the original Droid. It still retains that somewhat aggressive angular look of the original device but the changes make it a far more polished and attractive smartphone.
The corners are a tad more rounded, which makes it feel better in the hand. Motorola has ditched the physical keyboard so the majority of the device is thin and sleek (it’s only 9.9 mm thick, and less so on the base of the device). There’s a big hump where the 8-megapixel camera module is but I really didn’t mind this because there’s a nice curve on the back of the device. I thought this hump would make the device feel top heavy but the weight and balance in your hands feel just right.
The handset sports a large 4.3-inch screen. It’s the same size as the EVO 4G but it doesn’t seem quite as big because it’s a longer device. Still, it’s a big, big screen. A buddy of mine recently saw me pull the Droid X out and whimsically asked, “How long before you pull out a 32-inch plasma from your pocket?”
What I really like about the Droid X is that it has a large screen but it’s nowhere near unwieldy. It’s easy to operate with a single hand and the device fits easily into nearly any pocket. The screen is nice but it’s not going to blow you away like the Retina Display or Samsung’s Super AMOLED screens. It has the same resolution as the original Droid (854 x 480) but Motorola is convinced that customers prefer a larger screen to a smaller one with a higher resolution. We’ll see how that plays out.
It’s easy to compare it to the EVO 4G because both rock a 4.3-inch screen. While the Motorola smartphone is taller than the HTC device, it’s not as wide, which makes it easier to hold and operate with one hand.
On the face, there are four physical buttons and the camera button and volume rocker are on the right spine. Up top, we have the power/unlock button, a standard headphone jack and the microUSB port and HDMI-our port rest on the bottom of the left spine.
I like the hardware design a lot but feel like you can criticize a few of the physical buttons. The four buttons on the face (menu, home, back and search) have good tactility when you press them straight on but these jiggle if you move them slightly up and down. It feels kind of cheap. I love a dedicated camera button but wasn’t impressed with the sensitivity of the two-stage shutter button on the Droid X. The volume rocker’s great, as is the top power/wake up button, but the main physical buttons are the only drawback of Motorola’s latest design.
Motorola didn’t skimp on the internals to get a nice design, as the handset rocks a 1 GHz TI OMAP processor, WiFI, GPS, Bluetooth, 3G, 8-megapixel camera, three microphones and it placed the antennas in a way so you can hold the handset without dropping signals.
Minor quibbles aside, the Droid X is an attractive handset that feels good in the hand and the design is bound to turn some heads. Good job, Motorola.
The Droid X rocks Android 2.1 with the latest version of MotoBlur and both of these lead to pleasant a software experience. (Update: Motorola’s been cagey about how its describing this software layer, I refer to it as “MotoBlur” throughout the review)
While I’m miffed that the handset won’t launch with Android 2.2, or Froyo, the current software is still enough to satisfy my needs. It’s a breeze to set up e-mail accounts (especially if it’s Google accounts), make calls and send text messages, surf the web and add new programs from the Android Market.
Motorola promises to push out Froyo in “late summer” and that should make the device even more capable with full Flash support, better Android Market capabilities and improved overall performance. We’ll revisit this review and update you on how the Verizon Motorola handset performs with the latest software.
As for MotoBlur, this version has surpassed my low expectations. I’ve seen this custom user interface layer on the Cliq XT and I was not impressed. It was too intrusive and in your face – it kind of made these devices feel and look like toys.
Just like with the hardware, Motorola has made smart evolutions with its software. The latest version of MotoBlur is subtle and adds some visual panache to the device.
Long pressing on the home screen will give you access to Motorola’s widgets (in addition to the standard Android ones) and some of these are cool. In particular, I like the Photo Slideshow widget because it makes it easier to launch and view your photos at a glance. The News widget is also a good way to aggregate content from the web at a glance.
Still, I don’t know how useful MotoBlur really is. The social-networking widget is kind of useless to me, as I’d rather use the individual apps from Facebook and Twitter. The e-mail client is also useless because I just like the Gmail app – your mileage may vary depending on what type of e-mail you use.
Motorola has also included a media-syncing client for content on your desktop and I liked this because it was a lightweight way to move multimedia content over. While we should be able to natively streams tunes over the air with Android soon, this is a good way to load the smartphone with tunes or movies.
I love the virtual keyboard that Motorola put on this. I want to take it out to a nice dinner, let it order whatever it wants, take it back to my place … and just cuddle. I’m so into this, I’m not in a rush. The software keyboard is incredibly responsive, supports multitouch and is just a delight to bang out messages. The auto-correct software is nearly perfect (Still think “I’ll” is used more than “ill” but maybe I’m just an egotist) and the size of the screen means you have plenty of room to type.
The landscape mode works well too but I never felt compelled to hold it that way for messages. I’ve never really taken to Swype, but that’s also preloaded, if you prefer that method.
Verizon also got its fingers in the Droid X pie, as the handset comes preloaded with various apps. You’ll have access to V Cast Videos, BlockBuster, Skype, NFL Mobile, and other programs. Other than Skype, none of these are that appealing to me right now, but I may have to give the NFL Mobile another look once the season starts (Go Chargers).
I’m still not blown away with MotoBlur but this version doesn’t detract from the handset. I know that’s really faint praise, but I like the direction Motorola is going. There’s a lot to like about this handset’s software, overall.
Web browser, Multimedia, Camera
By now, you should know that the Android multimedia experience is capable but not mind-blowing. It comes preloaded with the Amazon MP3 store for over-the-air downloads of tracks and it can handle most of the music and videos you throw at. The players work well but lack the visual panache of something like the iPhone. I also like to download podcasts but hate how Android doesn’t make it easy to jump into these files directly from the notification window. Sure, clicking on it will launch the player but if you try and multitask from that point, the audio stops.
I played with the BlockBuster OnDemand streaming movie app and was woefully underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong – the service is pretty solid and has a good selection but I don’t see a need for it. I don’t need to rent or buy movies on my device because I don’t like watching films on a phone, especially when all of my bigger screens are already connected to similar media services. Maybe if I’m traveling or stuck on an airplane, but you can only download the films to your handset over WiFi, which could limit the usefullness.
Motorola’s latest smartphone comes with an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash. Oddly enough, the handset is defaulted to 6 megapixels and it took me a while to figure this out. The camera is pretty darn good but there’s no way it will replace your dedicated DSLR because it can’t handle motion or low-light shots well. It does offer touch-to-focus and it’s a snap to e-mail or text photos, as well as upload pictures to social-networking sites like Facebook or Flickr. In general, pictures turn out crisp and vibrant. They look good on the Verizon Motorola handset but you can really notice the quality on a computer monitor or on an HD TV via the HDMI port.
There were also a few annoyances I found when using this as a shooter: holding the mechanical shutter to launch the camera app takes longer than it should and the pictures look out of focus right before you take the picture. The physical buttons make it easier to snap shots and zoom but I wasn’t too impressed with photos on maximum zoom.
The Gallery app is smooth and well-done, as it’s been slightly tweaked from the standard version. Holding the Verizon Motorola handset in portrait mode gives you multiple thumbnails to view, while the landscape mode gives you some neat transition animations while flipping through pictures. As with most devices of this type, photos can be geo-tagged thanks to the GPS chipset.
Despite the quibbles, it’s a really good shooter that makes it easy to ditch your point-and-shoot digital camera. Check out some photos below.
A mural on a foggy day:
A concert in relatively low light (has been cropped):
This being the Internet, I had to include a picture of cats:
The camera can also record full 720p HD video and the quality is pretty darn good once you’re viewing it on a monitor or big-screen television. These HD videos are limited to 30 seconds if you want to share them and you can only upload HD videos over WiFi. I was also kind of miffed that there was no zooming with HD videos. Still, it’s a great way to capture magic moments.
Video of some street performers, notice how the audio’s not the greatest. To be fair, you can adjust the audio and visual settings when recording but I just used the default method.
Holding the handset in portrait mode.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The Verizon Motorola handset handled calls quite nicely, as the extra microphone ensured my voice sounded clear. Voices on the other end of the line had the right amount of volume and there wasn’t any hissing. One minor beef is that the dialer is not quite as good as the one on HTC Sense devices like the Droid Incredible. With Sense, the initial dialer screen lets you pump in numbers or letters for contact, while Motorola has separate tabs for this. This is a very minor issue but I’ve long since forgot phone numbers and dial by contact name. Not a big deal, though.
Partially because of its huge display, the EVO 4G had horrendous battery life. I was afraid that the latest Verizon Motorola smartphone would suffer a similar fate but was pleasantly surprised that it matched the Droid in getting me through a full day. These aren’t Razrs, so you’ll still have to charge the handset each night, but you won’t have to change the way you use the device because of power woes.
Does the Droid X mark the spot?
Whatever sports metaphor you want to apply is appropriate for the Droid X, as Motorola hit a home run/slam dunked it/won the World Cup with this flagship handset from Verizon. It sports a lust-worthy design, has all the features you’d expect from a top-shelf smartphone, the software is really good and it’s relatively future proof for upcoming versions of Android. If you’re on Verizon and are eligible for an upgrade this year, there’s no reason to not buy the Droid X when it comes out July 15, even if you’re a fan of physical keyboards (the virtual one is just that good). It’s even good enough to lure Apple iPhone owners over to the dark side.
Even with more killer Android handsets on the horizon, I think you’ll be happy with the Droid X for a long time. Bravo, Motorola and Verizon.