Jul 28 AT 12:55 PM Nick Gray 29 Comments

Verizon Motorola DROID X review

If you haven’t heard, “the next generation of DOES” is finally here. The new Motorola DROID X went on sale nearly ten days ago, ushering in a new area of DROID dominance on Big Red. Though the DROID X has some incredible features, it definitely has its work cut out for it to prove to the world that it can compete with other elite Android smartphones.

Design

Looking at the DROID X for the first time, we’re pretty sure that no one will be able to confuse it with any of the new Samsung Galaxy S phones or even the similarly sized HTC EVO 4G. The DROID X has an extremely plain, rugged design that not even a loving mother would be able to call pretty. The front of the phone features the large 4.3 inch WVGA (480 x 854) display with four physical buttons (menu, home, back, and search) and voice mic right below it. Above the screen is the speaker, ambient light and proximity sensor. Along the right side you’ll find the volume toggle and red camera button and along the left are the micro HDMI and USB connections. The top of the DROID X houses the power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and noise cancellation mic. Flipping the handset over reveals the battery panel, speakerphone speaker, a third microphone for video recording, and the 8MP camera (capable of 720p video recording) and dual LED flash.

Those of you who have been following Android for a while might be familiar with the “chin” concept that HTC has used on their phones. While the DRODI X doesn’t really have a chin, it does feature a prominent protrusion on the back of the phone where the camera is located. We’re not exactly sure why Motorola chose to add this extra bulge, but we are inclined to conclude that they did so in order to fit in the necessary optics for the camera.

On the inside of the phone, the DROID X features a 1GHz TI OMAP3630 processor with a dedicated GPU.  While 1GHz processors aren’t anything new, this is the first one we have seen from Texas Instruments on the OMAP3 platform.  To give you an idea of how it stacks up against the 1GHz Snapdragon processor on the Nexus One, Linpack tests show that the DROID X  yields 8 MFLOPS, about double of what the Nexus One can pull of running Android 2.1.  For a more detailed look at how the DROID X’s performance stacks up against the competition, you’ll definitely want to check out our benchmark comparison post from last week.

Software

Like most of the new phones hitting the streets these days, the Motorola DROID X is running on Android 2.1. There’s been talk about an update to Android 2.2 sometime this summer, but we don’t really expect the update to hit the phone until the last week of the quarter. While many of you may be familiar with Android 2.1, the DROID X is the first phone from Motorola to feature their enhanced version of MotoBLUR. We’re pretty sure that Motorola and Verizon are probably not too happy that we’re calling the custom UI by that name, but the fact remains that it accomplished the same social media integration we have seen from MotoBLUR in the past, but has a new refined look.

The cheesy blue and green contacts and phone icons next to the app drawer have been replaced with simple white icons. All the widgets have been given a facelift and most now have the ability to be re-sized right from the home screen. HTC Sense does give users the ability to choose various sizes for the dozens of widgets that they offer, but on the DROID X, users can simply re-size the widgets when they are moved. The best part about the widget resizing is that if you re-size one and it goes over another widget or application icon, the UI simply moves things about (sometime to another screen) in order to accommodate your change.

Like other manufacturers, Motorola has pre-loaded the new SWYPE keyboard onto the DROID X. But rather than loading SWYPE and calling it a day, Motorola has also developed their own new multi-touch keyboard, a first for Android. The new keyboard allows the phone to recognize multiple inputs at once, which reducing errors for those who type fast on the touch screen. A few unscientific tests showed that the multi-touch keyboard is quite a bit more accurate than Android’s standard keyboard, which allows users to type significantly faster. My wife actually stated that she would give up SWYPE on her Nexus One if I would find a way to port the DROID X’s multi-touch keyboard to her phone.

Like most of Motorola’s other phones that feature MotoBLUR, most of the stock Android apps on the DROID X have been modified. The customizations are not too horrendous, but those who prefer stock Android will most likely want to pick up the phone and smash it on a rock. MotoBLUR did add some nice enhancements to Android when it was introduced last year on Android 1.5. Unfortunately, the custom applications actually seem to dumb down or even remove some of the functionality of Android 2.1.

Fortunately, the DROID X features DLNA support, a feature that Google still has not implemented in stock Android. With DLNA support, the DROID X is able to stream music, pictures, and videos to other DLNA capable devices on the same Wi-Fi network. Users simply need to walk through the media sharing options in the Media Share app once they are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Streaming media to my PC and PS3 worked flawlessly when hooked up to my home network. The DROID X can also access media on other devices through DLNA. Opening the DLNA and clicking the “Play Media” button allows you to browser through share media files on other devices on your Wi-Fi network.

While the DROID X does feature a micro HDMI connection which allows you to directly connect your phone to your fancy LCD or PLASMA TV, the functionality is limited. Currently, HDMI output is limited to video and picture files and you’ll have to pony up some extra cash for the cable as well. In our opinion, the DLNA connectivity almost makes the HDMI connection obsolete.

Camera

If the design or software build have not impressed you yet, we would like to take a few minutes to give you our thoughts on the camera. Like most other top of the line Android phones, the DROID X features an 8MP camera with dual LED flash and the ability to record 720p HD video. Neither of these two features are anything new, but Motorola has definitely invested the time and money into this handset to make it stand apart from the competition.

Image quality on the DROID X is superb. Phones like the DROID Incredible and EVO 4G take some pretty nice pictures, but the DROID X seems to capture the correct color tones while producing some incredibly sharp images. Motorola has included the typical camera effects (black and white, negative, sepia, and such) but they went out of their way to add special picture modes for self portraits, panoramic images, and multi-shots.

  • Self portrait: uses facial recognition to make sure the image is centered
  • Panorama assist: select which direction you are going to pan to and simply take the first picture. Pan left, right, up, or down and the phone will been and take the next shot
  • Multi-shot: camera switches to 1MP resolution, but is able to take six sequential images in less than two seconds. Great feature for capturing action shots.

Currently, the DROID X, EVO 4G and the Galaxy S family of phones are the only Android phones to officially support 720p video recording. While the EVO does an OK job for being a phone, the video quality produced by the DROID X is far superior. The X also includes some pretty neat features like slow motion and fast motion video recording, essentially increasing or reducing the frame-rate of the recording you make to achieve the effect.

Knowing that users would be taking advantage of the DROID X’s video recording capabilities, Motorola has added an extra microphone to the back side of the handset.  Users can select various audio options to use the mic that’s facing their subject or the one on the front for dictation.  It may not sound that impressive, but if you compare audio quality from two different handsets, you’ll definitely notice a difference.

Battery Life

The Motorola DROID X is definitely a feature rich handset. More features equals more use from handset owner. More use equals faster battery drain. With that in mind, Motorola has chosen to equip the DROID X with a massive 1540mAh lithium-ion battery. With heavy use, the X can typically make it at least 12 hours between charges. While this may not seem like much, it should be enough to get you through a whole day’s worth of work. We did find that the DROID X does fair extremely well during low use. During our time with the phone we were actually able to use the handset intermittently for three days before the battery completely died on us.

As with most other Android phones, we would definitely suggest picking up an extra charger for the office or for the car just to make sure you have enough power at the end of the day.

Conclusion

With a vast array of Android phones hitting the market these days, it’s becoming more difficult to find the perfect Android phone.  The DROID X’s large 4.3 inch display, 8MP camera with 720p video recording, and 1GHz processor with dedicated GPU puts the phone in direct competition with the HTC EVO 4G.  While the DROID X does perform a bit better than the EVO in 3D gaming and image/video capture, the EVO comes equipped with a front facing camera, a kickstand (which we are very fond of), and the ability to use Sprint’s 4G network. The X is definitely the most powerful option on Verizon’s network, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option.  Quite a few people will simply shy away from the DROID X due to the massive 4.3 inch screen and opt for the similarly featured HTC DROID Incredible.
It’s a tough choice to make, but we’re pretty sure you’ve already made up your mind by now.  Is the DROID X the phone for you?
Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. He started HTCsource.com (the first HTC blog) back in 2007 and later joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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