Breon’s Motorola DROID X [Verizon] full written review

Preface

This review is way overdue.  Since I have the device longer than I normally do, I wanted to give it a full workout as a daily phone.  Then, there was rumors that an update was released for the DROID X.  So, I waited for that.  Then, life happened.  Without further….le review.

<insert my generic intro here>

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that I tend to focus on what’s new or different with each device.  This review is no different.  The DROID X runs Android 2.1-update1.  That being said, you get all of the stock 2.1 goodies, like Maps with Navigation, multiple Gmail/Google Apps accounts, Live Wallpaper, etc.  However, this is NOT your grandmother’s Android (unless she owns a DROID X, then it is).  Motorola and Verizon have packed this device with some eye-popping goodness as well as some functional bits that will benefit Android n00bs and power-users alike.  All screenshots, and many more, can be found here.

The outside…

I’m pretty much in love with the form factor.  Other than the “camera bump” (more on that later), it’s a slim and trim phone.  The back has a soft-touch coating and the battery door stays in place, unlike it’s baby brother.  Motorola seems to be a fan of putting connectors on the long sides  of their devices.  I’m not sure why they do this, but when you have a USB (or HDMI) cable plugged in, it’s kind of in the way, for portrait use.  It has the standard issue MENU/HOME/BACK/SEARCH (physical) buttons across the bottom.  Right next to the headphone jack, on the top, you’ll find the power/lock button dead-center.  However, you don’t need it to unlock the phone.  You can press the HOME button to reveal the lock screen…or to simply unlock the phone altogether (there’s a setting to disable the lock screen).  There is a dedicated dual-action camera button (YAY!).  The 8MP AF/720p HD camera is on the far left, and juts out a little bit.  That being said, the “camera bump” runs the entire width of the phone, which prevents the phone from wobbling around, when using it on a flat surface.  There are three mics.  Two are selectable, at least in the camcorder app.  The third is for noise cancellation.   The loudspeaker could stand to be…well…a little louder.  It does have adjustable preset mixer settings.  I wasn’t able to test the HDMI output, as I didn’t have a cable.  My Verizon rep is trying to get me a handful of accessories.  When I get ‘em, I’ll review ‘em.

Oh, yeah.  it has a 4.3″ widescreen….and a “wide” screen it is.  It does measure in at 4.289″ diagonal, but is slimmer than the EVO (see pic on right).  It’s pretty bright and the color is okay.  Someone asked how it is, as compared to the iPhone 4.  Well, it doesn’t compare.  But I would say that it is better than the EVO.  The multitouch is VERY responsive.  I used the multitouch test app and noticed that the lag is minimal.  On par with the incredible.  Better than the EVO.  Also, it doesn’t seem to suffer from some of the multitouch quirks that the HTC phones have.  They’re there, just not as prevalent.

The inside…

The DROID X sports a speedy 1GHz processor, which clocked in at 780MHz when tested with the Benchmark app.  It has 8GB of internal storage, like the Incredible.  However, it’s only used for apps and app storage.  You can’t save pics and files to it.  No fear.  it comes with a 16GB microSD card, pre-installed and will accept up to a 32GB card.  The battery is 1540 mAh and is on par with other Android devices.  Bigger battery + bigger screen = average performance.  Motorola did include a “Battery Manager” in the Settings.  It allows you to set “off-peak” hours, which will shut your data connection off after a period of inactivity, between the hours you select.

It’s a bit blurry…

At the launch press conference, one of the reps told one blogger that the DROID X does not run MOTOBLUR or NinjaBlur. Poking around in the System folder uncovers many apps, widgets, and services that are clearly labeled “BLUR”. Regardless if this is a Blur device or not, it’s a unique experience.  There are seven Home screens, with quick access to each via an indicator strip at the bottom (when scrolling). When you’re on the main Home screen, and press HOME again, you’ll open the app launcher(removed in the update), which is not the stock launcher. I haven’t found any gems with this launcher, like on the Ally. Flanking the launcher icon are the icons for quick access to the Phone and Contacts apps. Most of the standard Live Wallpapers make an appearance, sans Nexus. They also included a “DROID Eye” Live Wallpaper. It moves around like on the microsite, but it’s not interactive.

What makes this interface real shine are the 15 Motorola widgets that are included. There are the standard issue toggles, as well as clock, calendar, weather, news, sticky notes, photo, contact “Quick Tasks”, messages, and a couple social networking widgets. You’re probably like “Meh”, but let me tell you what makes these widgets awesome. Most of them are resizable, anywhere from 1×1 to 4×4. Some have infinite adjustment, while others are locked into just a few different configurations. The Contact Quick Tasks are useful. After to select a contact, you can configure up to eight (depending on widget size) shortcuts to communicate with the person. You can speed dial any of their numbers, send a text message, chat on Skype, check their Twitter or get directions to their house.

Apps

Tap the launcher and you’ll find a slew of standard Android apps.  As usual, Motorola and Verizon preloaded several “useful” apps.  Whether you like them or not, at least they’re trying to promote the variety of apps available and the capabilities of Android.  One app of note is the Blockbuster app.  You can rent or buy movies with your current Blockbuster account.  Rumor has it, that along with the mobile version, you also get a desktop version of the movie.  The latest update also brings the Kindle app.  Verizon included their Verizon account management app as well as the backup assistant.  They also threw in Need for Speed: Shift.  It’s a pretty fun game, and it looks great on the 4.3″ screen.  In my opinion, two of the most useful apps that VZW included were the 3G Mobile Hotspot apps and Skype.  We use Skype for work, and it’s just nice to be able to easily chat with co-workers.  And the Mobile Hotspot has saved my butt a few times.  A couple of weekends ago, I used the hotspot to stream movies on an iPad using Netflix…in the back seat of a car driving 70MPH down the highway.

Motorola bundled a social networking app that includes Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.  I tried my hardest to only use the apps that were integrated.  However, they fell short.  But that’s the beauty of Android.  If you don’t like an app, there are probably 10 different ones in the Market.  The Car Dock app is slightly different, as it allows you to add one favorite app to the icon list.  You can share your media and files to any DLNA enabled device.  I tried to share my pics to my XBOX 360, with less than stellar results.  However, I didn’t try very hard.  The XBOX saw the phone and the pictures, but none of them loaded properly.  Moto also included a file explorer, so say goodbye to Astro…not really.  Again, Astro offers several features that the built-in file explorer doesn’t.  Swype is included as well as a “multi-touch” keyboard.  I didn’t notice anything different about the keyboard.  I didn’t act like the multi-touch keyboard on the iPhone.  I installed the HTC Touch Input keyboard anyway.

DROID X Sample shots

Camera

While the camera is a heap better than my HTC Hero, it’s still not perfect.  If you take two pictures in a row, one could turn out phenomenal and the other is just ok.  There are several setting for “Scenes”, but there aren’t any fine adjustments, like white balance.  They’ve included some effects, if you’re into that.  There’s a dedicated camera button (WIN!) and a dual LED flash.  In addition to the Scenes, there are a few picture modes, which allow you to take a single picture, a self portrait, panorama assist (see below) and multi-shot.  There are also a few modes for the camcorder, like slow-motion and fast-motion.  The HD video capture is ok, for a phone.  If you use your Flip camera on a daily basis, you probably won’t want to get rid of it just yet.  The quality is certainly good enough for random captures.  There’s a sample video below.  There are also several others on my YouTube channel.  I took a couple of videos at a concert (surprise, surprise).  The video quality was pretty good, but the audio quality was atrocious.  I had the back microphone selected, so it was picking up EVERYTHING.  I should have tried to record a video with the other mic.

Here’s a panoramic sample shot.  I’m just about at the center of a bridge in Minneapolis.  There are several other panoramic samples in my Picasa link above.

Pricing and availability

The phone is available now for $199.99, with a new 2-year contract, rebates, etc, etc.  The standard Verizon Wireless plans apply as well.  The 3G Mobile Hotspot feature is an additional $20 per month, and there is no contract.  It’s simply an add-on.  BONUS!

Final thoughts

While it’s still a little on the large side, it’s more comfortable to use than the EVO.  I especially like how thin it is.  The price is on par with the rest of the latest devices.  The Motorola interface is pretty solid and offers tons of widgets.  The battery is pretty good.  It obviously takes some awesome pictures.  All in all, I like this phone.  The Incredible still might be my favorite phone.  But that’s only because the form factor is slightly more manageable…and I’m a Sense fanboy :)

I get to keep this phone for an extended period.  If you have any specific questions, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@breon).  I’ll do my best to answer them.  Also, I’m trying to get my hands on the official accessories, so keep an eye out for that review.

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