Who wins the battle for Verizon's top phablet of 2012?

Big Red has no fewer than three 5-inch devices vying for consumer attention this fall. But which one should be on your holiday shopping list?

HTC Droid DNA
HTC Droid DNA Sarah Tew/CNET

Verizon Wireless customers now have three options should they be in the market for a 5-inch Android experience.

The latest handset to join the phablet family is the HTC Droid DNA, which the carrier announced yesterday. Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and LG Intuition it boasts a massive display and a full roster of high-end features.

But as compelling as each smartphone is, only one can come out on top. So let's take a deeper dive to determine which device will be crowned Verizon's king of gargantuan handsets?

LG Intuition
LG Intuition Josh Miller/CNET

LG Intuition
A variant of the Optimus Vu, the Intuition was the first of the big three to arrive, making its debut in September. While it might be easy to dismiss the device as "just a big LG phone," there are a few touches that add to its overall value. It has NFC, for instance, and Quick Memo lets you take notes on the screen, mark up images, and more. You can use your finger or the Rubberdium pen, though oddly the Intuition lacks a storage slot for the latter.

Yet, the Intuition is perhaps best defined by its awkward 4:3 display aspect ratio. The strange form factor makes for a wide and very squarish experience that won't appeal to folks with smaller hands. LG's justification for this is that most print articles are in this same aspect ratio.

Currently listed at $149.99, the LG Intuition is going to have a tough time selling against similarly-priced offerings. This problem will be compounded once the Droid DNA arrives; HTC's new handset has a considerable hardware edge for just $50 more.

Indeed, I suspect that the real issue facing the Intuition is that it's based on hardware that is nearly one year old. Consider, that Verizon had only just introduced the phone when rumors of its successor, the LG Optimus Vu 2, began to circulate.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 boasts a number of advantages over the LG Intuition, including a faster processor and a larger, higher resolution display. Factor in its more traditional aspect ratio and overall design, the Note 2 feels more natural in hand.

A few other places where the Samsung excels over the LG include its quad-core processor, 2GB RAM (versus 1GB), and higher capacity/longer lasting battery. And for software, the Galaxy Note 2 comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Other key advantages include Google Now, the Project Butter smooth transitions, and enhanced notifications. Samsung also included a handful of apps that utilize the large display including Multi-View, Pop-up Play, and Pop-up Browser.

So if everything about the Galaxy Note 2 is so glowing, then where does it fall short? That's an easy one: price. At $299.99 with a two-year service agreement, it's a big commitment on more than one front. Parents or spouses looking to grab multiple devices this holiday season may go with their wallet instead of their heart.

HTC Droid DNA
On paper, at least, it's the newest phablet phone that wins out. And even after our review, the Droid DNA gets my vote.

Thanks to its $199.99 price tag and PC-like hardware, the Droid DNA is an Android fanboy's dream device.

The 5-inch display features an astounding 1080p HD resolution and manages to squeeze in 440 pixels per inch. Far ahead of anything else on the market, it is obviously the one you want to use for Netflix or HBO Go. 

Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the Droid DNA also features a quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and an 8-megapixel camera. Unlike its rival, the Droid DNA has a smaller capacity battery, and it lacks a microSD card slot.

All three devices share an 8-megapixel camera, but with a f2.0 lens, HTC ImageSense, HTC ImageChip, and a higher resolution front camera, the Droid DNA should deliver a better shooting experience. Sprinkle in the Beats audio, dual amplifiers, and wireless charging, and it's quite a bargain.

Outlook

While it is easy to get lost in the intricacies or debate one CPU against another, the bottom line is this: the Droid DNA is the most phone you can get for your money. Then again, it's also in the fortunate position of being the most recently announced device.

January is fast approaching and that means we're going to see the bar raised again. Three months from now the landscape will be entirely different and HTC could find themselves somewhere lower on the totem pole.


Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LG Intuition HTC Droid DNA
Operating system Android 4.1 Android 4.0 Android 4.1
Manufacturer skin Samsung TouchWiz LG Optimus 3.0 HTC Sense
Display 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED; 1,280x720 pixels, 267 ppi 5inch IPS LCD; 1,024x768 pixels, 256 ppi 5-inch Super LCD 3, 1920x1080 pixels, 440 ppi
Price $199.99-$369.99 (varies by carrier) $149.99 $199
LTE Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 4.0
Camera 8-megapixel HD, 1.9-megapixel front-facing 8-megapixel HD, 1.3-megapixel front-facing 8-megapixel HD, 2.1-megapixel front-facing
Processor 1.6GHz quad-core 1.5GHz dual-core 1.5GHz quad-core
Memory 16GB, 2GB RAM 32GB; 1GB RAM 16GB; 2GB RAM
Expandable memory Up to 64GB No No
Battery 3,100 mAh, removable 2,080 mAh, embedded 2,020 mAh, embedded
Promised usage time 22 hours 15.07 hours 12.8 hours
Size 5.9 inches by 3.16 inches by 0.37 inch 5.5 inches by 3.56 inches by 0.33 inch 5.5 inches by 2.78 inches by 0.38 inch
Weight 6.4 ounces 6.08 ounces 4.94 ounces

Senior Managing editor Kent German contributed to this story.

 

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