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HTC jumps into phablets with Droid DNA (hands-on)

The HTC Droid DNA has a whopping 5-inch Super LCD screen, an 8-megapixel camera, and a quad-core processor.

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Today at a glitzy New York press conference, Verizon officially unveiled its new HTC Droid DNA. The $199.99 smartphone will hit carrier stores on November 21, with pre-sales beginning today, and will be the most feature-packed device HTC has created for Verizon in recent years. In fact, not since the legendary Droid Incredible has an HTC handset of this stature entered Verizon’s ranks.

Design
On the surface, the slab-shaped HTC Droid DNA looks like just about every other Android smartphone on the market. The only touch of flair are signature Verizon-red highlights which circle the 8-megapixel megapixel camera lens and form a thin line above the screen. Frankly it gives the handset a classic Droid Incredible flavor similar to the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE That said I really like the long red stripes which run along both the left and right edges of the phone. HTC says it was inspired by Lamborghini supercars when crafting them. As for me, I just think the stripes, which are metallic and perferated by tiny holes, look futuristic and striking.

On back, the phone’s soft-touch surface cut from premium polycarbonate reminds me more of the HTC One X and One X+’s design language though. You’ll need that soft-touch coating too since its rubber feel provides a sure grip. The device is large, yet thin. Its 0.16-inch profile makes it thinner than the Samsung Galaxy S III. Picking up both handsets and placing them side-by-side, however, they seem to be of equal thickness, or shall I say thiness. This phone is razor-sharp, there's no doubt about that and its metal buttons and trim give it a much more premium feel than the Galaxy S III's plastic parts.

Features
What’s mostly to blame for the Droid DNA’s swollen size is its massive 5-inch Super LCD screen. The expansive Gorilla Glass display is almost tablet-like in scale, trumped only by larger competition from the Samsung Galaxy Note II (5.5-inch) and matched by the LG Intuition (5-inches). The display spans all the way to the edge of the phone's bezel, has a 1080p resolution with 440 pixels per inch, and has a reportedly wide viewing angle.

HTC Droid DNA
The HTC Droid DNA has a thin profile. Sarah Tew/CNET

Powering the Droid DNA’s is Android’s most advanced form to date, version 4.1 Jelly Bean, driven by a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and a 2,020mAh battery. HTC adds a generous 2GB helping RAM as well plus 16GB of internal storage. It sounds like plenty but I just hope Verizon won’t pump the phone full of performance-clogging bloatware. HTC has overlaid its latest incarnation of the Sense UI (4+) on top of Android as well.

If what I experienced from the One X is any indication, the DNA’s 8-megapixel camera shouldn’t disappoint. CNET testing revealed that the handset snaps photos with color just as accurate as the iPhone 5, with excellent detail, and many more features built right in. The camera has a f2.0 lens, full HD video chat, face detection, smile capture, and HDR shooting mode. The phone also has a dedicated quick launch camera button.

As a Verizon smartphone the HTC Droid DNA will certainly connect to the carrier’s fast 4G LTE data network. Just remember you have to pay extra for that feature on top of your existing voice plan.

Other features include Beats Audio, two speaker amplifiers, wireless charging, and the Sense 4.0+ UI includes new tweaks such as copying and move photos between different albums.

Outlook
Due to HTC's recent disappointing string of devices and sale numbers, it needs something big for the holiday season. The 5-inch DNA is definitely big, literally, and I'm excited about its new and powerful features. However, the touch-and-go phablet market is still tentative, and other than the Galaxy Note, no other device has been extremely popular. Let's hope that the Droid branding pushes the DNA up in its ranks.

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