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Motorola Droid Turbo (Verizon Wireless) review: Powerful Droid with an enduring battery, at the right price

The camera operates quickly and takes crisp, in-focus photos. Pictures are large when offloaded, which is great for anyone who wants scaled-up images that keep their sharpness when zoomed in. Objects had well-defined edges, and we were impressed with how true-to-life colors looked. Most photos taken in poor lighting conditions are hazy, with colored pixels produced instead of blacks. But there are degrees. With the flash turned off, the Droid Turbo's camera made scenes brighter and more discernible than those of some other cameras, like Samsung's Galaxy S5 .

For more on the phone's camera quality, check out some of our photos below.

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In this outdoor photo, the grass and foliage are sharp, and even the moving water in the midground is in focus. Click to enlarge. Lynn La/CNET


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For this closeup shot, the flower petals are well-defined and their colors are accurate. In addition, the soft focus in the background makes this image more compelling. Click to enlarge. Lynn La/CNET
In this well-lit indoor shot, HDR mode is turned off (hence the blown-out background). However, the flowers are contrasted evenly against one another and look great. Click to enlarge. Lynn La/CNET
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As expected, low-light photos are hazy, but the Droid Turbo's camera fared pretty decently. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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For our standard studio shot, you can see that objects look refined and clear. Click to enlarge. James Martin/CNET

Shooting in both 4K and 1080p HD video yielded similar results. We filmed next to a busy roadway with plenty of foot and car traffic. Objects, both moving and still, looked sharp, and the camera's focus adjusted quickly and smoothly to lighting and different distances of focus. Colors were accurate, and nearby and distant audio picked up well without any distortion.

The 2-megapixel front-facing camera takes photos in both widescreen and standard aspect ratios, and can record up to 1080p video.

Performance: Call quality

We tested the Droid Turbo in our San Francisco offices, and call quality was good. None of our calls dropped, audio remained continuous without clipping in and out, and we didn't hear any extraneous noises or buzzing. Our calling partner's voice sounded full and accurate, without much static or distortion. In-ear call volume, however, could have been louder. Although we could hear our partner's voice well, it was a bit low compared to other devices we've tested in the past.

Motorola DroidTurbo (Verizon) call quality sample

Volume levels on audio speaker, however, were satisfactory. Our partner came off loud, and unlike other speakers that render voices thin and sharp, hers sounded robust and with depth. As for her line, we were told our voices came through clearly, without much noise or muffling.

Data speeds, processing speed and battery life

4G LTE data speeds on Verizon's network were fast, though at times inconsistent. On average, the handset showed download and upload rates on Ookla's speedtest app at 16.26 and 10.88Mbps, respectively. But there were a couple of times when these rates would dip down to about 4 or 2Mbps. In addition, it was able to download and install the 43.70MB game Temple Run 2 within 41 seconds on average, but it took more than 2 minutes on one trial. Of course, data speeds depend on many factors like location and time of day, so users might have vastly different experiences.

In general though, Internet browsing was swift. It took 5 and 7 seconds to load CNET's mobile and desktop sites, respectively. The New York Times' mobile page finished loading after 7 seconds and its desktop version loaded in 11. The mobile site for ESPN clocked in at 4 seconds, while 7 seconds passed for the full Web page.

Motorola Droid Turbo (Verizon Wireless) performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 16.26Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 10.88Mbps
Temple Run 2 app download (43.70MB) 41 seconds
CNET mobile site load 5 seconds
CNET desktop site load 7 seconds
Restart time 31 seconds
Camera boot time 1.72 seconds

The phone's 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 processor from Qualcomm is powerful and lightning fast. We didn't notice any lag when it came to daily and repetitive tasks like opening up the app browser, launching the keyboard, and returning to the homescreen. Thanks to its Adreno 420 GPU, frame rates and graphics rendering are high and smooth, and games like Kill Shot and Riptide GP 2 looked great and never stalled or stuttered.

Benchmark tests mirrored our findings as well. The Droid Turbo's best Quadrant score was 22,642 -- on par with its flagship competitors like the Galaxy S5 (which scored 23,707), LG G3 (23,103) and the HTC One M8 (24,593). Its highest Linpack multi-thread score was 878.472 MFLOPs in 0.19-second, which is one of the best results we've seen all year. In addition, it took about 31 seconds to restart the device and 1.72 seconds to launch the camera.

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Some of the phone's data times on Verizon (left) and its best Quadrant result. Screenshots by Lynn La/CNET

The Turbo's battery is a big deal on paper, 3,900mAh, and Motorola has a reputation for making long-lasting phones. The handset also powers up ridiculously quickly, well on its way to replenishing depleted stores in 30, or even 15 minutes. The Turbo -- and other phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge -- owe the zero-to-sixty power sprint to Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. In other words, the Turbo gets its titular power from the chip, not the vendor.

Anecdotal observation for that massive battery have been solid so far, and during our first preliminary round of battery drain testing, the handset lasted an impressive 14 hours and 43 minutes of continuous video playback. And though it hit below the 48 hour mark that Motorola touts, the phone still lasted a whopping 34 hours and 8 minutes for talk time. Charging a the drained battery with the Turbo charger took almost exactly 2 hours. Additional tests will take place, so be sure to check back with this review for more details. According to FCC radiation measurements, the device has a SAR rating on 0.39W/kg.

Conclusion

If you like the Motorola Droid Turbo's software offerings, but its $200 (32GB)/$250 (64GB) price tag is out of your budget, the Moto X is a good alternative -- it's reliable, customizable, and its scaled-down specs mean a lower starting price.

However, if you're in the market for a premium device, the Droid Turbo should rank high for Verizon users. Sure, its questionable design definitely doesn't have universal appeal. Both the Sony Xperia Z3v and the Galaxy S5 are in the same price range, look better, and are water resistant.

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The Droid has a high-capacity battery that features quick-charge technology as well. James Martin/CNET

But if you put aside its aesthetic, the Turbo still has a capable 21-megapixel camera and bright display, which together offer a solid shooting and media experience. Fans of stock Android will also like the phone's barely skinned UI, and it's one of the most powerful handsets on the market. (Its bleeding-edge Snapdragon 805 processor for example, is lightning fast and only available in a few devices so far.)

Perhaps the Turbo's ace in the hole though, is its monster battery capacity. Continuing the Droid family's legacy of phones that keep going and going and going, the handset promises a battery that not only charges fast, but one that offers more hours of juice than its competitors.

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