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Motorola Droid X (Verizon Wireless) review: Motorola Droid X (Verizon Wireless)

Motorola Droid X (Verizon Wireless)

Bonnie Cha

Bonnie Cha

Former Editor

Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.

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10 min read


Motorola Droid X (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The Motorola Droid X boasts a gorgeous 4.3-inch touch screen and great multimedia features like an 8-megapixel camera with HD video capture, HDMI output, and DLNA support. The smartphone can also be used as a mobile hot spot.

The Bad

Camera is a bit sluggish. Motoblur software is a lot better but still not quite as refined as HTC Sense. Lacks a front-facing camera.

The Bottom Line

The Motorola Droid X makes another fine addition to Verizon's Android family, bringing with it a rich multimedia experience and more connectivity features.

Motorola and Verizon aren't afraid to go after the competition, whether it be blatantly calling out a certain phone in TV ads or introducing a pretty killer device right before the launch of another. However, when you're introducing devices like the Motorola Droid X, we can see why they would be so bold.

The Droid X is the latest member to join Verizon's army, and just like the original Droid before it, it's a beast, but in a good way. The smartphone rocks a brilliant 4.3-inch touch screen and offers some great multimedia features, including an 8-megapixel camera with HD video capture, HDMI output, and DLNA support. However, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that it does lack some features that the similar-looking HTC Evo 4G has, such as a front-facing camera and, of course, 4G support.

Still, we think Verizon has a formidable competitor in the Droid X. It's it's a great option for Verizon customers who want a little more multimedia oomph than what the HTC Droid Incredible has to offer, and is a worthy upgrade from the Droid if you can do without a physical keyboard. The Motorola Droid X will be available starting July 15 for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Best Buy is taking in-store preorders for the phone, and we should also note that current Verizon customers who have contracts ending by December 31, 2010, will be able to upgrade to the Droid X without penalty.

Motorola and Verizon definitely like to go big with their Android devices, first with the Motorola Droid and now with the Droid X. Measuring 5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and 5.47 ounces, it's a hair taller than the HTC Evo 4G, but also slightly thinner and lighter. We were actually surprised at how light the phone felt in the hand, but at that size, one-handed operation is a bit tough if you have smaller hands. It also makes for a tight squeeze in a pants pocket, but without a slide-out keyboard like the Droid's, it's doesn't feel quite as bulky. There is a slight bump on back where the camera and flash are housed, though we didn't find it to be too much of a nuisance. The backside also has a nice soft-touch finish, and the Droid X feels like a solid handset overall.

Much like the original Droid, the Droid X is quite a beast.

Now, we admit it feels awkward to hold such a big device up to the ear for phone calls, but the upside is that the extra space makes room for a bigger screen. The Droid X's display actually looks deceptively bigger than the Evo 4G's because of a thin border around the edge that blends into the screen, but it's the same size at 4.3 inches. It has a WVGA (854x480 pixels) resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio and looks absolutely brilliant and crisp. Text is easy to read, and colors look vibrant, making the multimedia experience quite great. It is a multitouch display, so not only do you get pinch-to-zoom support, but you can also press two buttons on a keyboard at once (e.g., shift + letter key). There's also a proximity sensor and a built-in accelerometer that was pretty responsive in changing the screen orientation.

The Droid X offers two keyboards: a standard virtual keyboard and Swype. If the idea of dragging your finger from key to key to enter text sounds crazy, you're not alone. We were initially skeptical, too, but after first trying it on the Samsung Behold II, it's become our keyboard of choice. It's surprisingly accurate and quick. If you still don't like it, not to worry; the Droid X's standard keyboard is pretty awesome and feels more responsive than the Evo 4G's keyboard.

Below the screen, there are four physical shortcut buttons.

Below the display, you get the four standard Android shortcut keys--menu, home, back, and search--but unlike on the Evo, they're hard buttons and not touch-sensitive. Some might have a preference for one or the other, but we definitely liked having the physical buttons, and Motorola did a nice job of streamlining them into the phone's design. You also get some controls on the right side, including a volume rocker and camera activation/capture button. The latter is a little too close to the edge for our taste, which made it difficult to press, but it's certainly not a deal breaker.

On top of the device, you'll find a power/lock button as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the left, the Micro-USB port and the HDMI port. Like the Evo, the HDMI port is the Type D standard so you'll need to get a Micro-HDMI cable in order to connect it to your HDTV. You can easily find said cable on the Internet for as low as $8. And sorry, folks, but no kickstand on the Droid X.

Verizon packages the Motorola Droid X with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 16GB microSD card, and reference material. As with the Droid, other accessories, such as a car mount ($39.99) and a multimedia dock ($49.99), will be made available. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

User interface
The Motorola Droid X will ship running Android 2.1 with a revised version of Motoblur software. The latter looks nothing like what we've seen on the Motorola Cliq and Backflip. You still get widgets for your social networking updates, weather, photo gallery, and favorite contacts, but they no longer take up huge chunks of space on your home screen, and you can even resize the widgets. It makes for a much cleaner experience, and you don't feel overwhelmed by all the information.

Aside from the Motorola widgets, you can also add Android widgets as well as shortcuts and folders to any one of the seven home screens. As you swipe through them, a small toolbar appears on the bottom to show you which panel you're on, and you can quickly jump to a page by pressing on the corresponding button. (The toolbar later changes to a quick-launch bar for the phone, full menu, and contacts after a couple of seconds.) It certainly makes it easier than swiping through all the panels, but we definitely preferred the HTC Sense Leap screen feature, which gives you a quick thumbnail view of each screen.

Overall, the Motoblur experience is much improved; it's a more refined, sophisticated Motoblur, if you will. However, users coming from the Droid, which ran the stock Android UI, might need some time to acclimate, and even then it still might be too much for some. Just remember that, like all Android phones, it's completely customizable, so just keep tweaking the UI until you find a system that works for you.

As we mentioned earlier, the Motorola Droid X will ship with Android 2.1, but Verizon and Motorola are planning to release an over-the-air update to Android 2.2 Froyo later this summer. (The Droid is also expected to receive Froyo at that time.) This will bring speed improvements as well as new features like camera software improvements and, of course, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, so you'll get a more PC-like experience from the phone's mobile browser.

The Droid X still has plenty of other features to keep you distracted while you wait for that update. Given the large screen, it's no surprise that multimedia plays a huge part. Much like the HTC HD2, the smartphone offers a dedicated Blockbuster On Demand app where you can preview and download movies--to rent or to own--on the go. Once purchased, you can watch the video on another connected device, such as a TV, a Blu-ray player, or a PC, using Blockbuster software.

The Droid X has an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and 720p HD video capture.

You can make your own movies, too, since the Droid X has an 8-megapixel camera that's capable of capturing 720p HD video. In addition, the smartphone has a three-mic system for capturing the best audio for the situation. This option is available in camcorder mode under Scenes, and you have four choices: Everyday for capturing audio from all directions; Outdoors to reduce wind noise; Narrative for when you're, well, narrating a scene; and Subject to capture audio from the person you are filming--can't say we've seen this on any other camera phone. The camcorder, as well as the camera, also offers effects, face detection, dual-LED flash, autofocus, and digital zoom. The one thing you don't get is a front-facing camera like on the Evo 4G, but Motorola has said it will add this feature in future devices.

The Droid X has 8GB of onboard memory and ships with a 16GB microSD card, but the expansion slot supports up to 32GB cards, so you can essentially have 40GB of storage. You can share photos and videos through the usual avenues--e-mail, multimedia message, Bluetooth, Facebook, and so forth--but you can also display content on your HDTV via HDMI output or through a Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)-compatible device. If you're not familiar with it, DLNA is a standard that makes it easier to move content, like movies, photos, and music, from device to device. Since the Droid X supports this technology, you can stream media from your phone to other DLNA-compliant tech, like the Xbox 360, without having to go through a whole setup process. You can find a list of DLNA-certified products here.

In addition to an HDMI port, you can also share content from the Droid X to other devices via DLNA.

Moving away from the multimedia and back to some of the core functions of the smartphone, the Droid X supports Gmail, and POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, and it offers native Microsoft Exchange synchronization out of the box for e-mail, calendar, and contacts with access to global lookup. Corporate users will also be glad to know that the Droid X has security protocols for remote password control and wipe. Gmail aside, you can view your various e-mail accounts in a unified in-box or choose to keep them separate.

Voice features include a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calling, Skype Mobile, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, and integrated Wi-Fi are also onboard, and the Droid X can be used a mobile hot spot for up to five devices. To use this feature, you will need to sign up for the Mobile Broadband plan, which costs an additional $20 per month and has a 2GB data cap. If you go over, you will be charged 5 cents per MB in overage fees. By comparison, Sprint's mobile hot spot plan for the Evo 4G costs $29.99 per month, but there is no data cap. Still, it's a much-wanted feature, and we're sure road warriors and mobile professional will make good use of it.

We used the Droid X as a hot spot for a number of devices, including a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 and a MacBook Pro, and measured download and upload speeds using Speedtest.net. We conducted tests throughout Manhattan and averaged download speeds of 1.75Mbps and upload speeds of 0.46Mbps. It was adequate for getting our work done, but we got kicked off the connection several times, which was frustrating.

We'll be putting the Motorola Droid through a battery of tests over the next few days, but we wanted to give you some initial impressions of the phone's performance. We tested the dual-band (800/1900; EVDO Rev. A) Motorola Droid X in New York using Verizon service, and call quality was great. Conversations on our end sounded mostly clear with just some slight background noise, but nothing too distracting. Our friends didn't complain about any background disruption or voice distortion and were quite happy. They didn't even notice when we switched over to speakerphone, but we noticed a hollowness to speakerphone calls. The good news is that there's plenty of volume to hold conversations in louder environments.

Verizon's 3G network provided mostly reliable coverage through Manhattan, though there were a couple of times it dropped to 1xRTT. With 3G, CNET's full site loaded in 30 seconds; CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 5 seconds and 10 seconds, respectively. We also streamed some clips from YouTube and V Cast Video. Videos loaded in just a couple of seconds and played back continuously with synchronized audio and picture. The video quality was a little murky, as expected, but our own MP4 videos looked fantastic on the Droid X's display.

As for the Droid X's 8-megapixel camera, picture quality was a bit mixed. Despite having autofocus, we weren't always able to get a clear shot, and it doesn't help that there's a bit of shutter lag. With a little patience, you can get some nice pictures, and the flash did a great job of capturing images in darker rooms. Outdoor shots also looked good. Given the limited time with the device, we weren't able to fully explore the HD-video-recording capabilities, but we'll be roaming around the city to capture video and test out the three-mic system. For a camera phone, the recorded HD video looked great. The picture was clear, even action sequences, which often tend to get murky or pixelated. We also tried a couple of the mic settings--Outdoors and Narrative--and noticed a subtle difference in the audio, but nothing dramatic. Still, we appreciate that Motorola even thought to make this a feature.

The picture quality was a bit mixed; sometimes we got great shots and sometimes we got blurry shots like this.

The Droid X has a 1GHz TI OMAP processor, and the phone has been quite responsive. It's not quite as lightning-fast as the Droid Incredible, but we were able to open multiple apps with little delay. There were a couple of instances, however, when we returned to the home screen and the background went completely black before returning to normal, so we'll keep an eye out for that as we continue testing.

The Droid X comes with a 1,540mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 9 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Droid X impressed us with 7.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. Standby time was also great, and the smartphone lasted at least a full day with moderate use. According to FCC radiation tests, the Droid X has a digital SAR rating of 1.43 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4/T3.


Motorola Droid X (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8
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