The Motorola Droid X was one of Verizon's top Android phones last year, but like the HTC Droid Incredible, its star is starting to fade as newer, faster models enter the market. Rather than retiring it completely, Motorola and Verizon decided to build on a winning formula by introducing the Droid X2. Available online now and in stores on May 26 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, the Droid X2 improves on its predecessor with a dual-core processor and a higher-quality display. The companies stopped short of adding 4G support and other hardware improvements like a front-facing camera, which is disappointing, but does that make the Motorola Droid X2 completely undesirable? Read on for our take.
If you were to put the Motorola Droid X2 and the Droid X side by side, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two; they have nearly identical designs. The X2 is the same size and weight as the X at 5.02 inches tall by 2.58 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick and 5.47 ounces. It's a good chunk of hardware to hold and carry, and the bump on the top back adds some extra bulk. That said, we don't think the phone is any more cumbersome than the other 4.3-inch touch-screen models out there, such as the HTC ThunderBolt and the Samsung Droid Charge. Plus, we like the sturdy construction and soft-touch finish of the Droid X2.
Though there isn't much change to the overall appearance of the phone, Motorola did upgrade the Droid X2's display from a WVGA (480x854-pixel resolution) touch screen to a qHD (540x960-pixel resolution) display. It's a very crisp and clean-looking screen, but as we explain in this smartphone screen primer, the pixels are spread out on a larger screen and have two rather than three subpixels per pixel, so it's not as sharp or smooth as the iPhone's Retina Display or Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus touch screens.
Still, it's clear and bright, so we had no problems reading text. The spacious screen is great for viewing Web pages and videos, and the onscreen keyboard is easy to use, whether you choose Swype or Moto's own keyboard. The touch screen was responsive; apps launched as we tapped them and we were able to scroll through lists smoothly. The display also offers pinch-to-zoom support, as well as a built-in proximity sensor and accelerometer.
There are four physical buttons below the display: menu, home, back, and search. On top of the device are the 3.5mm headphone jack and power button. The left spine houses the Micro-USB and HDMI ports, while the right side features the volume rocker. Disappointingly, Motorola removed the dedicated camera key that was on the original Droid X, so you'll have to use the touch screen to capture your photos. The camera is located on back with a dual-LED flash, and though you can see a front-facing camera above the display on the right side, it's not activated for video calls or self-portraits.
The Motorola Droid X2 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 8GB MicroSD card, and reference material.
Software and user interface
The Motorola Droid X2 ships running Android 2.2.2, but it will be upgraded to Gingerbread in the future. This means you'll have to wait to get such benefits as a multitouch virtual keyboard, but out of the box the smartphone still offers access to Google's mobile services, including Gmail, Google Maps Navigation, and YouTube, and the other features of
Like Motorola's other smartphones, the Droid X2 uses the company's Motoblur software, but previous Droid X owners will notice some new enhancements to the custom UI. For example, pressing the Home button twice now brings up a thumbnail view of all seven home screens (a la HTC's Leap screen feature) so you can easily jump between them, and each home screen has four static buttons (phone, camera, messages, and apps) at the bottom. Also, on the applications page there's a toolbar at the top of the screen that provides shortcuts to your recent and downloaded apps and the Android Market, as well as the option to create groups of apps.
Out of all the custom Android skins, Motoblur definitely isn't our favorite UI, since it's kludgier than others. That said, we found these additions to be useful, and you can always choose to minimize the number of Moto widgets you use.
Other software and apps preloaded on the Droid X2 include the Quickoffice suite, the Amazon Kindle app for Android, Skype Mobile, Slacker, and various Verizon services, such as V Cast Music and Video and VZ Navigator. You can remove some but not all of the preloaded apps, and Verizon allows non-Market app downloads, which you can store on the device's internal memory or on a memory card.
The most exciting addition to the Motorola Droid X2 is the dual-core processor. Equipped with Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset, which includes dual 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores and an ultralow-power GeForce GPU graphics processor, the smartphone offers faster performance, quicker browsing, and better gaming graphics. Indeed, the Droid X2 is snappy, launching apps and moving between menus a hair faster than a single-core device can.
However, it's really in the areas of browsing and gameplay that you see the benefits of the dual-core processor. We found the smartphone loaded both Web pages and games faster than its predecessor and had no trouble handling Flash content, such as videos from CNET's Web site, or 3D games. The smooth performance made playing such games as Gun Bros and Need For Speed Shift a blast.
Now, the Droid X2 would be the ultimate smartphone if it added Verizon's zippy LTE data speeds to the mix, but unfortunately the handset is 3G-only, so those wanting 4G should look elsewhere. If you can live without 4G, however, the X2 can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices with the activation of a Mobile Broadband plan ($20 per month with 2GB data cap; 5 cents per MB overage fees). It also features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Other voice features include a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calling, Skype Mobile, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view.
Like the Droid X, the X2 has an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, but Motorola claims it now delivers 44 percent faster shot-to-shot performance than its predecessor. We did notice reduced shutter lag when taking photos in well-lit rooms and outdoors, but there was still a bit of a delay with nighttime shots. Picture quality definitely could be better. We could make out the objects in the photos, but they looked a bit soft and there was a pinkish tint to the pictures that were taken in dimmer environments. We did appreciate the new photo gallery, which provides access to your various photo libraries (camera roll, online albums) and also incorporates Facebook albums and uploads.
As for video, though Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor brings support for full HD 1080p video recording and playback via HDMI, the Droid X2 is only capable of the latter. With the built-in HDMI Mirror Mode, you can view photos and movies in 1080p on your HDTV (note: an HDMI cable is not included with the phone), but for now, the camera can only record 720p HD video. We asked Verizon if 1080p HD video recording would be added in the future as with the Motorola Atrix 4G, but the carrier had not gotten back to us at the time of this writing. Video quality was quite decent, with minimal pixelation. The zooming feature, however, can be quite jerky. The smartphone offers 8GB of internal memory and comes with an 8GB MicroSD card, though the expansion slot can accept up to 32GB cards.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Motorola Droid X2 in New York using Verizon service and call quality was mostly good. On our end, we generally enjoyed clean sound with little-to-no background noise. Voices sounded natural and without any kind of distortion, but there were a couple of occasions when the audio briefly cut in and out. Friends also gave positive feedback, commenting on the clear call quality and lack of any miscellaneous noise.
Motorola Droid X2 call quality sample Listen now:
We were also impressed with the speakerphone quality. Calls sounded rich and clear, without any of the hollowness or tinniness we've often experienced with speakerphones. In addition, there was enough volume to have conversations in a noisier environment, though the audio can sound a bit blown-out at the highest level. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problem making calls or listening to music.
Obviously, we would have liked to have seen 4G support on the new Droid X2, but Verizon's 3G network still provided reliable and speedy data speeds. CNET's full page, with Flash content, loaded in 17 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 6 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively. High-quality YouTube videos loaded within several seconds, and played back continuously.
The Motorola Droid X2 ships with a 1,540mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 9 days of standby time. The Droid X2 delivered an impressive 8 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests, and we also experienced great battery life during our day-to-day usage. With moderate-to-heavy use that included Web browsing, checking e-mail, and playing games, we were able to get a little over a full day's use out of a single charge, which is better than most touch-screen smartphones. According to FCC radiation tests, the Droid X2 has a digital SAR rating of 0.74W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4/T3.
To be honest, we were pretty disappointed when we first heard about the Motorola Droid X2. The lack of 4G and some hardware features--such as a front-facing camera--didn't exactly have us jumping out of our seats. However, after spending a few days with the smartphone, we have come to appreciate what it does offer. Sure, those craving 4G data speeds (or Droid X users who were hoping for more) might shun the device, and if you fall into that camp, we recommend taking a look at the HTC ThunderBolt or the Samsung Droid Charge or holding out for the Motorola Droid Bionic. However, if you're fine without 4G, the Droid X2 currently ranks up there as one of Verizon's best smartphones and will reward you with fast performance and good battery life.