The Droid X Review: Does It Kick Ass or Get Its Ass Kicked?

Why bring a pistol to a gun battle when you could bring a rocket launcher instead? That was the question on my mind before this year’s release of some impressively sized Android phones. It’s clear now that consumers desire just a little more ass kickage in the palm of their hands; the Motorola Droid X just so happens to be in mine. So does it deliver the explosive experience that you would expect? Let’s find out.

It might be difficult to believe, but I didn’t fully know what to expect after I had made my purchase of the Droid X. I had tinkered around with it at my local Verizon store, but I had some reservations. After my review of the HTC EVO 4G, I had become worried that the Droid X would be just a bit too big, especially when you had those oddly shaped contraptions around them in the Verizon stores that provided them power and security. But I bit the bullet.

Unfortunately, I had to wait because these things were still selling out months after its release. I took this as a good sign. So I was heavily anticipating its arrival. But when it finally arrived, even I was a bit surprised.

 

Form Factor & Design

The Droid X includes a TI OMAP3630 processor clocked at around 1 GHz, which offers superior clock-to-clock performance when compared to the Snapdragon processor included on the EVO 4G and other various Android smart phones (in other words, it’s one of the best available processors around in the 1 GHz range of processing). This means slowdown are rarely an issue when using the Droid X. It whizzes through menus and scrolls smoothly around web pages. The graphic performance is also admirable, as noted while playing Need for Speed: Shift for Android.

So it has kick-ass performance. That’s a good start!

The 4.3-inch TFT screen at 854 x 480 pixel resolution is beautiful, offering 25,920 more pixels than the EVO 4G (but still 204,480 less than the iPhone 4). I have compared it to the iPhone 4′s display, and while the iPhone 4 is superior, it certainly isn’t that noticeable to the typical consumer. It is worth noting that colors do seem to “pop” more on other devices than the Droid X (e.g., when compared to the Samsung Fascinate), but, again, I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with the display of the Droid X. It also performs well while outside with the sun glaring down at the screen.

So it has a kick-ass display. Great!

The overall size and feel of the Droid X is surprisingly good. The overall size and weight of the device feels just right, even more so than the EVO 4G; the Droid X weighs 5.5 ounces while the EVO 4G weighs 6.0 ounces. And while the Droid X does have a plastic-like feel to it, particularly with the physical buttons on the front, it feels incredibly well built. Another pleasing thing, to which you couldn’t understand unless you took many pictures or videos, is that the Droid X included a dedicated camera key. That makes me happy.

So it has a (mostly) kick-ass design. Can anything possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, the placement of the camera lens is less than ideal. I don’t know why exactly, but when I attempt to shoot pictures, the camera lens nearly always has smudges on it. This is because I hold the Droid X in a position where my fingers touch the camera lens while in landscape view. A quick wipe of the lens with my shirt always solves the issue, but at the expense of some great photo opportunities. It’s nothing too serious, but here’s to hoping that the next version’s camera will be positioned differently.

And, as you might already have seen from the pictures, there is a slight hump on the Droid X. It, too, is not a serious problem — in fact, I’ve noticed that some reviewers prefer to pull the phone out of their pocket using this hump — but it is noticeable.

Okay, so there were a few hiccups. The phone is still solid; it’s destroying the competition so far. However, when it comes to other elements of the phone, things get ugly.

 

Software & Functionality

In terms of software and functionality, the Droid is — well, it’s complicated. There are some serious issues.

One of them is the camera. The Droid X has an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash. For the most part, it takes good photos. However, many of the photos I have taken have come out blurry: sometimes it is because of an unsteady hand, other times it is because the camera has smudges on it, and a minority of the time it seems that the camera simply has trouble focusing. It also doesn’t help that the preview picture displayed just after taking the photo is always of incredibly low quality (I have yet to find an option to change this, if possible). And when it comes to indoor photos (especially those with the subject in motion), you can just forget about it. The HTC EVO 4G is far superior in most regards here.

Unfortunately, things don’t get any better on the software side. The picture gallery is, in a word, horrible. It looks like a poor attempt to mimic Apple’s Cover Flow. The gallery tends to display the oldest pictures first, which is particularly annoying while in landscape view, when you are forced to scroll through hundreds of photos to get to the end. It is also incredibly frustrating to select multiple photos while in landscape view. Sure, it can all be avoided by moving to portrait view, but I would think that Motorola could have done something a little more noteworthy with the gallery.

The rest of the Motorola experience is minimal. The interface — beyond the media gallery — works as advertised; I can appreciate its simplicity. I found myself enjoying Motorola’s contact widgets the most, as they allow you to easily add contacts on any of the seven screens for quick communication. However, beyond the GPS and WiFi system widgets and the contact widgets, I rarely take advantage of any of the other Motorola-specific features or widgets. The HTC Sense UI on the EVO 4G is, by far, superior to what is offered on the Droid X. It could be so much better.

And as far as the Android specifics are concerned, well, it’s Android — if you have ever experienced an Android device before, this device will be of no shock to you. Almost all of the software that you can experience on other phones is the same here. One thing that stood out, though, is that the Droid X comes with Swype pre-installed and set as the default method of entering text; this made me happy. It also comes with Google Search and Google Maps, unlike some of Verizon’s Android devices.

 

Summary

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I could appreciate the HTC EVO 4G more than the Droid X. There are few differences in the hardware front, but the differences in software and the HTC Sense UI is night and day. The HTC EVO 4G offers a better overall experience. The flip side, though, is that Verizon offers the superior network coverage, even without the 4G network support.

(That is really the only reason I own the Droid X. It is the only phone like it on the Verizon network. If Sprint had coverage where I lived, however, the HTC EVO 4G would be in my pocket.)

If you have a choice between Sprint and Verizon and are looking at the Droid X and EVO 4G, I’d recommend going with the HTC EVO 4G. It’s a more well-rounded experience. But if you are looking at Verizon exclusively — and you must have the larger form factor, like me — then the Droid X is the (only) answer.

In the end, the Droid X is not pretty. It’s more like the Incredible Hulk — an ugly beast with some serious power that grows on you over time and can still kick some ass. If you can forgive the underwhelming software experience, the hardware will eventually win you over. But if you are looking for a device with a great overall experience with a beautiful user interface — and size is not of any concern to you — then I would have to advise you to consider looking elsewhere.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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  • http://ctrl.lv Jaunzems

    Too bad that CDMA and Motorola isn’t available in Latvia… :( wanna get one