Droid X Review

The Droid X is one of Motorola’s successors to the incredibly popular Droid phone. The Droid branding has been used by Verizon (the sole licenser of the name) on a number of phones, but the original Droid was one of the most popular Android phones on the market. The Droid was a great phone in its time (though I wasn’t a huge fan of it), but not long after its release better hardware came out that made it underpowered. Custom ROMs and overclocking apps helped make the phone more viable and Motorola is still supporting it, but it’s one of the weaker popular Android smartphones right now.

This brings us to the Droid X. While the Droid 2 is being pushed as the true successor to the Droid 1, the internal specs of both phones are identical, 512MB of system memory, a 1GHz TI CPU, the same 854×480 resolution. The big differences between the phones lie in the screen and keyboard. The X has a large 4.4” FWVGA screen while the D2 has 3.7” screen and a physical keyboard. The D2 also has a weaker camera, 5MP versus the X’s 8. Now this review isn’t a comparison of the two phones because I’ve never used the D2, but I do own the X and have been using it since it came out. So let’s get to that review shall we?

The Good

The screen: There is a big argument on what the best screen for a phone is and right now my vote is going towards the FWVGA style because you can actually see it in direct sunlight. While AMOLED screens and especially Samsung’s incredible Super AMOLED screen, are technically the most superior displays on the market they have a problem with being viewed in direct sunlight. While some AMOLED screens do a better job than others that is their one major weakness.

AMOLED screens are brighter and do have more vibrant colors, but I find myself using my phone most often outside in direct sunlight so the X’s screen is great for me. On top of that I love how big the X’s screen is. I don’t like small screens on anything. It’s one of the reasons I can’t stand netbooks. The 4.4” screen does make the X a large phone, but it’s very clear and responsive. Watching a video or reading an e-book (something I used to be vehemently against) is a pleasure. Web pages look good and games are clear. The screen is a major reason for the X being the only cell phone that I have ever liked.

Battery life: One major problem smart phones face is battery life. Android phones are particularly horrible with it. However, the X has a very good battery life. I find myself charging it about once or twice a week depending on my usage. Obviously things like tethering (hurray for rooting) use up a lot more battery life than looking on the web or making a phone call.

I have the phone set to high brightness and for the screen to never turn off unless I tell it to; I also have WiFi enabled whenever I’m at home. My usage tends to eat up battery life a lot more than the battery conscious user. The leaked 2.2 update seems to have further increased the battery life of the phone as well, but I haven’t done extensive testing on that.

The Camera: One simple fact of life is that cameras on cell phones suck. They can push however many megapixels that they want onto the phones, but it doesn’t mean the camera will be good. The X doesn’t suddenly change that fact, but it does do a little to push it aside. My 10MP digital camera takes far superior pictures, but it doesn’t record good quality 720p video or have dual-flash.

The camera itself is alright. I don’t have the right set up to fully test it as the lighting in my apartment is crap and its near impossible to get good lighting outside around here. The camcorder part of the camera, however, impressed me. If you watched my Starcraft II CE unboxing you can tell how good it is. Obviously it’s nowhere near the quality of a real camcorder, but for a phone it is very impressive. I expected it to be a lot more grainy and poor than it ended up being.

The Bad

Bloatware how I hate you: While I wasn’t a big fan of the original Droid one thing I loved about it was the lack of crapware on it from Verizon or Motorola. The X isn’t as bad as some phones, but it could be a lot better. Crapware like a Blockbuster app, some really poor Motorola designed social networking apps, and Ninjablur make using the phone more annoying than it should be. Ninjablur is what people have taken to calling Motorola’s new version of Motoblur.

It is much better than older versions, but it is still crapware. The only good custom UI for Android phones is HTC’s SenseUI and even that is no longer needed. The stock Android UI does everything perfectly fine these days. Any version 2.0 and up no longer needs help from custom crap. Google’s Twitter app is very good; Motorola’s twitter app is clunky and annoying. Ignoring Ninjablur for the moment, Verizon loads their CityID app on the phone. Great Verizon load on an app that is going to cause people to accidentally pay you more money on their bill because it will automatically charge you after the 14 day trial is over.

Encypted bootloader: Android is an open source OS. One of Google’s biggest selling points of the OS is customization. Manufactures don’t like this. Motorola has taken to stopping people from loading custom ROMs to get rid of its crapware and tried to make it hard to root the phone. So that’s going against everything Android is supposed to stand for.

We shouldn’t have to deal with locked down UIs. If I wanted to deal with that crap I’d buy a bloody iPhone. Thankfully the wonderful Android modding community has been working night and day on cracking the bootloader and with any luck it won’t be much longer before we can actually use the phone properly. Rooting has been possible for a little while now and that has helped a lot allowing the use of root only apps like TitaniumBackup.

Conclusion

So the X is a mix of some really good hardware features and some very annoying crap put on by Verizon and Motorola. The crapware and locked bootloader will not prevent me from recommending the phone. I really like it and can’t wait for further developments from the dedicated development community. I’m never without something to do on the phone and have yet to find a time where I can’t find an app to do something I need.

So if you are in the market for a new Android phone on Verizon and are looking for something with a big screen, keep the X on your short list. If you want a smaller screen, look into the D2 or HTC’s Incredible. There is also Samsung’s Galaxy S variant on Verizon as well. The Android smart phone market is becoming very competitive right now so there are a lot of good options for anyone in the market for one. With the phones selling at the rate of 200k a day it is only going to get better.

Droid X Review by Derangel