Motorola Droid X review: Everything you need to know

Motorola's new Droid X is like an oversized luxury vehicle. See how it stacks up from an enterprise perspective, and how it compares to the EVO and the iPhone.

Motorola helped launch the Android revolution with the original Droid in 2009 and it is attempting to recapture the magic with the new Droid X, a full-featured smartphone in a big package. If the HTC EVO 4G is the Hummer of smartphones, then the Droid X is the Cadillac Escalade, a massively-oversized luxury product. See how the Droid X stacks up from an enterprise perspective, and how it compares to the EVO and the iPhone.

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  • Carrier: Verizon Wireless
  • OS: Android 2.1 with Moto Blur
  • Processor: 1 GHz TI OMAP 3630
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 8GB on-board plus 16GB microSD card (replaceable, up to 32GB)
  • Display: 4.3-inch WVGA TFT with 854x480 resolution
  • Battery: Lithium-ion with 1540 mAh capacity
  • Ports: Micro-USB, Micro HDMI
  • Weight: 5.4 ounces
  • Dimensions: 5.0(h) x 2.6(w) x 0.4(d) inches
  • Camera: 8 MP with dual LED flash, digital zoom, auto-focus, and video capture
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, compass, proximity, light sensor, and dual microphone noise reduction
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY keyboard only
  • Networks: CDMA 800/1900MHz, EVDO Rev. A; Wi-Fi 802.11bgn; DLNA; Bluetooth 2.1
  • Tethering: USB and Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Price: $199 (with 2-year contract); available July 15, 2010

Photo gallery

Motorola Droid X: The Cadillac Escalade of smartphones

Who is it for?

For those who have iPhone 4 envy or HTC EVO 4G envy, but want to use the Verizon Wireless network in the U.S., the Motorola Droid X is now the most powerful smartphone available on Verizon. This phone will appeal to many IT professionals because of the Android open source OS, the open platform for building applications, the ability to connect to IT backend systems, and Motorola's long reputation for producing quality enterprise products.

The Droid X will also appeal to business professionals in general because of its broad email, calendar, and third party app support.  It will especially appeal to those who are avoiding the iPhone because of Apple and/or AT&T, but want a high-end smartphone that can do most of the same functions.

What problems does it solve?

It's hard to believe it was just nine months ago that the original Motorola Droid debuted on Verizon Wireless and changed the smartphone game. It was the first device to run Android 2.0 and Verizon put some Apple-like marketing behind it. As a result, it was the phone that launched the Android revolution, which has been putting intense pressure on iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile ever since.

But, less than three months after the original Droid launched, Google launched its own Android phone, the Nexus One, which raised the bar on the Android platform. Then Verizon launched the HTC Incredible (similar to the Nexus One) and Sprint raised the bar again with the full-featured HTC EVO 4G. All of a sudden, the original Droid started to look a bit outdated in light of the rapid development of the new Android devices (not to mention the newly-released iPhone 4). The Droid X is Motorola's attempt to recapture some of the momentum and bring the Moto Droid back up to speed with the top devices in the smartphone market.

Top features

  • Enterprise-class hardware - Motorola has a long history of building industrial-strength, enterprise-class wireless devices for field workers in various industries, including retail, manufacturing, transportation, and health care. You can see that legacy in some of its mobile phones, and the Droid X is good example of it. The build quality is very solid and the device has a very substantial feel to it. It does not feel cheap and plasticy like many of today's smartphones. Instead, it feels like you could drop it and it would take a pretty good beating. This is always an important consideration for business devices since they typically need to stand up to heavy use on a daily basis.
  • Robust feature list - The Droid X is loaded with high-end features, including a 4.3-inch screen, 1 GHz CPU, dual noise-cancelling microphones, 3G mobile hotspot, 720p HD recording and playback, Micro HDMI port, 24 GB of storage, and much more. It's not quite as loaded as the HTC EVO 4G, but it's the next best thing.
  • Battery life - One of the best features of the original Droid was that it boasted some of the best battery life for a high-end 3G smartphone. The Droid X continues that tradition. In my tests, the Droid X had significantly better battery life than the EVO or the iPhone 4 (with push email turned on). On a full charge, the Droid X can actually make it through a full business day under heavy use - something that can't be said of the EVO or the iPhone, in most cases.
  • Call quality - Some people still need to use their cell phones to make a lot of traditional voice calls, and for those people, the Droid X is a great choice. I know multiple people who are heavy callers who tried to use the iPhone as their primary business phone and eventually had to either switch to another smartphone or get a second (non-smartphone) cell that they use solely as a phone, because of the poor reception and dropped calls on the iPhone. The Droid X has two things going for it in the voice call department: 1.) It's on a CDMA network (Verizon), which has better call quality than GSM (used by AT&T and T-Mobile), and 2.) It has not just one, but two, noise-cancelling microphones, in order to send high quality audio to the people you're calling.

What's wrong?

  • Oversized - Like the EVO, the Droid X is huge. People with small hands or not much room in their pockets will be alarmed at how large this device is and may not be able to carry or use it as easily as smaller devices like a BlackBerry or the iPhone or the LG Ally (a smaller Android device on Verizon). Of course, the larger screen on the Droid X also makes it easier to type on, and the large text is easier on the eyes for those who have trouble reading small type.
  • Second-class software - Motorola is new to the smartphone software arena and it shows on the Droid X in the interface tweaks that Motorola made to Android and the MotoBlur widgets that come with the Droid X. It's clear that HTC is several steps ahead of Motorola in Android customization, as the HTC EVO and HTC Incredible have much better interface tweaks and widgets. But, at least Motorola didn't give the Droid X the full version of MotoBlur, which is the software that it layered on top of Android devices such as the Cliq, Devour, and Backflip, and which have crippled those devices and made them difficult to update to the latest versions of Android. Also, Motorola promised that the Droid X will be upgradeable to the new Android 2.2 later this year.
  • Camera deficiencies - The Droid X comes with an 8 megapixel camera, which sounds impressive, but megapixels are not the only factor that determine camera quality and having lots of megapixels can actually be a detriment in some cases. The quality of the camera's sensor is a major factor. For example, here's a comparison of the Droid X camera to the iPhone 4 camera. The iPhone 4 is only 5 MP, but it consistently takes better photos than the Droid X. Part of this may be due to the fact that the Droid X has a physical camera button to tap to take a picture, as opposed to the iPhone and the EVO, which both have on-screen buttons that make it easier to hold the camera still. The Droid X also has one other camera deficiency when compared to the iPhone 4 and EVO - no front-facing camera.

Bottom line for business

The Droid X does not have quite as many flashy features or polished widgets as the HTC EVO 4G and it's not nearly as attractive or easy to use as the iPhone 4, but for hard-core business users and IT professionals, it has a lot going for it in the areas that count. If you care about hardware quality, battery life, and making phone calls, you won't find a better high-end smartphone than the Droid X.

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Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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