Motorola DROID X2 review

The Motorola DROID X was one of the most powerful handsets to hit Verizon Wireless. It’s only fitting that the big boss of Android phones would get upgraded at some point, right? The Motorola DROID X2 ups the DROID X in almost every way possible. Instead of a single core 1GHz CPU, the DROID X2 features a dual-core 1GHz processor. The display has been upgraded from a baseline screen to a qHD display, and software customizations and enhancements have been made as well. Did one of my favorite Android handsets get even better? Hit the full review after the break to find out.

Hardware / Display

The Motorola DROID X2 is very competitive in the specs department. It’s powered by a dual-core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 CPU, Android 2.2, it has 512MB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p HD video, 8GB of built-in storage, and the usual Android accouterments like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, and an accelerometer.

If you’ve used the original Motorola DROID X, the X2′s hardware is practically the same as the original. Though the DROID X2 is a tad bit darker than the previous iteration, it uses the same metal casing with a soft touch finish. Unfortunately there was one thing removed from the first DROID X and that’s the camera button, which many people will miss. On the flip side though, the DROID X2 features an HDMI-out port positioned right next to the microUSB port, something that I think hints at accessories that the DROID X2 can dock into, possibly like the Motorola ATRIX’s laptop and multimedia docks.

The four Android buttons at the bottom of the display on the D2 bother me immensely. Aside from being narrow, if you don’t hit them perfectly right on, your key presses won’t register and it’s annoying. I would definitely have preferred touch-sensitive keys over the physical buttons.

The display is good, and it looks like the same exact display used in the Motorola ATRIX. The resolution is there, but unfortunately the screen looks pixelated to me despite bumping up the original model’s 480 x 854-pixel resolution to 540 x 960. Colors, however, are accurately displayed and the qHD screen on the Motorola DROID X2 is bright and vivid. The resolution is close to the Retina Display on the iPhone 4, and while that looks great on paper, once you’ve compared the two, well, there isn’t a comparison. Outdoor readability was very good on the DROID X2′s display, though, and the 4.3-inch screen is great for web browsing and multimedia.

There are four physical buttons below the display, as mentioned above: menu, home, back, and search. On top of the device are the 3.5mm headphone jack and power button. The left side houses the microUSB and HDMI ports, while the right side features a volume rocker. The camera is located on back next to 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-portrait images just yet.

Software

Motorola’s BLUR UI has been ever so slightly updated on the DROID X2, and while there are some nice touches here and there, there’s one thing I just can’t move past: when you tap the application icon in the bottom app icon bar, the app drawer doesn’t immediately appear. It’s like Motorola’s design and UI team just forgot about one of the most important parts of your smartphone experience… accessing apps. While this isn’t a deal-breaker at all, it’s just another UI inconsistency that shows how little some Android manufacturers seem to value not just the user interface, but user enjoyment.

There are some enhancements that I do appreciate, however, like the ability to press the home button twice to show card views of all of your seven home screens (dear Android manufactures: seven home screens is excessive), and I like how the drop down notification window is now semi-transparent — it’s a nice touch, and it Smurfs up the phone pretty nicely.

Motorola’s BLUR UI on the DROID X2 actually seems to weigh pretty heavily on the dual-core processor, as it stutters occasionally which is something I haven’t seen on a Tegra 2 Android smartphone very much before. With the dual-core CPU comes support for HD video playback and recording, however, in addition to HDMI out. Much like the Motorola ATRIX, the DROID X2 can power full 1080p HD from a connected HDMI cable including mirroring which is impressive, and the playback on a 55-inch LED display was buttery smooth.

Phone / Battery

Using the DROID X2 as a phone, well, is just plain great. Reception is fantastic, callers on the other end of the phone sounded perfect, and even though speakerphone wasn’t as loud as I would have liked, it did the trick. Motorola’s noise cancellation works well, though it can make your voice sound a bit hollow in some settings, callers told me.

After spending more than a week with the Motorola DROID X2′s battery, it’s proved to be a solid handset that can go toe to toe with the latest Android handsets on the market. Motorola seems to have come close to perfecting battery optimization because the 1,540 mAh battery the device ships with performs extremely well. With moderately heavy sporadic usage, the DROID X2 can last up to three days under my reign of terror, and just in standby mode it should last nearly a week. With consistant heavy usage, I was also able to power through an entire day on the DROID X2, which a lot of other Android smartphones have trouble doing.

Conclusion

Here’s the thing… the Motorola DROID X was one of my favorite phones on Verizon Wireless when it was released. I usually don’t prefer larger displays on devices, but the DROID X made it work for me. It was fast, I actually liked a lot of Motorola’s customizations (especially the keyboard), the device was thin, and the phone was a keeper. On Motorola’s second go, though, the DROID X2 updates don’t do enough to push the new DROID into the limelight. Compared to other handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S II, the DROID X2 feels like it should be running a Weight Watchers app as it’s just too thick to be competitive in that department. And without 4G, there’s not much incentive to buy the new DROID. It’s a better phone than the first one and I really do like it a lot, but since the goal post has moved so much since last year, a simple refresh isn’t going to cut it. It’s not a bad phone by any means, but I would just hold off for at least a couple months and see what else Verizon offers in the same vein — I’m sure we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

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