July 27, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
I can feel this for sure: I’ve been here before, as the lovely Teena Marie once sang. It was only a year ago that Motorola and Verizon turned heads with their Droid X, the first “spec beast” to challenge the EVO 4G from Sprint and HTC. The Droid X had a bold design, large screen, respectable camera, and enough strengths to keep users reaching for their pockets throughout the day.
So forgive me for sensing a hint of deja vu when clutching a Motorola Droid X2. The latest Droid X bears so much resemblance to last year’s model that it feels like a remix more than a sequel. The phone has the same hulking design that protrudes at the top, and it also runs a Motorola-flavored version of Android 2.3. So what is the motivation for re-issuing a new Droid X? Well the small changes are big changes.
The Droid X2 has some welcome core specs:
- 4.3-inch screen with a qHD resolution
- 8GB of internal storage and 512 MB RAM
- HDMI out port for connecting to a television
- 1540 mAh battery that provides a respectable charge (enough to get you through a day in my testing)
The Droid X2 looks to be the same as its predecessor, but the subtle differences have major effects. The biggest upgrade is the X2′s inclusion of an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor. I was very pleased with the processor that we’ve raved about for it’s speedy performance, ability to handle several tasks at once, and having graphic output powers that enticed several developers to create games with that specific processor in mind. Tegra 2 serves the Droid X2 as faithfully as it has other devices. The phone moves quickly when running applications and the gaming power is sound, evidenced by the foes from Samurai II who are sliced in incredible detail.
Motorola was wise to upgrade to a dual-core processor. Sadly, dual core on Verizon so far means no 4G LTE. Since Verizon first introduced its 4G network with the HTC Thunderbolt, all LTE-capable Verizon phones have been single-core. Anyone looking to have the best of both worlds will sadly have to wait longer.
They’ll also want to get use to the fact that dedicated camera button from the Droid X is not present on the Droid X2. That disappoints fans of quick-access camera hardware buttons, but more troubling is that there really isn’t any improvement made to the camera. Picture quality is average and video isn’t any more distinguishable. (Note: My X2 test device was pre-loaded with a cheap microSD card that had audio sync problems when filming in HD. When I replaced it with my usual SD card and recorded a video that I cannot share, it was fine.) The X2 won’t win you any Pulitzer prizes for photographer, but it will still be good enough. Here’s a look at what an 8MP camera with dual LED Flash gets you.
I have been a vocal critic of MOTOBLUR for as long as I can remember. On every device that I have tested running Motorola’s user interface, it felt as if Blur did more harm than good. The phones were prone to sluggishness that I suspect would be cured by stock Android, the graphic design choices were questionable, and some things felt like they were changed just for the sake of change.
The Droid X2 doesn’t suffer from all of those problems. Aside from slow wake times, I didn’t experience many issues with performance. The Tegra 2 processor is capable of running Blur smoothly, even if the X2 lacks the blistering speed found on other Tegra-equipped phones. The icon and widget designs are improved, though it’s still tough to shake my dislike for the design elements given my admitted bias.
There are some changes that I actually don’t mind in the X2. The launcher has a dock that provides quick access to three most commonly used apps – Phone, Camera, Messaging – and can be edited to include three apps of a user’s choosing. The app drawer also borrows from other popular launchers by letting users sort Recent apps and those that are downloaded. The Motorola widgets for things like Calendar, photos, and the integrated social network reader can also be resized, so it’s not all bad. To be honest, this is the least offensive incarnation of Blur that I’ve seen and, by gosh, I could actually see myself using this phone without pulling my hair out.
Software highlights include:
- DLNA streaming of media from the phone to a TV
- Gallery app that integrates locally-stored photos and images pulled in from linked social networks
- FM Player for listening to local radio
- Integration for Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Photobucket, Picasa, Twitter, and Yahoo
- Enterprise support for email and corporate sync
- Pre-loaded applications: Backup Assistant, Blockbuster, City Id, Let’s Golf 2, NFL Mobile, NFS Shift, V CAST Apps, VZ Navigator. (Golf, NFL, and NFS can be uninstalled.)
Like most Android phones, there’s definitely an audience for the Droid X2. Exactly who fits into that niche is tough to discern. The X2 lacks the 4G LTE radio to entice speed-hungry users, hardware keyboard purists will opt for the Droid 3, and there are more stylish options on Verizon than the irregularly-shaped Droid X. You’ll also notice that no front-facing camera was mentioned in this review, so people looking to video chat will have to look elsewhere.
The Droid X2 would have been an amazing phone if released 4 months ago; today, it is just a good phone. It has the power to do everything you need, a screen that performs very well in direct sunlight, and feels surprisingly light despite its girth. Combined with Verizon’s solid 3G network, I couldn’t fault anyone for walking into Big Red today and deciding that this is the phone for them. If 4G or video chat is not a concern, this could be your champion. For the rest of the smartphone-buying public, the X2 is a baby step towards the future.