Thursday, January 8, 2015

Verizon Droid Turbo from Motorola (Review)



The Verizon Droid series. Many would say its how Android got its start. They would be right to a certain degree, as it is the series that brought Android out into the public eye with the original Motorola Droid in October 2009. With a 3.5 inch screen and a sliding keyboard, both of which are pretty much unheard of these days, it was the must have in Android for its time. There have been many iterations of a "Droid" phone, many times there were more than one released in a single year. I couldn't begin to name them all, but I think you're starting to understand my point that it all pretty much started with "Droid". (Queue the robotic voice in your head from those early commercials "DROOOIIIIID".)

The newest to the Droid family is the Motorola Droid Turbo, unlike its predecessors, the Droid Turbo was built with top of the line...everything: Battery, display, processor, software. If you name the spec, and this puppy probably has the latest and greatest. Verizon and Motorola really put everything on the line with their partnership phone this year. Thanks to my friends at Verizon Wireless, I was able to take this baby on a test drive for two weeks and I'm prepared to address all the hardware and software concerns. Leave me a question in the comments if I accidentally leave anything out.


The Hardware
The Verizon Droid lineup as a whole has attempted to make a name for itself by having an "indestructible" build quality by adding "kevlar" to its outer shell. But while no smartphone is literally indestructible, the Droid Turbo is, metaphorically speaking, built like a tank. Motorola has pulled out all the stops, and the specs on this phone are top notch. From the screen on the outside to the processor on the inside, the Motorola Droid Turbo is, to this date, the best of all available hardware specifications. 

Beginning with the inside, the Droid Turbo is sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad Core Processor. It is one of only 4 smartphones in 2014 to have this highest rated consumer ready processor. (The others being the Motorola Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and Samsung Galaxy Note Edge.) Adding to the spec sheet, Motorola has incorporated 3GB of RAM and two storage options; 32GB and 64GB. However, the Droid Turbo does not support an SD card of any size. 

4% to 92% after 1 hour and 40 minutes on the Turbo Charger

The Droid turbo undoubtedly got its name due to the large battery and the quick "Turbo" charging capabilities. The 3,900 mAh battery is rated (and tested I presume) to last up to 48 hours of usage, and 675 hours of standby time. Real world usage, however, tells a different story. With 10 days of statistics and regular usage of 3.5 to 4+ hours, I was able to get an average of 24.5 hours of battery life from a single charge. Now, while that is nowhere near the advertised value, I would attest that 3.5 to 4+ hours of usage is nowhere near average. 24 hours in a single charge is nothing to shake a stick at. In fact, I'd love to not have to worry about my day outlasting my battery.


The Qualcomm SnapDragon 805 processor is the part that allows for the Turbo charging capability to be possible, and this phone comes with the Turbo Charger in the box. Purchased separately, it will run you about $35 from Motorola directly. I tested this out a few times for both short and long durations. On short charges (15 minutes), I was able to get 1% for every minute. On longer charges however, (an hour and a half) it wasn't as generous. In an hour and a half it charged from 5% to 88% and 90%  respectively on two separate tests. Typically, to get a full charge on other phones it would take at least a good couple of hours. Long enough, in fact, I've never timed it. To be able to get that much more duration from the battery in such a short time is a definite win.

Making our way around the edges of the Droid Turbo, you will find the headphone jack across the top, a smooth left side, nothing but a micro USB 2.0 port across the bottom, and both power and volume buttons along the right. The volume buttons cleverly hide the sim card tray. You can gently pry the plastic volume buttons from underneath and them pull the sim card tray out to reveal the nano size sim card.

Sporting a 2560x1440 resolution, the Droid Turbo is 1 of 6 mainstream smartphones with a Quad HD display. Yes, there are others around the world, but in the US, it is limited to just 6 options. Quad HD (or 2K resolution) is "the next best thing" in screen quality. Last year the droid line sported a 720p and got lots of flack for it. This year it jumped right over 1080p to 1440p. Huge leap considering how much research and reasoning Motorola put into the choice of 720p for last year's Droid line. The screen comes in at 5.2 inches and is a beautiful Super Amoled display. Love it or hate it, the Droid Turbo sports three capacitive buttons across the bottom of the display as opposed to on-screen navigation buttons. As to be expected the three are back, home, and recent apps and in that order from left to right.


One of my favorite features about the Droid Turbo is the Waterproof Repellent Nanocoating. It isn't water proof such as the Sony Xperia Z3 or the Samsung Galaxy S5. It is only rated to be water repellent.  Getting caught in the rain or even a storm will not slow down this beast. But honestly, I can't understand who or why people want to submerge their phones in pools, lakes, bathtubs, oceans, or any other body of water for the matter. I just want my phone to survive the drop in a tank of the porcelain kind.



The Software
I just finished my review of the New Moto X (2nd Gen) from Motorola and the software features and most all of it is exactly the same between these two phones. Differences being Verizon renamed certain apps by replacing "Moto" with "Droid". SADN: Same App Different Name. All the great Moto features and all the great Android features included in both. Please review the Moto X 2nd gen review for all the in depth information.

The Droid Turbo is shipping with Android 4.4.4 KitKat which was the latest version of Android at the time of its announcement. But before its actual release on October 30, 2014, Google had announced the newest version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. There is no known ETA for Lollipop on the Droid Turbo.


The Camera
The Motorola Droid Turbo packs the largest megapixel camera to date on any Motorola smartphone, all big, fat, whopping 21 of them. Pairing the large MP camera with the 2K quad HD resolution display was a wise decision. The camera software is minimal and very easy to use. Swiping in from the left brings you settings such as HDR (on/off/auto), flash (on/off/auto), tap to focus (on/off), video recording (HD 1080p/SloMo 720p/Ultra HD 4K), panorama, location tagging, resolution (Widescreen 15.5MP 16:9 / Standard 21MP, 4:3), shutter tone (on/off), and lastly Quick Capture (on/off).

Let me take a moment to remind you about Quick Capture. This is one of the best camera features I've ever seen. With Quick Capture turned on, all you have to do to activate the camera is hold the phone horizontally in your hand and twist twice, as if turning a doorknob and twisting a screwdriver. The phone will vibrate to acknowledge the command and the camera will activate. It will do this from sleep mode (power on but screen off) or while the phone is awake (power on & screen on). Here is my performance of Quick Capture on the 1st gen Moto X.


With packing in 21 megapixels of high quality goodness, you have to expect some beautiful and clear pictures, right? And in the right conditions, that is exactly what you are going to get. HDR is a huge benefactor towards the high quality portraits. Althgouh, it does increase the capture by a few seconds. Without HDR the pictures are clean and clear. With HDR they are crisp and vibrant. Low light photos didn't favor so well. You are going to need the flash for sure in that scenario. Here are some sample pics. The front facing 2MP camera is a bit of a disappointment. Very grainy and very obvious when viewing on the 1440p display. I've added a few captions to help understand the conditions of each of the sample below.

no HDR no flash full sun
no HDR no flash inside
HDR no flash full sun
HDR no flash
low light no flash
low light with flash
low light no flash
HDR in full sun
front camera 2.0 MP
The video quality is better than to be expected as it records in either 1080p or 4K. I do not own a 4K monitor or TV to test those results, however, the playback on the quad HD phone was beautiful. There is also a slow motion option which will record 720p resolution.

video
I cannot explain the actions in this video. Please do not ask me to. :)

Availability
The Droid Turbo is only available from one carrier, Verizon, as to be expected as Droid is a Verizon line of phone. However, it can be purchased from other merchants such as Best Buy who can help you upgrade and buy a new line of service with Verizon. Your color options are Metallic Black, Metallic Red, and Ballistic Black Nylon. The Metallic colors are only available with 32GB of storage while the Ballistic Nylon is either 32GB or 64GB. (Note: although it's not available on Verizon Wireless.com as of this publishing, I've witnessed a 64GB version of the metallic colors.) The Droid Turbo does not support micro SD cards so choose wisely if you need extra room for music, movies, or pictures, but keep in mind the 64GB will run you an extra $50. Best Buy also has an exclusive in this game, a blue version of the Ballistic Nylon, but it is only available with 32 GB of storage.

Contract pricing for this phone will start at $199 for 2 years for the 32GB version and jump to $249 for the 64GB version. There is no difference in price for color or location that you buy from.


Final Thoughts
Overall, the Verizon Droid Turbo built by Motorola is probably the best "Droid" phone to date.

(BaldyPal's pet peeve: DROID does not equal ANDROID. Droid is a line of phones from Verizon. Android is an operating system for mobile technology).

Probably the one thing keeping me from buying this phone and making it my personal device is that it has capacitive buttons and not on-screen navigation buttons. I'm a huge fan of on-screen. I don't agree with the argument of some analysts that it uses up screen real estate, because in my experience the buttons disappear when they are not needed. Also the homescreen does not get another row of icon space when they are capacitive or hardware buttons (such as Samsung Galaxy line). 

Putting that aside, because the phone functions flawlessly despite the button placement, it doesn't meet the advertised 48 hour battery life, but it does get at least 24 hours even under the toughest pressure. It does have a beautiful 5.2 inch quad HD display, but it also shows an ever so slightly pink hues on white. It doesn't have pictures as clear as Samsung or LG, but it does get beautiful pictures under the right conditions that you can blow up and frame to place on a coffee table or fireplace.

For every negative opinion about the Droid Turbo, there is a counter opinion somewhere else. Personally, I like Motorola's software. More so than any other manufacturer's software. And it's because it is clean and it works and the user experience does not suffer. It adds useful functions to an already functional piece of technology. Useful being the keyword, as opposed to gimmicky. I recommend a Droid Turbo for anyone who may be athletic because it can take a hit and also because you can get caught in the rain. I recommend it to anyone who works outside or on the road and can't get to a wall plug easily. I can also recommend it to anyone who wants the latest and greatest in specs because it's of the highest quality and future proof.


How about you? Have you had a chance to own or try out the Verizon Droid Turbo from Motorola? Does it hold up to your expectations? Let me know your thoughts on the Turbo in the comments below. If you ask a question, I'll make sure to respond as promptly as possible.

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