Motorola Droid X Shows Promise: Review


Touted for its support for Adobe Flash 10.1, the Motorola’s Droid X smartphone will unfortunately lack that feature at launch

The latest Android phone, Motorola’s Droid X, delivers good multimedia playback and capture experience, network tethering capabilities, and solid connectivity and policy support for Exchange email infrastructures.

While I encountered a few problems with the device, particularly with the Wi-Fi implementation, those problems could be attributable to the prerelease version of the software on my test device.

I tested a Droid X running a prerelease version of Android 2.1. Although Motorola touts the device’s support for Adobe Flash 10.1, customers will find that Flash support won’t be present at the device’s launch. Instead, that feature won’t be added until an unspecified date late in the summer when Android 2.2, or “Froyo,” will be delivered via on over-the-air update, even though Froyo is already rolling out to other devices such as the Nexus One.

The Droid X will start shipping in the US on 15 July for the Verizon network. International availability is yet to be announced. The list price is $580 (£386), but Verizon will offer the Droid X for $199 with a 2-year contract, after a $100 rebate. Verizon representatives have said the Droid X will have an unlimited data plan — with no hard or soft caps — for $30 per month (on top of the voice and messaging plans). Also, at launch, the Droid X will be available at that discounted price to all current Verizon customers who are eligible for an upgrade any time in 2010.

Touch screen dominates

The giant 4.3-inch touch screen (854 by 480 WVGA) dominates the first glance at the Droid X, taking up the lion’s share of space on what is an unusually large device. At 2.6 by 5.0 by 0.4 inches and 5.47 ounces, the Droid X is noticeably longer, wider and heavier than the iPhone 4 (2.31 by 4.5 by 0.37 inches and 4.8 ounces).

The lack of a physical keyboard lets Motorola keep the device slim, for the most part. But the listed thickness of the Droid X is a little deceiving, as that figure represents the unit at its thinnest point. Due to the camera and flash assembly, the Droid X thickens to nearly 0.6 inches near the top, making the device seem a little top-heavy and awkward to hold in portrait mode, compounded by the awkward placement of the MicroUSB port on the lower left side, which makes it more difficult to type in portrait mode with the device plugged into a power outlet or a PC. For some reason, I had particular difficulty triggering the space bar when typing in portrait mode on the multitouch keyboard, leaving many run-on words in my wake.

Unfortunately, I also found using the device in landscape mode a bit challenging due to the device length, as my natural hand position made for a long stretch when typing characters in the middle of the on-screen keyboard, although I found my typing slightly faster and more accurate than when holding in portrait mode.

Thankfully, Motorola also added the outstanding Swype on-screen keyboard to the Droid X, introducing drag typing to the smartphone. Not only does Swype allow me to change the position of my hands while typing—changing from a two-thumb pecking model to a single forefinger drag position—I found my typing speed improved 10 to 20 percent, with improved accuracy.

Other features

To complement the large screen on Droid X, Motorola added a high-resolution still and video camera to the device. The 8-megapixel still camera features auto-focus, zoom controls and a multiflash option—although the camera defaults to capturing 6 MP images. Shutter speed was a little slow, however, as I could only take two manual pictures in 5 seconds (as opposed to six in 5 seconds with an iPhone 3GS.) However, Android does offer a multishot capture mode that takes six pictures automatically in rapid succession.

The Droid X also features on-device editing capabilities, allowing me to tag the phone, change brightness, add effects,  and rotate or crop the image.

The video camera can record video up to 720p at 30 frames per second, but the real innovation lies in Motorola’s assortment of microphones. The Droid X comes with three microphones that can each be used with video capture, allowing the user to change capture mode according to the audio source. With one microphone on the front of the device, a second microphone on the back and a third found along the top spine of the device, the Droid X is poised to best record audio from the video subject, from the filmmaker or from ambient sources.

To tap those microphones, the Droid X offers four capture modes: an Everyday mode that utilises all microphones; an Outdoor mode relying on the noise cancelling features of the top microphone to reduce wind noise; a Narrative mode to focus on the device holder; and a Subject mode to focus on the subject. In my limited testing I found the Narrative mode a bit unnecessary, as it didn’t seem to improve pickup of the narrator’s voice over what was captured in Everyday or Outdoor mode. I also tried recording video in the white-noise-laden environment of eWEEK’s test lab and found the Subject mode did a better job of picking up subject audio and reducing white noise than the Outdoor mode.

For video playback, the Droid X features an HDMI-out port (cable sold separately for $30). The device also supports DLNA for media sharing.

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