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Droid Bionic by Motorola Review
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Date: Oct 26, 2011
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction & Specifications

The Droid Bionic by Motorola made one of its first public appearances at CES in January. Months have passed, and though there were rumors of a summer release, the phone didn't become available through Verizon Wireless until fall. The Droid Bionic is the first smartphone from Verizon Wireless to offer 4G LTE connectivity paired with a powerful dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. This smartphone is currently the thinnest 4G LTE smartphone from Verizon Wireless at 10.99mm as well, though other phones in the pipeline will steal this title soon.

With its dual-core processor, plenty of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, a preinstalled 16 GB microSD card, and a 4.3-inch qHD screen, this smartphone certainly has the specifications of a high-end phone that's sure to please. The phone also features an 8MP camera and the ability to capture 1080p HD video.

Verizon Wireless continues to expand its 4G LTE network too. When you're in a 4G coverage area, Verizon Wireless says you should expect download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps. Of course, when a 4G connection is unavailable, you'll still be connected through Verizon Wireless' 3G network. You can also use the Droid Bionic to share the LTE connection with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices provided you're willing to pay for the Verizon Wireless Mobile Hotspot feature.

The Droid Bionic also supports a few accessories and comes with software that enables secure remote file access. Like the Motorola Atrix, you can dock the Droid Bionic in a laptop-like dock (sold separately) and use the phone as a portable PC with an 11.6-inch screen and full keyboard. Other accessories for the Droid Bionic include a HD station, vehicle dock, and many others. With the preloaded ZumoCast software, you can use the phone to access files on your PC without first needing to upload or sync files.

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DROID BIONIC by Motorola
Specifications & Features

Network
Verizon Wireless
Bands/Modes
CDMA800, CDMA1900, LTE B13 700
Processor
Dual-Core TI OMAP4430 @ 1GHz
OS
Android™ 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
Display
4.3-inch qHD screen using scratch-resistant Corning® Gorilla® Glass and a dual-layer anti-reflective coating
Memory
1GB RAM, 16 GB onboard memory and 16 GB microSD card preinstalled
Talk and Standby Time
Talk time: 650 minutes
Standby time: 200 hrs

Dimensions
66.9 x 127.5 x 10.99 mm (2.63” x 5” x 0.43”)
Weight
158 g (5.6 oz)
Battery
1735 mAh battery
Connectivity
3.5mm + EMU, USB 2.0 HS, Corporate Sync, DLNA, FOTA
WLAN
802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Camera
8MP camera, VGA P2P Video, Digital Zoom, Auto Focus, LED flash
Bluetooth
Stereo Bluetooth Class 2, Version 2.1 +EDR (Supported profiles: a2dp, avrcp , gavdp , hfp, hid, hsp, map, opp, pan , pbap , DUN, AVDTP, AVCTP)
Audio
AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC, AAC+, Enhanced AAC+, MP3, 8-bit Linear PCM, 16-bit Linear PCM, 8-bit A-law PCM, 8-bit mu-law PCM, WMA (v2, v7, v8, v9+, v10++, L1-L3), QCELP, EVRC and OGG
Video
1080p HD Video Capture/Playback/Streaming and Mirror Mode with HDMI out (cable required)
MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VC-1, Xvid and VP8/WebM
Messaging/Web/Apps
MMS, SMS, Email (Corporate Synch); Full suite of Google applications and services: Google Maps™ , Google Talk™, GMail™, YouTube™; preloaded with Adobe® Flash® Player 10, MOTOPRINT for Wi-Fi printing and Citrix® Receiver® and GoToMeeting®
Location Services
aGPS (assisted), E-compass, sGPS (simultaneous)

At the time of this publication, the Droid Bionic is available for $299.99 with a new two-year customer agreement.

Many Verizon Wireless customers have been eagerly waiting for this phone. But was it worth the wait? Read on as we take an in-depth, hands-on look at the phone to find out...
 
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Design

In terms of physical appearance, the Droid Bionic by Motorola is similar to some of the other Motorola Droid smartphones we've seen from Verizon Wireless, such as the Droid X2. The phone has a basic candy bar form along with a thicker spot near the top. Whereas the Droid X2 features four hardware buttons at the base of the front of the phone, the Droid Bionic has four backlit touch-sensitive keys (Menu, Home, Back, and Search) that are flush with the screen.

As is the case with many candy bar-style Android phones today, the Droid Bionic's 4.3-inch qHD screen covers the vast majority of the front of the smartphone. One unique thing about the Droid Bionic's screen is that it uses scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. This screen also features a dual-layer anti-reflective coating, which helps viewability outdoors.

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Just above the screen to the left of the Motorola logo, you'll notice the front-facing webcam for video chat. The left edge of the phone houses the micro USB port as well as the micro HDMI port. On the right edge of the phone, you'll find the volume rocker which can also be used as zoom keys. A 3.5mm headset jack and the power button are located on the top edge of the phone.

   

Although the Droid Bionic is the thinnest 4G LTE smartphone from Verizon Wireless at 10.99mm, anyone who picks up the phone will immediately notice the thick, raised area near the top of the phone that's a few millimeters thicker than the thinnest part of the phone. In this raised area, you'll find the 8MP rear-facing camera that's capable of recording 1080p HD video. Next to the camera, there's also a LED flash. By removing the back cover, you'll get access to the preinstalled microSD card, battery, and a SIM slot. The back cover has a matte finish.

    

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The Droid Bionic weighs about 5.57 ounces. Although not the heaviest phone we've seen, it's definitely not the lightest, either. Here's how the Droid Bionic compares to a few other phones:

Samsung Galaxy S 4G
4.2 ounces
Samsung Captivate
4.5 ounces
Nexus S
4.55 ounces
HTC Droid Incredible
4.6 ounces
Apple iPhone 4
4.8 ounces
Samsung Droid Charge
5.04 ounces
Motorola Droid X
5.47 ounces
Samsung Epic 4G
5.47 ounces
Droid Bionic
5.57 ounces
HTC EVO 3D
6 ounces
HTC Thunderbolt
6.23 ounces
 

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User Interface

You'll find the latest version of Android, version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), loaded and running on the Droid Bionic. Motorola has made some tweaks to Android, though. Below any of the five customizable homescreens, you'll notice four icons in a "dock." The first three of these icons can be customized to your liking. By default, they provide access to the dialer, text messaging, camera, and all applications. Below these icons, you'll find the phone's touch-sensitive hardware buttons which provide haptic feedback when pressed. By pressing the Home button twice, you'll get a thumbnail view of each of the five homescreens.

   

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Like many of today's phones, the Droid Bionic comes with preinstalled software. Although you can't uninstall many of these programs without rooting the phone, you can place apps in groups. Out of the box, the Droid Bionic has four predefined groups: All apps, Recent, Downloaded, and Verizon Wireless. From the upper left corner of the app screen, you can add additional groups. To add an app to a group, simply tap the plus "+" icon in the upper right corner of the app screen near the Android Market icon. For easy access, you can place a shortcut to any of the app groups on one of your homescreens.

 

 

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One of the unique apps that is preinstalled on the Droid Bionic is ZumoCast. This app lets you stream videos and music and access documents from your computer wirelessly. In order to use ZumoCast, you'll need to install a free app on your desktop computer. During our tests, we found the app to be very easy to use. Another app known as MOTOPRINT lets you find and use networked printers from your smartphone.

Motorola and Verizon Wireless are also offering various custom widgets for the Droid Bionic. Some of the widgets can be resized to your liking.  One of the widgets called Data Usage will be particularly useful to customers who don't have an unlimited data plan. With this widget, you can easily see how much data you've used.

The Droid Bionic comes with both the standard Android keypad as well as the SWYPE keyboard.

   

 

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Performance

During our tests, the Droid Bionic was very responsive and provided the performance we would expect from a phone with a dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. The phone's 4.3-inch qHD screen is comparable to other qHD displays we've seen on other phones. Although the Droid Bionic's screen isn't quite as vibrant as the Super AMOLED plus displays we've seen from Sansung, we really have no complaints.

Since the Droid Bionic is the first smartphone from Verizon Wireless to offer 4G LTE connectivity in combination with a dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, this phone is at the top end of Verizon Wireless' lineup. If you're fortunate enough to live in a 4G LTE coverage area, you should notice an increase in surfing speeds. Of course, we'll run some quantitative tests on the phone to verify these speeds in the coming pages.

Images captured using the Droid Bionic's 8MP camera were hit and miss. Some of our images turned out well but many others were grainy or slightly off in color. Capturing excellent indoor shots using any phone-based camera is often difficult but the Droid Bionic seemed to have a harder time than other phones in this area. Out of five indoor shots using the phone's flash and a child's train set as our subject, only one was clear and properly lit.

     

     

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As with many other smartphones today, the Droid Bionic's display is slightly difficult to view under direct sunlight, though the Droid Bionic is no worse than other phones we've seen. Viewing angles on the Droid Bionic's display are excellent.

Motorola and Verizon Wireless say users can expect up to 650 minutes of talk time (about 10.83 hours) and up to 200 hours (about 8.33 days) of standby time from the Droid Bionic's 1735 mAh battery. In our everyday usage of the phone—checking email, surfing the web, etc—we found the battery to be adequate for a light to moderate day of use. Of course, if you use the phone as a hotspot, stream lots of music, or use other draining features, you'll probably want to have a spare battery or a power outlet nearby.

In an attempt to put a quantitative measure on the Droid Bionic's battery life, we set up our own Web-surfing test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics and text. The page automatically refreshed itself every three minutes. We set the Droid Bionic's display to 50% brightness and turned off Wi-Fi. When we ran this, the Droid Bionic lasted for about three hours and 45 minutes before giving up. Compared to the HTC Thunderbolt, another high-end phone from Verizon Wireless, the Droid Bionic lasted nine minutes longer. Both of the battery tests were run on a 3G connection.

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Performance Testing

In addition to using the Motorola Droid Bionic in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the Droid Bionic compares to other smartphones.

CPU testing
Android CPU testing

In the Linpack test, the Droid Bionic performed well, though Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphones beat the Droid Bionic by a decent margin. The HTC EVO 3D also edged out the Droid Bionic by a few MFLOPS.

Graphics testing
Android graphics testing

 

In the An3DBench test, the Droid Bionic outperformed all of our other reference phones except the HTC EVO 3D. In the An3DBench XL test, the Droid Bionic also performed very well, coming in right in line with some of today's other top phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and Motorola Photon 4G. In the Magic Island component of the test, the Droid Bionic actually beat both the Samsung Galaxy S II and Motorola Photon 4G by a good margin. While looking at the An3DBench XL chart, keep in mind many of the top scores have been achieved on tablets.

JavaScript testing
JavaScript Android and iPhone testing

 

 

 

The Droid Bionic achieved an excellent score in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, coming in just behind both of the Samsung Galaxy S II devices we've tested.

 

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Performance Testing - Web Browsing

Since browsing the Web is a key feature of any smartphone, we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the Motorola Droid Bionic compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.

 

The Xtremelabs 4G test shows that Verizon Wireless' high-speed 4G LTE network offers significantly higher speeds than some of the other 4G networks available today. In the Xtremelabs 4G test, the Droid Bionic earned the top spot by beating another Verizon Wireless 4G phone, the HTC Thunderbolt. In 3G testing, the Droid Bionic achieved a middle-of-the-road score in the Xtremelabs test.

The Droid Bionic earned a respectable score in the Speedtest.net benchmark when using a 4G LTE network. As you'll see from the chart above, the Droid Bionic didn't perform quite as well as some of Verizon Wireless' other 4G phones. The lower speeds could be caused by the phone or they could be a result of the network during the time we were testing. When connected to Verizon Wireless' 3G network, the Droid Bionic struggled in comparison to some of the other phones we've tested in recent months as well.

Although these tests are designed to put a quantitative score on web browsing performance, it's important to keep in mind that network speeds can vary depending on many factors and the test results can also vary from one day to the next. Overall, we were satisfied with the real-world browsing speeds on the Droid Bionic and felt the speeds were in line with other phones we've seen recently.

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Conclusion

After a seemingly long wait, the Droid Bionic is here. Was it worth waiting for? That depends. The Droid Bionic is an excellent phone. However, with the upcoming holiday season many carriers and manufacturers are launching a multitude of new, powerful phones. And many of these phones will give the Droid Bionic some stiff competition. One of these upcoming phones, the Droid RAZR, is also made by Motorola. With comparable specs, these two phones will likely compete directly with one another especially since they'll both be available through Verizon Wireless.

   

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The Droid Bionic is the first smartphone from Verizon Wireless to combine 4G connectivity with a powerful dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. This combination makes for a powerful and zippy phone. For now, the Droid Bionic is also the thinnest 4G LTE smartphone from Verizon Wireless at 10.99mm, though the Droid RAZR from Motorola will soon steal this title.

Some of the accessories that are available for the Droid Bionic are sure to attract users as well. The phone can be placed in a laptop-like dock that lets you use the phone as a portable PC with an 11.6-inch screen and full keyboard. Other accessories such as a vehicle dock and HD station are also available to expand the phone's functionality.

With a price tag that's just a penny shy of $300, the Droid Bionic is definitely at the top end of Verizon Wireless' current lineup. Considering the similarly-equipped Droid RAZR will be available next month for the same price, we feel as if Verizon Wireless and Motorola are stealing some of their own thunder with the recent announcement of the thinner Droid RAZR. For this reason, we wouldn't be too surprised if the price for the Droid Bionic drops somewhat, relatively soon. Assuming Motorola and Verizon Wireless do something to keep the Droid Bionic competitive with other offerings, we feel the Droid Bionic is indeed a phone worthy of consideration for users who want a zippy Android experience with 4G connectivity.

 

 

     
  • 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch qHD screen with Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 16 GB onboard memory and preinstalled 16 GB microSD card
  • Poor camera images
  • Pricey
  • 4G coverage is still limited

 



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