By Joe Levi | October 9, 2011 4:00 PM
The Motorola Droid Bionic is the latest in high-end smartphones from Motorola running Android for the Verizon network. Like its predecessors, the Droid Bionic doesn’t fail to deliver a high-end feature set. The Bionic has sleek lines and a very generously-sized screen that is sure to impress. Combined with Verizon’s 4G LTE network, this phone is fast in every sense of the word.
The Droid Bionic comes with a nice box that contains the smartphone, large-capacity 1735mAh Li-Ion battery, wall charger, microUSB sync/charging cable, some guides, and a 16GB microSD card pre-installed. The battery, LTE SIM, and battery cover must be installed prior to first use, but doing so is quick and easy. For such a high-end smartphone, I was surprised that no earbuds were included.
The Motorola Droid Bionic features a dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor aided by a ULP GeForce GPU and Tegra 2 AP20H chipset with 1GB RAM and 2GB ROM. The 4.3-inch screen features a beautiful TFT capacitive screen. At 540 x 960 and a pixel density of approximately 256 ppi, images are crisp, text is clear, and there’s plenty of room for people with larger hands and bigger fingers.
The Bionic includes the usual round-up of sensors: accelerometer, proximity sensor, light sensor, digital compass, and aGPS.
As far as wireless goes, the Bionic has you covered with CDMA 800/1900, CDMA2000 1xEV-DO 3G Rev. A (up to 3.1Mbps), 4G LTE WLAN, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot (which requires an additional subscription), and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and EDR. If you’re into wires, in addition to the standard microUSB v2.0 port, the Bionic also features an HDMI port for video-out.
The Bionic’s rear-facing camera is 8MP (3264×2448 pixels) but can be set for 6MP-widescreen and features auto-focus, dual-LED flash, geo-tagging, face detection, and image stabilization. It can also shoot 1080p HD video. The front-facing camera is VGA and works wonderfully well with Google Talk’s video chat feature.
The build quality of the Droid Bionic is excellent; Motorola used quality materials which makes the phone feel high-end. The battery cover does make a slight squeaking sound right at the USB and HDMI ports, but tolerances are tight and everything fits snugly in place.
As you can see from the samples of still images and HD video, the 8MP camera on the Droid Bionic is nothing short of beautiful. The shutter speed is fast, the video is smooth and fluid, and audio is clean and clear.
The user-interface on the Motorola Droid Bionic isn’t the “pure” UI that stock versions of the Gingerbread version of Android come with — but what Motorola has done is very subtle and the changes aren’t obtrusive — in fact the UI changes have what I feel are hints of Honeycomb. Basically, Motorola has built on the stock UI and very subtly improved upon it. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot.
As far as pre-installed software (“bloatware”) goes, the included apps are mostly unobtrusive. Some of the more notable apps that Motorola included are:
– City ID (for extra caller id information)
– Citrix Receiver (for virtualization and remoting)
– DLNA (for sharing and receiving files from other DLNA devices)
– Files (a file browser)
– GoToMeeting (for participating in online meetings)
– IM (a unified instant messaging client)
– Lets Golf 2 (an amazing looking, but level-limited golfing game)
– Hot Spot (Verizon’s proprietary Wi-Fi hotspot app which requires an additional subscription to use)
– MotoPrint (remote printing on supported printers)
– NFL Mobile
– News (for RSS aggregation)
– Slacker FM (for listening to streaming music)
– Verizon Navigator (a pay-per-use or subscription GPS navigation app)
– and a few others
The Droid Bionic is fast — very fast. Overall performance is great, but may be ahead of what benchmarking utilities can accurately gauge.
Quadrant: 2500, with some graphic anomalies in the video portion of the test
Smartbench 2011: did not complete (likely due to screen resolution)
Linpack: 3.9seconds, 42.885 MFLOPS (multi-threaded)
Although benchmarks are good for comparisons, as many Pocketnow readers have pointed out, they should not be relied on as the only source of comparison. That said, the Droid Bionic is the fastest, most fluid, and the “smoothest” phone I have ever used. It’s fast where it needs to be, never lagged or hung-up a single time, and gave the impression of a well-oiled machine.
When running Speedtest.net on the Droid Bionic, the first thing I noticed was how quick the entire app was — very fast, very smooth.
Wi-Fi: 18ms ping, 15.72Mbps down, 4.09Mbps up
3G: 181ms ping, 0.39Mbps down, 0.84Mbps up
LTE: 79ms ping, 4.2Mbps down, 1.29Mbps up
I’m not in an area with significantly fast LTE speeds, but some readers have commented that they’re seeing LTE speeds in the 20Mbps down range, so the phone is clearly capable of super-fast speeds as long — as you’re under the right data umbrella.
Call quality is good, but not great. I had more dropped and “phantom” calls using Verizon than with the AT&T and T-Mobile phones that I’ve reviewed recently. It’s not a show-stopper, but something that I wouldn’t have expected in such a high-end phone and such a good carrier.
With moderate to heavy use, the huge battery that comes in the Droid Bionic will last about half a day. You’ll want to start the day with a full-charge; if using GPS you’ll want to charge the device while driving to and from work, and while you’re at work, and anywhere in between — otherwise you won’t make it through an entire day. Additionally, if you use your own USB charger you may notice that charging is either very slow, or that the phone doesn’t charge at all. If you use the included wall charger you won’t have those problems. Even when using the included charger, it takes a long, long time to fully charge the battery.
I recommend that you get the wireless battery charger accessory and a few charging pads so you don’t have to worry about plugging in everywhere — you’ll simply set your phone down on the charging pad and won’t have to worry about an empty battery.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Motorola Droid Bionic is available from retailers like Negri Electronics for around $690, off-contract.
On-contract you can pick up your very own Motorola Droid Bionic for $150 through Amazon.com.
+ Great build quality
+ Awesome performance
+ Plenty of internal storage
+ Beautiful screen
+ 1080p video recording
- No earbuds included
- Poor battery life
- Strange audio “popping” and “whine” when using 3rd party earbuds
The Droid Bionic is a solid performer, and the smoothest Android-powered smartphone I’ve used to-date. With the phone’s appetite for power, it would have been nice for Verizon to include the accessory back-plate for wireless charging as a standard feature, just to help make it through the day — but once you’re aware of the limitation and look for opportunities in your daily routine to top-off the battery, you’ll be fine.
The audio anomalies that many have experienced seem to be random and intermittent, and might be mitigated by using high-end earphones. Since the phone doesn’t come with any earbuds, we’re left wondering if it’s the quality of 3rd party earbuds, or the phone itself that’s responsible for the noise.
Overall, the phone is simply amazing, even with its very few shortcomings. We rate the Motorola Droid Bionic a 4.5/5.