Review: Hands on the Motorola Droid Bionic – 4G, Dual-Core, 4.3″qHD, 1 GB RAM

The Motorola Droid Bionic, which debuted yesterday, continues the evolution of the high end Motorola Android smartphone on Verizon Wireless. Think of the Bionic as a Droid X heading to grad school but may need some vision correction after much hard work. The X2 had some of the tricks of the Bionic, but the Bionic is more polished.

I look at these devices as deadline, recording devices for a multi-platform journalist. Video and camera performance is key, internal editing capability designed into the phone is always a plus.

The three mic system is back with a crisp front facing recording mic.

Input level can be trimmed back with “Concert” mode. There is a noise cancellation “Outdoors” mode and a “Narration” mode.

Using “Subject” mode balances the sound between the subject and the person recording an interview to about the same level given different distances”.

The Bionic is the first 4G phone with a dual-core processor and 1 GIG of RAM with 32 GB of memory storage expandable by a microSD slot. Running Android 2.3.4, it sports a front facing camera. It has a  1735mAh battery.

The speed of the hardware, combined with a network that may run up to 10 times as fast as Verizon’s 3G network, has great potential to get information online fast. And because you may decide that you don’t need to suck bandwidth all the time with 4G (just txt and call, effects battery life, etc.) you have a choice with the Bionic of sticking to the 3G network.

I was not able to test the Bionic on a 4G network.  Some previous posts with other phones on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.  Verizon’s 4G network has reached the Harrisburg area touching York County and is within 15 miles of the Pennsylvania boarder to the south. A two year contract will see 4G in York and in the meantime it will be in 145 US markets by they end of 2011. Within a couple years Verizon’s 4G network will overlay the current 3G network.

The bionic promises a camera with lower light capability than previous high end Motorola smartphones. I wasn’t able to fully test this, but comparing a picture shot with the Bionic to my Droid X, the Bionic yields a less grainy photo in a low light situation. It’s difficult to compare on screen because the Bionic has a different type screen than my X and I was tethered to a string at the Verizon store.

New to the Bionic is continuous focusing that was introduced with the X2 as an option.

The automatic focusing is faster with the 8MP camera and makes the absence of a physical shutter button more workable. I would still rather have the physical button back. 

The new auto focus mode extends to 1080p HD video as well! I was able to pan from a relative macro to distance with the focus keeping up with me.

The menu system is more polished in the camera module with a tree extending from the left side, allowing you to pic an option and quickly collapse the whole tree. The brightness control is now a slider.

The familiar built in 4-way panoramic mode, that has been unchanged for a couple generations, gets an overhaul with transition guide windows that will be very useful in bright situations.

The beefier hardware reduces shutter lag and the time the camera can take the next shot. You can almost take one shot after another.

A multi-shot mode will fire off a series of still frames at a high rate of speed

Video editing has returned with the ability to extract a frame from videos which can be useful when pulling a moment from HD video for use as a high resolution still.

Menus tumble when you swipe giving the transition changes a 3D look.

The 4.3 qHD Display is the Motorola screen choice debuting on the X2.

The screen is brighter and blacker than the lower resolution 4.3 screen on the X, but whenever you increase resolution and neglect to provide a way to increase the size of the fonts, the text will be smaller than on older, lower resolution displays. You can increase font size in browsers, and some apps like Gmail, but there is something else going on here.

The sum total may mean a poorer user experience with the new Motorola qHD display over with previous displays. It’s something to try at a store before online ordering.

I fall into the camp that just finds these PenTile displays harder to read with blurred text on some color backgrounds. I could care less that my Netflix has higher definition if text is harder to read. I use a phone primarily as a text reading device. Motorola needs to rethink this screen.

If you are OK with the new qHD screen, the Motorola Bionic is a nice upgrade to the Droid X family. It’s about the same size and packs the latest hardware power harnessed to a 4G LTE network.

A 2760mAh cell upgrade for the Bionic – Engadget

About Paul Kuehnel

Paul Kuehnel has worked for the York Daily Record/Sunday News since 1984. Follow him on Twitter @paulkuehnel.
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