Name: Motorola Droid Bionic
Price: $300 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: The world was first introduced to the Droid Bionic back in January at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. From there, Motorola billed its new handset the most powerful and fastest Android smartphone to come out this year. When the media got its hands on the device, good marks were given across the board. Then something odd happened: Motorola delayed the release until after summer citing needs for "expanded features, functionality and an improved form factor." Nine months later, Verizon's immensely hyped mobile beast is available for purchase.
With a spec sheet that boasts a speedy dual-core 1GHZ processor, Gingerbread 2.3.4, tons of memory, and the network's super-fast LTE service, the latest Droid is clearly at the top of the Android and Verizon echelon when it comes to power, speed, and special features. Still, can it surpass the Samsung Droid and HTC Thunderbolt as the carrier's best? And most importantly, was it seriously worth the wait?
• Verizon's most powerful handset: Motorola opted to run with a dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP4430 processor instead of Qualcomm or NVIDIA’s Tegra chip. Not the most popular option for mobile computing, but its general performance was impressive, to say the least. Multitasking was superb: running about 8 to 10 programs in the background while consuming up to 80MB, lag-free. Touchscreen navigation was spot-on as we zipped through homscreens and opened apps instantaneously. The web browser loads fast and launches web pages extremely quick. We noticed fast frame rates during our gaming sessions as well. Overall, the CPU is a monster.
• Fastest LTE phone you can buy: We thought the Thunderbolt and Charge were ridiculously fast. But judging from our benchmark results, the Bionic puts both to shame. During our speed tests in Central Park with the preloaded Speedtest.net app, we picked up data speeds that were as low as 18 Mbps and peaked at 27.12 Mbps across certain areas in New York City. That’s nearly 10 Mbps faster than the other Verizon LTE phones. Crazy. In fact, we were so suspicious of the readings at first that we discussed it with a Motorola rep at Pepcom’s Holiday Showcase and shared similar results. So expect nothing but lightening speed when downloading Android Market apps and streaming Netflix videos.
• Fully-loaded features: Multimedia and enterprise capability is the Bionic’s specialty. It’s the first LTE phone to record and display 1080p videos that can be mirrored onto any HDTV via HDMI port. DLNA support is also present for those interested in wirelessly sharing files with other compatible devices, plus the ZumoCast app lets users remotely access documents and media from your PC or Mac. And as we mentioned briefly, Netflix is available and provides you access to over thousands of films on the go. You’ll find the same security features here as the Droid 3, like complex password support and remote data wipe.
• Revamped, sleeker form factor: The original Bionic concept shown at CES had a bulkier design and thick-textured casing. During its delayed production phase, Motorola decided to give the phone a major face-lift. For starters, it’s the slimmest 4G-enabled device available: measuring at 5 inches tall and stretching to 2.63 inches wide by 0.43 inches thick. Not quite as slim as the Galaxy S II, but an improvement. The exterior comes laced with the same aluminum wrapped finish and soft-touch jacket as the Droid 3 to provide solid control grip. What we found most intriguing about the new design was the internal structure, where the battery compartment, SD card, and 4G card slots were much easier to access than in most recent Android devices.
• Big on memory: Though the spec sheet claims 16GB of onboard memory, there’s really only 8GB stored internally. To compensate, the company threw in 1GB of RAM and a pre-installed 16GB microSD card. You have the option of upgrading to a 32GB card, too. It's the equivalent of having a portable hard drive in your pocket.
• The ultimate accessories phone: If add-ons are your thing, Motorola will spoil you silly with its wide selection of attachments. At the forefront is the Lapdock, which, as we experienced with the Atrix 4G, transforms the Bionic into a mobile laptop. Lock the phone into the peripheral and use its solid keyboard and trackpad to access the Internet, manage your Facebook account, and view phone or USB data through the pre-installed file manager on the 11.6-inch monitor. There are also a number of productivity apps available in Webtop Mode such as Google Docs, Dropbox, and the cloud-based SugarSync. On top of that, Motorola is selling an HD station, battery dock, web application adapter, vehicle navigation dock, and other compatible accessories on its site.
• Disappointing LCD screen: We knew its 4.3-inch PenTile screen wouldn’t produce the same astonishing visuals as Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus display. When compared to other Moto devices, such as Sprint's Photon 4G, we found the Bionic’s color saturation and clarity to be less exhilarating. Facebook images were fuzzy and photos taken from the 8MP rear camera lacked color and detailing.
• Pricey: Sitting atop of the carrier's most expensive selections, next to the iPhone 4 and Charge, the latest Droid is tagged at a hefty $300 price tag when bought with two-year contract, and $590 when copped solo. However, Amazon is selling the handset for $180 with a new plan at the moment. But for those looking to upgrade or join "America's Most Powerful Network," three Benjamins for the market's fastest and powerful handset seems justifiable.
• Energy guzzler: There’s been mixed reviews on the Bionic’s battery performance. While the manufacturer's site has its 1,730mAH lithium ion battery promising 650 minutes of continuous talk time (est. 10.5 hours), our review unit lasted up to five hours with little to no use before dying. What we found most bizarre, though, was how the phone conserved more energy as a mobile hot spot than when we used it for video, music, and web browsing. In the end, it seems like everyone is having a different experience with the battery life.
Final Say: The Droid Bionic is definitely the fastest, and arguably the most powerful Android phone on any wireless carrier. When compared to the game-changing expectations that Motorola had pitched back in January, and after waiting it out for nine months, it doesn’t live up to its astronomical hype. But that doesn’t mean that its not one of the best handsets out there. The TI OMAP4430 chip handles multitasking exceptionally well and there were no delays whatsoever in performance. Our 4G experience was so phenomenal that we developed an addiction to streaming and downloading content for hours thanks to its warp-speed-like execution. Aside from the weak battery performance, which is expected from most LTE phones, the Bionic can sit atop of the Verizon throne as both the best Droid model and 4G phone.