Review: Motorola DROID Bionic


The infamous DROID Bionic by Motorola is finally here. After a long, long delay we’re now able to caress the sweet (non) curves of Motorola’s latest and greatest in our clammy paws. The biggest question on everyone’s mind: Does it live up to the hype? You’ll have to take a leap of faith and see for yourself after the jump…
 

Out With The Old…


The new DROID Bionic is pretty awesome, we’re not going to lie. But first…a brief history lesson.

Originally unveiled back at CES in early January, the Motorola DROID Bionic was (at the time) one of the few dual-core devices. In its original form (see picture above), the phone took a more rounded, dare we say HTC-like design. Power was provided by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core processor running at 1 GHz — the same as most other emerging dual-core handsets. Everything was great until rumors began circulating of the device’s untimely delay. After many weeks of no new information, many feared the device had been cancelled. But alas, come late April we had a firmer grip on the situation during Motorola’s Q1 earnings call where Motorola Mobility CEO, Sanjay Jha, confirmed that the Bionic was in fact being “re-featured” and re-designed according to customer (read: Verizon) feedback. Fast forward a full nine months and we arrive to the current iteration of the DROID Bionic — a more chiseled, faster, meaner beast.

In With The New.

  • Processor: Dual-core TI OMAP 4430 @ 1GHz
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX 540 GPU
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Display: 4.3″ qHD (960 x 540)
  • Cameras: 8-megapixel (rear) | VGA (front)
  • Video: 1080p
  • Memory: 14 GB internal + 16 GB SD (Pre-installed) with support for up to 32 GB SD cards
  • OS: Android 2.3.4
  • Networks: CDMA 800 / 1900 | CDMA2000 1xEV-DO | LTE

Design

True to Motorola’s recent Android phones, the DROID Bionic features a more squared off, “manly” design. At the same time the focus on a large, vivid display and minimal buttons is also present. With that said, as sleek as the Bionic’s design is, we can’t say it’s really all that different from other Motorola handsets or other Android phones in general.

Diving deeper… the front of the Bionic features nothing but a large 4.3″ worth of glass and four capacitive touch buttons along the bottom — apps, home, back, and search. The left side holds the microUSB and miniHDMI ports while the left side features volume buttons and nothing more. While we’re on the subject of homescreen buttons: we’re not sure why Motorola keeps switching up the button layout. It’s mildly frustrating at best, a PITA for Android users at worst. Moving on…up top you’ll find a standard 3.5mm headphone port and the power button. In regards to the power button: if you’re not the type who uses their right hand when pulling a phone out of their pocket and unlocking the screen, the Bionic is going to annoy you. Reaching with one hand from a normal use grip to the top left corner of the device to lock/unlock the Bionic wasn’t all that pretty (or comfortable).

Performance: CPU & LTE

As touched on above in the brief history lesson, Motorola switched out the original Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor in favor of TI’s OMAP 4430 @ 1GHz processor coupled with a more powerful PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. With all the power on tap, what’s not to like? Anything and everything you want to do you can. Real-world speed is truly up there with the likes of the GSM giant, the Samsung Galaxy S II. But what’s most intriguing to us is that the Bionic is one of the few devices (T-Mobile’s G2x being another) that in stock configuration can whip around the various (skinned) windows of Android, and do so without missing a beat. All too often we pick up another copy cat dual-core Android device expecting the world only to be handed a small town. Quite simply, the lack of stuttering in simple menu navigation and system tasks is a god-send. Of course, something could be said about the fact we’re this excited about basic, lag-free navigation this late in the game…

LTE is finally live in our home town of South Bend, Indiana and boy are we excited. While it’s a small foot print, we’ll take it with open arms. Closer to the few towers spewing out the LTE goodness we saw speeds in the 12-13 Mbps range (down) — ditto for uploads. Moving further away towards are humble abodes things were far less exciting. Hovering between 1 and 0 bars produced speeds that would make EV-DO blush, as such we flipped back over to normal 3G services for the majority of our testing.

Benchmarks


In our eyes real world usability that you’ll see day in and day out is far more useful than raw specs. But we also understand the need for comparing devices across different hardware platforms. With that said the DROID Bionic makes a good showing according to “real Pi”, which saw the Bionic calculate Pi out to 100,000 digits in a total time of 28.06 seconds.

**We’ve noticed some highly varying Quadrant scores — as high as 3xxx and as low as 15xx (as seen above). We’ve run tests at least dozen times and plan on doing another round of testing after wiping the device and starting over as simply re-installing the app didn’t help consistency. Continuing claims that Quadrant is less than accurate appear to be pretty factual. With that said, the Bionic uses the same TI OMAP 4430 processor found in the Droid 3 so performance should be rather similar — 22xx-28xx. Check back soon for updated benchmarks.

Call Quality

If you’re one of the people using their phone less and less for traditional phone calls, you can skip ahead. For the rest of you — the DROID Bionic is…like everything else. Voice calling on the phone side of things has advanced about far as it can (for now). In between the DROID X2, DROID 3, LG Revolution, and DROID Bionic we honestly didn’t notice any discernible differences in voice quality, signal quality or loudness. In short: any modern smartphone — at least any modern Android smartphone on VZW — will perform voice calls equally well.

Camera & Video


The 8-megapixel camera on the DROID Bionic is admirable with very good close-up photo taking abilities, however, we still find Motorola’s latest device exhibiting the same washed out characteristics similar to their other recent high-end Android devices. It’s not all bad though. Photos are for the most part accurate and free of grain unless digital zoom is heavily relied upon.

Video capture via the 1080p support is a bit more underwhelming. Besides the larger file size, there isn’t much different between 1080p and 720p content — pretty disappointing really. But it goes without saying the Bionic is a communication device first, hi-def video recorder second. In a pinch, it’s one of the few tools currently on the market that takes 1080p video and fits in a small pants pocket. In that light we can’t really fault the Bionic.

Battery Life

We usually get flack for our battery life numbers as not being accurate and too low. It is what it is. And what the DROID Bionic exhibits is…poor battery life. Seriously. The first day of use saw an instance in which 45 minutes of simply sitting on a table in 3G mode (with LTE mode switched off) we dropped 20%. Now it is worth noting that again, this was during the first full charge/discharge cycle. We’re happy to report that since then we haven’t seen any similar instances of rampant battery drain.

Though that’s not to say battery life still isn’t great. The fast dual-core, high resolution qHD display and battery killing LTE do a number. Gripe as we might, if you’ve managed a normal days usage on the current high-end line of dual-core Android devices (or LTE hardware), you’ll find the Bionic will be able to meet your needs.

If you’re going to be out and about for the day and are a heavier user like us, carry a spare battery and/or your charger.

Software

If you caught our Droid 3 review you’ve already got a good idea of what the Bionic packs by way of software. The re-worked MOTOBLUR on the Bionic is less playskool-like than the what first appeared on earlier devices such as the CLIQ. Still, it’s not our favorite skin. And similar to the DROID 3, users will have a fair amount of bloatware to manage. Everything from Verizon’s own managed apps/services to Go To Meeting to game trials are present and ultimately stuck on your device. Other than that, it’s your standard Android 2.3.4 affair.

Conclusion

The DROID Bionic is hands down Verizon’s best Android handset to date. And now that it’s become common knowledge that VZW is passing on the upcoming Galaxy S II, the Bionic looks like it’s your best bet for at least another month or two (or three). On that note, we have heard rumors of an even better phone than the Galaxy S II launching on Verizon later this year in time for the holiday season. This mystery device is allegedly Samsung built, though no other information exists. Current rumors claim it could be the Nexus/DROID Prime — the first Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) device which in and of itself is exciting.

If we were to sum up the Droid Bionic in the upmost simplistic ways, we’d say it’s basically a Droid X2 with a slightly upgraded processor and LTE. With that said, if you’ve got any of the latest dual-core devices in your possession, there’s really no reason to upgrade just yet. But if you must, the Bionic is a fine choice. Snag the Droid Bionic starting tomorrow, September 8th for $299 (2-year contract required).

Conclusion: Unless you’re waiting for the rumored Nexus/DROID Prime and don’t already have a dual-core device, you should buy this phone.

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 8.5/10

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  • Guest

    I thought Verizon will launch LTE service in South Bend on October 20th. Anyway… 12-13Mbps download seems a bit slow compared to the 20-25Mbps I’ve been seeing people get in other places but it’s consisted with what you can get on AT&T’s LTE in Chicago. They don’t seem to have enough available spectrum there. I wonder if that’s the issue Verizon is facing in SB.

    • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

      It is.  This post was before that information came to light.  12-13 Mbps is on the low end of what VZW’s LTE network is capable of.  There are many places that will produce speeds in excess of 20 Mbps.  The real test, however, will be how well speed is maintained when there are many thousands of people on the same tower.

  • Starmanz

    Much as I really really want this phone, I’m going to wait for the DroidPrime w/ ice cream sandwich. The real questions are, a) will my 1st gen Droid hang on that long and b) how many release delays will the Prime have to go through?? I’m guessing at least 2 or 3… Thanksgiving… no sorry, it’ll be out for Christmas…no, hang on, we meant “this is the hot new phone of 2012″…blah blah…

    • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

      I think that’s a good decision.  As far as release, don’t worry.  I have plenty of optimism to share between the two of us  😉