Motorola DROID Ultra hands-on

Motorola DROID Ultra hands-on

The DROIDs have landed! And boy is it a refreshing thing to experience, especially when you take into consideration that the line gets updated once a year. In fact, it’s not too often nowadays that Motorola outs any amazing high-end devices ever since they were acquired by Google. Broken up to different classes, the Motorola DROID Ultra seems like it’s the all-around performer out of the bunch, mainly because it has that high-end goodness we crave in a smartphone – but it’s all packed in one incredibly thin body!


Even with that thin body, the Motorola DROID Ultra is able to pack along a display that’s large enough to tangle with the greats in the space. Increasing in size, the DROID Ultra is now sporting a 5-inch Super AMOLED HD display, which is larger than the 4.7-inch display from last year’s DROID RAZR HD. Sadly though, its resolution is lagging behind at 720 x 1280 pixels – 720p no doubt, but we were hoping for nothing less than 1080p. It’s indeed unfortunate, but it doesn’t dissuade us because it’s no longer relying on a PenTile matrix arrangement. Upon closer inspection, there’s a fine level of sharpness that gives even the smallest of details enough clarity.

At the same time, seeing that it’s based on AMOLED technology, it employs all the characteristics we love about the panel type – like its vibrant color production and wide viewing angles. Overall, the display still has that wow factor when we glaze over it, but in the back of our minds, we would’ve preferred a 1080p display just to keep it in good light with the competition.


Aside from the hot red color version of the handset, it still looks very much like the DROID of last year. Being a new year and a new device, the DROID Ultra is treated to an even thinner body than its predecessor – it’s at an amazingly thin 7.18mm! Looking at the thing, it really makes us wonder how they’re able to stuff everything into its body, but just like before, the handset gradually becomes thicker towards the top where the camera is housed. This time though, it’s not as pronounced, which is a pleasant thing to find. Going back to the Kevlar pattern of its rear, the bright red color really makes this handset stand out, but then again, the glossy finish of the surface makes it prone to smudges and fingerprints. Regardless of that, the construction is excellent, as everything about it has a sturdy feel. Ultimately, the emphasis here is on the ridiculously thin body of the DROID Ultra. It’s impressive to say the least, but we’re itching to see a new direction with the design at this point.


Taking a peek at the DROID Ultra’s experience, it doesn’t really look a whole different to what we experienced with last year’s model. Specifically, the only major visual changes we see are mostly cosmetic, as some of the widgets we’re accustomed to seeing with Moto’s DROID devices have been updated. Aside from that, it’s a mostly stock Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean experience – so we’re pleased that it has all the features, personalization, and functionality we’d expect from the platform. Packing along some new surprises, these new line of DROIDs have a few exclusive features that make them unique over other Android smartphone.

First, there’s the new Touchless Controls feature, that allows the handset to actively listen to what you’re saying – even when the display is turned off. From sending text messages to placing phone calls, you simply speak what you want to accomplish, and the handset goes on to do it. In practice, the handset seemed to struggle to comprehend what we were saying, but then again, the noisy environment of the room doesn’t help. Secondly, you have the new ‘active notifications’ feature with the experience, which essentially allows us to nudge the phone when it’s turned off and placed on a flat surface, to show us some notifications. Rounding things out, a quick shake of the phone a few times when it’s turned off launches the camera app instantly.

Call it a departure from the norm, the DROID Ultra is powered by a dual-core 1.7GHz Motorola X8 processor coupled with 2GB of RAM and a 400MHz quad-core GPU – something that’s been developed from the ground up by Moto. Being a newcomer and all, we’re impressed by the performance we’re seeing with the device, and that’s despite it still being a pre-production unit. Everything just runs so darn fast and smooth! We’re just enamored by the level of finesse of its performance, which proves to be one of the snappiest devices we’ve checked out in recent memory.


Being the middle child in the new family of DROIDs, the Motorola DROID Ultra is seemingly the device that’ll be going toe-to-toe with some of the other flagship devices out there – especially when it’s going to be priced at $199.99 on-contract when it launches shortly. It’s funny how today’s smartphones tend to focus on a particular aspect more than anything else, and for this, it’s all about its insanely thin profile, lightweight feel, and its new head turning red paint job. Like a high end sports car, the handset has the looks to enchant almost anyone that peeks at it, but it’ll interesting if people will favor design above everything else in search for that balanced phone.

Related phones

  • Display 5.0" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 10 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Motorola X8, Dual-core, 1700 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Battery 2130 mAh



1. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

RIP micro-HDMI.

2. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

Has to be the ugliest design I've seen this year... still want one!

8. ebubekir26

Posts: 337; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

what?! ugly?

11. raunak

Posts: 507; Member since: Oct 12, 2011

Wait, S4 didn't launch this year?

18. BiN4RY

Posts: 83; Member since: Jun 22, 2012

At least the S4 looks better than S3

3. Johnnokia

Posts: 1158; Member since: May 27, 2012

So collecting finger prints on the back... Poor

4. evarod48

Posts: 154; Member since: Oct 30, 2012

i wish it was just "ok google"

5. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

wish they stop saying innovations.

6. mottykels

Posts: 387; Member since: May 15, 2013

Ok google now, FTW!!! Lol

7. HASHTAG unregistered

I think I'm gonna get this phone....

9. sleepyjohnny

Posts: 151; Member since: Dec 16, 2009

no spot for sim card/micro sd card insertion? I can't seem to find a spot for them anywhere

19. Balinskio

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 18, 2010

No MicroSD :-(. The SIM Card slot is behind the volume adjustment keys.

10. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I like Motorola but what makes someone choose this over a galaxy phone? Or htc one?

12. mattmasi303

Posts: 18; Member since: Jul 04, 2013

Um just confused on the lack of a 1080p screen, this phone is going for 199 on contract witch means it goes against the S4 and the DNA which is $50 on the site right now. The processor doesn't bother me because I bet it runs smoother then the S4 which stutters a lot. But a none pentile 720p amoled screen is nothing close to low end I bet it looks better then the Note2. Im just wondering how relevant these phones will be in 6 months when even 1080p screens are going to be a year old pretty soon.. I guess its just nice to see new Motorolas

17. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I had a similar thought when looking at the Verizon pre-order pages. Apart from UI, what advantage does the $200 Ultra have over the now $50 DNA? Same size screen, identical weight, same GPU, RAM, 16 GB, no microSD. Only advantage I could find was battery life.

13. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 892; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

For all people who are not satisfied with dual cores, I feel that in the race of specs, companies have now realised that real life performances of these devices are very good with dual cores & do not need quad cores etc. Vanilla android works well even on single cores (example my HTC One V which has android+"heavy" HTC sense+512MB RAM. The performance is "OK". Without HTC sense, it would run just fine on single core.)So I can say that dual core is enough for any OS (iOS, Android, Windows, Windows desktop etc). Plus it is coupled with 2GB RAM+better GPU, which would help it give great real world performance.

14. cthunder

Posts: 126; Member since: Nov 02, 2010

Maybe it's just me, but I am not impressed. I would rather have a S4 and i am a Motorola fanboi. *shrugs*

15. TheSuperiorMan

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 07, 2013


16. miket247

Posts: 81; Member since: Apr 16, 2013

Over the last 15 years, I have owned two Motorolas. I can honestly say that I have been very happy with them. I dropped one Motorala phone getting into a evelator on the second floor at my work and it fell into the basement (dropped atleast 27-30 feet) . When I got it back, it was in three pieces. I put it together and put the battery in and it worked like nothing happend. That would never happen to these new smartphones, but I think its time to give this brand a new look. I have had a Sony, Samsung, LG, and Nokias since, and was thinking about a new S4, but now its time to go back to a Driod or a Moto X if available on Rogers/Fido network in Toronto.

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