Motorola DROID 3 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Deemed as the original flagship starter for Android, Motorola’s original DROID series might’ve relinquished its throne as the premier line for the ever-expanding platform – especially when the DROID 2 didn’t have the dramatic impact compared to its predecessor. Since the original’s arrival, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of high-caliber Android smartphones swooping down from above the clouds to tackle and take prominence over the sea of rivals. Nevertheless, you know that the popular DROID line is known for its barebones approach in not messing around, thus, keeping the public’s awareness solely on it.

It’s true to say the least! Especially when consumers refer to Android powered smartphones as DROID phones – but of course, enthusiast and purists know the difference. Naturally, it’s that kind of mentality that embodies Motorola’s original DROID family, and now that we’re witnessing the third installment in the series, it’s almost unimaginable to see this one slipping through the cracks. Boasting the always expected yearly hardware upgrades, we also see a larger presence with the Motorola DROID 3’s design – and rightfully so, it’s aiming to take things to a bigger level. Even though it’s competing against the likes of 4G LTE smartphones, it’ll be interesting to see if this third incarnation can ignite that fire that allowed the original to explode.

The package contains:

  • Motorola DROID 3
  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Reference Guide
  • Product Safety & Warranty Brochure

Design:

Without a doubt, the first thing that takes notice is the handset’s significantly larger frame compared to its predecessors, which is due to the larger display it’s packing along. Both longer and wider in form, the handset actually manages to shed some thickness (0.5”) to make it slightly more streamline – though, it’ll stick out prominently in your pockets.

Although it retains the former’s fundamental design characteristics, like its familiar industrial design, it sports some heavier hard lines and sharper contours. At the same time, its tough gunmetal-like plastic casing, combined with its soft touch rear, allows the handset to considerably feel more solid. Indeed, it’s heavier (6.49 oz) this time around, but it aids in maintaining its balanced figure. Not hiding the fact that it’s a DROID device from afar, we’re digging its developed design approach.



You can compare the Motorola DROID 3 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Right off the bat, our eyes are impressed to see the DROID 3 flaunting a larger 4” qHD (540 x 960) display, which easily dwarfs the previous offerings and places it closer to the realm of the DROID X series. No doubt employing some fantastic pixel density, its high resolution provides for some of the sharpest looking visuals to grace any of Verizon’s Android stable – making even fine text more than legible. Additionally, its color production is pretty nice too with its deep and vibrant tones.

However, viewing angles are undoubtedly questionable since colors fade, like how black turns into a greyish hue, when the handset is tilted a bit from its perfect 90-degree position. More than viewable indoors, its display washes in outdoor settings with the sun present seeing that its overall brightness output isn’t the strongest. Granted it might have its shortcomings, we’re nevertheless still glad to see Motorola bringing along a much larger and higher resolution display this time around.


Continuing to show off its new form, we now find the wonderful presence of a microHDMI-out port with the handset – providing that all too useful mirrored experience on your high-def television set. Also, the dedicated powered button is now placed squarely in the middle on the top edge – just like what we see on the DROID X2. However, we’re not thrilled with the amount of force needed to get a response out of its dedicated power button and volume rocker. And despite not being a 4G LTE enabled device, we’re glad to see a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera on board with the handset.


Previously, we saw a better improvement with the DROID 2’s keyboard over the original, but this time around, Motorola manages to address every single issue we had with the previous two. Honestly, this is probably one of the best keyboards we’ve seen on a smartphone in a long time! Although it still retains that manual sliding mechanism and its flat keys, its overall spacious layout makes for one of the best typing experiences. Specifically, the 5-row keyboard now employs a dedicated row for numbers – with the convenience of the directional pad still there. Buttons are sufficiently sized for the most part, but we’re blown away by its wicked responsive feel when buttons are pressed. Speed demons will no doubt love the usability of this keyboard as it boasts a ton of marked improvements over its predecessors.


Turning it around, it sports an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash, which has the ability to shoot full 1080p videos. Rather than using a metallic sliding battery cover used by its predecessors, we’re greeted with a ridiculously difficult to remove snap on rear cover that hides away its 1,500 mAh battery and available microSD card slot. Likewise, it’s nice to know that the handset is a global capable device from the onset with its SIM card slot in the rear compartment.



Motorola DROID 3 360-degrees View:





Interface and Functionality:

Riding high with its contemporaries in the high-end space, the Motorola DROID 3 stays faithful as its features a dual-core 1GHz OMAP4 processor from Texas Instruments with 512MB of RAM. Touted as offering a 27 percent faster multi-tasking performance over the DROID 2 Global and a 30 percent faster graphics chip as well, the DROID 3 moves at an unbelievable rate with most operations. Even with a graphically intensive live wallpaper, it’s able to swimmingly navigate between its homescreen without much fluff. Taking into account the wealth of 3D effects in play with its platform experience, we’re impressed with its stable and responsive performance.

Even though MOTOBLUR’s name is fading with each released device, the Motorola DROID 3 still employs some of the fundamental characteristics of the customized experience, which is almost similar to the one in use with the DROID X2. However, it’s able to remarkably differentiate itself with its glitzier looking presentation running on top of Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread. Whereas MOTOBLUR embodies a cartoony looking interface, this customized interface running on the DROID 3 is littered from head to toe with some impressive visuals that not only provide plenty of eye candy, but some useful functionality with its resizable widgets. Indeed much more polished in form versus previous offerings, we’re digging the direction that Motorola is taking things, but it still needs a few touchups here and there to draw itself into the same light to what we see with HTC’s Sense UI.


Obviously, the best messaging experience can be found with its physical keyboard, but if you just can’t help but use its on-screen ones, you’ll find an equally awesome experience as well. Whether it’s the Swype or Multi-touch keyboard, we’re greeted with spacious layouts and responsive rates that concretely make the typing experience such a joy on so many levels. So whichever way you go, just know it’ll be a great one no matter what!


As with the rest of its core apps, we’re presented with the usual depth of functionality that we’d expect with any high-end smartphone nowadays. From its Calendar to its Gmail app, it profoundly offers a multitude of features that cater to every individual out there – plus, it definitely helps that its larger hi-res display reduces the amount of scrolling.





Camera and Multimedia:

Dominating most of the interface, we get a good view on what we’re shooting with the viewfinder, but we find the usual suspect of icons littered on its side – like the on-screen shutter key, digital zoom controls, and video mode toggle. Furthermore, there’s an accessible sliding bar that holds additional icons that allow us to change shooting modes, choose different effects, and get into its settings. For the most part, it’s your conventional looking camera interface, while offering some tertiary functionality that might appeal photo buffs.


Needless to say, there are some high expectations with its sizable 8-megapixel auto-focus camera, but sadly enough, we’re disappointed beyond belief with its quality. Strangely, it works in this weird way by offering better results with shots taken indoors with artificial lighting than outdoors with natural lighting. Details are soft looking in tone with outdoor shots, and at the same time, its color production is terribly off with its cool appearance – plus, it sometimes bleeds heavily with its over-exposed results. Interestingly enough, indoor shots fare a bit better with its more neutral color production – albeit, details are still speckled. Luckily, the LED flash is potent enough to lighten up shots taken in low-lighting conditions. However, it’s pretty much worthless in complete darkness since it can’t focus properly, which can be remedied with the flash being turned on briefly beforehand – though, it doesn’t do that!




As much as we’re saddened by its uninviting photo taking abilities, we’re relieved to find it faring a bit better with video recording. Finding full 1080p video capture on board with the handsets, we’re greeted with some fair looking details that are complemented by its 29 frames per second capture rate in sufficient lighting – albeit, it drops with less lighting. Exhibiting some fluid and smooth movements, we’re content with its sharp looking production thanks to its feature of continuous auto-focus aboard for the ride. Moreover, audio recording is pleasantly clear and distortion free to round out its good-looking capture quality.

Motorola DROID 3 Sample Video:



Utilizing the same music player interface featured on other recent Motorola smartphones, it has a conventional approach with its presentation as songs are being played – displaying such things as the album cover and on-screen controls. However, we do like the nifty looking 3D carouselgallery available when we’re browsing through songs in landscape. Unlike the blistering tones found with its predecessors, the audio quality is reserved a little bit more this time around – yet, it’s still more than audible to the ear without sounding too irritating. Fortunately, it packs on some additional equalizer options to better fine tune its output accordingly.



Mainly due to its faster dual-core processor, high-definition video playback poses no problem to the Motorola DROID 3. Using video at 1920 x 1080 resolution, it’s easily able to exude some graciously fluid movements with its operation – all the while radiating with plenty of rich detail. And of course, it helps that the larger high-resolution display is able to supplement the already fantastic experience.

Not surprising at all, sharing multimedia content is no problem for the DROID 3 seeing that it offers DLNA functionality that allow you to stream things wirelessly to other DLNA certified devices. If that’s not an option for you, then you can always resort to using its microHDMI-out port and connect it to your high-definition television set to watch full 1080p videos. And to top it off, there’s an option to get a mirrored experience as well so you can interact with the handset while everything is being displayed on the big screen.

This time around, the handset’s microSD card slot is unoccupied from the onset because it packs 16GB of internal storage. Essentially, you can up it to as much as 48GB in total capacity if you happen to throw in a 32GB card into its available slot.

Internet, Connectivity and Software:

We can only dream about seeing 4G LTE connectivity with this one, but instead, we’re left having to deal with slightly longer load times with complex web pages like ours. Nevertheless, the overall experience is seemingly on par to what we’re normally accustomed to seeing with most top-notch smartphones. Sure its navigational performance can be choppy at times, which isn’t all that detrimental, but considering that it offers Flash support, we’re gladly accepting of its desktop-like experience more than others.


Being the CDMA device it is, it’ll work domestically here via Verizon’s solid network, but what makes this one particularly prized is the fact that it’s a global capable device as well – meaning, you’ll be able to use it abroad. However, just expect to ride 2G EDGE connectivity if you happen to pop in an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card in there (after it’s unlocked of course). Other traditional connectivity items include 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, and aGPS. Also, the handset can act as a mobile hotpot as well by allowing up to 5 devices to attach themselves to its cellular data connection.

Besides the usual set of Google apps normally in for the ride with just about any other Android smartphone out there, we find quite a few third party ones that some can appreciate. Specifically, we find apps like Amazon Kindle, Blockbuster, City ID, Lets Golf 2, NFL Mobile, NOVA, Quickoffice, Skype, Slacker, and ZumoCast. Equally, enterprise users will like the fact that apps like Citrix, GoToMeeting, and MOTOPRINT are all available. And of course, it wouldn’t be a smartphone from Verizon if it doesn’t boast the usual party of VZ apps – like My Verizon Mobile, V CAST Media Manager, V CAST Music, V CAST Tones, V CAST Videos, and VZ Navigator.






Performance:

For the most part, we’re content with the Motorola DROID 3’s calling quality as the earpiece produces some strong tones – thus, yielding some prominent voices that are distinctively clear. Simultaneously, there are no evidence of any static or background noise with its quality. Conversely though, our callers on the other end of the line state hearing choppy sounding voices – but they’re still audible enough to make out. As for the speakerphone, its output isn’t the strongest out there, but it doesn’t help that voices are muffled either.

During our testing in the greater Philadelphia region, it’s able to put amount of signal strength as it hovers around the -81 dBm mark in high coverage areas.

Battery life is something that’s seemingly desired with the handset to balance its overall appeal since it’s kind of lacking in that particular department. Using the handset primarily for emails, text messaging, web surfing, and the occasional phone call, we’re only able to achieve the 15 hour mark before needing a recharge. It’s not all that bad for light users, but power users will want to constantly charge it as much as they can. In our testing, we’re able to get 8 hours of talk time out of a fully charge, which is more than adequate for most people.

Conclusion:

By far, the Motorola DROID 3 is able to remarkably differentiate itself from its predecessor in the DROID 2 – thanks to its far superior amped hardware and larger than life presence with its design. Concurrently, we totally dig the considerably improved QWERTY keyboard since the refinements we see easily enable it to become one of the best messaging devices out there right now. Likewise, we like the direction that Motorola is taking with its customized Android experience as it takes advantage of the raw processing power of its dual-core processor.

Obviously, the Motorola DROID 3 isn’t shining brightly in all areas, like its unenticing photo quality with its camera and sub-par battery life, but considering that it holds up firmly overall as a high-end smartphone, it’s rather hard to not take notice of the handset. Sure we would’ve loved to see 4G LTE on this bad boy, but it would’ve compromised the handset in many ways – possibly making it heftier and getting even worse battery life. For $199.99 on-contract, the iconic Motorola DROID 3 is able to deliver a solid well-rounded performance to keep it in favorable light – but then again, it’ll be interesting to see what the Motorola DROID BIONIC will be bringing to the dinner table later on.

Software version of the reviewed unit:
Android version: 2.3.4
Kernel version: 2.6.35.7-g42f0276
Build number: 5.5.1_84_D3G-20_TA-9

Motorola DROID 3 Video Review:





Pros

  • Phenomenal keyboard layout & feel
  • High-resolution display
  • Fast performance with its dual-core processor
  • Updated customized Android experience
  • Global capabilities

Cons

  • Captures terrible looking photos
  • Sub-par battery life

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

8.9
10 Reviews

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