Motorola DROID Mini Review

32
Introduction and Design
This is a small review of the Motorola DROID Mini, as it shares many of the same features that are on the DROID Ultra, which you can read about here.

Introduction


Just as the Motorola DROID Ultra is this year’s replacement for the DROID RAZR HD, the new DROID Mini takes the place of the DROID RAZR M in the line-up. In fact, both the DROID Mini and DROID Ultra share similar features, such as the 1.7GHz Motorola X8 SoC, 10MP Clear Pixel camera, and Kevlar construction. With the Mini, all is coming in a smaller package for those not looking for a massive smartphone.

Included in the retail package is the Motorola DROID Mini XT1030, wall charger with microUSB cable, and user guides.

Design


As the name implies, the Motorola DROID Mini is a smaller version of the DROID Ultra. In fact, it is almost the same size and weight as the DROID RAZR M, which makes it quite compact and comfortable to hold. Even though the DROID Mini is slightly thicker than the DROID Ultra, this doesn’t take away from the overall appearance.


Motorola DROID Mini
Dimensions

4.77 x 2.41 x 0.35 inches

121.25 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Motorola DROID Ultra
Dimensions

5.41 x 2.8 x 0.28 inches

137.5 x 71.2 x 7.18 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

Motorola DROID RAZR M
Dimensions

4.82 x 2.4 x 0.33 inches

122.5 x 60.9 x 8.3 mm

Weight

4.44 oz (126 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4
Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Motorola DROID Mini
Dimensions

4.77 x 2.41 x 0.35 inches

121.25 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Motorola DROID Ultra
Dimensions

5.41 x 2.8 x 0.28 inches

137.5 x 71.2 x 7.18 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

Motorola DROID RAZR M
Dimensions

4.82 x 2.4 x 0.33 inches

122.5 x 60.9 x 8.3 mm

Weight

4.44 oz (126 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4
Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

Compare these and other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Both the DROID Mini and DROID Ultra share the same Kevlar construction, allowing for it to be tough and durable, but at the same time we’re not a fan of the glossy backing that is a fingerprint magnet. We believe a better choice would have been the soft-touch coating, which is used on the DROID MAXX.


Motorola has decided to bring back the dedicated capacitive control buttons (back, home, and recent apps) under the display, instead of using the on-screen buttons. Most likely this was done to make better use of the screen real-estate, while above it is a 2MP camera for self pics or video chatting. On the right edge of the phone is the power/lock key and volume rocker, which are raised-up and have a nice texture to them so they are easy to find. Up on top is a 3.5mm headset jack, with the microUSB port on the bottom, and the camera with LED flash and external speaker on the back. If you are wondering about the SIM card slot, it is actually part of the volume rocker. All you need to do is get your finger nail (or a small pin) under the center part, push up and pull out. This is an interesting way to make use of all available space, instead of having a separate SIM slot.




Display


Even though the DROID Ultra received a larger display this year, the DROID Mini remains at 4.3”, though instead of using Super AMOLED technology, the DROID Mini is sporting an LCD display with a resolution of 720x1280 pixels. When looking at the DROID Mini next to the DROID Ultra, the Super AMOLED on the Ultra does have more “pop” to it, but the LCD on the Mini still looks great. In fact, due to the higher pixels-per-inch, both text and images look a bit sharper on the DROID Mini. The only downside is that DROID Mini’s LCD screen doesn’t have as wide of viewing angles, and is not as bright and visible when viewed in heavy sunlight.

Also on board is the Active Display notification feature, which we’ve seen on the Moto X and DROID Ultra. Basically what it does it allows you to nudge the phone, and only the center of the display will turn on showing the date and time. Then if you get any notifications, such as a new message or a missed call, only that part of the display will turn on. This way, the device will conserve power since it does not have to turn on the entire display.

Motorola DROID Mini 360-Degrees View:



Interface and Functionality


Wow, take a look at that! The Motorola DROID Mini is running the exact same flavor of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean that we saw on the DROID Ultra. All joking aside, we’re glad to see Motorola using the same software across multiple devices in its DROID line-up. Like we mentioned before, it’s as close to stock as possible, with 5 home screens, apps drawer and widget selection, but still has some extra additions.


These include Touchless Control, which is voice recognition with the Google Now experience, Motorola Assist, Droid Zap for sharing images and videos to other nearby phones, Motorola Migrate to transfer setting from your old phone to your new phone, and Wireless Display. You can read more about these exclusive Motorola features in the DROID Ultra review here.


Everything else is pretty much stock Android, from the calendar, calculator, clock, and alarm, to the E-Mail and GMail apps. Just keep in mind that since the display is 4.3”, the on-screen keyboard is a bit cramped and the keys are a bit small in size, which may pose an issue for people with larger hands.



Processor and Memory


Again we see the use of new Motorola X8 SoC, which combines a 1.7 GHz dual-core application processor, 400 MHz quad-core GPU, a natural language processor core, and a contextual computing core. The latter of which is used for voice recognition of Touchless Controls and the behind-the-scenes working of Motorola Assist. (You can read more details about the X8 here).

Since the Motorola DROID Mini and DROID Ultra make use of the X8 processor and have 2GB of RAM, it’s only natural that both devices would have similar benchmark scores, but they also stack-up nicely when compared to other devices that use standard quad-core processors. The DROID Mini is plenty quick in its boot-up time, loading and running apps, multitasking, and playing games.


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuGLBenchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD)Vellamo
(HTML5 / Metal)
Motorola DROID Mini8827192525982 / 53 fps2449 / 775
Motorola DROID Ultra8609193845973 / 53 fps2455 / 768
Samsung Galaxy S412078247014437 / 39 fps1702 / 704
HTC One12481233083551 / 31 fps2395 / 781


One area of disappointment with the new devices is that the DROID Mini and Ultra lack a microSD card slot for expanded storage, which means you are limited to the internal 16GB. This then gets divided into the Android OS (4.97GB), Apps, etc, which leaves you with about 9GB of usable space out of the box. The only way to have more storage space is to opt for the DROID MAXX, which comes with 32GB of internal storage.

Internet and Connectivity


Combining both the X8 processor and Verizon’s 4G LTE data network, the Chrome browser on the Mini is a breeze to use. Pages load fast and properly rendered, with pinch-to-zoom and scrolling being quite fluid.


When using the SppedTest.net app, we were able to get between 15-27 Mbps downloads and 10-15 Mbps uploads depending on the area, time of day, and signal strength. Since the device is Global Roaming ready, it can also be used in other countries with EDGE/GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), HSPA/UMTS (850/900/1900/2100MHz), supporting HSDPA 42.2 Mbps (Category 20) and HSUPA 5.76 Mbps speeds.

Other connectivity includes Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 with EDR, and NFC.

Camera


This year, Motorola is featuring a new 10MP Clear Pixel camera on several of its devices, including the DROID line. Instead of using a standard RGB sensor, the Clear Pixel sensor uses RGBC, with the C standing for “clear”, which is said to help collect up to 75% more light. This is combined with an f/2.4 aperture lens and 1.4 micron pixel size.

The camera interface is identical to the one of the Moto X and DROID Ultra; minimalistic in its nature with some basic settings, and lacking any fancy color effects/modes. Swiping over to the right will pull-over a dial on the left that allows some user options for HDR, flash, tap to focus, slow motion video, panorama, geo-tag, shutter tone, and quick capture (which allows you to quickly launch the camera just by flipping it in your hand twice) though we did notice that it sometimes didn’t work all that well. There is also continuous burst shooting, all you have to do is press-and-hold on the screen for it to take one picture after another. One option missing is a way to change the camera resolution, as it is fixed at 10MP 4320x2432 pixel resolution widescreen.


Images that we took outside were not that impressive, though they were plenty bright, as some areas were over-exposed, and colors looked muted and dull, instead of vibrant and life-like. Even though there was plenty of visible detail, when zooming in we could tell that images weren’t as sharp as we would like.

For indoor images with bright light, images continued to look passable, but the ISO was at 640, which did cause for a bit of visible grain. As we moved to lower light, the ISO jumped all the way to 2500, which made the image plenty bright, but colors and details were noticeably blotchy looking. The single LED flash does a good job illuminating the room, but again we have an ISO of 2000 with a lot of grain, and colors have a bit of a green-hue to them.


Videos are recorded at 1080p resolution at 30fps and with a data rate of 17 Mbps, allowing for smooth playback without any jittering effect. Even though videos look good for the most part, we did notice that when going between bright and dark areas, it does take a few seconds for the exposure to readjust, and the focusing can take a couple seconds as well. Sound quality is pretty good, as it’s captured in 2ch stereo with a bit rate of 128 kbps and a 48 kHz sampling rate.

Video Thumbnail


Multimedia


With the Motorola DROID Mini being almost stock Android as possible, the gallery app is straight forward and easy to use without any unnecessary clutter. All pictures and videos are shown in a thumbnail view, based on their file directory. But there are still some built-in picture adjustments available, such as color effect, borders, and cropping.

When it comes to video playback, again there are no surprises here, as it can play pretty much any file you can though at it, including MPEG4, H.264/263, DivX and Xvid.


The standard Google Play Music app can access your stored music files on the phone, allows for purchasing of songs and albums, and don’t forget about the All Access subscription feature. The small micro-dots next to the camera is where the speaker is located. Even though it sounds good, it seems to us that the DROID Ultra is capable of producing louder and fuller sounding music from its rear speaker. Still, we’d recommend using a pair of wired earbuds for an overall better quality music experience.



Call Quality


Just like with its big brother, the Motorola DROID Mini does well in this category. We made several calls over a couple of days, and voices on our end were clear and natural sounding. People that we talk to also said we sounded clear on their end, without any distortion or static. Volume was also good, as when turning it up all the way we could still hear callers while we were in a noisy environment. Signal reception was also respectable at -90dBm for 1x voice, and -103dBm for 4G LTE data.

Battery


As it turns out, both the Motorola DROID Mini and DROID RAZR M come with a 2000 mAh capacity internal battery, which is said to provide up to 28 hours of usage time or 14 days of standby time. In our testing, we were able to get up to 11 hours of continuous talk time (while the larger 2130 mAh battery on the DROID Ultra could provide 13 hours of talk time), or about 1.5 days of mixed usage. But if you are a power-user and want the maximum battery capacity available, then you should look at the DROID MAXX, as it comes with an impressive 3500mAh battery, though the device is larger overall.

Conclusion


With a 2-year contract price of $99.99, the Motorola DROID Mini is the most affordable of the new DROIDs, and still has the same X8 processor, software, and features that its larger siblings have. The DROID Mini is truly designed for someone that wants a smaller and more-compact smartphone. Even though the display is 4.3”, which is small by today’s standards, there is no way a larger display would fit, without making the device larger as well. Overall, we believe that Motorola did a nice job balancing form and function with the DROID Mini.

Software version on the reviewed unit:
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Baseband version: MSM8960PRO_BP_2323.011.75.00R
Kernel version: 3.4.42-gfd1a699-00151gc170e6f
Build date: Tue Aug 6 18:39:38 CDT 2013
Build number: 12.9.0Q2.X-160-OBK_TA-14-7


Video Thumbnail


Pros

  • Nice size for compact smartphone lovers
  • Close to stock Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with exclusive Motorola apps
  • Excellent call quality

Cons

  • Glossy back is fingerprint magnet
  • Lacks expandable storage

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

9.2
6 Reviews

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless