Motorola Droid Bionic Review – Verizon Wireless

Jonathan Radande October 3, 2011 3



Ever since it was announced back at CES 2011, the Motorola Droid Bionic has been a phone that many people have been waiting for. After numerous delays, rumors of cancellation, and finally a trip back to the drawing board to make it more competitive, the Motorola Droid Bionic is finally available for anyone to purchase. Was it worth the wait? Will all of the changes that Motorola made to the phone be enough to make it compete with the other powerful phones that are out there? Let’s find out in our review of the Motorola Droid Bionic.

The Good

  • Speed: The Motorola Droid Bionic is fast. Depending on which phone you’re coming from, you will definitely know what I’m talking about. Applications launch quickly, the phone doesn’t choke when multiple apps are open, switching between apps is a breeze. The combination of the 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM definitely makes this phone speedy and powerful.
  • Design/Build: The Bionic feels like it’s made out of quality material. It isn’t too light, and it’s not too heavy either. Holding it in your hand feels just right. If you’re a fan of the “hump” that Motorola started with the Droid X, then you’re also going to like the hump on the Bionic.
  • Hardware: 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 4G LTE, 4.3-inch qHD display, front camera for video chat, rear camera that does 1080P HD video and 8-megapixel photos, HDMI mirroring, 16GB of internal storage. It’s the only dual-core 4G LTE phone on the market.
  • 4G LTE: The Droid Bionic is the first dual-core 4G LTE phone on Verizon. Things download and upload faster. There’s no need to switch to Wi-Fi to do things that require a lot of data. Simply use the high speeds provided by 4G LTE.
  • HDMI: Full HDMI mirror mode is a plus. Simply connect your Droid Bionic to an HDMI port on your TV and BAM, the contents of your phone is displayed on your TV.
  • 1080P Video Recording: The video quality on the Bionic is great, especially if you record in 1080P mode. I can’t say the same about photo quality.
  • Micro SD Card Access: The microSD card is no longer tucked under the battery, which means that you no longer have to power down the phone just to remove the card.
  • The Bad

  • Screen: Yes, the display on the Bionic is inferior. It’s not a deal breaker, but at the same time, it’s no Super AMOLED Plus display. If you look close enough, you can see that things aren’t as smooth as they should be.
  • Battery: Although the phone packs a 1735mAh battery, it still struggles to get through the day on a single charge. This isn’t really a Bionic issue; it’s more of a 4G LTE phone issue.
  • Camera: While the video quality is great, taking pictures with the Bionic can be a frustrating experience. The camera simply takes too long to focus! If the subject you’re taking the picture of moves, you could very much end up missing the moment or getting a very blurry picture.
  • Connectivity issues: There were a few cases during my testing where I would lose signal and not be able to reconnect. The only option was to shutdown and restart..

Motorola Droid Bionic Hardware

You probably know by now that this is not the same Motorola Droid Bionic that was unveiled at CES 2011. Motorola decided to go back to the drawing board to make the Bionic a better device, and I think it paid off, because what we have today is definitely better and stronger than what was unveiled at CES.

The Motorola Droid Bionic is the first dual-core 4G LTE device on Verizon’s network. It features a 4.3-inch qHD display, a 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (with an additional 16GB microSD card), a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that’s also capable of recording videos at 1080P, a 1735mAh battery., HDMI and microUSB ports, and much more. The phone weighs 158 grams and measures 66.9 x 127.5 x 10.99 mm (height x width x depth).

On the front of the device you have the 4.3-inch qHD display with a nice metallic bezel surrounding it that gives it a nice contrast compared to the dark screen. The top of the display contains the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera that is used for taking self portraits or video chatting. Laid out towards the bottom of the display are the four capacitive touch buttons (menu, home, back, and search) and the microphone



On the left side, towards the bottom, you have the standard microUSB and HDMI ports that’s pretty much standard on every Motorola Phone. The HDMI connection does support full mirror mode, meaning that you can connect your phone to your TV and see everything that you see on your phone on your TV. This is great for playing games on the big screen and showing everyone pictures and movies that you took on your device.

The right side of the device has nothing but volume rockers that are correctly placed; they aren’t too high or too low. I can’t say the same about the power button on the top.

At the very top of the device, you have your power button on your left hand side and your your headphone jack on the right hand side. I thought that the placement of the power button was weird at first, but with time, it grew on me. Maybe I didn’t like it at first because I was so used to having the power button on the right side with my original Droid and in the center with my Droid X.

In regards to the headphone jack, some people have complained about a faint high-pitched noise when stopping and starting music. In the time that I’ve had the phone, I haven’t experienced this issue.

On the back of the device, you have an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash that is capable of capturing video at 1080P, a speaker grill on the bottom, and a noise-cancelling microphone up top. If you look closely at the camera, there appears to be a second speaker, but that’s not the case; it’s just for design purposes. There’s only one speaker on the back.

Build

Like every other Motorola device, the Droid Bionic is made out of high-quality material, and you can tell simply by holding it. The phone isn’t super heavy, and it’s not light either. It’s somewhere right in between. It’s the perfect balance between light and heavy.

In terms of design, the Bionic has the “hump” design in the back that is also part of the Droid X and Droid X2. Although the hump isn’t as defined as that of the Droid X and X2, it’s still there, and it’s still visible.

I personally like the hump on the back of the phone. I think it makes it look more sophisticated. For those of you who don’t like it, just know that it isn’t as obvious as in the Droid X and X2.

Display

The Bionic’s 4.3-inch qHD pentile display has been the topic of many discussions. Yes, it’s no Super AMOLED Plus display, but at the same time, it’s no piece of garbage either. Yes, if you are the type of person that absolutely pays attention to every single detail, you will notice that some colors, such as green have a hard time being displayed. In addition, if you look really close, you can actually see the individual pixels with the naked eye.

I personally didn’t hate the display. I understand that with Samsung’s Super AMOLED display, all the other types of displays are going to just feel inferior. If something like this has the potential to forever hate your device, I suggest you play around with the phone for a little bit prior to making the purchase.

Software

The Motorola Droid Bionic runs Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread. On top of Gingerbread is Motorola’s custom UI, which used to be called MotoBlur, but has since gone nameless. In addition to all of the standard Google apps you are used to seeing such as GMail, Google Maps, Market, etc, the phone also comes preloaded with some Verizon bloatware and custom Motorola apps.

Verizon Apps

The Verizon apps that come preloaded with the Droid Bionic include backup assistant, V Cast Media Manager, VZ Navigator, V Cast Music, V Cast Tones, and NFL Mobile. As always with Verizon, these apps are not removable unless you root your device. It’s really not that big of a deal, you will eventually ignore them and continue on with your day. It would be nice if Verizon at least made it possible to uninstall unwanted bloatware.

Pre-installed Verizon Apps

If you’re a football fan, then you’re going to like the fact that NFL Mobile is included in the Droid Bionic. The app lets you keep up with all the NFL action, all season long. From the NFL Mobile app, you can get game scores, news on your favorite teams, alerts, watch videos, listen to games live, and much more.


          
If you love Football, then you’ll love the NFL Mobile app

Other Apps

In addition to the Verizon bloatware that comes with the Bionic, there are some other applications that also come pre-installed, courtesy of Motorola and other companies. Pre-loaded on the Bionic, you will find the Blockbuster app, City ID, Citrix Receiver, Go To Meeting, MotoPrint, Quick Office, Slacker Radio, Video Surf, and ZumoCast. Let’s take a quick look at each of these apps.

  • Blockbuster: Use it to rent movies, if you’re a fan of Blockbuster. With services like Netflix and the Movie rental service in the Android Market, Verizon really needs to stop pushing this unnecessary app on our phones.
  • City ID : Find out which city a number of calling from based on the area code. Comes as a free trial, but will set you back $1.99 per month if you decide to keep it. Is it really that important to for you to know which city a call is from?
  • Citrix Receiver: Citrix Receiver allows you to access enterprise data, applications, and desktop directly from your Droid Bionic (or any other Android device). I personally didn’t try out this app, but I’m sure that it could be very useful for enterprise folks. Make sure talk to your IT systems administrator to find out if it’s supported on your work network.
  • Go To Meeting : The Go To Meeting app allows you to access Go To Meetings directly from your Droid Bionic. Simply enter your meeting ID, name, and email, and you’re good to go. You no longer need to be at your office or in front of your computer to access to meetings.
  • MotoPrint : MotoPrint allows you to print documents from your phone to a printer on your home network. In order to print, you need to be connected to the wireless network that the printer is located on. The process includes installing a host application on your computer that accepts the print jobs sent to it from the phone.
  • QuickOffice : Create and edit save documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. In addition to creating these types of documents, QuickOffice also allows you to view PDFs. The app lets you access your data from the cloud from services such as Google Docs, Dropbox ,Box, SugarSync, and more.
  • Slacker Radio : Listen to customized radio stations. If you like Pandora, you’ll probably like Slacker, too.
  • Video Surf : Video Surf lets you identify videos. Think of it as the Shazam or Soundhound of videos. Simply point your phone at a video, and Video Surf identifies the video in just a few seconds.
  • ZumoCast : ZumoCast allows you to access the data on your home PC from your Motorola Droid Bionic. Whether it’s Music, Videos, Pictures, or documents, everything is accessible right from your phone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the service to connect; I kept receiving a service error each time.

Google Talk with Video

The great benefit of having a front-facing camera and Android 2.3.4 is the video chat. I am already a big fan of Google Talk, and now that video chat is available, the service just becomes better.


     

Video chatting on the Droid Bionic is simple. Simply touch the camera icon next to one of your contacts that have video enabled on their device and you’re good to go. The call quality was very good, thanks to the 1.3-megapixel camera and 4G LTE connectivity.

Camera

The Motorola Droid Bionic features an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash in the back that is capable of shooting video at 1080P. In the front, it contains a 1.3-megapixel camera that is good for video chat.

The camera is great for taking pictures, when it works properly. Other times, you will just end up getting frustrated. When taking pictures, it just takes way too long for the camera to focus on the subject. More often, you will end up with blurry pictures because your subject moved, or because the camera had a hard time focusing on the subject. It’s really sad that they decided to release this phone with this type of camera. There is definitely room for improvement here.

If you do manage to get your subject focused on properly, the pictures come out pretty good. Getting good pictures with your Bionic will require patience on your part and quiet possibly a few tries before you get the right picture.

Recording videos on the Droid Bionic wasn’t as painful as taking pictures. I found that recording 1080P videos was easy and the quality was great. The auto-focusing problem that occurred when taking pictures was not as bad when recording video. To really appreciate the video and see its great quality, try viewing it on an HDTV via the phone’s HDMI connection.

Rear Camera Photo Samples


     


     

Front Camera Photo Samples

     

1080P Video Sample



Mobile viewing link

Accessories

The Droid Bionic has a number of optional accessories that are available. Although I didn’t get to test any of them out, I figured that I’d at least give you a rundown of what’s available.

HD Station

The HD Station for the Bionic turns your phone into a multimedia station. Once plugged into the HD station, you can access your phone on the big screen, plug in external speakers and listen to music, use the Webtop and get access to the Firefox browser. The HD Station features USB ports so you can plug in your mouse or keyboard. It comes with a remote control and HDMI cable.

Price: $99.99

Lapdock

The lapdock for your Droid Bionic transforms your Bionic into a laptop. Simply connect your Droid Bionic to the lapdock and the Webtop app automatically launches. From there, you have your Firefox web browser which puts the web at your fingertips on a bigger screen.

Unlike the lapdock that was available with the Atrix 4G on AT&T Wireless, you will not be required to purchase a tethering plan if you decide to buy the lapdock; your data plan is sufficient. This is a great move by Verizon Wireless. The lapdock on AT&T wasn’t a huge hit because the network decided to charge users extra to use it.

Price: $299.99

Travel Adapter

If the lapdock accessory is too pricey, then the Travel Adapter might be a good alternative for you. Simply connect the Travel Adapter to your Bionic and then connect to either to a monitor or HDTV. The Webtop app instantly launches and your phone is available on a bigger screen.

Price: $N/A

Battery Life

The Motorola Droid Bionic comes packed with a powerful 1735mAh battery, the most powerful battery on any 4G LTE phone on Verizon Wireless. You won’t be hearing all the battery issues that you’ve been hearing about from other 4G LTE phones.

During my testing, I was able to go most of the day without a recharge. I don’t consider myself a light user. I have 4 email accounts that sync, Facebook, Google +, Twitter, and I’m constantly on the phone. Whether it’s streaming music via Google Music Beta, catching up on the latest stories on Reddit, checking my Google Reader feed, or one of the many other things I find myself doing on my phone throughout the day, I must say that I’m impressed with the Bionic’s battery life.

It’s true that I never went an entire day, from the moment I wake up (5:30-6AM) until the moment I go to bed (11PM-12AM), on a single charge. But to be able to go the entire day with just an extra charge is great for a dual-core, 4G LTE device.

Performance

The Droid Bionic is a fast phone. The 1GB of RAM coupled with the 1GHz dual-core processor makes using the phone fun. Applications load quickly, web pages load fast, and things just run smoothly. I have no problems multi-tasking on this thing. Everything I need is quickly available and I don’t spend time waiting for the information that I need.

About Benchmarks

I’m at a stage where I’m seriously considering ignoring the whole Quadrant benchmarking system. The system is flawed and could easily be gamed, nevertheless, I decided to include it in this review because I understand that it’s something that many people look forward to seeing.

After running a few Quadrant Standard benchmarks, my Droid Bionic scored anywhere between 2100 to 2400. Although these numbers are low compared to the Galaxy S II, you have to understand that Quadrant scores do not actually represent a device’s true performance. As a matter of fact, Quadrant scores can be easily manipulated to make even low-end system appear to be powerful.



     
Motorola Droid Bionic Quadrant Standard benchmark results

In the end, what really matters is how the phone feels and performs according to you, and to me, the Droid Bionic is a very powerful phone.

4G LTE / Call Quality

The Motorola Droid Bionic is Verizon’s first dual-core 4G LTE phone. If you’re in one of the 150+ markets with 4G LTE service, you will definitely enjoy the faster upload and download speeds. I ran a number of Speed Tests using Ookla’s Speed Test app and the results were pretty consistent. I averaged around 7Mbps download and 5Mbps upload speeds during my testing.


     
Droid Bionic Speedtest results

I will have to say that there were some times when my phone lost complete data access, and the only way to restore the service was to perform a reboot. Not even the airplane mode on/off trick could help.

This usually occurred when the phone was switching from either 4G to 3G or vice versa. Verizon and Motorola are aware of the issue and are working on resolving it in the next update.

When it comes to actual call quality, the Droid Bionic did very well. The phone and network never caused any problems when making calls. I could always clearly here the other party on the phone and they could always hear me, too. During my testing, I didn’t experience any dropped calls at all.

Conclusion

Overall, I think that the Motorola Droid Bionic is a great phone. I also think that it was a good decision by Motorola to go back to the drawing board to give us the Droid Bionic that we know today. I think that the Droid Bionic could be Motorola’s best phone to date. It’s 4.3-inch display, dual-core processor, and excellent build quality makes it a great device for anyone looking for a new phone.

While it’s true that it’s not as powerful, thin, light as the popular Samsung Galaxy S II, it’s still a great phone. Paired with Verizon’s 4G LTE network, the Droid Bionic is a no-brainer when deciding on a 4G LTE device on Verizon Wireless.

So, should you get the Droid Bionic? With so many new high-end phones on the horizon for Verizon Wireless, it’s hard to tell if you should take the plunge and get the Droid Bionic. After all, there are a bunch of new phones heading to Big Red before the end of the year. If you like the phone and have been waiting for it for a long time, yes, go ahead and get it. You won’t regret your decision. If you’ve been on the fence, I would suggest that you wait and see what Verizon is going to release in the next few weeks.

The Motorola Droid Bionic is currently available online at VerizonWireless.com/droid-bionic.shtml and other online retailers, such as Amazon Wireless.

  • FanDroid619

    Awesome review Jonathan! Quite honest and thorough. Sadly, too many reviews get published out there a bit prematurely and suffer from a lack of quite a few key criticisms or noteworthy features.

  • B Naranjo

    Good review, man. I bought the phone because of this. And … well, I’d say more, but I need to get back to playing with my new phone. It kicks ass!

  • B Naranjo

    Good review, man. I bought the phone because of this. And … well, I’d say more, but I need to get back to playing with my new phone. It kicks ass!