Motorola Droid Bionic Review: Editor’s Choice (Videos)

The Motorola droid Bionic has had a storied launch, but after 9 months of waiting Motorola has finally delivered a new flagship phone to Verizon.

The Bionic is a the first 4G LTE dual core smartphone to arrive on Verizon Wireless, just in time for millions of users to enjoy the fast 4G LTE speeds and the snappy performance.

The Motorola Droid Bionic borrows a collection of features, like a Lapdock and Webtop accessories from the Motorola Atrix, and along with the high end specs you would expect on a $300 smartphone.

Does the Bionic deliver on its promise for speed and power? Keep reading to find out if the Droid Bionic is worth the $299 on contract price.

Droid Bionic Hands On Video

Droid Bionic Hardware

The Droid Bionic is a surprisingly thin phone, when it comes to a 4G LTE device. It measures 2.6″ wide x 5.0″ tall and just .4″ thick, noticeably thinner than the Samsung Droid Charge, the thinnest 4G smartphone on Verizon until today.

The Motorola Droid Bionic has a tapered back. similar to the Droid X2.

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Motorola Droid Bionic BoxWhen you pick up the Droid Bionic, the first thing you’ll notice is how good it feels in your hand. The tapered sides and slightly rubberized rear case are proof that Motorola went back to the drawing board for good reason.

The Droid Bionic is also light, especially when compared to the ThunderBolt which has a noticeable heft. It’s definitely the best designed 4G LTE smartphone on Verizon.

The Bionic has a everything you would expect a flagship Droid smartphone to have including;

  • 4.3″ qHD Pentile display with 960 x 540 resolution
  • 1GHz Dual Core processor
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB Internal Storage & 16GB MicroSD card preinstalled
  • 8MP rear camera (1080P recording) and front facing VGA webcam
  • MicroHDMI

As you would expect, there are volume rockers on the right side of the phone, and on the left a microUSB and Micro HDMI connection for charging and playing content on your big screen. The top of the device swaps the traditional layout, with a power button on the left and headphones on the right. This difference takes only a few minutes to adjust to.

Motorola Droid Bionic back

Note the tapered edges of the Droid Bionic's back.

When you snap the back off the Droid Bionic, you see a 1735mAH rated battery, 4G LTE SIM card and MicroSD. These items a re crammed in quite tight, and it took us several tries to remove the battery. Hopefully you won’t need to change the battery on a daily basis.

The Motorola Droid Bionic will have the following accessories available for purchase;

  • Lapdock – turn your phone into a laptop – $299.97
  • HD Station – turn your Droid into an office with this adapter – 99.99
  • Adapter for Webtop Application –  will be available for $29.99
  • Vehicle Navigation Dock  -  $39.99.
  • Battery Dock with Standard Battery – $49.99.

Droid Bionic Display

Motorola Droid Bionic Review

The Droid Bionic is Verizon's First Dual Core 4G LTE Smartphone

The 4.3″ qHD display has a higher than average resolution for Android smartphones and performs well in the most important areas for a smartphone. In general, colors look good and the touch response is on target.

Resolution – The higher resolution isn’t just about watching movies, it means you can fit more on the screen at once. This means less scrolling on webpages and being able to read an entire email without scrolling again and again. If you love to use the Kindle ap, you’ll like the higher resolution screen.

Outdoor Visibility – The Pentile display lends itself to outdoor use. Competing smartphones have trouble handling the bright light and force you to shield the display to read even at full brightness, but the Droid Bionic is visible outdoors without the hassles you would normally encounter.

Viewing Angles – The Bionic has pretty good viewing angles. You won’t want to share a full Netflix movie unless you absolutely have to, but if you want to use the large display to share vacation pics with mom and dad (or show them a hilarious YouTube clip) it will work just fine.

Colors – The colors are in general OK, but lacked “pop” in many occasions.

Some users won’t like the Pentile display, but in my book it beats out the HTC ThunderBolt and performs quite well. The higher resolution and ability to really use it outdoors are a winning combination and something that can’t be overlooked.

The display still has trouble matching the iPhone 4, but it is above average for Android smartphones.

Droid Bionic Performance

The dual core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM found in the Droid Bionic may not mean much to most shoppers on a spec sheet, but the only thing that you need to know is that this is a winning combination.

This is the first 4G LTE smartphone with a dual core processor to land on Verizon, which is good news for customers who previously had to choose between high-speed connections or fast processors. With the Bionic, you get both.

While we have seen issues with the MotoBlur user interface on other devices, like the Droid 3, it is incredibly snappy on the Droid Bionic. Switching home screens, bouncing between apps and other tasks all happen without the lag that earlier MotoBlur devices suffered from.

In general, the Droid Bionic has very snappy performance switching between apps, browsing the web, checking email and performing other standard phone tasks. Web pages scrolled fast and smooth, even with lots of media rich content loading in the background.

I did run into a few issues while using the Droid Bionic. Notably, the market failed to install several apps on the first try, citing insufficient storage. A second try solved this issue, so its easy to address on your own and will hopefully be fixed in an OTA update.

The Bionic handled gaming pretty well in my testing. BackBreaker looked great and ran incredibly smooth. Fruit Ninja looked good, but had some lag when a lot of fruit was popping on the screen at once.

I tested the Droid Bionic with several benchmarking tools, shown below. This can help you get an idea of performance beyond snappy and responsive.

  • Nenamark 1 – 47 FPS
  • Nenamark 2 – 27.7 FPS
  • Quadrant – 2228

These are pretty close to what we saw on the Droid 3, which also has a dual core processor, and noticeably higher than the HTC ThunderBolt which has the following scores.

  • Nenamark 1 – 30.3 FPS
  • Nenamark 2 – 11.7 FPS
  • Quadrant – 1220

Droid Bionic Battery Life

I’m still in the process of testig the Droid Bionic battery life, but so far things are looking better than expected. With a moderate amount of usage, including all the testing for this review, I was able to get 7 hours and 22 minutes and still had 50% battery life remaining. This included syncing my personal gmail account, downloading a collection of apps, uploading and downloading files for this review over WiFi, making an hour of voice calls and web browsing over 3G.

Motorola Droid Bionic battery

Motorola Droid Bionic Battery

Battery life remains an issue with the Motorola Droid Bionic. As with the rest of Verizon’s 4G LTE lineup, the speedy connection still hasn’t learned to sip at battery life. While my  early testing indicates that many 3G users will be able to get through a full day of average use (with just a few phone calls), 4G is going to be a close call. If you use your phone as a place to check email and surf the web with a bit of gaming, like I do, you may be able to make it, but if you use your phone to make lots of calls you may run into trouble.

Today as I tested out numerous features I was able to kill the battery in a little over 4 hours. Before you cross the Bionic off your list, read what I was doing during this period.

  • 45 minutes of Google Maps and Pandora Streaming with Display on.
  • 350MB of data uploading and downloading to test speeds.
  • An hour and a half of 4G Mobile hotspot usage.
  • On top of standard email and productivity use.
Stay tuned, and for a look at how the battery holds up under more typical usage in 3G and 4G environments. Odds are you’ll want to grab a spare battery at some point in the near future.

Motorola Droid Bionic Battery vs, ThunderBolt Batteries

Motorola Droid Bionic Battery vs. ThunderBolt Batteries

Droid Bionic Speed Test

The Droid Bionic has a 4G LTE radio inside that connects at blistering fast speeds to the 4G LTE network in 117 markets and 98 airports. This fast connection allows you to connect at speed like you see in the video below. Even when the network has more devices, you can expect to get 12MB/s down and 5MB/s up.

Droid Bionic Speed Test

Droid Bionic Mobile Speed Test

The SpeedTest.net mobile app reports download speeds of between 17MB/s and 18MB/s with upload speeds of between 4MB/s and 7 MB/s when in good coverage. On the fringe of 4G coverage in Toledo Ohio, we achieved around 5MB/s down and about 2 MB/s down, this with 1 to 0 visible bas of 4G coverage.

Droid Bionic Mobile Hotspot Speed Test

Droid Bionic Speed Test Using Mobile Hotspot

The 4G connectivity is important for speed on your phone, but also really makes the built-in mobile hotspot shine as you can connect up to 5 devices to this, such as your iPad, iPod Touch, notebook, kindle, PSP or Nintendo DS for online gaming, downloading and movie watching.

While using the mobile hotspot app in 4G coverage, we saw a number of speed results, which were slower than our mobile speed test, but still speedy for a mobile connection.

There are times when I can upload and download faster over 4G than I can on my home Time Warner connection.

Droid Bionic Camera

Motorola Droid Bionic camera

Motorola Droid Bionic Camera

The Bionic includes a nice 8MP camera that is capable of taking pretty decent pictures and shooting good 1080P HD video. There is also a front-facing camera for video conference apps and the occasional self-portrait.

Droid Bionic Sample Image

Droid Bionic Sample Image - The brick color is off in this image.

The camera itself is decent, but images aren’t as crisp or bright as I would like. On more than one occasion on this photowalk, the camera had difficulty focusing and seemed to not always register button presses.

I am much more impressed with the images and video taken with my HTC ThunderBolt, even if it isn’t 1080P.

Droid Bionic Sample

This Droid Bionic sample image is better, but not perfect.

Video on the other hand was quick to start up and recorded pretty well in 1080p, but in the overcast sample you can watch below, the colors are muted.

Droid Bionic Software

The Droid Bionic is running Android 2.3.4, the latest version of Gingerbread. That means you have all the goodies available on Android from day one. Motorola has stuck with MotoBlur as a layer on top of the base Android.

MotoBlur brings a unique launcher, app drawer and visual elements to the Bionic. Unlike some other devices, which have suffered lag thanks to the visual elements of MotoBlur, the Bionic feels incredibly snappy.

I still have trouble adjusting to the side to side scroll of the app drawer, and could do without the flicker effect on widgets when you switch screens, but at least it doesn’t drag down performance.

MotoBlur may not have all the sexy widgets and pizzaz of HTC Sense, but it is fast and has more eye candy than the basic Android experience.

If you want to take advantage of 4G LTE speeds there are a collection of apps to help you do this, but right now you won’t find Hulu Plus on the Bionic. Netflix, however, is there and ready to fill your 4.3″ display with 30 day old movies and TV shows.

You can enable video calling on Skype, but sadly it doesn’t work. Hopefully Skype will update their app for the Bionic in the near future. Until then, you should check out Fring, but be warned your video may appear flipped.

The Droid Bionic includes a number of preinstalled apps, or as we often call them: bloatware. Apps like Blockbuster, Citrix, City ID and others Like Verizon’s suite of apps, take up space and cannot be uninstalled. Some apps like Zumocast and Lets Golf 2 can be un-installed, but are more likely to be of use to you.

Verizon does include NFL Mobile, which is one of my favorite apps, so not all pre-installed apps are bad.

The good news is that with 3.6GB of on available on board storage you shouldn’t hit size limits too soon. Still, it would be nice if Verizon kept the pre-installed apps to a minimum.

Droid Bionic Voice and Call Quality/Speakers

Calls made with the Bionic were loud and clear to both parties based on several calls. Callers said that I sounded clear and loud enough while talking in a normal voice. We tested indoors, in the car and walking on a windy block, and all callers gave a thumbs up. Callers were loud and clear on my end as well, both to land lines and to other cell phones. The call quality beats the ThunderBolt easily and is on par with the Droid 3 and Droid x2.

When it comes to audio playback, the Bionic isn’t spectacular. Volume and quality is high enough for Netflix and the occasional listening session, but you’ll want a pair of speakers or headphones for any serious listening. When plugged into my car stereo, speakers or headphones the audio was much better, enough so that we could use it as a primary source of music and audio.

Droid Bionic vs. The Competition

When you put the Droid Bionic next to its competition, the HTC ThunderBolt, Samsung Droid Charge, LG Revolution and the iPhone 4, there are some clear wins for the Bionic.

Droid Bionic Comparisons

Droid Bionic vs. 4G LTE Competition and the iPhone.

Droid Bionic vs. HTC ThunderBolt Vs. Samsung Droid Charge vs. LG Revolution

All of the non Apple phones listed above have the same 4G LTE connectivity as the Droid Bionic, but all have a single core processor. While I wouldn’t call the ThunderBolt or any of it’s single core phones slow, the dual core processor delivers noticeably snappier overall performance on the Bionic.

The Droid Bionic is lighter than the ThunderBolt and Revolution, but a bit heavier than the Droid Charge at 5.6 oz.

Motorola Droid Bionic vs Thunderbolt thickness

Motorola Droid Bionic vs Thunderbolt - Thickness

Part of this weight is likely from the larger battery, which is 135mAH higher than the standard HTC ThunderBolt battery. This is important because 4G LTE devices have notoriously bad battery life.

The Bionic has 16GB of on board memory as well as 16GB of removable storage with the preinstalled 16GB MicroSD card. The rest of the 4G lineup has much less on board storage. In the end, you will have about 32GB of storage on the Bionic, which matches up with the ThunderBolt and the Charge, but those devices have less on board storage, which is where your apps reside in most cases.

Motorola Droid Bionic vs. ThunderBolt

HTC ThunderBolt vs. Motorola Droid Bionic

Droid Bionic vs. iPhone 4

Compared to the iPhone 4, the Droid Bionic has a much larger display and is slightly thicker and heavier.

The 4.3″ display on the Droid Bionic doesn’t pack in as many pixels as the iPhone 4. The Bionic has a nice display, but the iPhone 4′s retina display is still tough to match.

The Bionic also has an 8MP camera which can record in 1080P, something the iPhone 4 can’t match. Both devices have a front facing camera which can be used for video conferencing.

In terms of specs, the Bionic has a more powerful dual core 1GHz processor, but many iPhone users don’t care too much for the specs as long as it runs well.

Conclusion

The Motorola Droid Bionic has had a long and bumpy ride, but after 9 months of waiting, I’m glad that Motorola took the time to do things right. Verizon customers no longer need to choose between performance, 4G LTE speeds and a feels-good-in-the-hand device.

At $300, the Droid Bionic is pricey, but in my opinion it is one of a very small number of Android phones that is worth the over-$200 asking price. Hopefully we’ll see discounts on Amazon and Wirefly to sweeten the deal in the coming weeks.

Because the Droid Bionic delivers in our most important levels, it earns a GottaBeMobile Editor’s Choice award. While there are some small issues, the combination of 4G LTE, a dual core processor and attention to overall design deliver a top-notch Android device.

When friends and family ask what Android phone to buy on Verizon, the Droid Bionic will be at the top of my recommendation list. While there still aren’t a plethora of apps that prove the need for 4G to the average user, I believe that within the 2 years that they own their next phone there will be a clear advantage to both a dual core processor and 4G LTE connectivity.

If you aren’t in a hurry, you may want to wait and see how the iPhone 5 compares to the Droid Bionic, or for more details on the Droid Prime, which could give the Droid Bionic a challenge.

Pros:

  • Snappy Performance
  • 4G LTE Network
  • Form Factor is Great
  • Above Average Display

Cons:

  • Battery Drains Fast on 4G
  • Poor Camera Performance
  • So-So Audio Over Speakers

Droid Bionic Gallery

Comments

    • Rainman22 says

      They have them on the accessories website at Verizon. (Inductive Battery Covers)  You can see the contacts for it with the back off of it.

  1. iamwhite says

    Here’s my concern: Droid Bionic launched so late that I can’t really buy it without worrying about how it will measure up to coming generations of Android devices. Rumors keep saying that Google wants to move up the Nexus 3 (or Prime) to October, and that it has been spied around Verizon HQ. How can I possibly buy (or how can you possibly recommend buying) the Droid Bionic when I know one that will blow it clear out of the water is around the corner? :(

    • Boketh says

      There more to it than just specs. Build quality and features matter too. Even if you compared the alleged Primes hardware specs only, you got a slightly higher res display and slightly more processor power. I doubt it is going to blow the bionic out of the water.

  2. Darryl Barkley says

    iamwhite…..Dude, why are you even giving comment if there’s no comparison.  Your mind is set on the Nexus Prime and trust it, IT may NOT be out this year since Google bought the mobile end of Moto. The Nexus Prime now has patends to license this device nobody has even seen in beta form.  We’ll see it probably see it at CES 2012.  The phone we see now is a samsung device, not Motorola.  That’s called a conflict of interests for Google and Motorola.  So please take your anti-bionic views to the Nexus Prime Blog 
    http://www.fonehome.co.uk/2011/07/04/google-nexus-prime-release-date-and-specs/

    • iamwhite says

      No, in fact, I don’t have my mind set on the Nexus. The Droid Bionic had been a very strong contender for me, I daresay a slam dunk…six months ago. Now, however good it is, it’s facing up against an iPhone 5 and a whole series of next generation Droids. My phone got damaged just recently, so I am tempted by the Bionic, but I’m frustrated knowing that a whole leap in quality and OPERATING SYSTEMS is right around the corner, so don’t try to tell me to leave this thread when my concern is ENTIRELY relevant to the handset. Also, the Nexus’ timeline has nothing to do with Moto’s *potential* buyout (it needs to be reviewed by anti-trust regulators before it can happen) since–as you said it–it is a Samsung handset.

      Jeez…

  3. Mark Polino says

    Do any of the accessories (Docks, etc.) work with the Droid Bionic IN A CASE? In the past Motorola fits them to phone making me decide between a case and an accessory. I hate having to take a case off to stick my phone into a doc.
     
    Mark

    • Rainman22 says

      Unfortunately with even a slim design TPU case the lapdock does not work.  I couldn’t get it to seat deep enough with the case on.  Obviously it fits very well without the case.

  4. Thegadgetguroo says

    Okay…has anyone noticed what the actual internal memory is on the phone? Only 8gb. I called verizon and was told the os and assorted apparatus up over 8g’s of memory. Something is not right here.

    • Thomasterrible says

      8GB?  Why does the above review say 16 internal and 16 removable installed?  That is a big difference.  I like the Charge, the screen, the keyboard works well for me.  But I have not been willing to pay the top of the line price tag for what is not a “clearly better than anything else” type of phone.  I have been waiting for the Bionic to either buy one, or at very least I suspect that the price of the Charge will become more reasonable as it appears is the case with the Tbolt.  I understand that these types of things become outdated rather quickly by new and improved ones.  I would just like to be reasonably certain that it won’t be happening in a month or so, at least to huge extents.  I am very glad I waited for the Bionic to come out so I can now decide to get the Bionic or if what I suspect will happen get the Charge at a cheaper price.  I only have to keep it for 10 months before upgrading but I don’t wish to spend 300 plus on a phone every 10 months.

  5. Ralph says

    I’m torn. I was all set to get the Bionic in August, then it was delayed. Plus I don’t need half of the networking that the Bionic can do. Unless my company is willing to fork over money for my cell bill then theres no one I’m dialing in for meeting over Citrix if I’m not in the office. Then I saw pics and read specs on the HTC Vigor. Saw the Verizon leaked roadmap that pointed to an early October release but no info lately. Now all the talk is about the Samsung Droid Prime. I’m not a fan of Samsung devices. Build quality feels really cheap. Plus with Apple suing to stop the sales of the GS2 in Europe and halting the sale of the Galaxy Tab what happens if they win in the US courts? Given the chance I’d take the HTC Vigor over either the Bionic or Prime.

  6. jesus2.lopez says

    The Droid Bionic by Motorola
    is definitely a phone that I would want, especially since it has a dual core
    processor and Android version 2.3. This phone will be amazing when paired with
    my new employee Sling adapter from DISH Network. With the Sling adapter, I can
    stream live and recorded TV to my Android device everywhere I have 3G coverage
    or WiFi. It’s like having your TV and all your channels in your pocket, especially
    since it hard to find time to enjoy your favorite shows.
     

  7. motorola droid says

    Woah, awesome design on the review! I really love the graphics and your star ratings at the beginning. With a million new Android handsets coming out every day, it’s nice to have something quick to and easy to look at.

  8. Al Oakley says

    About to give bionic back to verizon since the june update now the 4G lte only works on 3G. Misrepresentation …

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