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.
When 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Snappy Performance
- 4G LTE Network
- Form Factor is Great
- Above Average Display
- Battery Drains Fast on 4G
- Poor Camera Performance
- So-So Audio Over Speakers
Droid Bionic Gallery