Droid Bionic: Most expensive Droid yet (review)

Summary:The Droid Bionic from Verizon is a solid smartphone with good features, including the ability to power an optional laptop dock. It is expensive for what it offers.

Verizon has been all over the airwaves with ads touting the mysterious birth of the Droid Bionic. The latest Android phone is another smartphone designed to tap into the high speed of Verizon's 4G LTE network. Motorola is the company behind the Droid Bionic, so I guess you could almost call it Google's own phone. The Gingerbread packing Bionic is an outstanding piece of hardware, and may be the best Droid from Motorola to date. In spite of the plusses, it is hard to justify the $299.99 Verizon is charging even with a two-year contract.

The hardware

When I first took the Droid Bionic out of the small box, the handset looked awfully thick and felt heavy in the hand. That is an illusion aided by the shape of the phone, as comparing it to the thin Nexus S 4G shows the Bionic is not much thicker than the other. The weight is similar to the Nexus S, too. The thicker hump around the camera on the Bionic no doubt adds to the impression of a slightly clunky-looking phone. After using it a while that impression is dispelled as the Bionic feels comfortable in the hand.

Check out the Droid Bionic in photos


Image Gallery: Droid Bionic using 4G LTE from Verizon
Image Gallery: Charge
Image Gallery: Charge
The Bionic is the latest phone equipped to work on the speedy Verizon 4G LTE network. It is not a world phone, so international travelers will want to give it a pass.

Specs:

  • Processor: Dual-core 1GHz
  • Memory: 1GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 16GB internal microsSD pre-installed
  • Display: 4.3-inch qHD (960x540), Gorilla Glass
  • Cameras: one front, 8MP rear (auto-focus, LED flash, 1080p capture)
  • HDMI out for 1080p playback
  • Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, CDMA (3G), LTE (4G)
  • Battery: 1735 mAh
  • OS: Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
  • Dimensions: 2.6 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches, 5.6 ounces

The Bionic has the standard four Android buttons on the front bottom of the phone, which are touch sensitive. The front of the phone is otherwise devoted to the 4.3-inch display, with the front camera in the upper portion of the display, to the left of the Motorola labeling.

The left side of the handset has the microUSB used for charging and PC connections, and the HDMI port for connecting to a TV. The volume controls are on the right side of the device. The bottom of the Bionic has no controls whatsoever, and the top of the phone a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button.

The entire back of the Droid Bionic is a one piece cover that removes to provide access to the battery and memory card. This back has a raised portion around the camera which makes the phone comfortable to hold. The 8MP camera is in the upper left of the back, with the LED flash to the right of the lens. There is a tiny speaker on the lower edge of the back for speakerphone operation of the phone.

Software

Verizon is pushing the Bionic as a business ready phone, and has Citrix Receiver preinstalled to that aim. The ZumoCast app is also included which provides for wireless streaming of files to and from the phone. The MOTOPRINT app enables printing to Wi-Fi enabled printers directly from the phone.

All of the standard Google Android apps are installed on the Bionic as expected. Software support for Verizon services such as Verizon Video is included out of the box.

Like all Motorola Android phones, the Droid Bionic has MotoBlur installed. This latest version is very subdued compared to earlier versions, and is not as cumbersome as those. The interface is close to that of regular Android, with minor modifications.

The Droid Bionic has optional docks to extend the usefulness of the phone, including a laptop dock like that on the earlier Atrix 4G. Software to work with this dock is preinstalled on the phone enabling plug-and-play usage. Interestingly, it appears the microUSB port is flipped from that of the earlier Atrix, so I don't believe that laptop dock can be used with the Bionic as a result.

Operation

The performance of the Droid Bionic is snappy thanks to the dual-core processor. It is a fast Android phone, with all aspects of the operation showing good speed. The display of the phone is very good, with colors that pop and the high resolution nice to work with.

The Bionic works fine as a phone, although some calls had less than sterling audio. I would rate the call audio quality as adequate but nothing special. I did not experience any dropped calls while using the Bionic.

The battery life of the Droid Bionic is typical for phones working with the Verizon 4G LTE network. I was able to get 6 hours out of a charge with the 4G enabled, which means buyers will likely need to pick up a second battery. Access to the battery is easy to do by popping off the back cover, which is important to swap in the second battery to last all day. Buyers may want to keep the 4G turned off when not in use to stretch the battery to last an entire day.

The 8MP camera of the Bionic takes decent stills and video. It can even replace basic point-and-shoot cameras with decent results, although there is nothing really special about the quality of the photos taken with the Bionic.

Conclusion

The Droid Bionic is a solid effort by Motorola, soon to be Google, but there is nothing special enough to justify the $300 price tag with a contract. Owners of previous Motorola Droid phones will probably like the Bionic a lot, as it is a solid piece of kit that improves on earlier models.

Topics: Telcos, Verizon

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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