Review: Motorola Droid X

It’s only been eight months since the original Droid hit like a wrecking ball. Now, the mother of all (Lucas-licensed) droids is upon us with the July 15 arrival of the feature-packed Droid X.*

At 5 x 2.6 x .04 inches, the X is unapologetically large and more Sticky Fingers than svelte when pocketed. Otherwise, Motorola wisely kept the handset remarkably thin and relatively streamlined. Paired with its spacious 4.3-inch, 854 x 480 LCD touchscreen, it’s clear the Droid X was carefully crafted with a visually dense, touch-driven experience in mind.

In fact, it’s this attention to presentation that allows the X to truly shine. Navigating the phone is a surprisingly immersive experience, due to an uncannily fast 1-GHz Texas Instruments processor and 512 MB of RAM. In reality, the X’s hardware shaves just fractions of a second off the Droid/Eris/Nexus One response times, but it makes huge impact in the long run. When switching apps, you feel like the device is actively responding to commands rather than merely processing them.

Naturally, this sweetens the X’s cache of capabilities. Watching movies from the Blockbuster app, playing games from the Android Market, and even streaming music from Pandora is fast, effortless and best of all, free of lag. With a few clicks through the menu, we converted the phone into a 3G hot spot for up to 5 devices — which is the welcome feature du jour thanks to the HTC EVO and Palm Pre.

Motorola managed to cram three microphones into this beast: Two for noise-canceling purposes and one for regular squawking. This arrangement produced a surprising degree of call clarity while navigating San Francisco’s urban jungle of perpetual construction sites, gusts of wind and horn-happy motorists. An increased degree of warmth in the audio could’ve pushed the X into all-star status, but the pragmatism of good old-fashioned clarity was more than enough to get by.

Speaking of just getting by, the handset’s 8-megapixel camera is underwhelming for still pictures. What’s worse is the process of snapping pics woefully relies on a hard press of a physical button, which screwed with image clarity. However, the X’s pairing of solid video chops (720p video at 24 fps!) with high-def output (mini-HDMI!) makes for the quite the saving grace.

All this power, acumen and flair isn’t for everyone, though. At its core, the X is designed for a large, splashy, multimedia-heavy experience. Its size disqualifies it from any smartphone quick-draw contests (we permanently left it out-of-pocket for sanity’s sake), and its occasionally power-hungry features make it a bad idea to stray far from an electric outlet. That said, even this phone’s most plain vanilla features (e.g., phone calls) are simple, lightning quick, and well implemented. If you can handle the phone’s immense size, you’ll be treated to one of the finest Android devices available anywhere.

*Mother of all Droids … for now. The Droid 2 is due out later this year with more to follow.

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