HTC Droid DNA Hands-On Preview

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The HTC Droid DNA is not a phablet, at least according to HTC design director Jonah Becker. Never mind its 5-inch display, the latest and greatest from Verizon and HTC “is a smartphone.”

Make that a smartphone with the most pixel-dense display on the market. The HTC Droid DNA is going to pack an incredible 440 pixels per inch (PPI) with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. For some perspective, that is the same as any mainstream HDTV, which range in size up to 60-inches. The iPhone and its vaunted Retina display has a PPI count of 326. And the Samsung Galaxy Note II has both a larger display at 5.5-inches with a lower resolution of 267 PPI.

HTC Droid DNAOn paper, Becker is right. The Droid DNA will ship with Android 4.1 (Jelly bean), quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage capacity, Gorilla Glass 2, and Verizon 4G LTE. It won’t have a stylus like the Samsung Galaxy Note II and LG Intuition, or any other novel features to define it from the rest of the pack. It just has one of the most impressive spec sheets.

I’ve just left the official debut event for this model, where I had some time to put it through its paces. The Droid DNA is set for release on Nov. 23.

Display

Conventional display wisdom holds that the human eye cannot discern more that 300 pixels per inch on a smartphone. Anything more is overkill. It’s something I’ve repeated in my reviews, and it makes sense to anyone who has used a recent iPhone or Android model (“How could they improve upon this?!”). Not having anything to compare it to, it’s tough to say the HTC Droid DNA will be markedly better than the current best, but I can say it’s very impressive.

Perhaps that’s because the HTC Droid DNA will sport what HTC calls Super LCD 3, which allows for better viewing angles, reduced glare, and smoother transitions (less choppy video playback) thanks to a faster refresh rate. Its “smoothness” is very apparent when in camera mode, using the DNA as a viewfinder, though I didn’t get a chance to test it out with actual video clips.

Design

HTC Droid DNAOne of the ways the Droid DNA keeps in line with the Droid brand is its aggressive and stylized design. It’s going to be black and red, with decorative grilles on each side that serve no functional purpose. It will have capacitive Android navigation buttons and a micro-USB input (MHL supported), but no microSD card slot. It’s a unibody design and the battery is not user replaceable, but it does support wireless charging (charger sold separately).

Despite its large screen, this will be a slim device and just about as wide as the Samsung Galaxy S III, which has a 4.8-inch display. It’s also going to be very light, and have the same tapered edges and pleasant polycarbonate material used in the HTC 8X. It is by far preferable to the glossy plastic Samsung uses for its phones, though Samsung smartphones typically feature a removable battery and microSD card slot.

Features

Being that it is an HTC phone, the Droid DNA features Beats Audio that sounds great over headphones, but not so much coming out of the Droid DNA’s single rear-facing speaker. To that end, HTC claims the Droid DNA has dual amplifiers, one of the speakers and the other for the headphones.

It will also ship with NFC, 8-megapixel rear camera, and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. HTC was proud to show off its new Sense camera software that will have HDR, smile shot, and a countdown feature for self portraits. It will also have a new gallery, with an option for sorting photos by location through Google Maps. It’s all an improvement over the basic Android camera offerings, but HTC has a lot of work to do before it can match Samsung and its impressive TouchWiz camera refinements.

Good and Bad

HTC Droid DNAThe HTC Droid DNA spec sheet is top notch, with one exception… a 2,020 mAh battery. No doubt the high-resolution display and 4G LTE will put strain on the battery, and I’m eager to see how long it lasts. HTC reps informally claim users can expect a day with moderate use, but the Galaxy Note 2 has a bigger 3100 mAh battery, and I only just got a full day out of that during my review.

If there is one thing the HTC Droid DNA has over the Note 2, and any other high-end Android smartphone, it’s the price. At $200 with a two-year agreement from Verizon, its $100 less than the Galaxy Note 2 on the same network.

That’s probably the second-best item on the spec sheet after the display. We’ll find out more about the Droid DNA when we get one in for review, but as of right now, it has the best display spec of any smartphone on the market, and the competition is not even close to matching the HTC Droid DNA.

Additional Image:

HTC Droid DNA

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