HTC Droid DNA Review: Once and Future King?

by Adama D. Brown Reads (30,767)
Editor's Rating
8.40

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 10
    • Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Value
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Large, high-quality screen
    • Breathtakingly-fast processor
    • Reasonable price point
  • Cons

    • Limited memory, and no expansion
    • Slightly awkward ergonomics
    • 1080P screen is overkill
    • Puzzling lack of Office suite

Quick Take

The HTC Droid DNA is a sexy and high-powered device, but is inexplicably hamstrung by its limited memory.

The Droid DNA is HTC’s most feature-rich smartphone ever, boasting a mind boggling 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen, along with a quad-core processor and very reasonable price tag. Can it dethrone Samsung as King of the Droids?

Build & Design

My first impression on pulling the DNA out of its box was that it felt huge, yet amazingly thin. Although one of those feelings turned out to be a bit misleading. When you take a closer look at it, you realize that the DNA is actually thicker than your average high-end smartphone, thicker even than the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX HD which sports a much larger battery. But it doesn’t feel like it in the hand, because the edges are tapered down to extremely narrow point. That tends to make it feel slimmer than it really is, as well as making it disappear fairly easily in a pocket.

HTC Droid DNAThe build quality of the DNA seems excellent, and the engineering is pretty nice, giving it good looks and good durability. But I do have to take issue with some of the ergonomics. This is not always a smartphone that’s comfortable to use. A 5-inch screen is not just large, it’s very large, and it gets to the point where even stretching your hand to hit the upper parts of the screen doesn’t really allow you to use it one-handed.

The second point has to do with the power button, for similar reasons. The DNA’s power button is mounted on the top of the device, in the center, making it very hard to hit while you have the phone in anything like a natural grip. Even with fairly large hands, I would almost always have to contort my hands in order to press it. It doesn’t help of course that the button itself is fairly flat and doesn’t have a lot of response.

The front of the device is Gorilla Glass, the back is a smooth touch plastic that feels pretty good. It’s a little smudgy, but I’ve seen worse, and it feels pretty good.

Overall, the design of the Droid DNA is sexy on the first impression, but a bit awkward when you try to use it practically in day-to-day situations.

Screen

This is one of the very first Android smartphones to push its screen resolution all the way up to 1920 x 1080 pixels — also known as “1080P,” which is the highest resolution in current use for HDTV. That gives it more than double the raw number of pixels as a 1280 x 720 (720P) screen, and a whopping 440 dots-per-inch of pixel density.

There’s no question that the Droid DNA’s screen is beautiful. And at 5 inches, it offers measurably more area (about 10-15% more) than even the 4.8-inch Galaxy S III or 4.7 inches of Motorola’s RAZR HD models. However, the simple fact is that side by side, you may not really be able to notice much of a difference, and here’s why.

Apple calls their 300+ DPI screens “Retina” displays for a reason: 300 dots per inch is roughly the effective resolution of the human eye. Studies have shown that beyond that level, people can’t really perceive increased quality to an image, or distinguish more detail. Consequently, while the 440 DPI of the DNA looks great, it’s hard bordering on almost impossible to see a real world difference between it and a screen like the 1280 x 720, 312 DPI Droid RAZR MAXX HD. Even with 20/20 vision and DNA and MAXX HD side by side, I couldn’t perceive any real improvement in quality or crispness in the Droid DNA. In fact, looking at the two that way, the RAZR MAXX HD’s display looks better simply because of the higher contrast AMOLED panel.

HTC Droid DNAThere’s certainly no drawbacks to the Droid DNA’s screen — it looks beautiful at all times, and can can wow with the best of them. But it’s also mostly an “on paper” advantage over its competitors, not one that you’ll really feel using it day to day.

Other Buttons & Ports

The connectors and buttons are fairly straightforward. The power button and headphone jack share the top of the device with the SIM card tray, which requires a special tool to open.

Volume keys on the side, and there’s a little plastic “door” on the bottom of the device to protect the micro-USB port, but at least on my review unit, it was kind of mangled straight out of the box. Maybe it’s there to cover up the fact that the micro-USB port is backward, for unexplained reasons.

The nav buttons are directly on the glass, so you won’t have virtual buttons taking up actual screen space.


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