One of the big upgrades on the Motorola Droid 3 over its predecessors is moving to a new dual-core processor, which is supposed to provide far greater performance than old single-core processors. And it certainly does this, even though it’s performance isn’t quite as staggering as some other dual-core devices.
First off, let’s establish a baseline. The Droid 2, which featured a 1 GHz single-core processor, scored approximately 1450 on the Quadrant Standard benchmark. The Droid 2 Global, which bumped that to a 1.2 GHz single core chip, scored 1700.
The Droid 3 has a dual-core Cortex-A9 class processor, a generation newer than those in the older devices, specifically the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430, with a rated clock speed of 1 GHz. Run through the paces of the Quadrant Standard benchmark app, the D3 scored around 2225. That’s a substantial increase over it’s single-core core predecessors, for sure.
But it doesn’t fare as well in comparison to similar dual-core devices. Take the Motorola Droid X2. The X2 also features a clock speed of 1 GHz and dual Cortex A9 cores, but is based on an NVIDIA Tegra 2 250 processor, which is considered the gold standard in new Android tablets. And based on benchmarks, these two processors do not appear to be even close to equals. The X2, run through those same Quadrant benchmarks, scores around 2660, almost 20% higher than the D3. Some of that may improve with software updates for the D3, but I doubt it will ever match the Tegra.
What’s the upside of this? Well, if you’re looking for massive raw power, the D3 is not the best option. But it does still well outpace the norm, and will be far more than sufficient to handle routine Android tasks, as well as non-routine ones like heavy video streaming.
Besides its basic complement of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and CDMA 3G, the Droid 3 also integrates quad-band GSM and tri-band HSPA, making it capable of full phone and broadband coverage all across the world, not just in the U.S. and Canada as most Verizon phones are limited to. While there have previously been a couple Droid phones that had this (the Droid Pro and the Droid 2 Global) this is the first time worldwide roaming has been treated as a standard feature, rather than being part of a phone specifically aimed at business travelers. I hope they didn’t spend too much money doing this, since it’s highly unlikely that most people will ever use it, but no doubt business users will thank them heartily.
More important than what is present, though, is what is not: support for Verizon’s cutting-edge 4G LTE network. With 4G coverage becoming all the rage, it’s rather an obvious oversight for what should have been Verizon’s flagship smartphone not to feature it. But digging down, it’s a little more complicated than that. Current LTE smartphones like the HTC ThunderBolt and Samsung Droid Charge have so far had very poor battery life–LTE radios are still in the early stages of their evolution, and the current designs aren’t very efficient.
This, however, leaves the user in an unfortunate position. You can buy an LTE-equipped smartphone, and deal with poor battery life until your next upgrade. Or you can buy a non-LTE phone, and be stuck with very dated speeds until your next upgrade. Either way, you’re going to be forced to compromise one thing or another. Moreover, you’re going to pay the same for the Droid 3 as you are for a high-end 4G phone from another company. Truthfully, the people best off are those who are likely to be buying an LTE phone in six months or so, when some of the first-generation problems have been worked out, and phones are carrying newer and more efficient LTE chips.
Until then though, if you have to have a phone now, you unfortunately need to make a judgment call between battery life and 4G speed. The designers of the Droid 3 chose battery life.
The Droid 3 carries only the basic “normal” productivity apps: Quickoffice for working with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, along software for email, scheduling, and contacts. I don’t mean to put these down–they are great apps. But they are the same ones that come with just about every Android smartphone, so they don’t make this device stand out from its rivals.
Here’s a point where this Motorola smartphone shines: via its HDMI port, it’s capable of supplying not just movies to your TV, but also games, the Web, and anything else that you can get on the screen. And unlike other HDMI implementations I’ve seen, this one works nicely. The picture on the screen is crisp and flawless, no hint of pixelization, and playback looks great. You will, of course, need a special cable to take advantage of this since the Droid won’t plug directly into a regular HDMI cable. Fortunately these “Micro HDMI” cables are standardized and widely available; you can grab one online for five dollars.
If you’ve got the TV for it, the D3 can do some very impressive tricks. And with it’s copious internal memory plus microSD slot, you could fit days of music on it and still have room for dozens of movies in high quality. Or you can use it as a receiver to stream straight off the Internet, via YouTube, HBO Go, Netflix, Pandora, or any other streaming service. Or on the more serious side, it can be used to connect to a big screen or projector for teaching, presentations, and other public situations where you might want to share.
The Droid 3 features an 8 MP camera that’s fairly standard for a high end device. But more important than the stills are what the D3 can do for video.
While 720p high definition recording has become somewhat standard in higher end smartphones, the Droid 3 has leapfrogged up to 1080p. For those not familiar with these terms, they refer to resolution: 720p is 1280 x 720, and 1080p is 1920 x 1080. 1080p is the resolution used for Blu-Ray discs, and the highest video resolution that’s in common use. That’s not to say the video will be Blu-Ray quality, but if you ever need that much detail on your videos, you at least have the option.
Despite having a lot of hardware to push, the Droid 3 actually sports decent albeit not excessive battery life. Granted, its battery is 1540 mAh (a small upgrade from the Droid 2) but that’s not exactly over-sized these days. And a good thing too, since having to attach an extended battery could easily push the phone into “too big and too heavy” territory.