- Nice design
- Fast and stable operation
- Camera quick access is superb
- Glossy build, a fingerprint and smudge magnet
- Too much Verizon bloatware
- No microSD or user-accessible battery
Quick TakeThe Motorola Droid Ultra is a good phone, if you can see past its glossy build. It's fast, stable, and sports excellent software with fun features.
It’s easy to overlook the Motorola Droid Ultra, being that the Verizon-exclusive Android handset launched only a few days before the much-hyped Moto X, and even then as one of three new Droids, which included the smaller Droid Mini and the power-sipping Droid Maxx. Comparing spec sheets, the Droid Ultra, Maxx, Mini and Moto X have more in common than not, with the main differences revolving around screen size, display technology, and battery life.
The Droid Ultra is tied with the Maxx for the biggest of the bunch, with a 5-inch Super AMOLED panel, and much like previous Droids, sports what Verizon touts as a “DuPont Kevlar fiber unibody.” The Mini is smaller, with a 4.3-inch display, and the Maxx promises absurdly long battery life, while the Moto X is available on all major carriers, and customizable on AT&T via the Moto Maker website (that feature is coming to Verizon later in 2013).
At launch, the Ultra costs $200 with a two-year contract, which is the same as the 4.7-inch Moto X, leaving Brighthand to wonder, exactly what’s the Droid Ultra’s appeal?
Build and Design
It isn’t the build, that’s for sure. The Droid Ultra may sport a Kevlar unibody, but it’s covered in a glossy plastic shell that is particularly prone to fingerprints and smudges. It’s not pleasant to hold either, as a sweaty palm can muck it up greatly, and Ultra owners are likely going to want to keep a microfiber cloth on them at all times.
Conversely, the Droid Ultra is a very well designed handset. Like the other RAZR Droids before it, the Ultra features a tapered body that thins out toward the mouth-end of the device. There is a slight protrusion at the top, which houses the speakers, 10-megapixel camera lens, and flash, and the corners are pleasantly rounded. It’s comfortable to hold, and as thin and light as any other smartphone on the market. It measures 5.41 x 2.80 x 0.28 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.94 ounces.
The Droid Ultra does feel solid, and perhaps a bit higher quality than other plastic phones on the market. The team at BH can’t speak for the durability a Kevlar unibody may provide (and honestly, it seems a bit gimmicky), but the Droid Ultra does not flex or creek much under moderate stress, and could likely survive a drop or two more than competing handsets. But, weighing its unpleasant gloss against its excellent design, a case would still be a wise investment.
The Droid Ultra is sealed, so there is no microSD card slot, and the battery is not user replaceable. The Ultra only has a microUSB input at the bottom, and 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. Facing the Droid Ultra head on, the power button sits on the right, just above the volume rocker. In a novel design twist, the volume rocker slides out to reveal the SIM card tray. It’s easily accessed, but the volume rocker still feels secure when snapped place. The Droid Ultra supports tiny nano-SIM cards, which can be difficult to manage on account of their size. In fact, we had trouble getting one to stay in place on the tray when toying around with the Ultra.
The three traditional Android navigation keys rest below the display as capacitive buttons, while the 2-megapixel front-facing shooter sits above the display, next to a couple sensors.
The Motorola Droid Ultra has a 5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1280 x 720 screen resolution, which translates to about 294 pixels per inch. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 also has a 5-inch Super AMOLED display, but it has a 1080 x 1920 resolution for a whopping 441 pixels per inch.
Admittedly, the difference is tough to spot with the naked eye, and the Droid Ultra screen looks just fine, with the same super contrast that has become the hallmark of AMOLED display technology. Some may be turned off by the vibrant colors, which is also a feature of AMOLED, and in that case, the Droid Mini sports a more traditional LCD display. Touch sensitivity is spot on, and Brighthand never encountered an issue in that regard. Viewing angles are also superb, but the display could be just a tad bit brighter at the maximum setting as it’s a bit dim for our liking.