- Excellent performance
- Nice keyboard
- International roaming
- Sealed battery compartment
- Marginal battery life
- Non-removable SIM cards
Quick TakeAn otherwise solid messaging device hamstrung by a poor battery arrangement.
With a boatload of ways to get connected, including 4G LTE and international roaming, the Motorola Photon Q is Sprint’s latest smartphone to take aim at business travelers and frequent emailers. Brighthand investigates how well it holds up.
BUILD & DESIGN
For fairly obvious reasons, the Photon Q bears striking similarities to Motorola’s other flagship keyboard phone, the Droid 4. The keyboards are nearly identical, they both have a 4.3 inch, 960 x 540 screen, and there’s a strong similarity in the look.
Overall, the Photon Q feels good in the hand, and the ergonomics are nice. Unlike most sliders, where the keyboard portion is thicker and weightier, the Photon Q is about equally thick and equally heavy on both the screen and keyboard halves. This makes it feel a little odd in the hand when you have it open to type, but its not really troublesome.
Beyond that, though, the resemblance to the Droid 4 is only skin deep. Under the hood, the Photon Q runs a brand-new 1.5 GHz dual-core chip that gives it blazing speed, easily out-pacing any of the current Droids. It sports 8 GB of internal storage for the basics (although only 4.5 GB of this is available to the user), and a microSD card slot for additional memory. Gorilla Glass protects the screen.
Overall, the build quality of the Q is excellent. There’s a very sturdy feel to the Q, like it could survive a fairly rigorous life of usage. The tiny plastic cover over the MicroSD slot is kind of a pain to deal with, but you don’t have to do that very often.
With the Photon Q sporting a fairly high-end price tag, there’s no doubt going to be some grumbling that it doesn’t come with the kind of 1280 x 720 full HD screen that’s becoming common on other devices. Frankly, though, I don’t think that you’re really going to miss it all that much. At 4.3 inches, the Q’s screen is already extremely sharp at its current 960 x 540 resolution; HD is kind of wasted on a less than 4.5 inch screen. No, the Photon Q isn’t going to compare to the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, etcetera. But that has to do with more than a barely-visible difference in pixel density. The Samsung models as well as the Motorola Droid RAZRs all sport Super AMOLED screens, offering better looks and contrast than the regular LCD on the Photon Q. Even so, the Q with its more average display looks good: it’s a quality LCD, something that I can’t say about Motorola’s previous slider, the Droid 4. Colors are crisp, detail is sharp.
I did have one more unusual problem with the screen, though; a number of times, the sensitivity and accuracy of the Touchscreen seemed to be lacking. Flicks and other gestures would be interpreted as taps, touches would be read in the wrong spots… and yet, at other times it worked perfectly. It’s possible that my unit was simply glitchy, although it’s also possible that this might be more common with the Q for some reason.
They keyboard is definitely one of the nicest features on the Q. Each key is backlit both for the letter or symbol, and for a nice white border edging each of the keys, which makes it very visible even in a well-lit room.
The layout is a little odd; it’s unusual to have a tab key on a mobile keyboard, let alone a specific “caps lock” that does only that, but I suppose they’re useful at times. There’s a separate row of number keys, as well as directional keys in the bottom right. All the keys are nice and crisp, with an audible click and great tactile feedback.
The layout makes it a little slow to get used to, since there’s some not-so-obvious choices: for instance, the “SYM” key isn’t used to access any of the symbols actually on the keyboard. Those all use the shift key. Still, I have no doubt that after a short period of getting used to it, the Photon Q’s keyboard will make even the most dedicated texters and emailers fairly happy.
Other Ports and Buttons
One corner of the Photon Q houses the micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectors, in the standard Motorola layout. Last but not least, it carries a 1785 milliamp-hour battery to keep everything running. And hopefully you like the performance that battery gives you, because that’s the only battery you’ll ever have.
Apparently not satisfied with simply gluing the battery into the phone as they did with the Droid 4, Motorola has gone a step farther and made the entire back cover non-removable. To replace the battery, you’d literally have to completely disassemble the phone, which is getting to be a very unfortunate trend in Motorola’s devices.