Despite “only” having a dual-core processor, the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE absolutely flies when put to work on benchmarks. Over four runs on Quadrant Standard, it averaged 4278, letting it easily out-pace the Galaxy Nexus and other similar high-end devices. Although it should be noted that the Photon Q has a slight advantage when it comes to scoring that high, because of the many fewer pixels it has to push around the screen.
There was a lot more variability in how the Q performed than I’m accustomed to seeing: in those four runs, it scored a maximum of 4614 and a low of 3973. Normally, Quadrant scores only vary by 100 or less. But by any standard its benchmark performance was lightning fast.
That’s a fact you’ll see for yourself using it. From slides, to screen fades, to transitions, the Photon Q is as smooth as oiled ice. And with this much horsepower behind it, I have no doubt that you could easily hook the Q up to a TV via HDMI, and play back full 720P video. Any kind of demanding Android app or game doesn’t even have a chance of making this thing slow down.
I was very pleased to see that the Q wasn’t loaded to the brim with the “extra” apps that carriers so often love to shovel on to their phones. In fact, other than Sprint ID and Sprint Zone, there’s not a single carrier-branded app to be seen. A round of applause to Sprint for putting out a clean phone, and let’s hope that that becomes a trend.
Any smartphone is going to be well stocked with communication gear, but the Photon Q goes quite a bit farther than the average. First off, it’s equipped out of the box for Sprint’s new LTE network. While Sprint’s LTE development is still in the extremely early stages, with only a couple dozen markets live at the moment, you can at least be guaranteed that if LTE is in your area, you can get access to it. For when you’re not, but still need a faster connection than 3G allows, you of course also have WiFi.
Adding to the list is support for Near Field Communication, or NFC. What the Q doesn’t have though is Google Wallet, currently the most prominent NFC app for Android, though that may come later. And in any event, you still have NFC access for beaming and any other apps that may use it.
The Photon Q also has Bluetooth 4.0, including support for the new low-energy Bluetooth specs. For those who don’t know, this is a new development in BT 4.0 which promises extremely low power consumption for certain devices like keyboards, which supposedly could have battery lives measured in weeks rather than days. Whether it holds up in the real world is yet to be seen, since there’s not a lot of BT 4.0 gear available yet.
Last but not least, the Q is the first Sprint LTE device that offers international roaming. On top of everything else, the Q packs tri-band 850/1900/2100 MHz HSPA for use overseas. Unfortunately, once again someone on the design team has decided that you shouldn’t be allowed to access your SIM card. So instead of being able to use a local pre-paid SIM card while traveling, you’re obligated to use only Sprint’s international service. For perspective, using a prepaid SIM card in Europe would cost you maybe 25 cents per minute, whereas Sprint’s international roaming plans start at $1.50 a minute. That’s a painfully large gap for anyone who’s not a well heeled business traveler.
As mentioned above, there’s very little added software on the Q. For productivity, the only app beyond the Android basics is a copy of QuickOffice, for all your word processing/spreadsheet/PowerPoint needs on the go. Besides that, you’ve just got things like the Android contacts manager–although that’s now called “People.”
Perhaps re-enforcing how much the Photon Q is a business device, there’s literally no added entertainment apps on the Q. You get the basic Google apps for music, movies, books, and web browsing. That’s it. Not a bad thing, either, since any game, toy app, or entertainment you want can be grabbed from the Google Play marketplace. The “added apps” never really add value, they just take up space. Kudos for getting rid of them.
The best way to describe the Q’s camera would probably be “average.” With an 8 MP sensor and the ability to capture 1080P video, it matches the specs of most of the other high-end phones out there. And in quality, it definitely doesn’t set any new records. Pictures are clear and serviceable, although the focus isn’t any crisper than competitors, and there’s a noticeable tinge of rainbow-colored noise.
As mentioned above, with the Photon Q sporting a ridiculously non-removable battery, you’d better hope that you’re satisfied with what it provides. And by that I mean, you’d better hope that you’re a light user. It’s fair to say that the Q will get you through an average work day, and not much beyond that.
But considering that the Photon Q seems heavily aimed at business travelers, who are far more likely than the average to need a battery that could survive a long, hard day, that kind of battery life is marginal. In most circumstances that wouldn’t be so bad, because you could buy a huge aftermarket battery and get the longevity you want at the expense of a little extra bulk. But that’s even more impossible here than on the Droid 4. So the moral of this story is, if you want to use the Photon Q for more than the basics, stock up on wall chargers for home and work, car charger, and a USB battery pack wouldn’t hurt either.