The Motorola Droid X2 is a refreshed version of Verizon's popular Droid X that debuted last year. A large-screened smartphone with a 4.3-inch display, aluminum casing, and HDMI output, the new X2 also packs in a dual core processor and high resolution 960 x 540 screen, while maintaining the dimensions of it's predecessor.
It's currently available from Verizon at the typical cost for a high-end smartphone: $200 with a new wireless service contract.
BUILD & DESIGN
Aside from having its name printed on the back of the battery cover, the Droid X2 is in every other way a dead ringer for the original Droid X. Quite literally, it has the same dimensions and the same weight.
The X2 comes in an aluminum casing, giving it a bit more heft than plastic-shelled smartphones. To its credit, the Droid X line has adopted a slightly different, more angular take on the large screen smartphone format, avoiding the purely organic rounded design pioneered by the early iPhones and cloned by so many devices since then.
There's not much to say about the X2's design other than it's simple, very durable, and lacking in frills. The top-mounted power button takes a little getting used to and the microSD card is next to the battery (not that we'd really expect it elsewhere these days).
Overall, it's fairly comfortable to use and has a solid build that Motorola has been doing well with lately.
I'm probably spoiled from looking at the Super AMOLED Plus screen of the Samsung Infuse 4G, which makes conventional LCDs look pale in comparison. Nevertheless, the cutting edge 960 x 540 (qHD) resolution of the Droid X2 is still very nice to look at.
The boost in pixel count isn't necessarily obvious until you start browsing the web, or see it against another Android device with an 800 x 480 (WVGA) screen. The numbers may not sound like a lot, but you're talking about 35% more pixels, which can come in handy. It's not the kind of jump that you'd experience going from 320 x 480 (QVGA) to 800 x 480 - which was a 150% increase in resolution - but one with much fewer application compatibility problems. In fact, I haven't seen a single app which didn't adjust to the new screen res easily.
This Motorola device has a higher screen resolution than its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the display has gotten larger. Both smartphones have a 4.3-inch touchscreen -- a size that only a few rivals have surpassed.
Other Buttons & Controls
One thing that the X2 does right is buttons. Unlike most new Android phones, it has actual physical buttons for the four major navigation functions: Options, Home, Back, and Search. Compared to tapping a spot on the digitizer, these offer a much more satisfying "click," as well as making it possible to find them by touch.
On the bottom left corner, you'll find the USB port side-by-side with a mini-HDMI connector. I like this approach more than using a dongle to provide a full size connector -- this way, nothing ever gets lost. You'll still need a somewhat uncommon cable to hook it up to a standard LCD TV, but they aren't that hard to find, particularly if you shop online. And that's something you're going to need to do, as the X2 does not come with this cable.
The Motorola Droid X2 is a good test case for the use of new dual-core processors in smartphones. The Droid X and the Droid X2 run at the exact same raw clock speed, 1000 MHz. But while the Droid X is based on a single-core Cortex A8-class processor, the Droid X2 has dual Cortex A9 cores. This means much more kick for the same number. For a comparison point, Quadrant Standard Benchmark's listed number for the original Droid X is around 1100. The Droid X2 scored a whopping 2662. That's almost two and a half times the raw performance of the original Droid X and five times the speed of the original Motorola Droid. That is a lot of power, particularly if you're worried about playing high-end games.
I do have to note that despite this pants-wetting level of raw strength, the Droid X2 "feels" a bit slow in some operations. Opening apps leaves you with a minor but noticeable lag, which shouldn't be the case. This may be some kind of glitch which will be ironed out in a software update.
Hopefully a software update coming soon since the X2 is still running Android OS 2.2 (Froyo), even as its year-old predecessor has already received an Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) upgrade. I'm sure the X2 will get one too, and probably more upgrades later, but it would be nice if Motorola had included it at launch.
As with most of Verizon's Android phones, the Droid X2 is not LTE capable; it does not run on Verizon's 4G network, limiting users to conventional 3G speeds. While that could be worse (you still get reasonably broadband speeds), as long as Verizon is boasting 20 megabit downloads in many markets, a lack of LTE in this model is definitely going to gall some people looking for a high-end smartphone. Particularly for new users; if you're going to be getting a phone that you expect to use for two years, by the end of that time, you can expect LTE to be available on vast amounts of Verizon's network, making the Droid X2's EV-DO speeds seem rather lackluster.
Rounding out the posse are fairly vanilla Wi-Fi and Bluetooth implementations, although it does gain points for the ability to act as a Wi-Fi access point (as discussed below).
One of the things that makes the X2 a nice potential choice for frequent travelers are the multiple tethering options, to let you share the X2's Internet connection with a laptop or other device. While many Android devices allow for very easy tethering via USB, the X2 also includes a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot mode, which allows you to provide Internet access for multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices. It also includes a full suite of options: you can choose the network name, security options (or open security, if you choose), limit the number of Wi-Fi devices that can connect at once, or only allow certain devices to connect using MAC address filtering. In practice, from the laptop end it looks exactly like another Wi-Fi access point. Connect, and go. This way you can also serve other devices like tablets or even other smartphones. Perfect for on-the-go Internet for a small group, even for use in the middle of a road trip, right there in the car.
The catch to this is that the Wi-Fi hotspot option will eat battery life very fast. Ideally, the device should be plugged in while using it if you don't want to risk a very low battery. You can also set the hotspot mode to turn off after 15, 30, or 60 minutes, for a little insurance against forgetting it. You can take a hint from the fact that they don't include 90 minute or two hour increments there, since that would be seriously pushing the battery.
Beyond that, the only particular productivity options on the X2 are the "usual" Android applications, courtesy of Google. The calendar and scheduling app; Gmail and regular email clients; contact list; photo viewer; Android Market; text messaging app; the very robust web browser; Google Maps; Google Places; and, while not one of Google's applications per se, the Quickoffice suite for mobile Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF support.
What have we here? Not a ton, but still more than many other Android devices have out of the box. A couple game demos, the standard music player, an app for the internal FM radio receiver (headset required) and links to Verizon's VCAST content stores. I suspect after an initial look through the only apps that will merit a second glance are the music player and the radio.
The one other useful app is for DLNA, Digital Living Network Alliance, which is a set of interoperable standards for moving content between devices -- say you wanted to stream a video that was on your phone to your TV, you could do so if they were both DLNA equipped. Even streaming in the opposite direction or having a storage unit serve video on-demand to a TV controlled by your mobile device. It's an interesting technology, and I suspect that if I had any other DLNA equipped hardware, I would find it much more interesting.
On the more concrete entertainment end, the Droid X2 has an HDMI output to connect it to a compatible HDTV. As with other similarly equipped Android devices, this "mirrors" the screen's display, letting you not just play back video, but also games, web browsing, anything you can do on the device. One advantage here of using a qHD display is that the higher resolution lends itself better to a TV -- displaying a WVGA picture on even a 32-inch screen results in a good bit of pixelation. You'll still get some of that here, but much less so.
The Motorola Droid X2 boasts an 8 megapixel camera with 720p video recording, just like it's predecessor. And it does certainly acquit itself, as you'd expect, from a relatively high-end phone's camera. The auto-focus seemed somewhat more versatile than most I've dealt with, being able to handle distances as short as 4 inches to the foreground, as well as finding its focus faster.
Although the flash boasts two LEDs, its performance is still marginal, dropping off fast at more than a couple feet. We're still waiting for a smartphone flash that can light up more than one or two people.
I would characterize the X2's battery life as good, although not exceptional. With a 1500 mAh battery, it's on the upper-end of the average range, which gives you a little more of a comfortable margin in terms of having a "rough" power usage day without having to seek out the charger too early.
Tethering, or use as a Wi-Fi hotspot, will eat battery power fast, which is why preferably you should have it plugged in for this, lest you end up with a paperweight waiting for it to recharge. But considering the processor's performance and the screen size, the Droid X2 still comes out pretty well.
The big bump up in processor speed is nice, as is the cutting edge screen resolution, but once you get past the small improvements in the specs, you realize that the Motorola Droid X2 is a rather unimaginative and routine update to the original Droid X. That doesn't make it a bad phone by any means, but it does make it hard to get excited about.
The Droid X2 is a faster version of a phone that launched a year ago, with the same features, same design, even the same operating system. If you liked the original Droid X and were about to buy one, the X2 has all that and a bit more. If not, you might find other, slightly more cutting-edge models to provide you more bang for your buck.
A useful refresh of the old Droid X, but with only mild improvements over the old model, it doesn't stack up quite as well against the new cutting edge.