Motorola Droid review round-up

Verizon's iPhone killer has arrived. We sift through all the Droid reviews, a week before the Motorola-built smartphone goes on sale.

The Motorola Droid, powered by Verizon Wireless, will hit shelves on Nov. 6. So how does the handset stack up against smartphones such as the BlackBerry Storm 2?

On Thursday, a week ahead of the Nov. 6 release date, tech bloggers issued their first reviews of the Motorola Droid, a smartphone powered by Verizon Wireless and Google’s Android 2.0 operating system. So how does the Droid stack up against, say, the BlackBerry Storm 2? As always, it depends on whom you ask.

Early tests of the Droid have been largely positive, with reviewers praising the Droid's navigation capabilities, its full QWERTY keyboard, and its lush screen display, which bests the iPhone in terms of resolution. Over at Gizmodo, Matt Buchanan says there is "something weirdly refreshing about [the] straightforwardly utilitarian design" on the Droid:

The 3.7-inch display, packed with pixels, looks simply amazing. Text is ridiculously crisp, thanks to a 854x480 resolution that makes for 267ppi. (The iPhone is 163ppi.) Seriously, looking at my inbox is kinda making me drool. Besides clarity, touch response seems dead on. The keyboard works way better than it looks. It appears flat, but there's a slight bump to every key that, combined with the soft rubber texture, just works.

At CNET, Kent German and Bonnie Cha call the Droid "a real competitor to Apple's device." They are particularly jazzed about the Android 2.0 operating system, which they say meshes very well with a range of desktop programs, including Office programs:

Perhaps one of the top highlights of Android 2.0 is the expanded capabilities of the personal information management tools, including e-mail, calendar, and contacts. The Droid now offers native Microsoft Exchange synchronization out of the box for e-mail, calendar, and contacts, in addition to support for Gmail and POP3 and IMAP accounts.

PC World is happy enough with the Droid to dish out a 90-percent rating. In his review, Robert S. Anthony singled out the Droid's call quality and the display. (No surprise there – everyone loves the Droid display.) Anthony also gushed over the Web browsing experience:

Especially snappy is the Droid's Web browser, which loads images quickly thanks to the powerful 550MHz processor and speedy hardware-accelerated graphics. Though you are at the mercy of your 3G high-speed data network coverage, once you're in it, Web surfing is breezy and smooth. Video from sites such as YouTube looks equally impressive; the playback of a high-definition YouTube cartoon ("Sita Sings the Blues") was excellent, with no stalling or audio dropouts.

Of course more than a few reviewers have some quibbles. Mr. Anthony, for instance, doesn't like the occasionally grainy shots produced by the Droid camera. And most of the reviews we read criticized the QWERTY keyboard. (Importantly, the Droid does have a touch-screen like the iPhone, but also real rubber keys.) Here's CNET:

Though many users will welcome a physical keyboard, we weren't particularly impressed. The keys are flush and squashed next to each other, which makes it difficult to text quickly or by feel. Also, though the buttons do give a slight downward "push," they're a bit slick and we were thrown off by the "dummy keys" on either end of the bottom row. On the whole it is a better experience than the T-Mobile G1, but not nearly as comfortable as on the Cliq or even on the Samsung Moment.

Bottom line: The Droid is a good phone. It might even be a great phone. Will it blow the iPhone out of the water? Not right away. But the sheer amount of buzz surrounding the Droid debut suggests that Apple is susceptible to an attack from a smartly-manufactured, well-executed smartphone.

Are you sold? Or will you be standing by your iPhone? Drop us a line here, or on Twitter, @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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