Droid X: a minia­ture tablet PC that also makes calls

google-pow­ered Mo­torola phone packs oo­dles of good­ies un­der that glo­ri­ous, sprawl­ing screen

Austin American-Statesman - - TECH MONDAY - By Rachel Metz

SAN FRAN­CISCO — As smart phones get big­ger and brighter touch screens, the line be­tween hand­sets and tablet com­put­ers has got­ten blurry.

The Droid X ($200 with a Ver­i­zon Wire­less con­tract and re­bate), the lat­est ad­di­tion to Mo­torola Inc.’s pop­u­lar Droid smart phone line, pur­ports to be on the hand­set side. In re­al­ity, the phone walks a tightrope be­tween the two cat­e­gories by pack­ing a 4.3-inch touch screen, speedy pro­ces­sor and an 8-megapixel cam­era in a matte black pack­age that runs Google Inc.’s An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

All this screen real es­tate is great for multimedia fans, as videos, web­sites and pho­tos look fan­tas­tic on the Droid X. And the phone has many good fea­tures, too. Still, it is a phone, and chances are you’ll want to make a call at some point — some­thing I found rather awk­ward due to its shape and size.

Let’s start with the screen. At 4.3 inches di­ag­o­nally, it may not sound huge, but it’s fairly enor­mous for a cell phone. For com­par­i­son, the iPhone 4’s gen­er­ously sized screen is 3.5 inches, and the orig­i­nal Droid phone, which Mo­torola re­leased late last year, is 3.7.

The Droid X’s screen isn’t just large; it’s also bril­liant and crisp. It’s fun to watch videos on it, read Face­book sta­tus up­dates from lit­tle on-screen wid­gets, check e-mail and poke around on­line. Col­ors look bright, and text is easy to read.

The hand­set, which comes out July 15, ex­cels at video play­back in par­tic­u­lar. I tested this by try­ing a beta ver­sion of a new ap­pli­ca­tion from Block­buster Inc. that lets you rent or buy movies. Ver­i­zon is in­clud­ing this on the Droid X.

Al­though the ap­pli­ca­tion had a slim se­lec­tion of movies dur­ing my test and down­loads them only over Wi-Fi, it was pretty easy to sign up for a Block­buster ac­count right on the phone and use the app to rent a flick. I checked out “Shut­ter Is­land” for $4, and it down­loaded in about 15 min­utes. It was mine for 24 hours once I started play­ing it, and it looked great.

The screen also ben­e­fits the Droid X’s cam­era, which in­cludes a bright dual-LED flash. It was easy to take pho­tos with such a gen­er­ous viewfinder, and I en­joyed flip­ping through the re­sults on the phone — some­thing you could do with a friend with­out feel­ing like the gad­get was too tiny. You can also take high-def­i­ni­tion videos, and if you aren’t in the mood to play them on the phone you can use its HDMI port to con­nect the phone to a TV and watch your cin­e­matic ge­nius on a big­ger screen.

With all this fo­cus on its dis­play, I thought the Droid X would quickly suck up bat­tery life. It sur­prised me by last­ing through a day of heavy us­age, in­clud­ing lots of talk time, in­stant mes­sag­ing, Web

surf­ing and video watch­ing.

The big touch screen does have its draw­backs, though. Calls gen­er­ally sounded good on the Droid X, but I had a hard time talk­ing on it while hold­ing it up to my ear. The phone has a slim back that is wider at the top (where the cam­era and flash sit), and hold­ing this ul­tra­w­ide slice next to my head never got com­fort­able.

The dis­play also means that the phone is a back-pocket hand­set, if you feel com­fort­able hav­ing it in your pocket at all. There was no way it would fit un­ob­tru­sively in the front of my jeans.

The Droid X runs ver­sion 2.1 of Google’s An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem, which means it is easy to nav­i­gate and is filled with good­ies like Google’s free turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion ap­pli­ca­tion. It also can act as a wire­less hot spot for con­nect­ing other phones or com­put­ers to the Web, which is a cool fea­ture, but you’ll have to pay Ver­i­zon an ex­tra $20 per month to use it.

Even with all the bells and whis­tles, its de­sign means the Droid X is not for ev­ery­one. If you’re more into chat­ting on your cell phone than couch­ing out with it, it prob­a­bly won’t be the best pick. But if you would rather in­dulge in videos and Web surf­ing, this cat­e­gory-blur­ring phone makes the cut.

The Droid X’s screen makes it larger than pocket size.

Jeff Chiu

Tele­genic an­i­mals aside, video and pho­tos look ter­rific on the Droid X’s screen, one re­viewer says. A caveat: The im­mense screen ren­ders the phone slightly un­com­fort­able to use for mak­ing calls.

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