Review: Droid Maxx

A smartphone today, is quite different from a smartphone of five years ago. Back then, the market was still developing and features were still coming together. Today, nearly all vendors, no matter the platform, have comparable devices with nearly the same features. So when it comes to choosing a phone, the devices are becoming more personal and embedded in our lives and choosing one that fits your lifestyle, is more important than ever.

One of Motorola’s new Android devices for Verizon is the Droid Maxx and like the Razr Maxx, the phone is touting its crazy long battery life as its differentiator for other phones on the market. But, with quality devices on the market like the HTC One and Moto X, is the Maxx able to stand on its own or is the device destined to hit the bargain bin in the near future.

The Droid Maxx is a well packed smartphone with a 1.7 Ghz dual-core CPU, quad core GPU running at 400MHz, 10MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, 5-inch Super AMOLED display, 1280x720 screen resolution, 23GB of internal memory, LTE, and the prized possession of the phone, a 3500 mAh battery; the full spec list is posted below. All of this does not come cheap though, as the phone is $649.99 off contract or $299.99 with a two-year agreement.

It’s clear for the spec list that the Droid Maxx is capable phone and with a large screen with extended battery life, it could be a huge hit with consumers, provided the rest of the device is able to match these two key features. 

While some have protested larger displays, the 5-inch size on the Maxx is about as large of a phone as I can mange to use comfortably with one hand and I do consider myself to have larger hands. Those of you with small paws, may want to take notice if you can comfortably use a larger device like that Maxx without the assistance of a second hand for dialing and answering calls.

Design:

The Maxx is composed of glass, plastic and this rubbery substance that is made up of Kevlar. The dark finishes give it more of a modern look that is not quite industrial but does appear more masculine in nature.

There are three buttons on the right side of the device, a power button and a volume rocker. The buttons are exposed far enough that you will have no trouble hitting them and the engagement is a bit mushy, but nothing deplorable. We would prefer a more mechanical click to them but they will suffice for nearly all users.

The front of the phone is mostly glass with a nice rounded edge to the phone. What we mean is that, unlike on some phones that have a ridge at the edge of the screen, the glass rolls smoothly over the side and gives the phone a quality feel to it.  It’s really one of those small things that separate good devices, from great devices and once you notice this little feature, you want all phones to follow in its footprints.

On the front of the phone, at the bottom, there is a small chin of the rubbery Kevlar material that Motorola uses on the backside of the device.

The backside of the device is made up almost entirely of the rubbery material which we quite like. The material is grippy and will not slip out of your hands and when you place it down on a hard surface and vibration fires up, you don’t have to worry about it becoming scratched.

The camera is housed in plastic and is slightly recessed from the back material. This is a good implementation when compared to other devices that have a camera hump, because when those devices are placed down, the camera makes contact with a hard surface and it can scratch the lens cover.

In your hand, the phone feels great and well constructed. The materials feel premium and the look is something we can appreciate. Motorola did a good job of building a phone that can stand out on its own but at the same time, should not offend anyone’s personal tastes either.

Battery Life:

As the name implies and the specs state, the Maxx is all about battery life and its clearly a beacon for the phone. The Maxx with 3500 mAh battery is a beast when it comes to longevity. While the Maxx is quoted at lasting 48 hours, we were able to get around 13 hours of use out of device, which far exceeds the competition. It is possible to go two entire work-days without having to charge your device but we would not recommend it.

How did we test the battery life? We used the phone as our daily driver and we were sufficiently pleased with the battery life. For a comparable, the iPhone 5 gets around eight hours of use before it needs to hit the charge and the same can be said for a Lumia 928. With the Maxx, you really don’t worry about will you run out of juice, but it’s worth noting you can’t kick the habit of plugging it in each night to charge.

More so, unlike some phones that have battery-pack add-ons, the size of the Maxx is not sacrificed to cram a larger battery inside the device. The profile of the device may be a tad thicker than some are used to, but the size quickly vanishes once you have had the phone in your pocket for a few hours.

Camera:

Cell phone cameras are quickly growing in complexity with Nokia climbing the mountain with a 41MP camera, but the Maxx is no slouch either with a 10MP shooter out back.

Unlike previous Android phones that we have reviewed, Motorola did a great job of reducing the shutter lag (the time from when you hit capture to when the image is recorded) and has improved the UI as well. Sample shots are posted below, click to enlarge.

To snap a photo you tap on the screen and you can snap photos in rapid succession quite easily. One qualm is that to navigate to your photos that you took requires a swipe gesture and we frequently found ourselves accidentally taking photos when attempting to access our library. Once you understand how the gesture is supposed to work, our accidental photos dropped off considerably but for new users, it could prove frustrating.

Photos generally lean towards the cool side of the spectrum but beyond that, there is not much else to say about the camera. It takes clean photos, is relatively easy to use, and should be able to capture whatever your point it at without much thinking being involved. We do give high marks for low light photos too, the image above of the cherry Coke can was in modestly low light and the sensor did a great job in these conditions.

The front facing camera will handle all of your video calls with ease, it’s suffice to say that the performance is satisfactory for our expectations and should not cause any issues for end users.

Video capturing with the Maxx is quite simple as well. The interface is similar to that of the camera and recording your life’s moments is done with relative ease. As with the photos taken above, there is still cool hue to the video which shouldn’t be a major surprise as it uses the same sensor for photos as for videos.

Overall, the video capture and the photo modes work well for their respective tasks. Usability is always on the forefront of design and Motorola has clearly made a few changes that work in favor of helping you capture those special moments with your phone.

Audio:

The Maxx is characteristic of all the Motorola’s that we have tested over the years and audio quality during phone calls is on par with our expectations. We could clearly hear the other party and they had no issue hearing our conversation.

The speakerphone worked as one would expect and had sufficient volume when turned all the way up. Like many other smartphones, at max volume, the speakerphone is less than ideal as the sound becomes quite shallow, but this is common for most smartphones.

Listening to music through the audio jack is comparable to all other smartphones; nothing too exciting here.

Display:

There is no hiding the fact that the phone has a large screen; coming in at 5 inches, those with small hands may have trouble reaching across the device with one hand. For those of you with larger hands, you will have no issue using the device and should be able to reach each corner of the device without discomfort.

The Super AMOLED is bright but does feel a bit over-saturated on the colors. Reds, in particular, look out of balance compared to other colors and tend to dwarf other hues on the screen. It’s not a huge issue and few will likely notice it but if you are sensitive to saturation, you may be annoyed by the display. You can also see in the crop shot below that there is a small bit of bleeding on the screen as well.

Touch response and accuracy is spot on with the phone picking up our gestures and other touch inputs accurately.

Software:

The Maxx comes with quite a bit of bundled software and it’s really up to the user to decide if this is bloat or actually useful. For us, we found the included applications to add little value.

One of the features that many may find handy, once they figure out how to properly use it, is the touchless control feature. Motorola has included a low-power application that can be accessed using voice commands to get GPS directions or open up a hotspot. In addition, the low-power mode can also display notifications and allow you to access other key bits of information without having to fully awake the device.

While on paper it may look good, the majority of the time when we wanted to view a twitter message, we also wanted to check email too, which would require you to wake the device. It’s not that the software is bad, but we really didn’t find much use for it as nearly every time we checked a notification, we ended up powering up the device to either respond or check other services.

With that being said, once you do get used to simply talking to your phone and setting your alarm or the clever ‘ring my droid’ function that helps you find a lost phone, it can be a powerful tool. Motorola clearly spent some time here working on this solution and the implementation, while not perfect, shows some promise and is certainly something to watch for as Motorola matures the software and its functionality.

Conclusion:

The Droid Maxx is a solid choice for anyone who is looking for a well-rounded Android phone and is willing to pay the premium price for a new smartphone to get a few extra hours of battery life.

While we do wish the Maxx battery life was a bit better, given that the Droid Razr Maxx performed better than its successor, it competes well within its respective market. Of course, if you do have small hands, the 5-inch screen could be a bit cumbersome for you and we highly recommend you check out the phone in person before making a purchase.

Ultimately, though, the Droid Maxx is well rounded phone in a highly competitive market and if the look of the device doesn’t appeal to your tastes (and it is a more masculine look), then look to your left and right, there is bound to be another comparable Android phone on the retail shelves that will fit your preferences.



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