Hands on: Droid Turbo review

Meet Motorola's supercharged Android phone for Verizon

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Droid Turbo is Motorola's Android phone hat-trick following the Nexus 6 and Moto X. It's the almost-perfect blend of the two with advanced specs in a subdued one-handed 5.2-inch design. You just have to be Verizon customer.

For

  • 5.2-inch quad HD display
  • Top-of-the-line specs
  • 48-hour battery life
  • Qi + Turbo charging

Against

  • Verizon-only
  • Subdued design
  • Moto X a better deal

Motorola's Droid Turbo takes almost everything we liked about the new Moto X and gives it a surprise specs boost less than two months later.

This Verizon-exclusive Android phone has a 5.2-inch quad HD display, the latest Snapdragon processor, 3GB of RAM, a 21-megapixel camera and an astounding two days of battery life.

Yes, there's a catch or two. The Droid Turbo price is twice as much as the Moto X and it's not available outside of Verizon. Sorry, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile customers.

Motorola has another pure Android winner on its hands that's more powerful than its previous offering. But its limited availability and more expensive price make it this year's sleeper hit.

Key features

Droid Turbo runs Android 4.4 KitKat and the upgraded ingredients are appropriately packed together like an oversized s'more into a candybar-style smartphone.

Front-and-center is a quad HD display. It measures out to be the same 5.2 inches as the Moto X 2nd generation, but this Super AMOLED screen is twice the resolution at 1440 x 2560.

This isn't quite as enticing as the new Motorola-made Google Nexus 6 that is 6 inches, but its one of the best one-handed smartphone screens next the the 5.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S5.

Droid Turbo features

Moto Active Display makes it to the Droid Turbo, but not the Nexus 6

What the Droid Turbo display does have over the fancy Nexus 6 is the Moto Active Display, not the less functional ambient light sensor. By waving one hand over the Droid Turbo, I was able to wake the device in a limited state.

This allowed me to see the current time and notification icons in white. The rest of the display remained unlight, saving battery life in the long run.

The middle layer of the Droid Turbo upgrades almost all of its internals. The Snapdragon 805 processor is the newest and fastest chip that Qualcomm is currently putting in smartphones.

It's joined by 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. Motorola and Verizon aren't wasting your time by keeping around a 16GB model of this carrier-exclusive phone.

Battery life

The back layer to this s'more-like sandwich features a giant 3900 mAh battery. It gives Droid Turbo its name and powers the phone for two days, according to Motorola. We still have to run our own tests to verify this claim and we will update this review page with the results.

Moto X left vs Droid Turbo center vs Nexus 6 right

Like the Moto X (left) and Nexus 6 (right), Droid Turbo can use a Turbo Charger

That's twice as long as the Moto X and several hours better than the large and therefore more energy-consuming Nexus 6. To top it off, Droid Turbo comes with a Turbo Charger that can juice up the battery from a critical state with 6 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes.

Camera

The Droid Turbo camera is another upgrade that deserves further testing. It has an advanced number-pleasing 21-megapixel sensor compared to Moto X's 13-megapixel snapper.

Initial photos came back with a larger 5248 x 2952 resolution and an average of 4.6MB per picture, but tones were oversaturated vs the more true-to-life pictures shot with the Nexus 6.

Droid Turbo camera review

21-megapixels, but is it really better than the 13-megapixel Moto X and Nexus 6?

Everything has so far resembled the Moto X's Instagram-like prism that makes my life look a whole lot punchier and colorful than it really is. It saves a step on Instagram, but doesn't look good for all subjects. And unlike the Facebook-owned app, you won't find a #NoFilter option.

Droid Turbo can take 4K video at 24fps in addition to normal 1080p at 30fps and slow motion 720p video. There's no external storage via a microSD card slot, so unless you own a 4K TV, the best quality video is limited in playback and you hit the 32GB model cap awfully quick.

Droid Turbo review dimensions

Droid Turbo has slightly thicker dimensions, but not by much

Droid Turbo review

Droid Turbo has a much smaller metal frame

Design

All three upgraded layers - the screen, internal specs and battery - are soldered together with a subdued metal frame and three unique back cover choices.

This is where the Droid Turbo design really contrasts with the large, contoured frame of the Nexus 6 and the customizable Moto Maker designs of the Moto X.

Instead of plastic backs in every color imaginable or premium wood and leather finishes, this Verizon phone has a trio of rear options: Kevlar-infused material glass fiber in black or red, or a bumpy ballistic nylon in black.

The Droid Turbo review unit I received has the black materialized Kevlar cover that's smooth, but features a non-slip finish. It should hold up better than the supple leather back of the Moto X that took a beating in just two days in my pocket.

Droid Turbo is less bold, yet the dimensions are a little bigger. The curved design juts out to 0.44 in. at its thickest point vs Moto X's 0.39 in.

Droid Turbo battery life

The bottom chin is needed because it has dedicated buttons, not on-screen soft buttons

It also has a bottom chin thanks to dedicated (as opposed to on-screen) buttons for a height of 5.65 in. vs Moto X's 5.5 in. The Turbo's width is almost the same 2.89 in. vs X's 2.85 in.

Availability and price

The Droid Turbo release date was October 30, having launched in Verizon stores and on the official Motorola website. Don't hold your breath if you're on a different carrier or outside of the US. It's strictly locked down to Verizon with no chance of coming to other networks.

Droid Turbo Verizon

Prepare to get cozy with Verizon. It's a requirement

It's not a tough sell if you're already on or switching to Verizon. Droid Turbo costs a standard $200 on-contract. Without the two-year agreement, you'll be paying a steeper $600 upfront.

That's double the price of the $100 Moto X 2014 on-contract and just $50 less than the very similar Nexus 6 that comes with a supersized 6-inch display and Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Early verdict

Droid Turbo takes the Moto X to a new level with better specs in the front, middle and back. Its quad HD display looks better, internal specs get to tasks faster and the battery lasts longer.

You really can't beat two days of battery life on a 5.2-inch phone. Yes, it has a slightly more subtle design in a side-by-side comparison to the Nexus 6. However, that new 6-inch Google phone lacks the convenience of the Moto Active Display and requires two hands.

Droid Turbo vs Nexus 6 vs Moto X which is better

The choices: Moto X (left) Droid Turbo (center) Nexus 6 (right)

While we continue testing it in advance of the full review, this Android phone's biggest omission is already obvious: its availability. It's a desirable Verizon-only handset.

That makes Droid Turbo out of reach if you're stuck in a rival carrier's contract or if Verizon isn't up to par in your area. Otherwise, it's yet another attractive Android option from Motorola - the third in less than two months.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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