Mobile Geeks

Motorola DROID Turbo review – can the king of battery life really keep up?

Motorola released the DROID Turbo with one main promise, to give you the best battery life you could possibly get. It’s also meant to be a premium smartphone with nothing but the best specs around, released exclusively through Verizon, the biggest carrier in the USA.

Surely, all of that sounds like this would be the phone of the year, but is it? We finally got a hold of one and I have taken it around the block. I have used it, abused it and reused it. I am now ready to tell you all about it, so let’s jump right into this review and show you just what the Motorola DROID Turbo was all about.

Motorola DROID Turbo specs

Design and build quality

Whoever said you needed metal in order to make a solid smartphone? Motorola has proven time and again that there is no need for shiny materials, and they are outdoing themselves with the Motorola DROID Turbo.

It is made of ballistic nylon or glass fiber, depending on the version you have. Pair this with the unibody design and a Gorilla Glass 3 protective glass layer in the front and you have yourself a very solid handset. Not to mention, it is covered with a water-repellent coating that makes it quite resistant against spills.

The only issue I did find is that the buttons can be a bit loose and move around a little, but they also provide great feedback and good travel. It’s not exactly a deal breaker, just a little something that bothers me from time to time.

In terms of design, this thing is a beauty. Motorola follows the sleek, yet industrial language we have come to know from other DROID products. The rare materials on the back really give the phone a unique look, and the phone happens to look quite pretty while staying strong.

The display is as gorgeous as they get

The first thing you notice about a smartphone is its exterior design, but what you will be looking at most of the time is the screen. This is why I stay strong on the idea that it is imperative for manufacturers to focus on offering a quality viewing experience. Even low-end gadgets with inferior definition can achieve a great viewing experience (like the Acer Iconia Tab 8), so there is no longer excuses to skimp out on this department.

Thankfully, the Motorola DROID Turbo’s screen is a beauty to look at. It’s 5.2-inch AMOLED display shows vibrant colors and deep blacks, as any AMOLED panel should. The big seller here is that this also happens to be a QHD display, touting its impressive 2560x1440p resolution. This makes images and text amazingly crisp.

Some of you may not like the over-saturated colors, though, as it also means images are not exactly “true-to-life”. I happen to believe smartphone screens don’t have to look real. This is not a TV or photography monitor… you just need it to look good. And the Motorola DROID Turbo looks good.

You also have to consider if you are willing to welcome the downsides of having such a high-definition display, but we will talk more about that later. The point here is that the display is amazing.

Great performance

A phone can have all your dream specs, but that is worth nothing if the manufacturer doesn’t know how to put everything together. That’s why some off-brand devices look great on paper, but work horribly once you use them. Motorola did nothing wrong with the DROID Turbo. This phone is fast and smooth.

You can really see the power of that Snapdragon 805 processor and 3 GB of RAM here. And though some QHD displays can slow down performance, that is something you really don’t notice with the Motorola DROID Turbo. This handset was always snappy and I never encountered any hiccups.

Such is usually the case with high-end phones. We can no longer tell if a flagship phone is stronger than other high-end devices or not. They are all fast! This is why we thought it would also be good to show you some benchmarks. Here they are:

As you can see, this phone’s performance is above devices like the OnePlus One and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. That is quite impressive!

Sleek and handy software

So we know the Motorola DROID Turbo is fast and powerful. What else? Well, one big factor I always consider before buying a phone is its software. Does it have a heavy manufacturer skin? Is the phone full of features that will simply get in the way? What about the features I actually want? How is the bloatware? These are all valid questions, so let’s answer them right away.

Motorola has been great at catering to fans of vanilla Android. For those who don’t know, vanilla Android is the Android experience with no modifications, something like what Nexus devices offer. Now, this doesn’t mean Motorola hasn’t added its magic touches. They certainly have, and that is partly what makes the Motorola DROID Turbo so special, but they are careful about what they do.

Motorola’s UI is as simple as they get. You are welcomed by a clean lock screen, which is followed by a clean home screen. There’s no bells and whistles here, as this launcher is amazingly similar to the Google Now Launcher. You get one home screen, unless apps and widgets no longer fit, or you decide to move some to the next one. And the same applies to the third page, fourth page and so on. If you remove the last app or widget on a secondary home screen, the page will simply disappear.

The Notification bar is just like a Nexus’. Pulling down with one finger will reveal the time, date and notifications. Pulling down with two fingers will reveal your quick settings. You can also switch between these by pressing the button in the top-right corner. Simple and clean.

The app drawer is also very minimalist, as there is no options or tabs. It’s just a 4×6 panel of app icons, all organized alphabetically. At first sight, the software is nothing to write home about, which is a good thing if you like Google’s Android experience. If you happen to like something like Samsung’s crowded (but feature-full) UI, you will find yourself wanting more.

So, where exactly did Motorola work its magic here? You have to dig a little deeper to find the gold. Motorola is known for its awesome features, including Touchless Controls, Motorola Assist, Motorola Connect and a few others.

As you can see, exclusive features are not many, but they are very well curated. These are hand-picked features that actually help, not an avalanche of features you will never use. My favorite happens to be Touchless Controls, which allows you to interact with your device strictly via voice.

This works by setting up a hotword that will activate your phone whenever you utter that specific phrase. By the way, you can set it to whatever you want. I like keeping it simple with “OK, Google Now”, but you can set your hotword to “Show me the magic”, “Hello, baby doll” or whatever your little heart desires.

Initiate the phone with your specific phrase, and it will start listening to you. You can say things like “What’s up?”, which will give you a rundown of your notifications and the time. You can also say anything Google Now supports – from setting alarms to checking how tall Obama is, you are covered.

The “What’s up” command doesn’t always work for me, for some reason. Must be the way I speak, but the system does launch Google Now if it can’t do anything with your phrase. Then when it inputs the same phrase to Google Now, it actually displays as “what’s up”. No idea what’s going on there, but the function works well about half of the time. When it doesn’t it just transfers the workload to Google Now.

Another great future is Motorola Assist, which can change the settings on your phone based on other factors. It can put your phone on silence during meetings, or while you are sleeping. It can also turn the “Talk to me” option while driving, which would dictate all your text messages and notifications so you can keep your eyes on the road.

I also love that Moto Actions allows you to do things like twisting twice to launch the camera app, or simply approach the screen to wake it. Another great app is Motorola Connect, an app that, along with a Chrome extension, allows you to access text messages and incoming call information directly from your computer. You can respond to texts and all.

See, these are all very cool features. I have been using all of them and loving it. On the other hand, when I review, say, a Samsung phone, I always test most features once and never use them again.

Camera

Let me start by telling you I don’t care much for smartphone cameras, as I happen to be a photography enthusiast. Makes no sense, right? Well, the thing is that if I really care about picture quality I use my DSLR, not my phone. I like my phone camera to be “good enough”, but the Motorola DROID Turbo is actually more than good enough.

I was surprised to find the pictures were very crisp, in focus and colors were portrayed very accurately. That 21 MP sensor and dual LED flash really gets the job done. Front-facing pictures are (as expected) not amazing. They are just… OK. Nothing flashy, but it will make for a good video call experience and fair selfies.

The camera software is as simple as the rest of the UI. It’s very similar to the stock Android camera app, which I happen to not be a big fan of. I like having options and different modes available to me at all times. With this camera app, you have to pull from the left to get the options circle, where all your settings would be. Why not have a flash button in the corner of the screen? Or an HDR toggle?

If you like simple and uncluttered, though, this may be your thing. I am just not very fond of it. It’s a bit too simple for me.

Speaker sound quality

This speaker is not bad at all. It’s pretty loud and the noise is clear. Now, that is not to say these are great speakers either. Competitors like HTC have adopted dual, front-facing stereo speakers. And no one has quite beat HTC’s BoomSound technology.

While the HTC One M8 is about as loud as the Motorola DROID Turbo, the Taiwanese manufacturer’s speakers project a much fuller and immersive experience. The frequency range is also wider.

Ultimately, the fact that the speaker is located on the front helps the DROID Turbo a lot, but it’s still only on one side. This means the audio is not balanced, unless you are using the phone in portrait mode.

This is not good for videos and movies, but the phone proves to be a good contender if you are simply listening to some tunes.

Is battery life all it’s put out to be?

This is where the Motorola DROID Turbo is supposed to shine. That 3900 mAh battery size is beat by very few competitors, but whether that translates to amazing battery life or not is a whole other deal.

I won’t say the battery life on this device is bad. In fact, it’s amazing, but I was expecting much more from a battery this size. I managed to get about 18-20 hours with average-to-heavy usage. I am sure I could kill it faster if I really went at it.

For all intents and purposes, this type of battery life is great, but it can be almost matched by other devices with smaller batteries. Do keep in mind this phone is powerful and comes with a super high-definition QHD 2560x1440p display, though. The processor and screen take a toll on battery life.

The question is whether this amount of battery life is worth ditching other awesome high-end devices out there, and that will highly depend on your preferences. I did make the phone last a day and 21 hours under light usage. That is pretty impressive. I guess as long as you don’t use the screen too much, it can last forever… but then what’s the point?

If you really care for a QHD screen, though, this type of battery life is insane, considering what the phone packs.

Conclusion

It has been over 2000 words and a lot of testing… so what is the verdict? The Motorola DROID Turbo starts at $599.99 off contract from Verizon, as well as from Amazon. You can also get it for $199.99 on a 2-year contract. This puts the phone up there with the best of the best.

Undoubtedly, the phone is one of the top in the smartphone pyramid. It comes with powerful hardware, which translates to top-of-the-line performance. Its software is simple and clean, yet the phone manages to offer some features the competitors haven’t been able to match yet. In addition, it offers a pretty good media experience, even if the single speaker set-up is not preferable.

It’s one hell of a phone, and all things considered, it takes advantage of a huge battery that makes it last for a very long time. Now, would I give up a couple or few hours of battery life to get another phone with a better camera, dual front-facing speakers or a metallic design? I just might, but this phone likely offers the best battery life on such a high-resolution display. Unless you like Samsung Galaxy Notes, which likely perform very similarly in terms of longevity.

I would recommend this phone to anyone who is on Verizon and likes what Motorola has been doing lately. If you are a fan of the Moto X, for example, this is easily a better option with a much longer-lasting battery. And it keeps the same experience and features other high-end Moto smartphones are so loved for.

I have been using it for a while and I am not rushing to go back to my HTC One M8, which I usually am. So tell us, is the Motorola DROID Turbo the phone for you?