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Hands-on review: Droid Maxx review
3:01 am | July 25, 2013

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Hands-on review: Droid Maxx review

On Tuesday Verizon and Motorola teamed up to update the Droid lineup and release three new devices. Of the three, the Droid Maxx is the $299 flagship, sporting Motorola’s signature Kevlar backing and a real whopper of a battery.

Even though we were impressed by this new Verizon exclusive, and even a little jealous as an AT&T customer, we couldn’t help but wonder how many of the new Droid’s features would be on the ever-leaking Moto X phone.

Droid Maxx review

Big Red and Moto have again opted for a trio, releasing three new phones to take the place of the Droid Razr M, Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD. At a joint event between the two companies in San Francisco, we got a chance to spend a little hands on time with the new lineup.

All three new Motorola devices, the top end Droid Maxx, the Droid Ultra middle child and the shrunken Droid Mini have the same essential specs. They’re all powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM.

Droid Maxx review

Battery and storage, big time

Droid Maxx review

While all the new Droids have the same horsepower, the Maxx is the one with the most staying power. It has 32GB of storage to the others’ 16GB, and since none of the phones support microSD, that’s an important distinction.

The Maxx also has the biggest battery by far, packing a 3500mAh cell. That’s even bigger than ones found in battery bad boys like the Droid Razr Maxx HD, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Optimus G Pro. It also beats the 2130mAh battery in the Droid Ultra by a wide margin.

The best feel of the three

Droid Maxx review

The Maxx doesn’t just win on storage and cell size, in our humble opinion it was also the best feeling phone of the three. Unlike the Ultra and Mini, which have slick Samsung-like plastic backs, it has Moto’s signature Kevlar.

We know not everyone likes the look of this material, but hold the Maxx in your hand and we think you’ll prefer the rubbery, easy to grip feel of Kevlar. It’s also not a fingerprint magnet, unlike the plastic on the other devices.

Pictures with a flick of the wrist

Quick camera access is always nice for catching a Kodak moment. On the Droid Maxx and its siblings you can summon the snapper just by turning the phone 45 degrees twice.

This basically means flicking your wrist, and in our time with the Maxx, it worked really well. This also a feature we saw in that leaked Moto X video.

Droid Maxx review

New Moto UI

We’ve always enjoyed Motorola’s Android overlay because it’s gloriously close to stock Android 4.2.2: Jelly Bean with just a few sensible tweaks. The Droid Maxx and its cohorts continue that trend, getting closer to stock while dropping a few features Moto fans might actually miss.

This new Moto UI no longer has a setting panel directly to the left of the home screen. Instead you’ll just find more screens to laden with widgets and apps.

Droid Maxx review

Motorola’s handsome and useful Circle widget has no been renamed the Droid Command Center. You can use it to jump into settings, see date and time info, or stream media to your TV via Miracast.

Google Now, as in right now

The new Droids also have always on Google Now functionality, enabling you to blurt “Ok Google Now,” and start issuing commands, without even touching your phone. You can use this to find a lost Droid Maxx by saying, “find my Droid.” If your phone is in earshot, it’ll start ringing to help you dig it out of the couch.

Don’t worry, giving commands in a room full of Droids won’t create chaos. There’s a getting to know you process where the phone learns to respond to your voice. This worked perfectly during our demo, as only the Moto reps were able to get Droids to obey from a locked state.

Early Verdict

While Motorola unveiled three new phones, the Droid Maxx was easily the star of the show. Its Kevlar backing gives it superior build quality, and its not often you find a battery that big outside of a phablet.

We continue to enjoy Moto’s minimal Android overlay, and while we’re not surprised it’s gotten even closer to stock, Moto now being a Google company and all, we do miss the settings menu on the left. Clever interface tweaks like flicking your wrist for the camera and anytime Google Now access are where we felt the hand of Google the most.

Droid Maxx review

We’re really glad to see the Maxx’s emphasis on battery, and that it retained the Kevlar backing of its predecessors. We wish we could say the same about the Ultra and the Mini, which felt cheap by comparison.

We’re mixed about the dual-core on the Maxx. On the one hand, it’ll be good for battery life, and it’s refreshing to see Moto resisting the stat sheet one-upmanship that’s so popular these days. On the other hand, at $300, consumers might want that boosted power for gaming and other apps.

All in all, Verizon customers are in for treat. Between the Droid Maxx and HTC One on Verizon finally getting confirmed, it’s not a bad time to be with Big Red.

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