DROID Turbo Review – The Best Exclusive Verizon Has Ever Had

No phone is perfect, even if some get pretty close. Phones like the Moto X, Galaxy Note 4, and iPhone 6 have gotten close, but never hit the top. Every phone seems to lack that one key thing preventing it from being called “the best”. Whether that’s the software, the battery life, the camera, or the ecosystem. That will continue to be the case for a long time, but for now, we can get close, and that’s exactly what Motorola and Verizon have done with the DROID Turbo. This phone packs every specification a fanboy can dream about and so much more. Many call it “what the Moto X should have been”. Let’s find out if that’s true.



Specs

  • 5.2” Inch Quad-HD AMOLED Display
  • 2.7GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 805 Processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32, 64GB Storage – Non-expandable
  • 3,900 mAh Battery – Non-removable
  • Built in Qi wireless charging
  • 21MP Rear Camera w/ Dual LED Flash

  • 2MP Front Camera

Video Review

Hardware & Design

The DROID Turbo may share a lot of aspects of the Moto X when it comes to software and even with it’s specs on paper, but the appearance of these two phones couldn’t be more different. The DROID Turbo is a thick, heavy phone with a somewhat rugged appearance and that’s sort of what the DROID line has always been. That said however, this is by far one of the best looking DROID models to date. Classic DROID design language is definitely here, but it’s more refined than ever before on the Turbo. It’s certainly not the most beautiful phone out there, but it’s certainly not bad. All that bulk might be shocking in comparison to something like the Moto X, but it actually feels extremely good in the hand thanks to that rounded back. Luckily though, that rounded back doesn’t mean this phone will be spinning round and round.

One thing to note is that depending on which model you pick, the Turbo will feel a bit different. There are three models to choose from, two of which have different textures. The model I had, the black Glass Fiber, has a smooth soft touch feel to it while the Ballistic Nylon model has a rough and extremely rugged looking texture on the back. If black isn’t your cup of tea however, there’s also a red model available with the Glass Fiber texture.

There’s not all that much to complain about on the Turbo when it comes to design. You either like it or you hate it. Personally I appreciate the more substantial design while others find it ugly. However if there are complaints to be made, they should really all be pointed directly at those capacitive buttons up on the front of the phone. Why in 2014 these are even allowed on an Android handset I really don’t know. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point. Every other Motorola handset has on-screen buttons and with an update like Lollipop right around the corner which redesigns the buttons, it seems like Motorola and/or Verizon wasn’t thinking about the future with this decision. That’s strange to think since every other part of the Turbo is future proofed from the screen to the processor.

Speaking of the buttons, let’s spend a minute to talk about the ones located on the side. The power and volume buttons on the Turbo are a major downside on this device. Feedback is very mushy and the buttons themselves even jiggle a bit in their positions. On a phone as well built as this, these buttons were a head scratcher to me.

Overall the hardware is great. It’s really a matter of opinion whether you like it or not. For me it’s not exactly my favorite, but it’s not far from it. Without a doubt this phone will last you through a two-year contract when it comes to the quality of the hardware. On the chance you do manage to shatter the screen on this phone, Motorola will even give you a one-time free repair.

Software

When it comes to software, we’ve got the new Motorola shining through yet again with a near-stock Android build with only a few Motorola and Verizon tweaks. At the time of this review we have Android 4.4.4 KitKat on board with an update to Lollipop ensured to come in the near future. I’ve been told the update would hit by the end of 2014, but it seems that’s been pushed back at this point. Nonetheless it’s great to see Motorola and Verizon ensuring that this device gets updated to the latest and greatest Android has to offer. So what did Verizon and Motorola change on the software? Really, not all that much.

Aside from a few tweaks to the settings and some icons, there’s nothing changed. Verizon of course just has to throw in their set of bloatware apps that, let’s be honest, you might use all of zero times. Motorola’s additions on the other hand are pretty useful. The same additions you find on the Moto X are also present on the DROID Turbo. From Moto Display to Moto Assist, it’s all here. Moto Display is my favorite feature. Why? Simply put this is the most brilliant way to display notifications without strapping a screen to your wrist or your face. The screen turns on and off in a gentle way to show you your latest notifications along with the time and the ability to unlock the phone. Moto Display turns on in one of three ways. First, on it’s own. If you have the phone sitting down on the table the display will “breathe” off and on. Second, when you pick it up. Using motion sensors the DROID Turbo will sense you picking up the phone or pulling it out of your pocket and turn on Moto Display. The final way is by waving your hand over the phone. If it’s facing up, three infrared sensors on the front of the phone will pick up that movement and turn on Moto Display. At first I thought this would be unreliable and useless, but then I tried and wow, I didn’t think I could be that wrong. It was a great way to see my notifications while my phone was sitting down on my desk or on the charger without having to even touch the phone.

Moto Assist and Moto Voice are two other noteworthy features. Moto Assist automates certain tasks depending on your location and what you are doing. The best example is that when you are driving, the phone will sense this using your location and set itself to automatically read aloud any important notifications. What I mean by that is the phone will tell you when you have an incoming call or new text message by reading out the person’s name. If it’s a text message, you will be prompted for a response. If it’s a phone call, you’ll be prompted to either answer the call or decline. This feature however I didn’t always find all that reliable. Once when I had an incoming call the phone asked me if I would like to answer and when I told it to answer the call, it hung up. So this feature might need a little tweaking. Moto Voice is another useful feature that allows you to use your voice to control basic functions and searches on your phone without touching it, even if the screen is off. While setup is a bit annoying, I did find this to be a useful feature.

Software is something that Motorola just gets right, and the Turbo reflects that.

Camera

On the back of the DROID Turbo is a 21MP camera with optical image stabilization. Since I’ve rambled on in the previous few sections, I’ll keep this one short. This camera looks great on paper, but in real life is a massive disappointment. The shooter is certainly capable of taking breathtaking photographs, it’s just poor software and an underwhelming camera application that ruins the experience. The app itself can be confusing at first and really just does a lot of things wrong. Looking aside from that though, it’s really what we don’t see that causes the problems that we do see. Motorola’s processing is just horrendous on photos and that is very clear in the Turbo, or should I say, very grainy. Images look fine at first, but if you zoom in just a bit, detail is pretty much gone. The camera is certainly not bad, but it’s far from what it looks like on paper. I do feel confident however that Motorola will be able to fix this with software updates. Below is a gallery of images I took with the DROID Turbo.

Battery Life

One major appeal of the DROID Turbo is dat battery. Sitting at 3,900 mAh this phone should get you through the two days that Verizon and Motorola advertise it for, but it just doesn’t. For the average user this phone will get about a day and a half at most. That’s assuming the average user gets about 4 hours of screen time in that period. Personally that’s about what I get. However since this phone has a big battery, I decided to really put it to the test. I did that by using it as my media device for basically an entire day. That included upwards of three hours of streaming music on WiFi, about an hour streaming music on a mixture of 3G and LTE, and about two hours of Netflix streaming. By the time I got through all of that, the phone was at about 30%. Of course that included quite a bit of stand-by and did include one brief phone call over 3G. For the average phone that would be pretty impressive use. However on a phone with the battery of a tablet, this is nearly underwhelming. It’s not bad, that’s for certain, but it’s not really all that good. Will this phone’s battery get you through a day? Most certainly. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this phone could get the heaviest user through a full day no problem, but it definitely won’t get the advertised 48 hours Verizon and Motorola advertise. On a high note however, this is one of the few phones that have Qi wireless charging built in, a huge plus for any phone if you ask me.

Performance

I’ll try to keep this one pretty short. Performance is incredible, and it should be. This phone has top of the line specs, no questions asked and no compromises made. With that Snapdragon 805 and 3GB of RAM along with a near stock Android software built, there better not be any lag and I’m happy to report there is not. I’ve never seen any lag when going through the phone’s software and games performed like they should, smooth as butter.

Final Thoughts – Should You Buy It?

The DROID Turbo is an absolute beast of a phone, you’d know that just by looking at it on paper. It doesn’t live up to every expectation and advertising campaign it has in it’s reputation, but no phone ever does. There is not a single phone that is perfect and the DROID Turbo is no exclusion. Without a doubt, this is the best exclusive phone Verizon has ever had, and possibly the best phone they’ve ever had period. Should you buy it? If it’s design, specs, and features are appealing to you, you should definitely go for it.