The Good The Motorola Droid Maxx delivers astonishingly long battery life, a big, colorful screen, and a durable, attractive design. The phone performs inventive tricks such as responding to voice commands, giving screen-based notifications, and quick-launching the camera, which takes pleasing pictures.
The Bad Motorola Droid Maxx is expensive.
The Bottom Line If you can overcome its steep price, the Motorola Droid Maxx with a mass screen is currently the best Verizon Android smartphone.
Editors’ note: Our early Motorola Droid Maxx test model used unstable pre-release software. This review has been updated based on our recent high-level experience with the Droid Maxx.
Sitting on top of Motorola’s new Droid line, the $ 299.99 Droid Maxx is not just a capable device, it’s also the best Verizon smartphone ever sold. It boasts the largest battery on the phone and a full 32GB of internal storage, not to mention the impressive list of futuristic Android apps from Google. The build quality of Maxx also surpasses that of Motorola in the light of the years Droid Ultra .
In doing so, the high price of a Maxx sticker can give you a second thought, especially compared to its very compelling competitors HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 . However, no other smartphone comes close to combining the same level of longevity, performance, design and sleek features on Big Red, or perhaps anywhere else.
The massively powerful Droid Maxx (pictures)
Aesthetically speaking, the differences between the Motorola Droid Maxx and its clearest brother, the Droid Ultra, are huge, though you may not notice them at first. Height 5.4 inches by 2.8 inches wide, the Maxx is as tall and wide as the ultra, but also slightly thicker (0.34 inches vs. 0.22 inches).
However, you don’t notice the change in reach when the phones are near the desk. Only when you pick them up will you notice that Maxx packs serious, heavy equipment. Turning weights by almost 6 ounces (5.9 to be exact), the Droid Maxx has more effort and feels much more substantial than the ultra (4.8 ounces). In fact, the Maxx is about an ounce heavier than the all-metal HTC One (5.04 ounces) and heavier than the all-powerful Samsung Galaxy S4 (4.6 ounces).
Moto gets big points for turning the Maxx back, covered with Kevlar fiber, much like the previous generation of Droid phones. I dug that finish then and dug it now. Smooth to the touch and soft matte finish, it repels stains and stripes while protecting against scratches. I definitely prefer the glossy and slippery ultra that accumulates greasy fingerprints.
The only physical buttons on the Maxx are located on the right edge of the phone, a power key and a thin volume bar. Both are contoured and crossed for easy self-handling.
Above the screen is a 2MP front camera, and below it sit three capacitive buttons for basic Android control. At the back is a 10MP Droid Maxx main camera and LED flash. There’s also a great speaker that pumps out a lot of volume. Just like I learned about the Droid Ultra, this speaker delivers more sound than the HTC One and its boom BoomSound technology.
The Droid Maxx boasts the same large, bright 5-inch HD OLED screen as the Droid Ultra. Its 720p resolution (1280×720 pixels) does not have the same pixel density as the HTC One (4.7-inch, 1080p LCD) or Samsung Galaxy S4 (5-inch, 1080p OLED), its main competition. However, the high-contrast Maxx display has lush colors and impressive dark black levels.
The details on photos, websites or documents with lots of text were no less keen to my eyes on Maxx than the same content viewed on full 1080p screens. For example, the Maxx 720p display did not adversely affect my serious habit of streaming Netflix mobile. The same goes for losing yourself in the casual HD movie trailer on YouTube. Yes, I’m still strangely drawn to this “Riddick” flick since I tested it on the Droid Ultra.
In terms of internal electronics, Motorola has taken a very unconventional step with its 2013 smartphone lineup. Instead of participating in a brutal processor arms race like almost all other handset makers, the company decided to completely solve the problem. All new droids, including the Droid Maxx, operate on the basis of a proprietary technology solution that Motorola calls the X8 mobile computing system.
You will find the same collection of cores and dedicated processors in Motorola’s new flagship Moto X. To be blunt, the X8 is a 1.7GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and lacks true power. quad-core processors running the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 (Snapdragon 600).
As it turns out, though, it’s less of a factor than you might think. The main dual-core X8 processor, designed for efficient, not extremely fast, is supported by the Adreno muscular quad-core graphics, as well as two additional “cores”: a natural language processor and one for context calculation.
Helping with this hardware is a healthy 2GB of RAM. Plus, unlike the Droid Ultra, which has only 16GB of internal storage, the Droid Maxx comes with 32GB to play. There is no SD card slot to increase the amount of memory.
Software and interface
Fortunately, Motorola did not bother with the Droid Maxx software so much, similar to the tactics used with the Moto X and Droid Ultra. Running the same Android operating system (version 4.2.2) as the two devices, the Maxx operating system is virtually stocked with Jelly Bean. I have a feeling that Google, which now owns Motorola, has something to do with it.
You unlock Maxx by moving the lock icon outside the virtual ringtone on your phone screen. After that, you are greeted by the central home screen, as well as four other panels that you see fit for the application shortcuts and widgets.
If you are familiar with Motorola smartphones of the last few generations, you will recognize the Circles settings widget. Sitting in the center of the home screen, he stayed away from previous Droid Razr and Atrix phones. Personally, I am glad that this tool is here because, in addition to a quick time checker, it also displays the weather and is a shortcut to system settings.
The widget also boasts several new tricks. For example, holding the largest clock circle reveals new features such as Droid Zap and Wireless Display. Droid Zap lets you share pictures and videos with other Android phone users nearby; The wireless display will duplicate the Ultra screen on compatible HDTVs and monitors.
As an Android device, Maxx is equipped with all the major Google applications and services. Of course, you can dive into the huge Google Play Online Store to download more. Unfortunately, since this is a Verizon Droid device, the operator was unable to fill Max with non-removable protection. Highlights: NFL Mobile, VZ Navigator, Verizon Mobile Security and Verizon Tones.
Active display and contactless control
Another fruit of the alliance between Motorola and Google is Active Display, a useful feature that all new Droid phones have. Also integrated with Moto X, Active Display serves instead of a separate physical alert indicator. In fact, the Droid Maxx screen will flicker silently with notifications of incoming emails, text messages, and calls. If you tap and hold your finger on the corresponding icon in the center of the screen, the device will display additional information. Pulling the icon up to the top of the screen wakes up the phone and opens the related application.
Droid Maxx also uses an X8 computing platform like Droid Ultra and Moto X to perform exquisite voice control tricks. Motorola calls this Touchless Control, and as its name implies, saying a magic phrase will cause Maxx to drop what he is doing and wait for your voice commands. In particular, saying “Okay, Google Now” and following the phrase “Where am I?” or, “Remind me to pick up milk today,” Max tells Maxx to go into action.
Motorola’s X8 platform may not have the powerful horsepower to stand up to full-blown quad-core processors. Although it has a lot of oomph, and I noticed it on the Droid Maxx firsthand. The phone was very responsive, opening applications without hesitation. Navigating through the settings menu and home screen was also silky smooth.
The lab tests backed up the experience I had with the Droid Maxx, and the phone got a respectable 8804 rating. Oddly enough, this didn’t turn out to be as high as the Droid Ultra achieved on the same test (9,056). And it’s nowhere near as impressive as the HTC One (12,194) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (11,381) numbers.
|Performance: Motorola Droid Maxx|
|Average LTE download speeds (Verizon)||10.5Mbps|
|Average LTE upload speed (Verizon)||6Mbps|
|App download (CNET)||3.72MB in 14 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||5.8 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||12.1 seconds|
|Boot time||15 seconds|
|Camera boot time||1.6 seconds|
I tested the Droid Maxx on the CDMA Verizon network in both New York and Harpswell, Maine. In contrast to my experience with Droid Ultra, I found that Maxx delivered very clean call quality. In fact, the subscribers I talked to couldn’t say I was chatting on mobile. At my end, the voices sounded rich, warm and loud through the Maxx headset.
Motorola Droid Maxx sample call quality
In addition, thanks to the large rear speaker of the phone, the Maxx loudspeaker can reach maximum volume. The people I called said that the difference between the quality of the loudspeaker and the regular calls did not make much difference, except that my voice sounded a little further away from the loudspeaker.
To say that I was released with Motorola smartphone cameras in the past would be an understatement. Indeed, I found that previous generations of Droid Razrs not only took photos too slowly, but also lacked key shooting modes found on Samsung and HTC devices.
Fortunately, Motorola and its wizard Google have opposed the history of Moto X and the new Droid phones by updating the visualization system and the camera application. As a result, the 10-megapixel Droid Maxx sensor is capable of capturing enjoyable photos both indoors and outdoors. The stills in my studio still life were crisp, accurate in color and well exposed.
On the street, in daylight, the green hues of trees and other leaves were real, and the details were clear. I found the same thing as blue skies, white clouds, and ocean waves. Like the Droid Ultra, however, the Maxx didn’t have autofocus as fast as the HTC One or Galaxy S4. Shooting time with these devices is almost instantaneous, while the Droid Maxx takes about half a second.
To help speed up the shooting, Motorola’s Quick Capture feature. This launches the camera application, even when sleeping, when you twist the phone twice in the wrist. Honestly, this is one of the most valuable features I’ve seen on a smartphone in a while – probably because I often juggle multiple items (from shabby cups and toys to other gadgets and coffee mugs).
As with the Moto X and Droid Ultra, the Maxx Bare Nude Camera App is extremely easy to operate. The settings are as basic as possible, so you can’t choose the image or video size (the maximum Maxx settings are the most available). Swiping from left to right opens a virtual wheel with various settings such as HDR and Panorama modes. Dragging your finger up and down zooms in and out, and sliding from right to left launches the gallery.
Motorola Droid Maxx can access Verizon’s 4G LTE network for quick access to data. My tests in New York were similar to what I was running on the Droid Ultra, the results were much different depending on my location. The average overall download speed reached a respectable 10.5 Mbps, while in quiet parts of Queens, New York, the phone sucked in information as fast as 17.8 Mbps. Download speeds ranged from 0.6 Mbps to 14.7 Mbps; however, the average upload bandwidth was 6 Mbps.
Delivering a modern 3500 mAh battery, Motorola Droid Maxx’s main selling point is its promised durability. And my initial tests with the phone confirm the considerable power of the Maxx.
The phone was able to advance through the CNET Labs battery drain point for video playback in 15 hours and 50 minutes. Despite the fact that 48 hours of “mixed” use, Motorola claims that Maxx is capable, showing that it is well ahead of the Droid Razr Maxx HD (14 hours, 53 minutes) and significantly longer than both HTC One (9 hours, 37 minutes) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (10 hours, 30 minutes average).
However, with such a wonderful battery, I should not be surprised that Maxx has shown some bizarre behavior on its mobile power source. For example, my early testing model refused to charge while the device was off, although the phone said it was receiving a steady stream of electrons.
In addition, it will not charge properly if I first changed the USB connection mode to Camera and then unplugged and connected the USB cable. The newly replaced Maxx had no such problems, but it actually worked flawlessly. Motorola explained that some of the Maxx units used used software, but the delivery model should not be affected.
Indeed, this latest device consistently displayed the same ridiculously long running time, over 14.5 hours of HD video playback. It also charges quickly, reaching full power from zero in less than an hour. Another nice additional support for Droid Maxx (and all new Droids for that matter) for wireless charging through Qi.
When you put it all out on paper, the Motorola Droid Maxx should crush many smartphone pilots into the dust. It demonstrates the largest, worst battery available on a cell phone, which results in a fabulously long running time. The Maxx screen, although not as dense in pixels as its competitors, is large and bright. The phone’s loudspeaker is also loud and the device even makes crystal clear calls.
Having spent quality time with Droid Maxx, especially with Maxx, which runs solid retail software, I can say that the phone has its considerable ambitions. I can’t say that the $ 299.99 Maxx is anything but luxurious. However, for all the Droid Maxx can do and for how good it looks, it gets my seal of approval and our CNET Editor Award. Of course, if Maxx is too rich for your blood, there is always $ 199.99 more available HTC One and $199.99 Samsung Galaxy S4 , two larger than life, Android phones that are still great to buy.