Verizon Motorola Bionic: Gadget Review

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Somewhere along the road to greatness, Motorola's ( MMI) Bionic got stuck in the Droid X rut.

The Motorola phone that Verizon ( VZ) launched Thursday as the Droid Bionic -- to little fanfare -- is not the Bionic that was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Instead, Motorola and Verizon have created what can easily be called the Droid X 3.

This slightly sad story started well before January, when Motorola introduced its superphone duo, the Google ( GOOG) Android Atrix for AT&T ( T) and the Bionic for Verizon.

There was a growing anticipation around Bionic as part of a new generation of Motorola Androids. In no small way, Motorola's return to design leadership seemed to ride on the top-of-the-line, souped-up dual-core processor 4G muscle phones that easily out-shined the popular favorite -- Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone.

A lot has happened since then.

Google made a $12.5 billion cash deal last month to buy Motorola, for one.

And Atrix failed to attract a lot of so-called pro-sumers -- that's professionals and consumers, who were sure to like the WebTop feature that allows the phone act as the brains of a laptop shell.

Bionic 1 Discarded

Motorola went back to the drawing board and ditched the original Bionic and its Nvidia ( NVDA) Tegra processor. Instead of creating something new, Motorola just moved the effort over to the Droid X line and jazzed it up with a Texas Instruments ( TXN) OMAP dual-core 1-gigahertz processor and a few other upgrades.

There's nothing wrong with the Droid X; it was one of the best phones of 2010. But as Motorola's new flagship Verizon phone, the Bionic should have probably broken the X mold.

Here are some first impressions after 24 hours of using the Motorola Bionic.

It's lightweight, extremely fast both on wireless connections and task processing, and the battery lasts at least twice as long as its closest rival, the HTC Thunderbolt.

Fast and Featherweight

The Bionic is noticeably lighter than some other phones with the 4.3-inch screen. In fact, it weighs 11% less than the HTC Thunderbolt and it is nearly the same weight as its predecessor, the Droid X2.

The Bionic has the slightly wedged shape of the Droid X that's thicker at the top, presumably to accommodate the camera, and tapered over the bottom half. This helps give the phone a very thin feel in your hand.

Though the Bionic uses the standard 1-gigahertz dual-core processor rather than the more recent 1.5-gigahertz chip, the speed between tasks is instantaneous. The Droid X and Thunderbolt were no snails, but the quickness of the Bionic is noticeable.

Similarly, the connection speeds, which are designed to top out at 14 megabits-a-second, shot past that to 16 megabits and even 17 megabit speeds on Verizon's 4G LTE network. By comparison, most 3G phones get around one-tenth of that performance.


The single greatest complaint of the new 4G LTE phones has been power consumption.

The HTC Thunderbolt has been a miserable failure in this category. It required so much charging that it actually could be considered a corded phone since it spent most of its time plugged in.

Not so with the Bionic.

First, Motorola packed a huge 1735mAh battery into the phone -- that's 24% more capacity than the Thunderbolt's 1400mAh. Secondly, Motorola and Google have learned a few tricks about saving power: The phone has several custom settings to squeeze more life out of the battery, including a data-saving mode that basically holds all big traffic items like photos and files until the phone is within range of WiFi.

Where the Thunderbolt went nearly six hours before the battery was drained, the Bionic has 70% of its battery power remaining after six hours of use. That's a winning difference.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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