DROID Charge Review
Over the past week I’ve arguably spent more time with the DROID Charge than most of my friends and family. Verizon’s first LTE powered device the HTC ThunderBolt didn’t really float my boat, but the question is would the second time be a charm? The DROID Charge comes in ambitious and fully loaded featuring: a 1GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera, a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera, and a beautiful Super AMOLED Plus display. So do all of these goodies and the inclusion of an LTE data connection have what it takes to make the Charge Verizon’s new headliner? Move past the break for my full review and find out.
Look and Feel
The DROID Charge is a sharp looking device. Samsung went a slightly different route from their normal Android setup, opting to use physical menu buttons instead of the usual touch capacitive buttons. Personally I’m over capacitive buttons and like the change. It feels good to actually have to press something and not have to worry about grazing a button on accident. They’ve also decided to center the primary camera on the back of the phone instead of placing it in its usual upper left location. Aside from this, a little bit of bulk, and the addition of an HDMI input, the Charge is pretty much the same as the other high-end Android handsets that Samsung has produced.
The Charge’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display produces razor sharp images, even surpassing Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays featured in their Galaxy S series. Colors look absolutely brilliant, everything really leaps off the screen. There is one small drawback to all this visual goodness. The Charge is a little bit thicker than other devices on the market, but it’s not pushing BlackBerry status by any means. Overall the phone has a solid quality build and doesn’t feel cheap or plasticky like some of the other devices currently on the market.
Software and Performance
As cutting edge as the Charge looks and feels, it’s running a disappointing Android 2.2. I understand that Android 2.3 is still catching on, but to buy a new device and have to anticipate or hope for an update is somewhat disappointing. In addition to an outdated OS, Samsung has tossed in their TouchWiz UI. Luckily unlike the many other bloatwares in the Android world, I don’t have that much of an issue with TouchWiz. It packs a decent amount of enhancements and setup options, but this one will really depend or your style. On a positive note the Charge’s hardware handles TouchWiz just fine without any lag or hiccups. But I really wish there was option to disable the in-house software and give the user a choice of vanilla Android, but that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
In regards to being just a phone, call quality was solid over Verizon’s 3G and LTE. I made a variety of calls throughout Los Angeles and voice quality was clear on both ends. I did sometimes experience somewhat of a flaky network connection. This was a bit surprising and caused me to have to reset the device to reestablish a network connection. Perhaps this will be fixed via a software update? On the upside of things actual data speeds were great over Verizon’s LTE. While in the heart of Los Angeles I maintained over a 20Mbps download speed and saw around 3-4Mbps upload speeds. These types of speeds really come in handy when on the road and using your device as a wireless hotspot.
There’s something to a name and with a name like Charge, poor battery life would be downright comical. Shipping with a 1600mAh battery, the Charge holds up pretty well. You’ll mainly see your battery drain fastest when using 4G. There is also an option within the phone’s settings to switch between LTE and 3G. This helped me save some juice and allowed me to pick when and when not to use LTE. By doing this, you’ll easily get through a day at the office without having to desperately run to a charger. The battery management is a major improvement over the HTC ThunderBolt and a step in the right direction.
Equipped with an 8-megapixel primary camera, the Charge takes some decent pictures. I am far from a photographer, but I snagged a variety of pictures and decided to use a couple as an example. Below you’ll find a shot from a Prince concert I attended, which had dim lighting and a good deal of smoke in the air. The second picture was just a random shot of some bananas on a table. Image quality is decent and at the top of the heap when compared to any other camera attached to a phone currently on the market.
The DROID Charge is an outstanding device. It’s reliable, well built and easy on the eyes. It’s not perfect, but one can easily argue its position as the best 4G phone currently on the market. My main concern is the level of software support. Samsung has been a bit sluggish with updating their Android devices. If you can get over the possibility of being stuck on Android 2.2 for a little while, then you should be just fine.
Final Verdict: 8.75 out of a possible 10