HTC Droid DNA: Hands On and Unboxing

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The HTC Droid DNA – oh, sorry, the “Droid DNA by HTC” – is Verizon Wireless’s new flagship smartphone. It beats every other phone on the market on specs, with an amazing 443-pixel-per-inch 1,920-by-1,080 screen. I got a little time with it today, and I was pleasantly surprised in several different ways.

I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s materials and design, but I’m not a fan of big phones. Here, though, HTC has designed a big phone that doesn’t feel like one. While the DNA is definitely a Phone of Size, I found it much easier to cradle in my hand than competing “phablets” like either generation of Samsung’s Galaxy Note. A big part of that is the very narrow bezel around the 5-inch screen. That keeps the phone narrow, which is a much bigger component of comfort than a phone’s length.

The much-vaunted 1080p Super LCD 3 screen is certainly sharp. In Web pages, it seemed almost too sharp; I could easily call up text that was too small for my eyes to read. But showing a 1080p version of the new James Bond movie (how did Verizon get hold of that?), the sharpness really paid off. No details were lost. I’ll be interested to see whether the super-high-res screen is a drag on the Qualcomm S4 Pro processor, the way the Google Nexus 10 tablet’s super-duper-high-res screen drags down its Samsung Exynos processor.

Speaking of the quad-core S4 Pro, I was surprised to find this powerful processor in a phone that was slim, light, and appeared to run relatively cool. It makes other S4 Pro phone, the LG Optimus G, feels boxy and plasticky.

The Droid DNA runs Android 4.1 with HTC’s Sense 4+ extensions. I saw a colorful contact book widget made of thumbnails of faces, a super-high-res photo gallery widget, and the usual elegant weather and clock widgets. Everything ran very smoothly, but that’s what you should expect from an S4 Pro-based device.

Verizon loaded a bunch of bloatware on here, so be warned. There are a few Verizon apps, along with an American Express app, Amazon and Reign of Amira, a new game designed by Qualcomm to show off the S4 Pro. I’d like to see how it performs on Need for Speed: Most Wanted, my current top gaming stress test.

We’ll have a full review of the HTC Droid DNA before it hits shelves on November 21. For now, check out our hands on and unboxing slides above, as well as HTC: We’re Not Backing Away From Android.

By Sascha Segan, PCMag


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