If ever a product has summed up the progression of the Android ecosystem, it’s the Motorola Droid. The first Droid catapulted Android into the mainstream with its first 2.x release, and since then the Droid itself has seen a yearly update cadence that honestly has shown no sign of stopping. The updates thus far track the trends that we’ve seen affect the Android ecosystem as a whole - newer and better versions of Android alongside ever increasing SoC performance, display improvements, camera improvements, and refined hardware design.

I think that pretty much sums up what kind of update the Motorola Droid 3 (henceforth just Droid 3) is. It’s an iterative product launch, for sure, but that belies just how good the improvements all around really are. I noted a few of them already - the Droid 3 includes a dual core OMAP 4430 SoC, larger 4” qHD display, more internal storage, better camera, front facing camera, and most notably a much improved 5 row QWERTY keyboard.

Of course the huge question mark is what has improved connectivity-wise on the Droid 3. There’s no 4G LTE baseband, however, instead of repeating the Droid 2 and Droid 2 Global duopoly, Motorola just went ahead and made the Droid 3 global from the start. That’s right, it’s a dual-mode phone. It’s no consolation if you’re still waiting for an LTE enabled device with a physical keyboard (for that, you’ll have to wait for Samsung to release its rumored next device), but in my mind right now you can either have multi-mode global (CDMA2000 and GSM/UMTS) compatibility or multi-mode (CDMA2000 and LTE) with 4G connectivity. As of yet there’s no having it both ways.

We’ll talk more about all of that in due time, but for now let’s just go over the Droid 3’s outward physical appearance and hardware.

First off, the Droid 3 is notably larger than its predecessor. It’s 3 mm wider, 7 mm taller, but almost 1 mm thinner. Those changes in outline are both to accommodate the 4” screen (as opposed to 3.7”) and likewise the additional keyboard row. Mass is up as well, from 169 to 184 grams. I won’t bore you with all the specifications that have changed, you can just check out the table below.

Physical Comparison
  HTC Thunderbolt Motorola Droid 2 Motorola Droid X2 Motorola Droid 3
Height 122 mm (4.8") 116.3 mm (4.6") 126.5 mm (4.98") 123.3 mm (4.85")
Width 67 mm (2.63") 60.5 mm (2.4") 65.5 mm (2.58") 64.1 mm (2.52")
Depth 13.2 mm (0.52") 13.7 mm (0.54") 9.9 - 14.4 mm (0.39"-0.57") 12.9 mm (0.51")
Weight 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 169 g (5.9 oz) 148.8 g (5.25 oz) 184 g (6.49 oz)
CPU 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz Cortex-A8 OMAP 3620 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430
GPU Adreno 205 PowerVR SGX 530 ULP GeForce PowerVR SGX 540
RAM 768 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2
NAND 4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 8 GB microSD 8 GB NAND, 8 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled 16 GB NAND, up to 32 GB microSD
Camera 8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 5 MP with dual LED flash and autofocus 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 720p30 video recording 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, VGA (0.3MP) front facing
Screen 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 3.7" FWVGA 854 x 480 IPS-LCD 4.3" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD 4.0" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD
Battery Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.2 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr

Subjectively however, I was shocked at just how thin the Droid 3 feels in the hand in spite of the slide-out keyboard. It seems like generally there’s a certain amount of unacceptable overhead that always comes alongside including an actual keyboard, yet the Droid 3 manages to do it without making it painfully obvious that everything was designed around it instead of with it.

The other major difference is how much different the Droid 3 feels compared to the Droid 2 - entirely as a result of the device using squared edges instead of the rounded chamfers that ringed the Droid 2. There’s been a recent slow march away from rounded industrial design to one dominated by rigid 90 degree angles, and the Droid 3 follows that trend with this move.

Hardware Overview - Nods from the Droid X
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  • Myrandex - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    5th row keyboard looks very nice. I did compare one in the store to my Touch Pro 2, and unfortunately I still have to side with the touch pro 2. I tried typing out a sentence and the button size of the touch pro 2 just seemed to reign supreme. It is in the right direction though!

    Jason Cook
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    That sounds promising, if they're going to make a Chinese version they may produce an EU version as well given they're producing the hardware anyway.

    John
    Reply
  • aggiechase37 - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    I have the D3. Couple things:

    1. Gingerbread keyboard does NOT come preinstalled, nor does Angry Birds.
    2. I have issues with lag coming back to the homescreen. This is especially persistent with the camera app
    3. I also have issues with framerate drops swiping through homescreens and the app drawer. Minor, but noticeable. Hardly as fluid as Anandtech boasts.
    4. Something should be said about the screen being much more view-able in direct sunlight, moreso than any screen I've seen so far.
    5. Camera lowlight conditions are considerably improved over D3's predecessors.
    6. There are issues with the led flash causing a blue tint when snapping pics with NO light, like utter darkness. But seriously who does that?
    7. 3rd party launchers are not compatible with Moto's widgets.
    8. Moto's launcher eats 40mb's of RAM, seems a little excessive.
    9. Task killer included on the phone. Is Moto insane???
    Reply
  • relativityboy - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    I ordered one of these the day they came available. Coming from a rooted, very customized CM7 D1 I was a little underwhelmed. While there's no question the D3 is capable of more at the limit my D1

    * felt good in the hand. I don't care for the hard edges of the D3.
    * had excellent performance (I lucked out - low voltage ChevyNo1 kernel @ 1.1Ghz). With swap and a fast SD chip I didn't have the launcher reloading all the time.
    * had very good battery life (1.5-2 days of med/lite use)
    * felt much smaller in the pocket
    * actually had better performance in tasks like scrolling the contacts list, and rendering pages in opera/stock browsers
    * The radios on the D1 have better reception. I'm not talking about bars on a screen or stats in a test bench. In my office people often complain about dropped calls, poor wifi in the bathrooms(yep), etc. I had no idea what they were talking about until I switched to the D3.
    * the touch screen seems less sensitive that on my D1.

    --
    I'm sure some of my complaints are related to immature software, but things like radio reception shouldn't be related to that. I've had a number of kernel panics, and display resets.

    Maybe I got a bad phone, but I'm not sold on the D3.
    Reply
  • relativityboy - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Today I'm completely frustrated with this piece of bunk. Seriously. This phone is crashing, getting worse, can't get a GPS lock to save it's life.

    On the bright side, with the kinds of problems I'm having it might not all be buggy software.
    Reply
  • amankumar - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    want some super cool android HD games to unleash its potential, here's the link:
    http://nitin-xyz.blogspot.com/2011/07/free-and-ful...
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Hey! I just wanted to comment on the last paragraph of this review. I personally had a Touch Pro 2, bought it in August 2009. It has a pretty good keyboard, when the reviewers are to be believed. And although the touchscreen was resistive and thus not as easy to navigate as modern capacitive touchscreens, I hardly ever used the keyboard. Unless you type unusually long emails or are in the business of typing up reports on your smartphone, the tradeoff you have to make for a keyboard smartphone isn't worth it in my opinion.
    My Galaxy S2 is hardly bigger (125mmx65mmx8mm) than the Droid3 and significantly lighter (117g). I probably wouldn't win a typing contest when we had to type a whole page. But SMS, comments, short email reply I'd win.
    The only thing the keyboard on my TP2 was useful for was as a gamepad for my Mega Drive emulator. I played through Soleil on it. But I have already played through Legend of Zelda and am 80% through Secret of Mana on my SNES emulator on the Galaxy S2 using the overlayer gamepad. With some USB-host gamepad support it will be even better.
    So, to summarize, I would never buy a keyboard smartphone again because the cons outweigh the pros for me. (Only the Playstation phone looked interesting....)
    Reply
  • EEWdad - Sunday, August 07, 2011 - link

    It is very refreshing to see a comprehensive and unbiased review of this update to the Droid 2. Many other reviews I've seen on web have largely dismissed the Droid 3 as a worthy product -- mostly due to the absence of 4G/LTE.

    It was nice to see AnandTech's combination of device performance metrics and hand-on impressions to used to objectively assess the capabilities of the Droid 3 -- much different outcome from the other reviewer's rather subjective opinions. From what I can see from this review, I think the hardware performance, 3-D interface, keyboard, web browsing, wi-fi, video, photos, phone voice quality and noise-canceling capabilties are pretty darn impressive.

    My wife has had a Droid 2 for about a year now -- I think it's been a reasonably good smartphone. Since getting hers, I've been wanting one for myself; after reading this review, my confidence is high -- I've taken the plunge and ordered a Droid 3 for myself.

    Please, keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • 2therock - Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - link

    Cannot Wait For You To Get A Bionic Reply
  • Zaniyah - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    I just love my Droid 3 and the navigation system on it works fantastic. The pictures are excellent. It took me a while to get use to it, but there were so many positives that outweighed the negatives. It is worth every dime I paid for it. Honestly, I love everything about my Droid 3. Reply

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