Display - qHD RGBW 4”

The original Droid and Droid 2 famously used high quality 3.7” IPS panels, and as a result had excellent contrast and brightness. What always struck me as being a little odd with the arrangement was that the devices used the 16:9 FWVGA (854 x 480) aspect ratio instead of WVGA’s 800x480. The difference was subtle, but as a result the Motorola Droids always did seem more rectangular than most of their other Android bretheren. Since then, qHD has become the hot new high-end Android resolution, which vindicates Motorola’s by likewise being 16:9.

Aspect ratios aside, it’s interesting to me how obvious it is that qHD is the answer to the iPhone 4’s retina display. I’ve been told that the development cycle for most of these handsets is anywhere from 12 to 18 months, and look no further than your calendar and when qHD devices have started shipping to see that in action. Whatever the reason for qHD’s emergence, it’s good to have some display innovation take place.

The Droid 3 ups the size of the primary display from the 3.7” which adorned the old Motorola Droids to 4.0”, and as already noted increases effective resolution from 854x480 to 960x540. Like the Droid X2 and other new qHD Motorola phones, the Droid 3 uses a PenTile L6W RGBW subpixel matrix to achieve effective qHD resolution. I talked about RGBW in the Droid X2 review, and what it boils down to is the inclusion of a fourth white subpixel which increases light transmittance (and thus reduces required backlight power) in a lot of use cases.

Left: Droid 3 with RGBW PenTile, Right: Droid 2 with RGB Stripe

Unlike the other RGBG PenTile which adorned AMOLED displays before Super AMOLED Plus swung around, I find RGBW much easier to stomach and completely readable when presented with black on white UIs. Colors still have visible grain, as do some UI elements, but the Droid 3’s 4” display makes this considerably less noticeable than the same resolution on the Droid X2. Only on bright colors is that extra space due to the fourth subpixel readily visible, and thanks to our color-specific visual acuity, greens are the most visible.

I immediately noticed out of the box with the Droid 3 that it wasn’t as super bright as the Droid X2, which was itself almost shockingly bright. That said, the Droid 3 is no slouch and is likewise nice and contrasty as well.

Display Brightness

Display Brightness

Display Contrast

We’re still making plots of brightness (white and black), and white point at 25% brightness steps. The Droid 3’s white point tracking is slightly different from the X2’s despite also using RGBW. It ends up not being visibly blue like some of the AMOLED variants nor noticeably warm like some of the earlier Droid panels were in odd batches.

The next are of concern are viewing angles, which in my opinion the Droid 3 does very well at. I stuck the Droid 3 next to the Droid 2 and shot some pics of it at different angles. It’s surprising to me in retrospect how much color shift and contrast reduction there is in the old Droid 2 by comparison. In this regard, the Droid 3’s display is a clear step forwards.

Left: Droid 2, Right: Droid 3

Outdoor viewing angles are decent on the Droid 3 are pretty good but not totally perfect. RGBW helps keep brightness punchy but in my mind outdoor viewing remains an unsolved problem for just about everyone.

New Motoblur, Software, and Locked Bootloaders Camera - Stills and Video Quality


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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
  • 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.

  • 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???
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • amankumar - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    want some super cool android HD games to unleash its potential, here's the link:
  • 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....)
  • 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!
  • 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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