Jul, 15 2011

In case you’ve forgotten, the Motorola DROID 3 is now available in stores after a brief period of online exclusivity. It’s a dual-core OMAP4 device with Android 2.3, the latest version of BLUR (or whatever they want to call it), 1080p video recording using an 8 megapixel sensor, a 4 inch display and an improved QWERTY keyboard. We’ve just received our review unit and we’re eager to go hands-on, so let’s do it!

Worthy successor?

Yes, yes and yes. If you are still rocking a DROID 1 because you didn’t think the DROID 2 was worth upgrading to, then the DROID 3 is for you. An improved 5-row keyboard makes typing easier and smoother than ever, the 4 inch display gives us a good amount of room to work with, and the dual-core processor is every bit as powerful that Texas Instruments said it was. It’s a significant upgrade not only from the original, but from the DROID 2 in every way.

Keyboard

5-row and a lot roomier. The only thing that kept me from getting the original DROID was its keyboard. The DROID 2’s, even with the lack of that monstrous d-pad, wasn’t much better. Motorola’s gotten it right here. There’s still no spacing between the keys, but they have just enough “hump” to provide good track and feel. Pressing them is effortless, too, and I had no problems with my fat fingers inadvertently pressing other buttons. I love it.

Dual-core

OMAP4 is awesome. Period. It’s extremely fast and runs this version of BLUR without much effort. Switching between applications and scrolling through lists and webpages is a very smooth experience. I don’t know if it’s because this version of BLUR is better coded or if it’s all processor juice, but this thing isn’t as sluggish as Motorola’s other phones.

Camera

This phone’s camera is very capable. After snapping a few quick photos and a video with this thing, I think it’s safe to say you can trash that point-and-shoot you have sitting around. I haven’t looked at the content on my PC yet, but early thoughts are extremely positive. Motorola’s done a fantastic job with the sensors here. The front camera isn’t bad, either.

Hardware

As with most Motorola devices, the hardware is very solid. It feels premium and it will stand up to the test of time. It may get scuffed up over the course of a couple of years, but I don’t see this thing wearing down over time with proper care. The display is 4 inches and qHD and remarkably better than the one found on the DROID X2 and ATRIX 4G. I don’t know if they’ve ditched pentile here, but things are crisp and vibrant looking.

Inside is 16GB of internal storage, the aforementioned OMAP4, 512MB of RAM and radios for use around the world. We would have liked more RAM afforded to us, especially when comparable Motorola handsets are getting 1GB, though we can’t say if this is a negative considering we haven’t had time to install more applications and see how it stands up to heavy multi-tasking. We know the processor can, at least. You’ll also get an empty microSD card slot, a SIM card slot for use in other countries and both a microUSB port and microHDMI port.

Software

Android 2.3.4 with the latest version of BLUR. Yes, I know, you don’t like Motorola’s skin. But this version of BLUR (which they’re not actually calling BLUR) is actually quite good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the best skin we’ve seen and it certainlty isn’t our favorite, but relatively speaking it’s a huge improvement over the previous versions of BLUR and a step in the right direction for Motorola.

Things are a lot smoother, there are some features that people will actually appreciate and it doesn’t look too bad visually (though you’re more inclined to like it if you are a fan of blue). Things are very polished here and we couldn’t ask for a better version of BLUR. We’d still prefer an unlocked bootloader to install something else at the end of the day.

Overall

First impressions are overwhelmingly positive. It’s a great device and a worthy followup to the second “great” Android phone (the first being the G1, of course). We still aren’t big fans of BLUR, but this rendition of it is quite usable and, in some cases, pleasing to use. Motorola’s finally made enough changes to get us to stop calling it BLUR because it’s nothing like we remembered from all those phones launched in 2010 and early 2011.

The keyboard on the DROID 3 is leaps and bounds better than those on the DROID and DROID 2, and the good-looking 4 inch display provides ample room for typing if that’s your thing. Look out for a full review and more coverage in the coming week or so as we sink our teeth into this thing and give it a good look. Full gallery of images is below.

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