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Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE Review

The Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE is touted as the first 4G LTE handset on Sprint’s network to carry a full QWERTY keyboard. And while in most cases that would simply be enough to warrant a spot in a carrier’s product lineup, the Photon Q goes beyond just being useful as a messaging phone. With the DNA of Motorola’s Droid series of QWERTY sliders apparent throughout, the handset combines one of the best hardware keyboards on the market with top-tier specs to provide one solid Ice Cream Sandwich handset. So are your thumbs ready? Let’s take a look at the Photon Q, keyboard and all.

Hardware

The Motorola Photon  Q 4G LTE, as with most Motorola devices, immediately strikes you for its build quality. The phone doesn’t seem as solid as the RAZR series with its Kevlar-infused case, but it hardly feels like a plastic toy either. This extends right down to the QWERTY keyboard, but we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves there. We’ll get the one immediate complaint out of the way: if you want a compact phone, the Photon Q is not for you. At about a half-inch thick, the Q feels plenty chunky. But that’s the tradeoff for a slider.

In terms of specs, the Photon Q carries a 4.3-inch qHD display that is bright and reproduces color well. We suspect this has something to do with Moto’s ColorBoost technology being built in. While it isn’t an HD resolution display, it still manages to impress. Buried beneath the display is a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM as well as 8GB of internal storage. A microSD card slot is also included to expand the phone’s memory capacity. Oh, and in case the name of the phone didn’t make it painfully apparent, this thing packs 4G LTE.

Other goodies include Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (and Google Wallet is supported since this is Sprint), HDMI and microUSB ports, and a nice external speaker. The Photon Q’s battery is non-removable, and for all its thickness Moto only managed to cram a 1785mAh battery inside. Needless to say, battery life could be a concern for some.

Software

The Photon Q ships with Android 4.0.4 skinned with Motorola’s custom user interface. If you haven’t scoped it out in a while, it is much improved with the latest versions of Android, sticking closer to a stock experience while providing a few functionality tweaks and altering the aesthetics of the OS slightly. But everything is exactly where it would be in a stock device, including multi-tasking, a customizable launcher, lockscreen controls, etc..

As expected, the improved speed of the Ice Cream Sandwich framework coupled with the powerful hardware of the Q make for a smooth experience from simply navigating the OS or web to running apps and games. Speaking of apps and games, Sprint hasn’t included much here. So you get a pretty lightweight experience out of the box.

The biggest point to make here is how far the UI once known as MotoBlur has come. What was once possibly the worst manufacturer-produced Android skin is now pretty enjoyable to use. It looks and feels like ICS, just the way it should be.

Camera

The Photon Q carries a 1.3MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear camera. The camera is rated for 1080p video capture and features an LED flash and autofocus capabilities. When snapping photos you get a selection of effects and scene modes as well as the ability for multi-shot and panorama image capture. The camera provides a good degree of control over settings such as exposure and focus, but there is no user-adjustable white balance.

The video camera provides similar options, including video modes and Ice Cream Sandwich standards such as time-lapse. There are also modes for handling audio when recording video, which could come in handy for a noisy environment.


Overall the camera was fairly impressive when set to its highest quality, providing crisp and colorful images and video.

Keyboard

We’ve saved the best for last, and it just so happens to be phone’s main differentiating feature. The keyboard on the Photon Q is identical to that of the Motorola DROID 4, so our praise for it remains. It’s one of, if not the best hardware keyboards on the market. Five-row layout, nice clicky buttons, plenty of space for flying thumbs.

You could rattle off some serious messaging with this thing. Long emails are no problem. Heck, write your next novel on it. But for all it’s greatness, you really have to think hard about whether or not a hardware keyboard is all that useful. It’s the reason we’re looking at a pretty fat phone in the pocket, and with advancing software keyboards making a hardware QWERTY less relevant, it might be hard to justify for some.

Conclusion

If you just can’t stand to let the hardware QWERTY keyboard go the way of the dinosaurs, then hands-down the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE should be an option for you. Next to the Motorola Droid series, there really isn’t much competition out there. It’s got it all, from a snappy dual-core processor to 4G LTE connectivity. The user experience is as solid as other Moto standouts such as the RAZR and RAZR MAXX, but its size and battery life don’t really compare. The decision ultimately comes down to these elements. Is a thicker phone worth the hardware keyboard to you? If so, the Photon Q is recommended with the highest confidence.

Continue reading on the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE forums, see the specs, or find news and reviews.




  • ari_free

    Think of it as a 3D keyboard with haptic technology. You know that’s awesome.

    • NYCHitman1

      I really like the fact that it has a backlit keyboard.

      • ari_free

        I like that it has arrow keys

        • No_Nickname90

          Who disliked this!? That is an awesome idea!! I hate trying to move to an area in text by touching it. It’s almost impossible. Makes me miss my G2 with the Trackpad. And when I 1st used a Trackball on the Nexus 1.

          Look at me ranting on. LoL!!

          • dreadnatty08

            The first Droid didn’t have arrows, but a D Pad which did the same thing.

  • ari_free

    This could be my next phone but I’d have to switch to Sprint. First they need to bring LTE

  • http://twitter.com/Patfactorx David Pat

    I love the Moto keyboard series and this looks like a winner

  • toomuchgame441

    It’s aight…. We all know the Motorola CRZR is better

  • Pnutt916

    I played with this phone at the Sprint store, its laggy and thick. this phone sucks!

    • No_Nickname90

      That’s what I’m afraid of. I actually used this phone at a Sprint store too. I did lyk the keyboard, but it wasn’t up to par with too much. I’m hoping it was just because it was a store phone though. Hopefully this has a lot of developer support. I’m sure they can fix it.

    • xsirxx

      What are you talking about? This thing(typing on it now) is fast as hell! No choppiness or slow down to speak of. Just as fast as the rest of my family/friends s3′s…

      As for the thickness, it feels the same as my droid 1 and 2 global… so if your used to those then you wont have a problem! But you obviously dont own a slide qwerty.

  • DrCarpy

    Awesome review Kevin! Can I have the phone now? What? Like no else thought of asking!! You don’t ask, you don’t get!

  • No_Nickname90

    Really? I rather have a Hardware Qwerty. Software keyboards don’t know the difference between “Tue” and “the” or “if” and “of”. These are just some of my small mistakes that don’t get caught since those are legit words.

    And I play video games and use irregular words quite often. It gets frustrating having to add those words. Hardware keyboards fix all my typing issues for me. It even gives me a pseudo-game pad. LoL!!

    I’m more than willing to give up my Epic 4G Touch for this.

    • ReverseRoxas

      Use Swiftkey for now, and let it sync with your texts, email, Twitter, and Facebook. You won’t deal with that typing problem again, bud. Trust me on this one.

      • No_Nickname90

        I got Swift key as the free app of the day. I don’t really like it. The way it spaces sometimes when I don’t want it too. There’s functionality that I want in some keyboards and only others have it. Hardware keyboards fix my issues. LoL!! I’m just tolerating with the stock Jelly Bean keyboard or ICS when I’m on those ROMs.

        Software keyboards don’t help everyone. LoL!! Thanks anyways.

        • ReverseRoxas

          Well, the JB keyboard and Swiftkey are the best keyboards by far! Just work with that you got for now, then hop the the Photon Q when you can.

    • ari_free

      How about typing a password on a software keyboard? Predictive input is useless unless your password is very weak.

      • No_Nickname90

        That’s the worst. That’s where Thumb Keyboard comes in. I’m using that now actually. It has an option for quick text, so I store my passwords there and just use that. But its the worst when it comes to prediction. Oh well. The quick text thing helps a lot for emails and passwords.

      • Ghostghoul

        Thats stupid and insecure.

    • Ghostghoul

      I find the most accurate keyboard on Android is the iphone keyboard emulator free, but be warned it pushes notifications muhahahahahahahah. I cant believe how accurate it is personally, and I paid full price for swiftkey. I have huge fingers though maybe thats why I get so many typos on swift key. Swift keys landscape is king though.

  • Jacek Sowiński

    I prefer QWERTY keyboards with keys arranged as in PC keyboard – take a look at G2/Desire Z keyboard and compare, if you don’t know what I mean.

  • jasonacg

    While the phone may be equipped to support Google Wallet, I found out, while attempting to install it, that the app itself isn’t yet supported on the Photon Q. I hope that gets corrected very soon. I don’t know if responsibilty rests on Motorola, Sprint, or Google, but hopefully the guilty party will act quickly.

  • Aaliyah Richardson

    will any other company get this phone besides sprint?