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Droid Ultra deep-dive review: Bigger, but not necessarily better

JR Raphael | Aug. 21, 2013
Motorola's latest smartphone makes a lot of promises -- but does the phone actually deliver? The answer is both yes and no.

Under the hood
Lucky for the Droid Ultra, looks aren't everything — and when it comes to performance, this phone packs a powerful punch.

Like the Moto X, the Droid Ultra utilizes Motorola's new X8 Mobile Computing System. That includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.7GHz dual-core processor along with a quad-core Adrena GPU and two additional processors for natural language and contextual computing tasks.

While the term "dual-core" may translate to "dated" in the minds of spec heads, Moto's multipronged processor configuration makes for a very different sort of setup than what we're used to. Motorola says it made the chip choices in order to accommodate the phone's Touchless Control functionality (more on that in a moment) while maximizing its performance and battery life.

Based on the time I've spent using the phone in the real world, I'd say those choices paid off. With 2GB of RAM, the Droid Ultra is as speedy as any top-of-the-line device — even speedier than some — with near-instant app loading, smooth Web browsing and snappy multitasking. This phone keeps up admirably with anything you throw its way.

And battery life? Moto's slowly been building a reputation for being a leader in this domain and the Droid Ultra doesn't disappoint.

The phone has a non-removable 2130mAh battery that's listed for up to 28 hours of mixed usage (slightly higher than the 24 hours listed for the Moto X). I'm not sure what sort of "mixed usage" will get you that full 28 hour estimate, but I can tell you that with moderate to heavy real-world use — a few hours of scattered 4G Web browsing and social media activity, an hour of 4G HD video streaming, 15 to 30 minutes of voice calls, and occasional camera use — I consistently managed to end my days with a solid 30% or more of the battery remaining.

Motorola's Droid Ultra includes 16GB of storage space, which leaves you with about 10GB of usable space once you factor in the operating system and various preinstalled applications. The phone does not have an SD card slot for external storage expansion.

The Droid Ultra uses Verizon's 4G network, which means you'll get LTE-level speeds so long as they're available in your city. Data quality will obviously vary from place to place, but the phone's mobile data speeds were in line what I've come to expect from Verizon in my area.

Voice calls also sounded superb during my time with the device; I was able to hear people loud and clear, and those on the other end of the line reported being able to hear me with zero distortion — even when I called from loud areas with lots of background noise.


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