Almost exactly one year ago we reviewed and thoroughly explored the Motorola Droid X. At that point, its 1 GHz OMAP 3630 made it a competent performer and a worthy successor to the original Motorola Droid, and likewise competition for 1 GHz QSD8250 Snapdragon. A lot of things have changed since then, and and it’s time for the original Droid X to finally get replaced with something even more powerful, the Tegra 2-packing Motorola Droid X2.

Motorola seems to have taken an ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ approach with the X2, as the new handset is superficially identical to its predecessor. In fact, it’s literally the exact same size, shape, and weight. I borrowed a friend’s Droid X and stuck the X2 alongside it for comparison. With both turned off, I doubt most people could tell the two apart. 

The X2 even fits inside the original X case and uses the same battery. The only physical difference between the X and X2 is that the dedicated two-step camera button is now gone. It’s a bit odd considering how much of a fuss Motorola originally made about being one of very few Android handsets that actually offer a camera capture button, allowing you to quickly get into the application by holding the button, and make captures without tapping the screen and potentially losing the shot. 

The nice thing about the two phones’ superficial similarity is that cases are backwards compatible, though you’ll get some useless bulge for the absent camera button. I stuck the X2 in my friend’s X case, and it fit perfectly inside. Likewise, the X2 uses the same exact BH5X 5.6 Whr battery that the original X used, so if you’ve got extra batteries laying around or are replacing an X, you can continue using them. 

I see a lot of people carrying the X around just about everywhere - it’s clearly a hugely successful device for Motorola. Building some rapport with end users by keeping the design the same and doing things like using the same battery are a good way to keep people that bought Moto buying Moto a second time. It’s nice to see that we’ve moved on (at least somewhat) from the era where upgrading handsets meant having to re-buy almost all accessories but the charger. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 HTC Thunderbolt Motorola Droid X Motorola Droid X2
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 122 mm (4.8") 126.5 mm (4.98") 126.5 mm (4.98")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 67 mm (2.63") 65.5 mm (2.58") 65.5 mm (2.58")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 13.2 mm (0.52") 9.9 - 14.4 mm (0.39"-0.57") 9.9 - 14.4 mm (0.39"-0.57")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 183.3 g (6.46 oz) 149.2 g (5.26 oz) 148.8 g (5.25 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz 1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon 1 GHz OMAP3630 1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 Adreno 205 PowerVR SGX530 ULP GeForce
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 4 GB NAND, 32 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled 8 GB NAND, 16 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled 8 GB NAND, 8 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP with AF/Dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 720p24 video recording 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 720p30 video recording
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 854 x 480 LCD-TFT 4.3" 960 x 540 RGBW LCD
Battery Integrated 5.254 Whr Removable 5.18 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr Removable 5.65 Whr

There’s so much that’s similar between the X and X2 that it’s easier to just call out what all is different. First off, the X2 of course is built around a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 AP20H SoC, which consists of two Cortex-A9 processors alongside a ULP GeForce GPU. There’s still 512 MB of LPDDR2 present. We’ll talk about the SoC and performance more in a bit. The second huge change is a that the X2 includes a qHD (960 x 540) LCD display with an RGBW PenTile subpixel layout. That’s up from the FWVGA (854 x 480) display on the Droid X. Again, we’ll talk about what all RGBW means in the display section, but this is similar to the display which Motorola shipped in the Atrix. Third, the X2 has an improved camera, which at first glance looks the same on paper (both are 8 MP with AF and dual LED flash), but as we will show later, produces much higher quality images. 

Hardware Overview: Continued
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  • NeoteriX - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    Again, the N8 is an unfair comparison, it's not even the same class of camera phone. Just like the other examples I cited, the Sony C-902, Nokia N82... these are cameras that happen to also be phones. The problem is that these are not apples to apples comparisons.

    The sensor on the N8 is 1/1.83″ -- by way of comparison, the Canon S95, a real point and shoot camera with very well-respected low light performance relative to its peers has only a slightly larger sensor of 1/1.7" Not to mention it has carl zeiss branded optics and a xenon flash (like the other examples I cited)

    The iPhone 4 uses a mobile camera sensor of 1/3.2" and so does the HTC sensation.

    Now I'm all for big sensors in cameraphones--the better the image quality the better, as the best camera is ultimately the one you take with you. And the N8 shows that you can shove real point and shoot sensors into a phone, but let's face the reality -- the market of phones with REAL camera sensors and optics is a very, very, very small niche market (they cost $$$ to put in those sensors) and doesn't reflect the mass market of advanced smartphones.

    Again, the iPhone 4 represents the best candidate of this balance, and I'm really hoping others HTC, Motorola, etc. step up their game here, but I don't plan on owning an Apple device in the near future.
  • munky - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    It's a valid comparison, the N8 is a smartphone like all the others you mentioned, in the same form factor. I'm not comparing something the size of a DSLR to something that fits in your pocket.

    Yes, it has a bigger sensor, just like the S95 has a bigger sensor than average pocket cameras - does that mean the S95 is not qualified to be the gold standard of pocket cameras? Doing so is just a refusal to acknowledge a superior product in favor of the lowest common denominator.
  • NeoteriX - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    I agree, but I think the distinguishing factor is that the S95 performs better than anything in its class by any dimension.

    The large sensor camera phones are still a "niche" in the sense that you have to singularly want exceptional photographic performance to buy one of these phones -- and in return, you have to make several compromises as to the user interface, CPU performance/technology, software ecosystem, etc. The phones are geared towards an audience willing to deal with that.

    However, if you look at the other major powers in the phone OS ecosystems (iOS, Win7, Android, WebOS?), none incorporate the large sensor into any phone, much less the kind of flagship phone that you would expect them to pull all the stops out for.

    Believe me when I say I would go out and immediately buy the first Android phone with all the furnishings -- dualcore CPU, etc. that *also* included a large sensor and quality glass.
  • Exodite - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    That's a bit of a red herring considering that the vast majority of these so-called 'camera phones' aren't lacking in other desirable features.

    Indeed, a good camera is becoming something of a hallmark of high-end smartphones in general, HTC being the exception to the rule.

    As for the cost you mentioned before, the N8 - undeniably the best-equipped smartphone today when the camera is concerned - is a mid-range phone.
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    I'm a huge optics nerd (it's what I studied in college at least) so I always try and find out everything I can about the cameras in here. Usually that ends up being very little because it either isn't documented, or there's no information in the place I look.

    For the sensor type, it's easy enough to just run dmesg and scan through there. HTC lately has been initializing the camera and leaving the part number right there. I searched through on the X2 and couldn't find any camera sensor part numbers even in the sections where they're clearly starting to init the camera. It's unfortunate, because otherwise we could get a better feel for what sensors are usually very good and which ones usually aren't.

    It's interesting that Apple did such a good job marketing backside illumination with the iPhone 4, when essentially every sensor at or over 8 MP needs to be backside illuminated (and thinned) due to skew effects. That said their camera is indeed very good.

  • jamyryals - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    Love the video review format. My favorite smart phone reviewer on the net, keep it up Brian.
  • munky - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    Why do the graphs always compare the usual Samsung and Motorolla phones, the old practically irrelevant iphone 3gs, Nexus One and Dell Streak, but not more variety of modern phones, like the Nokia N8, for example? Instead of grouping tablets and phones in the same graphs, separate the two categories so that each one has a better selection of relevant entries.
  • Exodite - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    Regarding Motorala and their use of FWVGA over WVGA, they're not the only Android handset manufacturer who went that route as Sony-Ericsson also uses FWVGA on the X10/arc/neo/play.
  • BryanC - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - link

    I might consider buying this phone if not for the terrible pentile screen door effect, which is simply unacceptable in today's day and age.

    The iPhone4 has 960x640x3 subpixels in 5.65in2 area. The Droid X2 has 960x540x2 subpixels in 7.90in2 area. The iPhone has 2.5X the subpixel density of the Droid X2! And it's immediately obvious when you look at the displays - the iPhone4 display is so detailed the image looks printed on, it's in a completely different class.

    Too bad.
  • JayQ330 - Thursday, September 1, 2011 - link

    what does that have to do with any of this? oh i see, wipe your chin there's still some iphone honey left.

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