TODO alt text

HTC Droid DNA review

Verizon and 'quietly brilliant' HTC get big and flashy

Jump to Section:

Our Verdict

For

  • Seriously beefy specs
  • First-rate camera
  • Great display
  • Runs Jelly Bean very well
  • Nice price

Against

  • HTC's UI is a bit tacky
  • No removable storage, only 16GB internal
  • Difficult to use with one hand
  • Mediocre battery life

A phone with a 5-inch 1080p should be a media monster, right? Well, that's mostly the case. Videos do look fabulous on the Droid DNA's 440 ppi display, and there are lots apps and widgets to make accessing and consuming media an absolute breeze.

The only thing that holds back the DNA in the least is its 16GB of internal storage, which cannot be supplemented by microSD.

Now 16GB is nothing to sneeze at, certainly enough for a day or two's worth of viewing and listening. However, it's a level of storage where you'll have to keep an eye on how much media you're dropping on the phone.

We often ding the iPhone 5 for its lack of removable storage, and while the DNA probably got its thin frame from ditching microSD, the great thing about a premium device is being able to load up on media without having to count megabytes.

That said, there plenty of media options on the DNA, including cloud services and streaming services for those less concerned with their data plans.

Music

HTC Droid DNA

In addition to syncing MP3s to the DNA via USB, there are plenty of methods to purchase and stream music to the phone.

Google's own Play Music offers a music library with selection and pricing competitive to Apple's iTunes store. The Play Music app is also where you'll control whatever tracks you've imported through USB. Play also has a useful widget that lets you control your music right from a home screen.

For Amazon fans, there are apps and widgets that let you tap into online content purchased from the retail mogul. As with Google Music, there's a small toolbar widget for controlling your current track. There's also a large Amazon widget that gives you access to your entire content library, books, movie and music included, as well as suggested products and apps.

When you first get your DNA, this oversized widget will be deployed to a panel by default. This may offend some, but it can easily be done away with. As we've said, it's big, but we found it to be a useful and attractive way of displaying and accessing our content. It's too bad it can't be resized, like most widgets in Jelly Bean, but it's a useful widget for Amazon customers nonetheless.

Finally, the Droid DNA has Beats by Dre audio support, as is signified by the red B on the back. This B also shows up on the notification bar whenever you listen to music with headphones.

Since Beats imposes a little extra drain on the battery, it can be toggled on and off. Turning it off, we noticed a significant drop in audio quality, big time bass reduction and a drop in overall volume. Music on the Droid DNA definitely sounds better with Beats switched on.

However, playing the same tracks on an iPhone 5, using the same pair of high-quality headphones, we could not detect any difference. This didn't really bug us, since the DNA has a reasonable $199 price tag (with contract), so it doesn't seem like the good doctor's presence has inflated the price for consumers.

Movies

HTC Droid DNA review

If you've got the kind of lifestyle where you ride the bus, a train, or do anything else that has you watching a lot of videos on your phone, the Droid DNA will delight you with its display.

As mentioned, the DNA has a phenomenally high-resolution screen. Watching Netflix or YouTube on the screen was an awesome experience.

Those aren't your only options though, as you can always purchase films and TV through Google Play, or the aforementioned Amazon widget.

As far as comparing it other smartphone displays, it's hard to declare a true winner. Obviously, if you want the biggest screen possible, the Droid DNA is a great choice. However, if you want something a little more pocket friendly, there's always the Droid Razr HD or Samsung Galaxy S3.

Both the Droid Razr HD and Samsung Galaxy S3 have AMOLED screens that offer oversaturated, bright colors that some will find pleasing and other will call tacky. The Droid DNA's LCD3 screen gives more true to life color representation. We'd call it the better phone for a cinephile, but no movie die-hard would be watching films on a cell phone screen. Not by choice, anyway.

Overall, media consumption is one of the DNA's best assets. That 440 ppi screen is big and beautiful, and there are enough app and widget options to keep your media library at your fingertips.

However, that makes the phone's limited storage size all the more frustrating. 16GB may seem sizeable, but after the OS and whatever apps you want to install, the space that's leftover is all you get to play with.

Streaming services make for a nice compensation, especially if you're on WiFi a lot, but if no you'll be burning up your data plan. If you're a frequent movie watcher or the type who likes to have lots music on the go, be prepared to manage your storage daily.