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Motorola released three new Droids smartphones just a few months ago: the Droid ULTRA, the Droid MAXX and the Droid MINI. The Droid ULTRA is the droid that you’ve been looking for if you want to save a couple of bucks from the Droid MAXX, which has an increased 3500mAh battery. It’s also a phone you might be interested in if you owned the Droid RAZR in the past and you’re looking for the latest and greatest Motorola Droid phone.

The Motorola Droid ULTRA is a mid-ranged Android smartphone as it features a 1.7GHz dual-core processor and a 5-inch 1280 x 720 Super AMOLED display, although Motorola certainly bumps things up with its 10MP main camera. The ULTRA brings back the kevlar to the latest Droid, but this time, Motorola has created a unibody kevlar body for the phone, rather than just feature a kevlar rear.

Motorola certainly has big shoes to fill from its popular Droid RAZRs, but can their new ULTRA live up to the Droid name? There’s only one way to find out and that’s with our official review.

Motorola Droid Ultra Specs

Display: 1280 x 720
Display Size: 5 inches
Display Type: Super AMOLED
Processor: 1.7GHz dual-core Motorola X8
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
MicroSD: No
Battery Capacity: 2130mAh
Rear-Facing Camera: 10MP
Front-Facing Camera: 2MP
Weight: 137g
Dimensions: 137.5mm x 71.2mm x 7.18mm

Context

Before we get our review started, we always like to take a moment to explain how we like to use our smartphones. In my case, I prefer to use my smartphone as my main form of communication, but outside of actually talking on the phone. I prefer to text, instant message or communicate through social networks than actually placing a voice or video call.

When I’m out and about, I tend to correspond through email for work a lot as well as through Skype. But when I’m not working, I often find myself browsing Facebook, Twitter or Reddit to read stories others have shared, as well as reading some websites that I often check out.

As far as entertainment, I spend most of my time listening to podcasts or music, although I’ll watch a YouTube clip every so often that one of my friends shared on a social network. But if you see me walking around getting around New York City, it’s extremely likely I’ll be listening to a podcast or to some tunes.

Industrial Design

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If you’ve handled the Motorola Droid RAZR, then the overall design of the Droid ULTRA will seem quite familiar to you as Motorola has made some tweaks for one of its latest Android devices. One of the first areas you’ll take note of when you get your hands on the ULTRA is its 5-inch 1280 x 720 display. We’ll take a closer look at the display further on in our review, so for now, we’ll continue taking a look at the ULTRA’s design. Below the display are three capacitive buttons that light up when the screen is active, and dim when inactive. Above the screen, you’ll find the phone’s speaker and its 2MP front-facing camera.

"THE PHYSICAL BUTTONS HAVE RIDGES AND FEEL PLASTICKY"  

The outer rim of the Droid ULTRA is filled with the regular set of buttons and ports that you’d find on most phones these days. The top of the ULTRA is where its 3.5mm headphone jack is located, while the bottom houses the device’s microUSB port. The right side is where the ULTRA’s power button and volume rocker are located, although I’m not too fond of how they feel. The physical buttons have ridges and feel plasticky and when I touch them, they give off a cheap feeling. That’s just my own opinion though, so you could very well enjoy these buttons. Either way, try to get your hands on the ULTRA to make sure you’ll be happy with its feel.

The rear of the Droid ULTRA features the same kevlar back that was first introduced in the RAZR, although the edges of the rear are much smoother on the ULTRA. The top of the rear is where its 10MP main camera is located as well as its LED flash and the device’s speakers. Yes, you read right – the ULTRA has its speaker located at the rear of the phone where the camera is. The overall feel of the rear is much smoother than it was on the Droid MAXX.

Display (good+)

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We’ve been seeing a surge of smartphones with 1080p and beyond that have really blown us away, although Motorola keeps it simple with its 5-inch 1280 x 720 Super AMOLED display. Considering The Droid ULTRA is more of a mid-range Android device, 1280 x 720 running on a Super AMOLED will do just fine as you’ll be able to enjoy images and videos at a nice resolution. Sure – 1080p and above is extra nice, but for a 5-inch smartphone running on a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, the 1280 x 720 display will do just fine.

The Super AMOLED display was able to allow us to view content at extreme angles, which we really don’t see many screens these days offering anything less. Overall, the screen felt pretty bright and felt comfortable to use at around 20% – 25% of its full potential, although we often left the phone’s auto brightness do the work for us.

Motorola Droid Ultra Custom Apps

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Motorola Assist

Motorola Assist is an application that makes adjustments to your Droid ULTRA during three important activities we all probably go through in a day: driving, attending meetings and sleeping. The Assist application can help change the settings on your phone when one of these activities is detected that will help make your phone be less of a problem. For example, when Assist detects you’re driving, your phone can read text messages to you and tell you who’s calling, and if you receive a text while driving, you can select to have it send a message back, informing the sender you’re currently driving.

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Quickoffice

We know how important it is to be able to manage Microsoft Office documents while you’re out and about as it seems anyone and everyone will send you something to look over. Thankfully, the Droid ULTRA comes with Quickoffice. Quickoffice allows you to create and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even PDF files straight from your phone.

Selecting a document to open is pretty straightforward as you’ll need to point the application in the direction where it’s located. It can either be stored locally on your phone or on Google Drive, which you’ll need to log in with your credentials to take advantage of.

Killer Apps

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Virtual Keyboard (very good)

The virtual keyboard on the Droid ULTRA is very responsive and easy to type on. The keyboard has the typical QWERTY keyboard, which also has numbers available on the top row of keys as secondary keys. Accessing numbers can be done simply by holding the key for a second, which will then allow you to input the number.

Accessing additional secondary keys will require you to flip over to multiple pages of the virtual keyboard. It isn’t something most people will worry about, but I thought I’d mention it just in case you need to access those keys more often than not.

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Facebook (very good)

The Facebook experience you can expect on the Droid ULTRA is pretty much standard with what is available across the majority of Android devices out there. You’ll be able to view your News Feed, your Favorites, initiate chats with your Facebook friends and comment and like on any and every post you’re able to.

We didn’t notice any lag or any weird issues with images not showing up properly or low quality. The overall experience with the Facebook app was quick and snappy, which we’re sure users of the social network will be happy to hear. There shouldn’t be anything coming between you and your Facebook content while using the Droid ULTRA.

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Google Maps (excellent)

Google Maps has been an application that the majority of mobile users have been using for years now as it’s one of the best around. Google Maps on the Droid ULTRA is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Maps load very quickly and directions are extremely accurate and gives users the option of customizing their route to bypass tolls and highways.

Entertainment (good)

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Video Playback (good)

Motorola has kept things simple for the video player on the Droid ULTRA as you’ll be able to play and pause your video and fast forward and rewind through a bar located at the bottom of the video you’re watching. Located at the top-right portion of the video is a Share button, which allows you to share the video you’re currently watching through several ways including Bluetooth, YouTube, Google+ and other methods.

"THE DEFAULT VIDEO PLAYER FEELS REALLY BARE"  

Outside of those options, the default video player feels really bare compared to other default video players we’ve seen in the past from rival companies like Samsung. We’re not expect there to be an insane amount of options, but we also would like something more than just the option to play and share a video.

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Gaming (very good)

Even though the Droid ULTRA only has a dual-core processor, it still performs very well across the games that we played on the device. For the purpose of our review, we tried out Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run 2 and Riptide GP2 to give us a good idea of how the device would perform when playing a wide variety of games.

All three games we played on the Droid ULTRA played very well as we didn’t notice any slowdown when playing any of our test games. In regards to 3D games, like Temple Run 2 and Riptide GP2, we thought both games performed very well, although what held us from giving the ULTRA an excellent rating in this category is due to its limited display as we’ve seen these games look really good on devices with 1080p and above screens.

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Speaker Quality (poor)

We’re not entirely sure why Motorola decided to squeeze the ULTRA’s speaker next to its rear-facing camera, and the sound that comes out of it makes us think the company didn’t put much thought into it. One good thing about the speaker is that it’s loud, meaning you could enjoy your tunes from the other room if you’re moving around without your phone.

As for the sound quality, it’s extremely tinny and favors high ranges over everything else. We listened to a wide variety of music, and each song sounded like the the mid- and low-ranges take the backseat while the high ranges are shown favoritism throughout all of the songs we listened to.

Digital Imaging (very good)

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Camera Application (very good)

The camera application that comes with the Droid ULTRA is an overall nice experience as you’ll be able to take HDR photos, change the phone’s flash settings, take slow-motion videos and take Panoramic shots. The camera also has a quick-launch feature that allows you to automatically launch your camera by simply flicking your wrist twice.

Once you’ve taken your photo, you’ll be able to access it from the ULTRA’s gallery, which is done by simply flicking the screen in the left direction. What’s great about the gallery is it includes several filters for you to choose from, while also giving you access to some frames and options to edit your photo, such as cropping it or adjusting the color or contrast.

Photo and Video Quality (very good)

For the purpose of our review, we pit the Droid ULTRA’s 10MP main camera up against the iPhone 5’s 8MP camera. As for the photos, these images were taken indoors during an overcast day with no internal lighting.

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Performance (very good)

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Just like the Droid MAXX, the Droid ULTRA features a 1.7GHz dual-core Motorola X8 processor, keeping things in the mid-range. Because of that, we don’t expect the Droid ULTRA to blow away competing high-end phones, but the processor should still be able to provide some nice performance numbers.

Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.

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With an Antutu 3.03 score of 20655, the Droid ULTRA actually scored higher than we anticipated it to compared to other mid-range Android devices. The Droid ULTRA even beats out another popular Motorola Android smartphone, the Moto X, which scored just an 18117 according to our records. Although, it doesn’t come close to the scores we’ve received for high-end devices, such as the LG G2 which scored over 30,000 in our Antutu benchmarks.

GFXBench 2.7 was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.

Unfortunately, we ran into trouble each time we attempted to run GFXBench on the Droid ULTRA, which we experienced the same issues on the Droid MAXX. We couldn’t get a score from the application due to it crashing several times.

The final benchmark we like to run is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the mobile device’s ability with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it.

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Perceived Performance

As important as it is to see how powerful a device is through the use of benchmarks, we also think it’s important to make a note of how that device’s perceived performance is during normal use. During our time with the Droid ULTRA, we didn’t notice any sort of lag or slowdown when launching applications or using the device in general. We only had issues with GFXBench as it crashed each time we ran tests on the ULTRA, but other than that, we didn’t have any issues with other applications.

Battery (very good)

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The Droid ULTRA features a 2130mAh battery which is pretty average for 5-inch smartphones. We recently reviewed the Droid MAXX, which has a 3500mAh battery, which we found it to be excellent. With over 1000mAh less, let’s see how the Droid ULTRA fairs in your battery tests.

Moderate Usage (excellent)

For our moderate usage test, we used the Droid ULTRA off and on for about an hour performing tasks that weren’t exactly going to push the smartphone too hard. We checked Facebook, corresponded to emails, read some news stories and other activities that you’d consider to be typical for most people while connected to a wireless network. After an hour, we noticed the battery of the ULTRA dropped a total of 4%, which means you should expect the phone to last for a good amount of your work day under these conditions. Those who use the Droid ULTRA’s 4G LTE, expect your battery life to drop as a result.

Video Streaming Test (very good)

For our video streaming test, we streamed a 1080p YouTube video for one hour with the display set to 50% of the Droid ULTRA’s full brightness. After streaming the video for an hour, we noticed a drop of 14%, which means you should expect a little over 7 hours of battery life under these conditions.

Intense Usage (good+)

For our intense usage battery test, we played Riptide GP2 for an hour, which is a 3D racing game that pushes the hardware of our Android devices to their limits. After an hour of playing Riptide GP2, we noticed a drop of 27% in the ULTRA’s battery. This means you should expect close to 4 hours of battery life when playing games or performing other intense activities.

Charging Time

As important as knowing how long a battery will last is, we find it’s equally important to know just how long a battery will take to recharge itself. In the case of the Droid ULTRA’s 2130mAh battery, we noted the device recharged itself by 22% after leaving the phone plugged in after an hour. This means you should expect it to take a little over 4 hours to fully charge your phone if you’ve completely run its battery dry.

Conclusion (good)

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The Droid ULTRA offers a nice experience in a mid-range Android smartphone as it has a nice 5-inch 1280 x 720 display and it surprisingly is able to perform pretty well for a device with only a dual-core processor. But when you compare the ULTRA with some high-end phones like the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy S4, then you’ll see that it just doesn’t offer as great as an experience as those devices.

The Droid ULTRA performs nearly just as well as the Droid MAXX, although the those who pick up the MAXX will certainly benefit from its 3500mAh battery. As far as a standalone Android phone, we can’t help but think you could spend your $99.99 on the LG G2, which will provide a much better experience.

Overall product rating: 6/10

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews. Read more about Android, Motorola and Phone Reviews.

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