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Reviewed by Squarecat (Previously owned)

I used the HTC Droid DNA for a week as my primary device (while also trying out the Google/LG Nexus 4 for comparison.)

There's no question that the standout feature of the Droid DNA is the stunning screen. The only mark I count against it was that it can't be dimmed enough in dark environments. Other than that, everything else is just "OK". Even the exceptionally good call quality can’t undo the fact that HTC and Verizon have injected an unhealthy dose of mediocrity into the DNA, crippling what should be an amazing smartphone.

The top 3 offenses:

1) The camera performs well but the default saturation is about a notch or 3 too high (though adjustable) and, worse, at anything larger than 50% of full resolution, it's evident that far too much processing/compression is being applied, as all the fine details look absolutely terrible.

2) Ergonomics are a mess--with the power button top dead center and the Sense 4 unlock ring bottom center on the massive 5" inch display, unless you are Gollum, every single time you unlock this device you perform a clumsy hand-wrenching contortion. In addition, this top of the line smartphone not only sports capacitive buttons, but they sit right at the very bottom, leaving them far away and with no leverage when your hand is situated for pressing the screen. Your days of one-handed device operation are over with the DNA. (Which begs the question, *who's* dna? A basketball player? The Engineer alien from Prometheus?)

3) I'll be kind and say that HTC's Sense 4 UI is long in the tooth. Actually, no, since I paid money for the experience, I'll be honest: it's shamefully out-of-date. I mean, it's virtually indistinguishable from what I saw when I powered on my Thunderbolt for the first time, which was tired *then*. (And that's saying a lot coming to the DNA from an iPhone 4S, bearer of the cartoon king, iOS.)

But wait, there’s more! HTC and Verizon couldn’t let even small details go without a solid acid wash. Let's say you're a normal, reasonable person who sets a daily alarm, goes off to work and puts their phone on vibrate, then, on arrival, listens to music on their headphones. And if you, like most, also leave the typical "location services" on, well, congratulations, you've now populated the entire notification/status bar with icons! God forbid you receive an *actual* notification, like email or a text because there's no room for those now you notification hoarder, you! (Don't forget about the persistent WiFi notification on the pulldown shade, because HTC certainly won't let you.)

If I were to describe the HTC Droid DNA in a word? Handicapped. Or perhaps, "unfortunate". Because it's terribly unfortunate that both HTC and Verizon Wireless saw fit to handicap what could have been an exceptional smartphone.

The Breakdown

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • Design 7
  • Display 9
  • Camera(s) 6
  • Reception / call quality 9
  • Performance 8
  • Software 5
  • Battery life 7
  • Ecosystem 8
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