HTC Droid DNA hands on: A 1080p dream come true

htc droid dna hands on olympus digital camera

Check out our full review of the HTC Droid DNA smart phone.

If you thought choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, iPhone 5, HTC 8X, Motorola Droid HD, LG Optimus G, Sony Xperia TL, Nokia Lumia 920, and Google Nexus 4 was tough, brace yourself: Things are only getting worse. (Or better, depending on your outlook.) Today, HTC and Verizon unveiled the Droid DNA, another flagship phone that desperately wants to make friends with your hand, and wallet. After the announcement, we were able to get some hands-on time with the new Droid DNA. Here’s what we think.

Best. Screen. Ever.

This is a bold statement to make, but we cannot recall a phone screen that looks as good as HTC’s new Droid DNA. Like the first time we set our eyes on the ‘Retina,’ high-resolution iPad 3, looking at the Droid DNA’s 5-inch 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixel) Super LCD 3 screen is a jaw-dropping experience. It’s pixel density is 440 pixels per inch, which is significantly denser than even the iPhone 5’s screen. After staring at the DNA’s screen for a while, going back to a 720p screen was not fun.

htc droid dna hands on olympus digital camera

More impressive is the speed and fluidity of the Android operating system on this phone. For the first time, Android’s animation and fluidity appear on par with the iPhone 5. We don’t know if it’s entirely Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or if HTC’s Sense 4.0+ user interface actually speeds up the OS, but everything moves fast on the DNA. Google talked about ‘Project Butter’ when it unveiled Jelly Bean in the summer, but the Droid DNA is the first Android phone we’ve seen where the jump in speed is noticeable. Of course, the quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB of RAM may also contribute to the Droid’s prowess.

There’s nothing quite like watching a 1080p video on a 1080p screen this small. It’s gorgeous. Unfortunately, due to the limited 16GB of internal memory and lack of microSD support, you won’t be able to download many movies to your Droid DNA. 

Stylish design

htc droid dna hands on olympus digital camera
htc droid dna hands on olympus digital camera

HTC has had a rough year. It’s top Android handsets have been handily outsold by Samsung. Things got bad enough that it was posting losses. But instead of wallowing and waiting, HTC continues to push forward, kicking its designs and performance up a notch with every phone unveiling. We recently labeled the HTC 8X as our favorite Windows Phone 8 device, and the Droid DNA may take the top spot for Android. Everything about the look and feel of the DNA, aside from its Verizon black and red color scheme, appears top notch. The device is thin: only 4mm at its edges, and is designed with the hand in mind. HTC has built a gradual hump into the back of the phone, which your hand cradles as you hold it. Though conventional wisdom argues that thinner is better, Having a rounded back is surprisingly comfortable.

On the edges of the phone, HTC has included a grill of sorts, as well. We don’t think this adds a lot to the experience, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Did we mention that it can charge wirelessly?

htc droid dna hands on olympus digital camera

All the conveniences of a modern HTC phone

HTC hasn’t gained much attention this year, but its hardware and Android user interface is more consistent than what a lot of manufacturers are pumping out. The Droid DNA has all of the good features we’ve come to like in phones like the One X. The Music app, for example, still aggregates all of the music on your device, regardless of its source; it’s a single place where you can find music from all your different apps, like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon MP3, etc. Like all HTC devices, the DNA also appears to have an excellent 8-megapixel camera, complete with the fancy ‘ImageSense’ chip that HTC includes in its top phones. The front-facing camera from the 8X is also included, which has a wide-angle lens so you can fit more of your friends in a photo.

Destined for greatness?

We don’t know if the Droid DNA will be a hit phone this holiday season or just another crashing wave on the smartphone shores. It has some hefty competition, and the fact that it’s a Verizon exclusive will work against its potential to compete with the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5. But after using the Droid DNA, we think it would be dumb to count HTC out. The DNA builds on all of the forward strides HTC has made in 2012 and may be its best phone yet. We can’t wait to try it again.

The HTC Droid DNA will be released on November 21 for $200, with a two-year contract. Check out our spec comparisons to learn more: HTC Droid DNA vs. iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S3 and Droid DNA vs. Galaxy Note 2 vs. LG Intuition.