HTC DROID DNA review: Champion genes
A capable gallery
The HTC DROID DNA uses the in-house HTC gallery, which got a new version within the Jelly Bean. When you open the Gallery you can now choose which photos to view - on your phone, Facebook, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Picasa or Flickr. Wherever you choose you'll get to a familiar screen - stacks of photos arranged by albums. There is a dropdown menu where you can sort the photos by Events a.k.a. the date they were taken. The app automatically locates images and videos, no matter where they are stored.
Once you pick one of the "stacks" (each representing a folder), you're presented with a grid of the photos inside. Some photos have an icon indicating it's not a single photo but a burst shot instead. You can later go back and pick the one to be used as a thumbnail.
You can also mass delete images, but you can't copy/paste images across folders - you'd need a proper file manager for that. There are some basic editing tools - crop, rotate and effects (auto enhance, sepia, vintage, etc.).
The HTC DROID DNA supports multi-touch and you can take full advantage of it while browsing your images. You can zoom to 100% with a simple double tap on the screen. The implementation here is extra smooth too. Another thing we admire about the HTC gallery is that it displays photos in full resolution, which we believe is a must on a 1080p display.
A good video player
The video player on the HTC DROID DNA is built into the Gallery app - there's no dedicated shortcut inside the app drawer.
The video playing interface has a view mode toggle (full screen or best fit) and you can scrub through videos. There's a shortcut that lets you adjust screen brightness and another one to take screenshots of videos. Overall the included options are more than enough and they are all implemented in a nice out-of-the-way manner.
Codec support on the video side is very good - all popular video codecs are onboard and videos run at up to 1080p resolution without a hitch.
Speaking of audio, you can choose between Beats Audio or No effects.
Subtitle support is available and you can manually pick a subtitle file - the only requirement is the subtitle files must be in the video folder.
DLNA connectivity comes handy too - the DROID DNA can stream the videos wirelessly to your TV.
There's the MHL port too - if you have the proper adapter, you can hook up your HDTV using an HDMI cable.
With a large high-res screen like that the HTC DROID DNA makes for a great portable video player - The 1080p clips look downright amazing on the beast and it has enough battery backup for most long travels.
The problem is with just 11GB of user-accessible storage, you can't really upload too much content on this one. High-res movies come with high bitrates and the DROID DNA will run out of space well before it can run out of battery.
Music player and Beats for all
The Music app starts off by offering you several shortcuts - music library on the phone, SoundHound track recognition, TuneIn Radio or 7digital. Below is a line that shows a recently played song and further down is the currently playing song.
Once you get into the music library available on the phone you get a dropdown menu to browse it by artist, album, playlist or genre. There's a search tool, too.
The now playing interface is a Cover-Flow-like visualization of the current playlist - you can swipe sideways to skip songs back or forward. You can opt to view the full playlist if you need to skip more than a few tracks.
You can tap the ellipsis to automatically fetch album art for a track or look it up on Google or YouTube. From the Menu you get a Select player option, which is how you can play the song on a DLNA-enabled sound system or over Bluetooth.
The DROID DNA has the Beats Audio moniker stamped on the back, which means your sound is enhanced to boost the sonic experience - you can use it with any headset you want. You can choose between multiple presets - Beats audio, classical, bass boost and so on. HTC finally allow you to turn the effects completely off, which is great news for those of us who are not that bass oriented.
Even though the phone doesn't come with a Beats headset it supports several of them - iBeats/urBeats, Beats Solo, Beats Pro or Beats Studio. You should pick the correct one as it adjusts the equalizer according to the characteristics of the headset. There's an "Other" option too, but if you're not using Beats you can just pick the one that sounds best to you.
The lockscreen shows the album art and name of the song and artist along with playback controls. You can drag this card into the ring to unlock the phone and go straight to the music player.
SoundHound is the track recognition of choice for HTC and they've even integrated it into the music player UI. It easily ID's a song from just a short sample. Or you can say the name of the artist and song and SoundHound will find it for you, including lyrics. The free app however only offers a limited number of uses (99).
Excellent audio output
The specially designed Beats amplifier of the HTC DROID DNA does a great job and the smartphone produces pretty clean audio output. The DROID DNA has frequency response well within the limits of what is considered excellent and garnishes it with good dynamic range, noise level and stereo crosstalk readings.
The volume levels are quite impressive, too, exceeding virtually all smartphones we have tested recently and even matches some of the better tablets out there.
Here go the results so you can see for yourselves.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|HTC DROID DNA||+0.16, -0.29||-83.1||82.8||0.0091||0.021||-83.0|
|Motorola DROID RAZR HD||+0.41, -0.18||-82.7||82.6||0.0091||0.021||-81.6|
|Motorola DROID RAZR M||+0.20, -0.03||-82.9||82.7||0.0089||0.021||-81.6|
|Motorola Atrix HD||+0.13, -0.10||-82.5||82.4||0.0092||0.021||-81.1|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||+0.11, -0.69||-90.6||90.6||0.0085||0.014||-91.8|
HTC DROID DNA frequency response
You can learn more about the whole testing process here.