Looking at what transpired this year alone, it’s a safe call to proclaim it as the year of the phablets, especially considering we’ve seen a handful of devices pushing the 5-inch mark. In the last couple of months though, we’ve seen the very best in this category, as the Samsung Galaxy Note II showcased the advantages with its larger than life screen and extensive software enhancements. Although it’s not technically regarded as a tabphone/phablet, the HTC DROID DNA is still one hefty handset with its 5-inch display. However, there’s no arguing it’s a strong competitor to the Note II with its immaculate 1920x1080 display – the highest resolution on any smartphone! With these two shaking up the Android scene, there can only be one that’s viewed as the premier device.
Without question, the Galaxy Note II is the more massive device between the two, which makes it significantly more cumbersome to hold in the hand – then again, its size is what makes it so fascinating amongst strangers. Looking at their profiles, it seems as though the DROID DNA is thinner with its construction, which is attributed to its tapered design, but it’s actually the Note II that’s a hairline thinner. As a whole though, we’re somewhat more attracted to the meticulous industrial design of the DROID DNA – even more when its minimalistic look is complemented by its matte soft touch body and highlighting red accents.
Relying on a combination of capacitive Android buttons and a physical home button, the Note II is less prone to accidental presses – whereas the DROID DNA employs the usual trio below its screen.
Touring the edges of both smartphones, they share many common ports and buttons – like their 3.5mm headset jacks, noise-cancelling microphones, power buttons, volume controls, standard mics, and microUSB ports. With the latter, they provide the functionality of video-out with the aid of an MHL adapter. Mainly due to their pronounced feel and springy responses, we prefer the physical buttons of the Note II – whereas with the DROID DNA, its home button and volume control are indistinct with their flush appearance.
Naturally, we’ll hand it to the Note II for getting people to notice its display more from an initial look – mainly because it’s so darn big! Donning a 5.5-inch 720 x 1280 HD Super AMOLED display, its saturated color tones is a sure-fire attention grabber that is noticed right away. However, the DROID DNA kicks things up a notch with its more detailed 5-inch 1080 x 1920 Super LCD 3 display, which so happens to claim ownership as the highest resolution display on a smartphone. Crazy to believe, it pushes the boundary with its immense pixel density of 441 ppi – whereas the Note II tallies it at a decent 265 ppi. Technically, on paper, the DROID DNA is by and large the detailed one, but when it comes to practical usage, it’s difficult to firmly distinguish its superiority over the Note II with our own eyes viewing from a normal distance away. It is superior for rendering small details like fine text or showing high-quality pictures. Ultimately, when we combine the DROID DNA’s more natural color reproduction and better outdoor visibility, it undoubtedly comes off as the more alluring display.
Interface and Functionality:
For starters, it’s wonderful to find these two behemoths running Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean underneath their respective customized Android experiences – so we’re greeted with advantageous things like Google Now. Even though they both offer a ton of personalization, since they’re Android devices and all, the Sense 4+ UI on the DROID DNA coughs up the more visually attractive widgets. However, that doesn’t undermine the extensive improvements that are seen with the Note II’s TouchWiz Nature UX experience. Sure, the Sense 4+ experience might have the glamor with its presentation, but it pales in comparison to the enhancements and unique software tweaks found with Sammy’s offering – such as S Voice, S Beam, Airview, Pop Up Play, and the host of cool photo shooting modes. If you’re all about getting work done and being productive on the go, the Note II is no doubt the handset of choice since it has a precious balance set that remarkably complements the foundational Android experience.
On the cellular level, the two offer all the basic functions with their core organizer apps, but yet again, it’s Sammy who has gone above and beyond in incorporating its S-Pen to the various tasks at hand. Specifically, it’s just marvelous that we can employ Airview in the calendar to get a quick preview of our scheduled appointments. And even though the email experience is very similar with the two, the Note II once again sprinkles its magic by allowing us to quickly preview emails by hovering the S-Pen over specific items.
Blessed with ginormous displays, the task of inputting text with their respective keyboards is an easy and painless one – especially with their spacious confines and instantaneous responses. Obviously, we appreciate that the two are similar with their layouts, as they allow us to input punctuations by long-pressing specific buttons, but it’s the Note II giving us an arsenal of inputting selections. On top off the normal route, it offers a Swype-like alternative and handwriting recognition with the use of the S-Pen.
Processor and Memory:
Polarizing amongst the smartphone realm, it’s only fitting to know that these two premier devices are sporting quad-core processors to handle their equally mighty capacity. On the Note II, it’s powered by a quad-core 1.6GHz ARM based Exynos processor with a quad-core GPU and 2GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the DROID DNA is packing some impressive hardware of its own – a quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chip with the Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Generally speaking, they exhibit very similar results with their performances that make them come off as being super responsive with the usual set of tasks. However, they’re not without their usual flaws – like the occasional choppiness that comes around whenever we encounter live wallpapers or graphically intensive widgets.
|Quadrant Standard||AnTuTu||NenaMark 2|
|HTC DROID DNA||7888||13917||59,1|
|Samsung Galaxy Note II||5715||13579||58|
Neither pitifully low nor exorbitant, we’re accepting of the 16GB of storage available with these two smartphones, but it’s the Note II getting our nods for having a microSD slot to supplement its capacity.
Internet and Connectivity:
Riding the waves with 4G LTE speeds, we’re digging the fast data speeds that these two are able to obtain. Moreover, it’s wonderful that the web surfing experience is complemented by their proper page rendering, tight navigational controls, and exceptional clarity thanks to their high resolution displays. Nevertheless, it’s the Note II captivating us with its very close desktop-like experience, as the S-Pen mimics the function of a mouse pointer as we hover it over the display.
Not surprisingly, they’re outfitted with good ol’ 4G LTE connectivity to give us those peppy data speeds we’re so very spoiled to experience nowadays. Additionally, both are enabled for international usage. Rounding things out, they both flaunt the same set of connectivity features, which include aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot, and NFC.
To tell you the truth, we’re itching to find out exactly which of these are the better in the photo/video taking department, seeing that they flaunt the same 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with the ability to shoot 1080p videos. However, the DROID DNA features a wide-angle 2.1-megapixel front facing camera with an f2.0 lens – while the Note II is packing just a standard fanfare 1.9-megapixel one.
Making it difficult for us to make a decision, the 8-megapixel auto-focus cameras of each smartphone delivers some very exciting shots worth framing. However, as we meticulously comb through every nook and cranny, we find the Samsung Galaxy Note II to push out ahead by a smidgen of margins. In fact, the most notable difference is that fine details are more defined with the Note II – while it’s only a hairline softer on the DROID DNA. Additionally, there’s hint of saturation with the Note II’s color reproduction, which ultimately splashes a small dose of vibrancy to its shots. However, when it comes to light lighting, the DROID DNA is able to pull off shots that exhibit less noise.
HTC DROID DNA
Samsung Galaxy Note II
HTC DROID DNA
Samsung Galaxy Note II
HTC DROID DNA
Samsung Galaxy Note II
Darkness with flash
Big screens and high resolutions typically results in getting poor battery life, right? Well, with the HTC DROID DNA, its battery life isn’t prolific in any means, seeing that it pulls out 10 hours of normal usage via LTE connections. However, we’re surprised to say the least to find the Note II pulling 2 days of usage via HSPA+ connections – with close to a solid day under its belt on LTE.
Indeed, the HTC DROID DNA is one attractive looking handset that’s setting the bar with its 1920x1080 display. More importantly, though, we’re grateful to find it priced at $200 with a 2-year contract, which makes it a solid buy for anyone in the market for a premier smartphone. However, if you’re willing to dish out the extra $100 to pick up the Samsung Galaxy Note II for $300 on-contract, it’s still an alluring option to go with considering the wealth of functionality it has to offer over its rival. Above all, it’s the bigger 5.5” display and the TouchWiz Nature UX experience of the Note II that makes it such a prolific offering – especially when we see the advantageous benefits of the S-Pen. Not only that, it proves its worth in key categories, like taking photos/video and battery life, to make it a tangible selection worth the money spent on it.