Motorola Photon 4G hands-on: Attractive and powerful

The Motorola Photon 4G pretty much has it all, from a dual-core processor to the latest version of Android to accessories.

This afternoon, Motorola and Sprint revealed the Photon 4G, the first of many Motorola Android phones headed to the carrier. The Photon 4G boasts a qHD display, an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor and 4G speeds. Pricing hasn't been announced, but the Photon 4G is due to Sprint sometime this summer.

Look and Feel

I dig the way the Photon looks. They did something kind of unique and chopped off the corners making the phone into sort of an octagon. This makes it look a little smoother but still have that futuristic, angular look. The qHD screen is very nice indeed. Colors are rich, and the resolution was very good. Not sure if it's as good as Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus, but it's pretty darn close.

The Photon feels great in hand, though, to be fair, I've got fairly big hands. It felt light, but sturdy, and not like a cheap toy. The back is rubberized, which should help keep you from dropping the dang thing. It's got a dedicated camera button, which I love. (Seriously, why doesn't everyone do that? Even Apple is getting on board with physical camera controls. C'mon guys!)

Software

The phone comes pre-loaded with plenty of software, which some of you will love and some of you will hate. The good news is that it's loaded with productivity apps, including Quick Office, that will get you up and running right away. They have some slick apps that aggregate emails, and some that aggregate calendars into a nice layout. The bad side of the software? Motoblur. I just don't dig it. Maybe you do. It slows the phone down, though, which I'll address in this next category...

Speed

With a dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB or RAM, this baby hums in most places. The one place I noticed some lag? The desktop. Why? Motoblur. Seriously, please just give us vanilla Android on these guys. In all the other apps I used, this phone was fast, fast, fast, and very slick. Played full HD video very nicely (even when mirroring it on an HD set). Sprint's 4G was looking good, and webpages loaded quickly. The camera was very responsive, too.

Accessories

Ooh, toys! There are a bunch of accessories, many of which take advantage of Motorola's Webtop. There's the HDMI dock. Put your phone in it, and you can drive a monitor (where you can use Firefox, but still make and receive calls), a keyboard, a mouse, even a slick little remote control. I watched the Sprint rep edit a Powerpoint presentation, and it all worked fast and smoothly. There's also a nice GPS dock for cars. It can drive an HDTV with no problem. I got to play Riptide GP, and it felt responsive, and looked great on the TV.

Bottom Line

This is a very nice piece of hardware. It's very similar to the Atrix on AT&T. The main difference is that the Photon's screen is a little bigger (4.3 inches vs. 4 inches), and the Photon will be running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) out of the box. I could really do without Motoblur, but if you install a 3rd party launcher (like Launcher Pro) most of those woes may go away. It definitely competes with Sprint's other high-end devices, and I declare it to be covetable. Now, where's Verizon's answer to this one?

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Brent Rose

PC World (US online)
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