AH Droid Maxx 2 - review-11

Featured Review: Motorola DROID Maxx 2

November 13, 2015 - Written By Justin Diaz

At their recent Verizon event, Motorola unveiled two new phones for the carrier as part of the DROID lineup, one of which was the DROID Turbo 2 that we reviewed earlier this week. The second phone was the slightly more modest DROID Maxx 2, which still comes with a fairly large battery, a decent sized display, a little bit of customization and a lower price point, although at the sacrifice of the Moto ShatterShield technology. The DROID Maxx 2 is the follow-up to last year’s model and Motorola has definitely made some improvements here, and this is more or less the U.S. version of the Moto X Play that launched internationally, with one difference being that the Moto X Play isn’t exclusive while the DROID Maxx 2 is a Verizon-only device. The phone feels good in the hand and certainly has a nice aesthetic, and features some seriously good specs for the cost. Is the savings on cost worth the loss of the ShatterShield though? Let’s take a look.

SpecsAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-15

When it comes to specifications, Motorola packed the DROID Maxx 2 with some good hardware that’s a challenge to overlook, especially when one of its best assets is a feature many smartphone users can’t seem to have enough of. The battery. The DROID Maxx 2 comes equipped with a 5.5-inch 1080p display with 403 ppi. It may not have the ShatterShield technology built in, but it is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 so there is still some protection there from scratches and light drops or dings. It has a single front-ported speaker for audio whether that’s music, movies, or games, and also on the front is a 5MP camera for selfies and video chat.

Flip the phone over and you’ll find a 21MP camera along with a whole host of features  just like you find on the DROID Turbo 2, including the color correlated temperature flash with dual-LEDs, phase detection auto-focus, closed loop processing, and an f/2.0 aperture for better low-light shots. On the inside, it’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core CPU clocked at 1.7GHz, along with an Adreno 405 GPU for the graphics processing. It’s also got 2GB of RAM, and a non-removable 3630mAh battery on the inside rated for up to 48 hours of use. For connectivity, it supports Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS, WiFi 802.11ac, and NFC. It’s also water repellant so there’s no need to worry about a little bit of rain or the occasional spill. It weighs 169 grams which is light enough but it still feels sturdy, and it measures at 148mm x 75mm x 8.9-10.9mm.

In The BoxAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-4

Just like with the DROID Turbo 2, Motorola doesn’t pack a whole lot into the box for the DROID Maxx 2, although you do get at least one extra piece of equipment that isn’t included with the former, and that’s a USB cable. Inside the box you’ll find the phone itself, as well as an AC adapter, a microUSB cable for charging and data connection to the computer, the nanoSIM tool, and the manuals and quick start guide. It’s a bare setup, but all the essentials are there for you to use the phone and keep it charged up.

DisplayAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-12

When you think about the specs of the DROID Maxx 2 display on paper, Full HD sounds underwhelming compared to the likes of Quad HD screens and Sony’s 4K display on the Xperia Z5 Premium. It’s an entirely different feeling when you’re actually holding the phone in your hand, though. To many users, the details of anything over 1080p won’t be discernable on a 5.5-inch screen, and to be quite honest, the display on the DROID Maxx 2 is nothing to be ashamed of. The clarity is sharp and colors are vibrant with pretty good color accuracy, and pixels aren’t noticeable which is going to be an important detail for plenty of users.

Brightness levels are good even at its lowest setting, and scaling the brightness all the way up to the maximum level produces quite a bit of light making it easy to see even with a tiny bit of glare or outside in broad daylight. Viewing angles are good and touch responsiveness was nothing short of excellent, with the screen easily registering all of my presses whether single or multitouch, resulting in no issues with fast typing. The bottom line is that the display produces good color and with 1080p resolution things look more than sharp enough for any type of content consumption to be enjoyable. Does it carry the highest resolution out there? Absolutely not, but it also isn’t really needed. With more phones coming out that sport 2K displays, it’s easy to forget just how good 1080p on a phone screen really looks.

Hardware And BuildAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-10

As with most of Motorola’s previous devices in the last couple of years, the DROID Maxx 2 has a great build quality to it that makes it feel good when holding it. It’s not too heavy and not too light or flimsy feeling. This is likely due to the use of the metal frame wrapping around the top and sides of the device, and a soft-touch plastic backing that carries a slightly rubberized feel to it that helps with giving the phone some grip. The plastic backs can also be popped off and replaced with other colored backs for customization, although the battery is still non-removable.

The placement of everything is essentially the same as it is on the DROID Turbo 2, with the power button and volume rocker sitting on the right-hand side of the device, although the buttons don’t feel quite as nice as they do on the DROID Turbo 2. On the top, you’ll find the nanoSIM & microSD card tray that you can pop out using the included SIM tool, as well as the 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones or earbuds. The left side is completely bare with no buttons at all to speak of, and on the bottom is where Motorola has placed the charging port. On the back of the phone, you’ll find the camera setup with the lens and CCT flash with dual-LEDs, while on the front you have the earpiece, front-ported speaker, front camera, and sensor. Overall, Motorola has put together a device with a solid build here and customers should expect to be pretty happy with it if they end up grabbing this device.

Performance And MemoryAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-17

As this is a mid-ranger, those who are used to using high-end devices with the best hardware specifications shouldn’t be looking to the DROID Maxx 2 for a replacement if they want something on par or better. That doesn’t mean the phone isn’t capable of good performance. During my time with it, the phone handled all the tasks I threw at it just fine without really any issues, which was to be expected. The Snapdragon 615 processor didn’t feel like it was chugging along at all even when I had multiple apps open in the background while playing games, so multitasking was no issue.

Playing games on the device was also no problem, although there was some noticeable stuttering when playing games that are graphically demanding. Usually I test games with lots of high-end 3D visuals because if it can handle these types of games, it can handle any game available to download. One of the most graphically demanding games I’ve found for Android is Hearthstone due to all the special effects and some 3D visuals, and the DROID Maxx 2 ran it mostly without any problems. The gameplay was pretty fluid although there was a tiny bit of lag at times when the CPU/GPU were trying to catch up to what was happening. Mind you, the stuttering was only for a fraction of a second here and there, so nothing to make the game unplayable unless you are extremely picky about smoothness. When you get right down to it, the DROID Maxx 2 may not be a phone that’s been focused towards gaming prowess, but it can handle games just fine of really any sort, so if you like to play mobile games and you’ll need a device that’s also capable of multitasking, the Maxx 2 won’t disappoint in this department. Again, the phone is also using Motorola’s near stock Android experience so this light setup generally has something to do with the overall fluidity of the user experience across the board.

BenchmarksAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-2

Although benchmarks shouldn’t be interpreted as the end all be all of how a device is going to perform, they will give some idea of what you can expect out of them. Having said that, they aren’t entirely representative of real-world performance so it’s best to think of them as more of a guide. This is a mid-range device and while it didn’t score as high on the benchmarks as some might hope, it’s scores were decent enough and it performed pretty good during actual use, which is more important than a benchmark score. With only 2GB of RAM and the octa-core 615 CPU inside, the phone holds up better than you might think. As for the tests, you can check the scores of everything in the screenshots down below. We ran it through AnTuTu, Geekbench 3, and 3DMark for graphics.

Phone Calls And NetworkAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-3

As this is a Verizon phone that supports the same 4G LTE network as the DROID Turbo 2, I was expecting it to give a pretty similar if not the same experience to using voice calls, and it didn’t disappoint me. During the few phone calls I made, it was easy for me to hear through the earpiece without boosting the volume all the way up and people on the other end of the call sounded crystal clear. On the reverse side of things, people on the other end of the call said I sounded very clear to them as well, which means both parties should have a great experience when it comes to using the phone for the actual phone function.

Network reliability is sort of expected as it is running on the Verizon network. Keep in mind that Verizon’s coverage, although vast, is not always strong for every single consumer. Having said that, I personally had no issues with keeping the phone connected for calls or data, and I was able to keep a 4G connection anywhere I went. As far as the supported connections goes, the DROID Maxx 2 supports network types GSM/GPRS/EDGE with frequencies 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz, UMTS/HSPA+ with frequencies 850, 900, 1900, and 2100MHz, CDMA with frequencies 850, and 1900MHz, and 4G LTE with bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13, and 20.

Battery LifeAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-18

This is probably one of the biggest features if not the biggest feature of this phone as Motorola have been boasting about it pretty much everywhere. It’s rated for moderate to average use for up to 48 hours which even these days is still a pretty bold claim, as most phones still struggle to last for an entire day before needing to be plugged back in juiced back up. The most screen on time I had with the DROID Maxx 2 was about three hours while letting music play in the background, and after that amount of time along with some moderate web browsing, scrolling through my Facebook feed, playing some Hearthstone, and sending messages back and forth for an hour or two, I was able to pull not quite two days out of it before it needed a charge.

One could argue though that I was using the phone a little more than moderately, however, which is how I view it, so I wasn’t expecting to get a full 48 hours out of the battery in the first place. Nevertheless, everyone’s device usage habits are going to be different and some people will get less battery life than me while some get more, and some may even get past the 48 hours if they really watch their usage and stretch it anywhere they can. With a 3630mAh battery on the inside and what seems like plenty of fine tuning to make sure the phone is capable of lasting quite a long time, one thing is certain, you should definitely be able to get through at least a full 24 hours without issue. The phone also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, so charging it up is fairly fast and a lot quicker than those without Quick Charge 2.0.

SoundAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-14

Whether sound quality/audio clarity is going to be one of the main features you look for in a phone or not, chances are you may want to use the speakers at some point even if it’s very light use for streaming videos and music, or playing games. With one single front-ported speaker on the DROID Maxx 2, don’t expect it to be pump out some of the best audio of any smartphone out there, because there are quite a few phones which are more well-equipped to the task and perform excellently. What you should expect is a well-rounded and overall great experience with the speaker setup.

The volume for me personally was quite clear and was plenty loud enough for me to enjoy the few hours a day listening to music that I was streaming. I also generally like to crank the volume up (not all the way but more than half) when I play games as it makes me feel more immersed in what I’m playing and the speakers never really made the audio feel distorted. Granted, I wasn’t turning the volume up to the maximum level. With that in mind, if you have to turn the volume up all the way to compensate either for lack of quality or so you can hear things better, it’s probably time to connect a speaker or plug in some headphones. Overall, the speaker produced decent audio and while it was nothing to write home about, it was really nothing to be disappointed over either. The sound experience is one that was both good, while also not being a breakout hit that makes the phone a must have for music lovers. it was better than average but less than amazing, which is just fine.

SoftwareAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-16

With most of Motorola’s recent device in the past year or so, the software experience is pretty much the same. As this is the second DROID in the lineup of phones for Motorola and Verizon that were just recently released, the UI is more or less identical to the one on the DROID Turbo 2. You’ll find all of the same Verizon pre-installed apps as with the DROID Turbo 2 like Message+, DROID Zap, Verizon Cloud and others. You also have all the same Motorola apps and software including Motorola Connect, and the Moto app. It has all the Moto specific software like Moto Voice for a personalized voice controlled setup to complete tasks, Moto Display to show you notifications without consuming too much power, Moto Assist for helping you do specific things by adding activities and places ( Although Assist is supposed to be disappearing in the near future), and Moto Actions for things like the flick of the wrist gesture to open up the camera. All of these things are here and they worked fairly well for me.

CameraAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-13

This is the same camera as on the DROID Turbo 2, so many of the same results should be expected. The camera does exceptionally well in situations where there is more light around the subjects and more light in general, but again it suffers just slightly in low-light scenarios. Not a lot, but enough to make you wish there was a tiny bit more emphasis on this particular detail. While it tends to forfeit a little bit of light from the image I found that it picks up pretty good detail in darker areas, with only one of my pictures having a little bit of noticeable graininess with more noise to it during night shooting.

Since this is the same camera and sensor as on the DROID Turbo 2, the same features are here. You have the quick capture functionality by simply tapping anywhere on screen when you’re ready to take a picture, and if you need to access either the camera settings or zoom in, a simple swipe gesture from the left edge brings up the settings wheel, and swipe gestures either up or down the screen will zoom in and out. On the settings wheel you’ll find your different mode options like HDR, panorama, night mode, a timer, and options for standard or widescreen aspect ratios. You also have the option for controlling the focus and exposure level just as on the DROID Turbo 2 and it worked just as well here. Pictures captured quickly and allowed me to get right back snapping more photos which is a big issue for many smartphone cameras, and this is something that can easily cause you to miss a second chance at a terrific picture. I was happy to find that the camera in this phone didn’t limit me in this sense. Overall, the DROID Maxx 2 takes a really good photo in well-lit areas, and decent pictures in low-light situations which is better than plenty of smartphone cameras out there. It would be nice if Motorola made it possible to access more manual shooting options, as the users would then have more control over certain variables of the image end results, but it still has a handful of useful modes and settings to help you make the most out of your photos so they’ll look great.

DROID Maxx 2 Camera Samples

The Good

Great quality camera

Excellent battery life

Network performance was really good

Screen is plenty bright even in direct sunlight

Decent price point at full retail

Performance was mostly smooth through any task or app use

Software is as close to stock as Android as you will likely get

Lightweight, comfortable, and decent build

The Bad

No Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box

No ShatterShield display technology means the screen is more at risk of damage if dropped

Not as much customization with no Moto Maker

Final ThoughtsAH Droid Maxx 2 - review-2

Motorola’s DROID Maxx 2 shines through as a fantastic little device in the mid-range. It certainly excels in quite a few areas, most notably battery life, and for anyone who is shopping for a new phone on a budget and wants to be able to use their phone free of worry about a dead battery, the DROID Maxx 2 will get the job done. It also serves as one of the better phones for taking pictures in its price range, and it’s extremely easy to use since it utilizes essentially the same software and user interface as any other current Motorola phone.

Should you buy the DROID Maxx 2?

That depends. If you’re looking for loads of customization, or you want something with the most powerful processor and the most RAM you can get, the DROID Maxx 2 is not the phone for you. If you want a phone that performs well and runs smoothly, that also provides excellent battery life and has some compelling features and a good camera, then the DROID Maxx 2 is worth considering. It probably isn’t the best phone at this price point, but it’s certainly up there and leaves many other mid-rangers in the dust. When it comes down to it, Verizon subscribers have a decent option here and won’t be left wanting too much should they decide to make this their next device.