Name: HTC Droid DNA

Carrier: Verizon

Price: $200 (w/two-year contract)

The Back Story:  After shocking the mobile world with the release of the Droid Incredible two years back, HTC has failed to capture the same magic with its successors. Granted the Droid Incredible 4G helped redeem the franchise, but it still wasn’t enough to lure consumers away from Samsung and Motorola’s offerings. The enormous success of the One X has opened the lane for HTC to rebrand its Verizon flagship series and add another premier handset to the carrier’s lineup. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Droid DNA.

When HTC first showed us the phone that would be come the DNA a few months ago, we, and HTC, agreed that the only fitting name for the handset was "The Beast." With a marvelous and enormous 5-inch display, a quad-core processor, slick design, and Android Jelly Bean, it's not hard to see why. Less than a week after its announcement, the Droid DNA has already been tagged as Big Red’s biggest release for the holiday season. Does that necessarily make it the carrier’s best option? And does it mark a new beginning for the Droid imprint?

DOPE

• Massive spec sheet: Powering the DNA is a monstrous 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU. The processor outperforms the 1.6GHz quad-core found on the Galaxy Note II and keeps the handset moving at an insanely fast pace. Reference our benchmarks tests below. There was no trace of lag when browsing web pages, opening apps, and playing videos and music. The graphics on most 3D games rendered smoothly as well. HTC went on to include 2GB of RAM to push multitasking efficiency, too. Pushing mobile audio to new heights, the DNA houses a built-in headset amp and rear-speaker amp for enhanced sound output. Phone calls and songs definitely sound louder and fuller. It's also worth noting the phone supports NFC and wireless charging like the Lumia 920.

• Remarkable benchmarks: After taking in the super responsiveness of the device, we downloaded the Quadrant Standard app and compared the DNA’s performance against its closest competitors. Overall, the DNA scored a ridiculous 8,180, where as the Galaxy Note II came in around the 6,374 mark. Data speeds also measured high under Verizon’s warp-speed LTE network. SpeedTest.Net readings had our device picking up 18Mbps for downloads and 2.8Mbps for uploads in Midtown Manhattan. 

• Stunning display: The One X had the most gorgeous panel of any Android phone this year, but the Droid DNA steals the spotlight with its 5-inch FHD Super LCD 3 screen. It’s by far the sharpest display on the market, producing 1080p resolution and 440ppi. That’s nearly 180 more pixels per inch than Note II and about 120 higher than the iPhone 5’s Retina Display. Viewing angles were superb, visuals were crisp, and HD content was vivid. We pulled up the Jurassic Park 3D trailer and gazed in awe. Outdoor viewing was also pleasant with screen brightness overpowering sunlight glare.

• Upscale design: So word is HTC drew inspiration for the DNA's design from Lamborghini’s supercars. Needless to say, the phone dons the striking profile of its auto counterpart. Like the Droid Incredible, the DNA sports the series' all-black outline with red accents, along with a soft-touch polycarbonate shell cut from the same cloth as the One X and 8X. At 9.73mm thick and 5.01 ounces, it’s easily the slimmest and lightest handset in its class. And don’t be fooled by its size, as the DNA can be held and functioned with the use of just one hand. The same can’t be said about Note II.

• Improved camera: HTC touched up the camera UI, while keeping intact core elements such as its shooting modes and ImageChip technology. Continuous shooting lets users snap up to 99 photos in rapid succession by simply laying their finger on the shutter button. Both cameras support 1080p video recording and though the rear 8MP does an awesome job of capturing images, the front-facing 2.1MP shooter is the real highlight here. Besides producing great self-portraits, HTC’s managed to expand the lens to accommodate group shots and included a countdown timer to inform you when the shutter goes off.

• Sense 4+ and Jelly Bean: Android fans will be happy to hear the phone comes preloaded with Jelly Bean, which ups system speed and brings over a few new Google amenities like Google Now. The Droid DNA also inherits the latest version of HTC’s user-friendly UI, Sense 4+. Slight modifications were made in the notification bar and Settings menu, but a majority of the upgrades we noticed came in the camera department.


NOPE

• Minor software bugs: During our trial run with the device, we noticed a few performance hiccups. On two occasions the phone automatically restarted after downloading an app from Google Play. Another scrape came when listening to music and taking photos on the front-facing camera simultaneously, which muted the audio entirely, forcing us to restart the handset.

• Imbalanced audio: Considering the solid listening experience on the One series and 8X, it was odd hearing muffled output during music playback via the 3.5" headphone jack. We tried several headphones including the Beats Executive and encountered the same problem. Enabling the Beats option did provide clearer and crisper results, though bass levels were through the roof.

• Recessed buttons: The slender contour of the Droid DNA keeps the power button and volume rockers buried so deep in the chassis that accessing either becomes a mission. It might take about two tries to power up the device.

Final Say: HTC crushed all odds by assembling what is by far the most powerful Verizon handset and mobile phone of 2012. Quad-core benchmarks are unmatched and the visuals generated by the 5-inch display is exceptional. Its size might place it under the phablet category, but the truth is the DNA stands as a well-sized handset that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a powerful smartphone. At $200, it's the best smartphone deal right now and anyone due for an upgrade would be a fool not to jump on it.