The past month has been action-packed with an exciting new breed of Android smartphones getting released. There’s been something for everyone, and then some more. From Google’s shiny new Nexus lineup, which included the $300 Nexus 4, to 5.5 incher Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (in U.S.) to LG 2012 flagship, the LG Optimus G, and the very recent 1080p display packing HTC Droid DNA for Verizon Wireless in U.S.
We recently compared the Nexus 4 against the LG Optimus G and the HTC One X, as well as against the Samsung Galaxy S3, and more recently stacked up the HTC Droid DNA against the Droid Razr HD and the Razr MAXX HD. And today we have another head-to-head face off between two of the hottest smartphones currently available in the U.S. market — the Verizon Droid DNA and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
Another reason why we chose these two devices specifically is that they both are new-gen phablet devices — featuring a 5-inch or more displays — as well as housing in the latest cutting edge innards, making this a more even and fair competition. That said, lets dive right in and see how these two beasts come up when pitted against each other on all aspects – the hardware, design, software and all of the other features that have been packed into these awesome phones. Just a note – we would be considering the Galaxy Note 2 offered by Verizon, and not the international GSM version (GT-N7100), or that offered by T-Mobile, AT&T or Sprint in the US.
Droid DNA Vs Galaxy Note 2: HARDWARE
Processor, RAM and GPU
Both devices come with quad-core muscle under the hood. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 packs in Samsung’s own very capable Exynos 4412 quad-core CPU clocked at 1.6 GHz, while the Droid DNA is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. Both phones have 2 GB RAM to be able to allow users to multi-task with ease. While on the face of it (if you trust the clock speed numbers blindly), the Note 2 may appear to be more powerful, but they are more or less equally powerful processors — well capable of outperforming each other in specific benchmark tests. It should be noted that real world usage may vary depending on various other factors such as the kind of additional background services one has running in the background, the kind of apps that you run simultaneously on the device, as well as how often you multitask.
In the Graphics department, the Galaxy Note 2 is equipped with a powerful Mali 400 GPU, while the Droid DNA packs an Adreno 320 chip. If these recent benchmark results for the Nexus 4, which uses the Adreno 320 GPU, are anything to go by, the Droid DNA certainly seems to come out a winner in the hardware department. Do note that the Adreno 320 GPU in the results above trounces the Mali 400 significantly.
Benchmark tests like Quadrant and AnTuTu have given varied results with the Galaxy Note 2 winning some, and the Droid DNA coming out on top at other times. For most average users though, both devices should be able to just cruise through all of your tasks without losing any breath. Those quad-core engines and 2GB RAM is sure to take care of that easily.
Both devices are powered by the latest chips and are equally capable of high-power multitasking which is what power users would be looking for. Sure the huge display on the Galaxy Note 2 is going to make playing some games a real pleasure, but if you are looking for a extra visually brilliant experience on games that really push your GPU to the limits, then you’ll probably be better off with the Droid DNA.
This is going to be an interesting one for sure. We all know that the HTC Droid DNA is the first, and currently, the only smartphone in the US (and everywhere else excluding Japan where it’s available as HTC J Butterfly) which is equipped with a Full HD 1080p Super LCD3 display. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 on the other hand, comes with a HD 720p display with Samsung’s own Super AMOLED+ tech. While the 1080p display is unrivaled at this point amongst the current crop of super phones, the Note 2’s Super AMOLED+ display looks gorgeous on that gigantic 5.5 inch screen, with great color contrasts and crisp images.
The Super LCD3 tech used in the Droid DNA gives you more real-to-life color reproductions, and is obviously crisper due to those additional pixels packed in per inch clocking in at 440 ppi against the Note 2’s 320 ppi. I guess, from a color reproduction perspective, it would boil down to a matter of personal taste — I for one am in love with Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays right from the original Galaxy S days. An for what it’s worth, you can switch to Natural Mode in display settings to get the real-to-life colors on the Note 2’s Super AMOLED display too, if saturation is something you may want to avoid. But from a pure sharpness and crispness perspective, and technical specs viewpoint, the Droid DNA is simply put, the best display currently available on a smartphone.
Again, both the Galaxy Note 2 and the HTC Droid DNA are evenly matched here, with both sporting an 8 megapixel rear snapper with LED Flash. The Droid DNA though has a marginally better front facing camera at 2.1 MP against the 1.9 MP one on the Note 2.
Of course, real life images snapped by both may be different depending on who”s assessing, but both HTC and Samsung are known to deploy some awesome camera tech into their devices, if the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy 3 are anything to go by. And then, as photography enthusiasts say, it’s not about the megapixels in a camera, but the eyes behind the lens that make for wonderful images.
Given that the camera specs are evenly matched in both phones, it will boil down to what one can actually do with them that would matter. While face detection, burst mode, panoramic mode and geo-tagging are common features found in most high-end phones these days, and are all present in both these superphones as well, on that ground the impressive Best face feature found in the Galaxy Note 2 may well help it gain an edge over the Droid DNA by an iota.
The Other Stuff
|Features||HTC Droid DNA||Samsung Galaxy Note 2|
|Dimensions (mm)||141 x 70.5 x 9.7||151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4|
|Micro SD card support||No||Yes|
|Weight||141 g||182 g|
Pretty much even-steven there, don’t you think? Well, size wise, the Droid DNA does look, and is actually lighter and more compact, read: pocketable than the Galaxy Note 2, there is one particular attribute up there which could be a deal breaker for those who were anxiously waiting to get the Droid DNA.
With that jaw-dropping 5-inch 1080p screen, it is natural that users would want to be watching (and showing off) a lot of 1080p TV shows, movies and what not to their friends. But with just the 16 GB of non-expandable storage that has been provided, that’s going to be quite a task, not to mention a frustrating one at that. We wonder what HTC was thinking when it packed in such a gorgeous screen, and went stingy on the storage capacity plus added to misery by excluding the microSD slot. The Galaxy Note 2 also comes with 16GB/32GB of internal storage, but features that all-important option which lets users crank up the storage space to as high as an additional 64GB via a microSDXC card. And make no mistake, the Note 2 is perfectly capable of handling Full HD videos too, and in fact watching them might be a bit more comfortable on that slightly larger screen, come to think of it.
Other than the storage issues, or rather lack of it, there is something more of a deal breaker for Droid DNA: in terms of battery life, the Droid DNA again disappoints with a measly 2020 mAh battery, although it has been found to be reasonably impressive in its performance. One would have thought HTC would pack in higher mAh here, considering that brilliant 1080p screen is going to suck away at power. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 boasts of a whopping 3100 mAh power brick – which is much needed with that huge 5.5″ screen. What gives the Galaxy Note 2 an edge here again, is the fact that the battery is user replaceable, which means that you can easily grab a spare replacement battery for a few dollars, and make sure that you are never out of power even if you left your charger behind. No such luck with the Droid DNA though, and if you use the phone a lot, you’d be looking for that wall charging socket pretty soon through the day.
All things considered, we feel that the Galaxy Note 2 certainly gains an edge over the Droid DNA on these smaller aspects. Samsung has definitely been more logical, and thoughtful, when they built this device and have added supporting capabilities which are perfectly in line with what they market as the best USPs and features of the device. Considering the foremost USP of the Droid DNA is that Full HD 1080p screen, the least HTC could have done was either add an expandable memory slot, or cranked up the internal memory a couple of notches higher. It’s no fun having a gorgeous screen like that, and not much to watch or show off on it.
We’re so much impressed by the Galaxy Note 2’s stylus, aka S-Pen, and its usage with the phone thanks to customization done by Samsung on the software, that we decided to give it a separate mention. Stylus, is fun, loads of fun!
If you’ve got an artist in you, you might want to buy the Note 2 solely for its Stylus and won’t mind losing on beautiful screen of HTC Droid DNA — which lacks Stylus — at all.
Not only for the artists, a very casual user would also love spending time with S-Pen and its cool features — like, take out the S-Pen and press and hold the button and touch on display, the phone will take a screenshot of whatever is on the display and will get you an edit screen which you work on with Stylus (crop, draw, etc.) and send directly from there. And this is just one of the tens of cool features stylus brings along. So do double consider this factor.
Droid DNA Vs Galaxy Note 2: SOFTWARE
Both phones come running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box. Jelly Bean runs smoothly even on phones with much lesser specs than these two, and it’s no surprise it literally flies on the Droid DNA and the Galaxy Note 2. The Android 4.1 specific ‘Project Butter’ on steroid all the way powered by all that quad-core muscle. The Droid DNA comes with HTCs much-acclaimed Sense 4+ custom skin with Beats Audio support wile the Galaxy Note 2 carries the Samsung TouchWiz UX custom skin overlay. Both skins are a hit or miss — you either love it, or hate it. But that’s about where the similarity on the software front ends.
If you’re looking at a powerful multi-tasking phone, then the Galaxy Note 2 is custom built for that. Right from the immensely useful and unique multi-window feature that lets you view two different apps in a split screen mode at the same time, to AirView which lets you see a preview of your mail by hovering the stylus above it, to a variety of apps and actions optimized for the S-pen stylus that comes with the phone.
For the Galaxy note 2, we ave to say that while OEMs have always been bundling apps which take advantage of unique features in a flagship device, never before have these features actually become a major selling point for a device as they have for this device. With the Note 2, Samsung seems to have taken complete advantage of all that power to truly create the multi-tasking power user’s dream device.
The HTC Droid DNA, falls short in this case, and relies heavily on its USP – the Full HD 1080p display. Of course there are a variety of Android apps optimized for larger screen phones that are going to look gorgeous on this device. But with all the device-optimized features that Samsung has loaded this fella with we feel that the Galaxy Note 2 truly takes the cake here, despite the lower resolution screen than the Droid DNA.
Device Build Quality
The HTC Droid DNA looks sleek, and is perhaps one of the best looking handsets to come out in recent days. The elegantly curved edges and the narrow bezel along the edges not only maximize the screen real estate, but also make the device look more compact and pocketable. While 5 inches might seem “huge” to some folks, the Droid DNA fits perfectly into one’s hands or pockets. The entire device is made of a soft-feel plastic material, with the entire front including the three buttons, and front camera and sensors completely covered with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 2. All in all, the device gives you a premium feel when held, and the cool red lines along the sides accentuate the effect.
The Galaxy Note 2 resembles the Samsung Galaxy S3 in its overall design and styling, featuring the same removable backplate and metal outer lining design as the Galaxy S3, and the physical Home button (as against Droid DNA’s capacitive button which we would favor anytime). Also, the Note, despite its huge 5.5″ size, actually feels quite light. This is probably because of the fact that like the Galaxy s3, the Galaxy Note 2 also uses a lot of plastic and carbonate in its body. The back plate though, could have been a bit sturdier, and like on most Samsung phones released in recent years, the Galaxy S2, S3 and the Galaxy Nexus to name a few, feels very thin and flimsy, though it may actually not be so. One handed operation could be a far stretch on the 5.5″ screen of the Note 2, but on the other hand, typing and texting would be more error-free, and browsing the net or playing games is much more fun.
As far as overall build quality and designing goes, we feel that the Droid DNA really pushes the envelope here, and feels like a much more premium device than the Note 2. No offense here to Samsung, but HTC build quality, at least for most of their higher-end phones since the HTC One X has been really solid, and holding one really feels like it is worth every penny you paid for it.
The HTC Droid DNA is available for $199 with a two year contract from Verizon. Pretty good price considering all that muscle and of course, how could you forget that fantabulous 1080p display! If you do not want to be tied down to a two year commitment you could get a contract-free flavor for $599 outright, which again is not bad at all considering what you are getting in return.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 however, is a bit steep at $299, again on a two-year term commitment with Verizon. Contract-free retail price is set at $699 from Verizon.
All things considered, I think its really a question of what you’re looking for. Both are outstanding devices, and definitely worth the price. Plus both should be pretty future proof for at least a couple of more years, by which time it should anyway be time to move on to the next generation of devices.
Droid DNA Vs Galaxy Note 2: CONCLUSION
Both the HTC Droid DNA, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 exemplify the best of what today’s technology has to offer. They are both outstanding devices, meant for demanding users and carry enough firepower to deliver all that is expected of them without breaking a sweat. However, culminating such a comparison into a mere winner/loser result would be an insult to both these awesome devices. Instead we would like to approach this conclusion more as a win-win situation, depending on what you are looking for in your next device than anything else. So here we go:
Why should you get the HTC Droid DNA?
- Stunning Full HD 1920 x 1080 display for movies, tv shows, games etc
- 16GB of internal storage is more than enough for you
- Powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor with Adreno 320 GPU chip
- HTC Sense
- Integrated Beats Audio
- Droid lineage
- Cool Black and red colors
Why should you get the Galaxy Note 2?
- Super large 5.5″ screen
- Excellent multi-tasking power as well as features
- S-Pen + S-Pen optimized actions and apps (more coming up each day)
- Powerful Exynos 4 quad-core chip
- 16/32GB options, plus expandable memory slot for up to 64GB additional storage
- You don’t mind spending an extra $100 for all of the above
As always, if you’d like to share any of your thoughts or comments about these two fabulous devices, feel free to let us know in comments below.