StylishWith Motorola’s Big, Bright and Beautiful Photon 4G

Friday, July 29th 2011. | Gadget News

Fast, big and light, the Photon 4G is Motorola’s new powerhouse smartphone, another in a trend of increasingly powerful handsets debuting this year. We had some hands-on time with the phone before its debut next week.

Picking up the device for the first time is a bit strange. With its 4.3-inch screen and considerably large physical dimensions (2.63 by 4.99 by .48 inches), you’d expect the Photon to possess some degree of heft. And yet, it doesn’t — at least, not to the degree that its appearance suggests.

At 5.57 ounces, the Photon’s weight feels more like its titular particle than anything else (aptly, an actual photon has no mass). That’s the result of the plastic construction that composes the phone’s body, complete with a slightly matted rubberized back panel to make for an improved grip. While it’s nice not to lug around a brick in my pocket, the phone seems almost too light for what ultimately feels like a cumbersome shape. It felt bulky yet still fragile in my hands — and I’ve got pretty big hands.

Flip the Photon over and you’ll notice a nod to HTC’s Thunderbolt — both devices come with a metal kickstand on the back, ostensibly for watching video on the phone for an extended period of time. It was a clever flourish, though I can’t see myself using it on surfaces other than airplane tray tables. And besides, if I decide to use the multimedia dock (not included) to hook my Photon up to a larger monitor, why worry about the 4.3-inch screen at all? Still, it’s fun to flick open and shut, and it may appeal to the frequent flying crowd.

Whether or not you want to view media on the phone’s screen, it’ll display brilliantly. I watched a few YouTube music videos with the brightness cranked up to 11, and clips ran beautifully. It’s like a miniature drive-in, sans popcorn.

One of the main perks of the Photon is its dual-core processor innards. It’s sporting the same Nvidia Tegra 2 1-GHz chip that debuted in the Motorola Atrix earlier in the year. Like the Atrix, the Photon is zippy. Applications launched swiftly, and I zoomed in and out of menu screens with relative ease. Backed by a gig of RAM, a dual-core smartphone is the way to go (until Nvidia debuts its quad-core chips for mobile, that is).

Another big bonus — for the Photon, Sprint’s Wi-Max connection works swimmingly. Page-load times were cut into fractions of what we’ve seen on rival networks like T-Mobile or AT&T. The Thunderbolt — which runs on on Verizon’s 4G LTE network — was the last phone we’ve tested that performed at speeds like these.

It’s worth mentioning that the Photon ships with Android version 2.3.4 — the latest iteration of the operating system for smartphones. While being super up to date may not be crucial to you, it’s nice to see at least one manufacturer not shipping an out of date OS directly out of the gate.

The Photon hits the street on Sprint’s 4G network on July 31, and will cost you a cool $200 with a two-year contract.

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