Rating: ★★★★½

Let’s be clear: I’ve never been a fan of HTC’s hardware design. As someone who appreciates sleek, crisp smartphones, HTC hasn’t really produced what I’d call a classy phone. Instead, the Taiwanese company makes big phones. I don’t want a box (Evo 4G), I don’t want a brick (Thunderbolt)…I want thin and light, nimble and reserved. I want power in the sleekest, most elegant design possible. I don’t need crime deterrent.

That’s why I think HTC did a tremendous job with the Incredible 2.


The Incredible 2 is one of the thinnest, sexiest phones made by HTC. It uses a rubber back cover, one that’s easy to grip and next to impossible to stain. The 3.7” screen is comfortable – smaller than recent 4” displays, but a solid size nonetheless. The crisp black-on-black color scheme works, and the dark features make the Incredible 2 an elegant handset. All the buttons are thin and hardly noticeable, yet still tactile. The 3.5mm audio port and charging port are likewise practically hidden. Batman would use an Incredible 2.

The only protruding mark is the 8MP camera, which pops off the back less than a millimeter from the base. A dual-LED flash and dedicated speakerphone sit beside it, both sunken in the case and brilliantly placed. Everything about the build and design is excellent, and it’s not just eye candy. The Incredible 2 feels good in the hand, has a solid weight, and slides in and out of pockets with ease.

I’m also impressed with the functionality of the design. First and foremost, the back panel is easy to remove, a common problem among smartphones. The SD card can be removed without taking out the battery, though not the Verizon/Vodafone SIM card. I counted a total of four microphones on the Incredible 2 – one on the bottom for phonecalls, two for stereo video recording, and one for noise cancellation. Furthermore, the four menu buttons don’t have built-in graphics. Instead, the phone illuminates the buttons based on the phone’s orientation, though it only does so in two directions, right side up and tilted 90° counter-clockwise. It’s small touches like this that show just how extraordinary a handset can truly be when in the hands of a smart designer.

The Droid Incredible 2 has no buttons on the right side

The volume rocker is nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Both the top and bottom only have necessary functions. No plugs or buttons to use here.

Battery life on the Incredible 2 is solid, though it matches our relatively poor expectations for smartphones. Under heavy use it’ll last a day, and during my time testing the phone it performed very well, surviving days of heavy GPS tracking, constant non-stop push email, several hours of 3G music streaming, and plenty of talk time. What’s more impressive is that, unlike so many HTC handsets I’ve tested, the Incredible 2 doesn’t discharge over the course of the day when not in use. Under minimal stress, the Incredible 2 can last 3-4 days on a single charge.

Coverage on the Incredible 2 is give and take in Los Angeles. At times, I had a great connection and generally had no trouble with making calls or downloading and uploading data. For example, during E3 AT&T was unreliable (as expected), while Verizon was slow but stable. However, data connections have a tendency to cut out randomly, which may be due spotty coverage from Verizon. However, when testing Verizon’s 4G Thunderbolt, the same areas where the Incredible 2 had trouble the Thunderbolt plowed through, without accessing the 4G network.

In fact, the more time I spend with the Droid Incredible 2, the worse Verizon seems to be. The phone itself is surprisingly resilient and manages to retain a connection under almost zero connection. Certain local areas seem to be losing coverage while others are gaining, but if you have poor coverage right now the Incredible 2 will do well, so long as Verizon continues to support your area.

The navigation buttons turn to match how you hold the phone, but only upright or counter-clockwise

A recent update to HTC’s TouchSense UI has improved the Android overlay significantly, though it’s still not as strong as Samsung’s competing TouchWiz. Quick access to settings and toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, the mobile hotspot and 3G network are convenient in the drop down menu, but there still isn’t an easy way to adjust brightness without going into the settings menu or having a homescreen widget. The update has also sped up the UI slightly.

Performance

While the design and everyday performance make the Incredible 2 seem like a flagship phone, the performance benchmarks paint a different story. It’s fast, but not incredibly, pun intended. For everyday use and general applications, the Incredible 2 will breeze through most any task, so I started running all our available handsets through a barrage of benchmarks to really stress test the devices.

The Incredible 2 lags behind competing devices in CPU and GPU processing in nearly every test, which makes sense considering the price and build.

The BrowserMark tests processor power on both the CPU and GPU through calculation and graphical tests. It should be noted that even a score of 50,220 is relatively poor when compared to a full-powered PC (mine hit over 650,000), though the Incredible 2 still beat out competing devices.

SunSpider is a javascript-based benchmark, which is far more stressful than BrowserMark. The Incredible 2 outperforms every other handheld, and is only bested by a tablet, which is built to handle javascript. Safari also processes javascript far better than Android’s browser, as you can see by the iPhone 3GS beating out three newer Android devices.

Linpack tests the CPU specifically, and the results are as expected. The iPad’s A4 barely nudges ahead of the Incredible 2′s 1GHz Qualcomm single-core processor.

Neocore tests graphical processing, and is specific to Android devices. The Incredible 2 is competitive with the Thunderbolt, which has the same CPU but uses Snapdragon instead of Qualcomm’s MDM9600 GPU. The difference is relatively moot. Even Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, which has the same basic specs as the Galaxy S phones, can handle graphics nearly as well.

Quadrant Standard is a fully inclusive benchmark that tests the entire phone’s capabilities. The Droid Incredible 2 doesn’t hit the top for two main reasons: it runs on Android 2.2.1 (compared to the myTouch 4G Slide’s 2.3), and the slower GPU (compared to the Thunderbolt).

What all of these numbers show is that the Droid Incredible 2 is a powerful smartphone, capable of keeping up with the current pack as well as beating out a newer device like the myTouch 4G Slide. That’s impressive. However, the Droid Incredible 2 is no powerhouse, and in neck and neck races hits second and third place among just a few challengers.

As we get more phones in to test, we’ll continue to supplement the benchmarks to create standards and base requirements.

Camera

The Droid Incredible 2 features an 8MP camera and up to 720p video recording

The 8MP camera is quite impressive, capable of producing some very high quality photos. I was surprised to find that the dual-LED flash does not wash out images too much, as you can see in the examples below.



Picture quality is good, though clarity is hit-or-miss depending on the lighting conditions. On a recent trip to Las Vegas the Incredible 2 was my only camera, and it performed pretty well. Color contrast does tend to be dull, and the display does not reveal the quality of images well at all. Some photos came out unexpectedly good, on par with high quality digital cameras.

Low-light shots come out very good with flash enabled, but shots without flash like the hotel lobby (fourth image) are blurry. There are also a handful of user options available, including adjustable sharpness, saturation, contrast and exposure; various white balance settings, an adjustable ISO meter (100-800), as well as touch-autofocus, face detection, and a self-timer. There are also a number of special camera effects, such as sepia, vignette, grayscale, and more. The front facing camera is enough for chat applications, but nothing special.

Video quality is very good to excellent on the Incredible 2. Colors are sharp, contrast is high, and transitioning between high and low-light areas is swift. It may only - and I use the term lightly – produce 720p video even though it has an 8MP lens, but the quality of that video is very high. Anyone interested in a phone with a strong camcorder, as well as a decent still camera, will be very satisfied with this model.

Conclusion

As stated earlier, it’s the phone Batman would use. It goes with the suit, has a great camera, is powerful enough to accomplish any job, and looks great all the while. Strong battery life and a good data connection wrap the device up in a pretty bow. I highly recommend the Droid Incredible 2 to anyone, with no significant reservations.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.