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Droid Bionic Accessories: Which Ones Are Worth the Money?

The Droid Bionic launches with accessories for using the phone in a car, on a desk, connected to a TV, or as a laptop.

Want to use your new Droid Bionic smartphone in your car, at your desk, connected to your TV, or as a laptop? Motorola has a dock for you. When I tested these accessories, however, only some proved extremely useful--one just wasn’t up to snuff.

Vehicle Navigation Dock ($40)

The adjustable vehicle navigation dock lets you mount your Bionic to the dashboard of your car for easy access. Once you pop the Bionic into the dock, the phone automatically launches into the car-dock app. Within the app, you can swipe through three panels offering large, finger-friendly buttons for quick access to features such as your contacts, music, and the Navigation app.

The dock will charge your phone while you’re driving, and it will also allow you to connect the Bionic to your car stereo via Bluetooth or a direct line so that you can listen to tunes through the car’s speakers. Although the Bionic car dock is similar to one that launched with the Photon 4G, this dock won’t work with any other Motorola phone. The Bionic won’t work with any of the previous car docks either, so if you want to use it while you’re driving you’ll have to buy this latest dock. The vehicle navigation dock is convenient if you are on the road a lot or if you frequently use your phone for navigation. Its usefulness is definitely worth the price.

Standard Dock ($40)

Motorola’s standard desktop dock for the Bionic doesn’t add much functionality, though it does turn the phone into a makeshift alarm clock. When you plug the Bionic into the dock, a menu asks whether to enter Bedside mode or Productivity mode. In Bedside mode, the Clock app launches and replaces the home screen; from there you can set an alarm, check the weather, and listen to music. (The dock comes with an extra power cable, so you don’t have to worry about your phone running out of juice in the middle of the night.) In Productivity mode, you get fast access to your calendar as well as your contacts, the browser, and your email. As someone who is always checking a calendar for upcoming meetings, I could see the dock really coming in handy in the office.

HD Station ($100)

The Bionic’s HD station, which hooks up to a monitor or TV through HDMI, gives you access to a full Firefox browser as well as the ability to run apps in full-screen view on a larger display. Some apps such as Angry Birds look good on the larger screen, but others suffer from pixelation. Most of the Flash videos I tried looked pixelated as well, though HD content fared a bit better. (The dock is identical in both form and function to the webtop dock that launched with the Photon 4G.)

The HD station has three USB ports, so you can plug in a keyboard and mouse for better navigation and input on a bigger screen; it will also charge your Bionic while the handset is docked. The HD station makes for a great temporary desktop because you can use the Bionic’s LTE connection when browsing the Web--and since it comes with a remote, it's useful for giving presentations or watching media.

Lapdock ($300)

The laptop dock turns your phone into a very basic laptop. The dock itself has no computing power and is basically a monitor with a keyboard; the Bionic does all the heavy lifting, and is what actually powers the entire setup. While the phone is plugged in, you have access to the same webtop interface that you get with the HD station. The webtop interface is a modified version of Ubuntu that lets you access most of the features on your phone, but on a larger screen.

The dock has its own battery, and will charge the Bionic while the phone is plugged in. The dock cannot run off the phone’s battery, however, so you’ll have to keep the dock charged. Although identical in almost every way to the Atrix laptop dock, this dock will work only with the Bionic; as the connectors on the Bionic and Atrix are different, they cannot use any of the same accessories.

Unfortunately, the laptop dock hasn’t improved in any way since we first saw it with the Atrix. The keyboard keys are gummy, the touchpad can be unresponsive, the screen has a limited viewing angle, and the webtop interface is slow overall. As with the HD station, you still have access to the phone and its LTE connection while it’s in the dock, but at $300 the laptop dock simply isn’t worth the investment. This is one idea that sounds great in theory but falls apart in practice. You’re better off carrying around a separate laptop or (if you are particularly interested in the webtop interface) buying the HD station instead.


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