Motorola has unveiled the successor to its Google Android-based Droid smartphone in the US - the Droid X. Its a superstar for multimedia playback and network performance, but the interface can occasionally be sluggish.

Motorola is launching its Droid X handset in the US on 15 July, but the company has not announced availability information for UK customers. Our US sister magazine PC World got an early look at the device.

The follow-up to Motorola's wildly popular Droid, the Droid X is one of the hottest phones to debut this summer. Its specs outshine those on the other Droid phones available on the network, but it falters a bit when it comes to performance. Nonetheless, the Droid X is on a par with the iPhone 4.

Like the original Droid, the Droid X smartphone has a black, soft rubberised back. Unlike the original, however, the X doesn't feel thick and clunky when held. This is due in part to the fact that the new Motorola handset doesn't have a slide-out qwerty keyboard. But the X looks and feels much more refined than the original Droid. Its corners are more rounded and its rubberised edges make using it much more comfortable. Another welcome improvement: the X has physical hardware buttons (the familiar Menu, Home, Back and Search buttons) as opposed to the original Droid's touch-sensitive buttons. The X's buttons are small and unobtrusive, too, and they light up brightly when activated. Overall, the Droid X looks much more elegant and modern than its predecessor.

The Motorola Droid X feels slim at 10mm thick, but a bump at the rear is quite noticeable. The Droid X weighs in at 155g - a bit less than the 170g original Droid.

Aside from the four hardware buttons located below the display, the Motorola Droid X has a small volume rocker and a skinny camera shutter key on the right spine of the phone. The power/unlock button sits at the top of the phone alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack. The left spine houses the micro-USB port and the X's HDMI port. The back houses the battery, the 8Mp camera with dual-LED flash and the external speaker.

The Motorola Droid X's 4.3in (854x480) display is a knockout. Colours look vibrant and details are crisp. The capacitive screen is quite responsive to taps and swipes, but it's also glossy and reflective. This could make it difficult to view in bright indoor lighting, and it also faded in bright sunlight outdoors.

The display uses multitouch technology, which is also supported in both the Motorola Droid X's browser and photo gallery. Multitouch extends to the X's software keyboard, too, which makes typing on a virtual keyboard feel much more natural and comfortable. The best example of how improved multitouch on a virtual keyboard works is the fact that you can hold down shift and hit another letter and both will register. We also like being able to use Swype on the Droid X. Swype lets you type faster and more easily with one continuous finger or stylus motion across the screen keyboard. Swype takes some practice, but it is pretty useful once you get the hang of it.

New and improved MotoBlur

When we first read rumours that the Droid X would be running Motorola's skin for Android, Motoblur, we were a little frightened. Although we like Motoblur for the most part, it's somewhat busy, cluttered and a bit inelegant. But Motoblur has been toned down. Gone are the chaotic bubbles taking over your homescreens to deliver updates from Facebook or RSS feeds. We also liked how sharp the icons and text appeared and how easy and intuitive navigation was.

Motoblur has been reduced to two widget bubbles on one homescreen, which you can sync with your social networks. Another new feature in this version of MotoBlur is a navigation bar that lets you quickly switch between your various homescreens on the Motorola Droid X without having to flick through all of them to get to what you want.

Unfortunately, the Motorola Droid X doesn't run the latest version of Android, Android 2.2 (aka Froyo). At launch, you're stuck with version 2.1. You still get all the standard Google Android applications, however, including Gmail, Maps, YouTube and Talk for instant messaging.

NEXT: a multimedia machine >>

Also see:
Apple iPhone 4 review

See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

Mobile phone deals

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparision from , and manufacturers