Motorola Devour goes hands-on, hits Best Buy for $99 this week (update: video!)

We've got Motorola's latest Blur handset in hand, Devour-ing ill-advised puns like it's a full time job. You can check out this aluminum slider in all its consumer-friendly glory in the gallery below, see it sized up against big brother Droid right below that, and there are some initial impressions and a video walkthrough after the break. %Gallery-86221% %Gallery-86230%

Here are some of our initial thoughts:

  • For some reason -- perhaps it's the odd screen size to device size ratio -- the device comes across as very small in pictures and video. This is not at all the case. In fact, outside of its smaller screen size, the phone is in every way equal to or larger than the Droid. It also seems a little bit heavier, but they're certainly close in that department.

  • The extruded aluminum chassis is really premium. MacBook Pro-type premium. The sliding mechanism as well is very high quality -- making the Droid's springless slide design look like a bit of a chump. There are also rubber accents on the top, bottom, and sides that give us hope that this phone would survive a hard fall much better than most of its Android competition.

  • Due to the weird chassis, the batter and microSD card (8GB comes standard) are sideloaded into the device. It's novel and secure, and you don't have to take out the battery to swap out the microSD card, which is a major plus.

  • The keyboard is pretty good, if a tad too wide. The keys are very distinct and clicky, though perhaps not quite so large that we're comfortable with typing with the pads of our thumbs. The space bar's odd letter-splitting location isn't a dealbreaker, but the dedicated number row just seems silly and we really think Motorola could've done better in the key layout.

  • The clickable optical pad (on the right side of the picture above) is just fine, though not really optimized for the Blur interface. It makes much more sense in web browsing and other parts of the Android UI -- maybe even more so than a track ball.

  • Though the phone is only running Android 1.6, one of the biggest 2.0 / 2.1 features has made it onto the device: Google Navigation. Interestingly, you have to download a text-to-speech voice kit from the Android Market to get it working. It's a fairly automated process, but still feels a little "hacked on."

  • So far everything about the UI seems very snappy, particularly in comparison with our laggy experience with the Cliq. This is helped in part by the new Qualcomm MSM7627 chip under the hood, the same processor used by the Palm Pixi. Of course, the true testament to the Devour's snappiness will be how fast it continues to be after a week or so of use without a reset and all those social network updates delivering status message drivel at a rapid clip.

  • The biggest trouble this phone has is the fact that the Droid is only $50 more and includes a much better / larger / higher resolution screen, faster processor, newer Android and sexier look.

The phone will then hit Verizon stores in March for $150 after a $100 mail-in rebate. Buyers will also need to sign up for a Nationwide Talk plan and the $30 unlimited data package, part of Verizon's new-ish smartphone plan restrictions -- though really, you're not going to get much done on this phone without a data plan.

Update: We got some bad information, and now have the official Best Buy pricing straight from Best Buy's Facebook page: The Devour will retail for $99 starting on February 25th, but the Droid will also be dropped to $99, and the Droid Eris is going to be free from Big Blue. Meanwhile, Verizon is sticking to its $149 pricetag at its own stores, which involves a $100 rebate. (Thanks to everyone who pointed this out).