The front of the phone accommodates a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera and a 4.3-inch 540-by-960-resolution display that uses the same Color Boost technology we saw on the Motorola Atrix HD. Motorola claims that Color Boost gives smartphones 50 percent more pixels than the leading smartphone offers, though the Photon Q's screen wasn't as sharp as the ones on the Samsung Galaxy S III, Atrix HD, or HTC One X. (It did look sharper and more vibrant than the screen on the Motorola Droid Bionic, however.) Like the Galaxy Nexus and the Atrix HD, the Photon Q uses Ice Cream Sandwich's virtual navigation buttons in the place of physical ones.
The back of the Photon Q holds an 8-megapixel camera and the phone's external speaker. The Photon Q uses a 1785mAh embedded battery; embedded batteries are supposed to last longer, but you can't replace the battery yourself if it ever becomes damaged or unable to hold much charge.
Along the left spine are the Photon Q's charging port and MicroHDMI port. The right spine of the phone hosts the volume rocker, a physical camera button, and a small flap covering the MicroSD card slot.
The last keyboard-equipped phone I reviewed, the Motorola Droid 4, carried an above-average mobile keyboard with top-notch buttons. The Photon Q's keyboard is virtually identical to the Droid 4's. The keys are set slightly too close together for my taste, but the buttons felt great under my fingers as I typed. The only button I had a problem with was the spacebar, which emitted an audible cracking noise every time I pressed it. Though the button worked, but the sound it made was a bit unsettling.
Powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 processor with 1GB of RAM, the Photon Q handled virtually everything I threw at it without a hitch. Even when scrolling through content-heavy pages, the phone rarely slowed down perceptibly, except when the browser tried to load a high-resolution image or video. Even then, I could keep multiple apps open and running simultaneously in the background without slowing the device to a crawl.