Motorola RAZR in-depth review -

Look and Feel

Its super-slim frame looks awesome from the side, and the Kevlar back looks the business. But it doesn’t feel particularly ergonomic in the hand due to the overly hard edges

Ease of use

It couldn’t be simpler. It runs you through the initial setup so you’ll have your email and social network accounts active in minutes and the MotoCast registration is brief and painless

Features

Snazzy eight-megapixel camera that shoots in 1080p, some very fancy software that lets you remote stream content from your home computer and Smart Actions to customise your phone to the hills. Plus the now commonplace Wi-Fi, HSPDA and A-GPS

Performance

Meaty – 1.2GHz dual core processing and 1GB of RAM means this is no slouch even when juggling loads of apps. The 16GB of storage can have another 32GB slapped on top if you so desire

Battery life

Impressive. Lasted well over a day and you may get even longer once you start playing with the Smart Actions to make your phone operate at optimum conditions

 Motorola RAZR Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/19/2011 4:48:50 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

7

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

9

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Powerful tech, well protected chassis, some great new software

Cons:

Soon to be old version of Android, not that comfy to hold

It’s starting to feel like late 2011 is the age of the comeback kids. Two of the most powerful phone manufacturers from yesteryear, both of which were badly mauled by Apple (and then further burnt by the explosion from Eastern giants Samsung and HTC), are simultaneously thumping their chests and bellowing like gorillas looking for a fight. Nokia is going all guns blazing with its recent Windows Phone Mango 7.5 handset the Lumia 800, a lovely piece of kit that suffers only from having a shoddy camera. And now Motorola has just released its latest weapon in the war for market supremacy –the RAZR. Why it’s resurrected the name it gave to one of its clamshell phones in 2004 we’re not entirely sure, but when you hold this phone on its side, you will certainly think of a razor blade.

Super slim

The RAZR XT910 (to use its full and decidedly unsexy name) is thin. A mere 7.1mm thick to be exact, making it 1.5mm skinnier than the previous thinnest phone, the Samsung Galaxy S II. It’s also light at 127g, which for a phone of this size is bordering on buoyant. That said, the top rear of the phone has a wedge protruding out – perhaps the RAZR needed another millimetre or two to hold the camera lens and external speaker.

As well as being skinny, it’s a tough mother indeed. The backplate is made out of Kevlar fibre, the same stuff used in bulletproof vests, so if you keep it in your breast shirt pocket it could protect your heart from gunfire (that’s not guaranteed, mind). The scratch resistant display is made from reinforced Gorilla Glass and to top off this already impressive array of defences, the entire casing (and innards) are coated in Motorola’s Splash Guard nanotechnology, so while it won’t survive a trip to the seabed, it’ll certainly endure the rain with less complaint than its owner.

Such thinness, however, does bring with it a minor bugbear. It’s not particularly comfortable to hold for long periods of time and its angular edges stick into your palm and fingers. It’s also fairly wide, which doesn’t feel snug in small hands. So while it’s not going to have you reaching for the painkillers, it just doesn’t feel as ergonomic as some of its peers. And while this is something a soft case could easily fix – you wouldn’t necessarily need a case for a handset this strong. And most cases would automatically rob it of its USP – being the slimmest phone available. If you’ve small hands, this phone just isn’t for you.

Running our finger around the edge in a clockwise direction, the top houses a micro HMDI (for connecting it to your HDTV), micro USB (to connect to your computer) and a 3.5mm headphone jack (for tunes). On the right side sits a power/standby button and volume rocker while the left side gives residence to something much more interesting. Pull down a flap and you’ll uncover two slots, one for a microSD memory card (if the 16GB of internal storage isn’t enough you can add another 32GB) and the second a micro-SIM slot. Previously, only iPhones and the recent Nokia 800 used micro-SIMs. Are we the only ones in thinking that both these former market leaders are specifically targeting Apple customers in a bid to win back their loyalty?

Moto muscle

Swinging onto the fascia, there are four Android buttons at the bottom (the usual Menu, Home, Back and Search), all of which are touch-sensitive and responsive. Above this lies the main course, the huge and bright 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced qHD touch-screen. It comes in at 540x960 resolution, giving it an impressive 256 pixels-per-inch, way behind the iPhone 4’s 326ppi but ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S II’s 217ppi. It’s colour-rich, doesn’t lose its vibrancy at various viewing angles and does a good job of deflecting light. It is, however, considerably smaller than the chassis – the 130.7x68.9 height and width leaves a fat bezel around the screen. The RAZR could have been a lot more compact (or had an even bigger screen), and it’s a shame this space has been wasted, especially as the width of the phone contributes to its ungainly grip. There’s also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera above the screen for video calling and talking to yourself.

 

Underneath that sheet of glass is enough technical might to co-ordinate the entire Royal Navy fleet (almost). Packing a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and a whopping 1GB of active RAM, the RAZR is a speed demon from hell. Navigating Android and its multiple home screens is rapid, as is juggling multiple apps. This is a true multitasking machine, and it’s amazing such power was squeezed into something almost thinner than a hair.

But when navigating Android, it’s hard not to feel disappointed that it’s running on Gingerbread. Considering Android owner Google bought out Motorola, everyone was expecting the company to get first dibs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but the RAZR is having to make do with Gingerbread 2.3.5. As per usual, you’ve multiple home screens to populate to your heart’s content with widgets and shortcuts. And as with all Android phones, once you’ve logged into your Gmail account you’ve got access to over 500,000 apps and games, push email, web browsing, Google Maps and Motorola’s social networking app that fuses your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into one handy list (very much like HTC’s Friends Stream). An Ice Cream Sandwich update is due early 2012, although at the time of writing an exact date has yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, Motorola has added a fair bit of its own software to the RAZR.

RAZR glory

First up – MotoCast. This is Motorola’s counter-strike to Apple’s iCloud, only instead of having to upload your films, music and pictures to an online server, MotoCast streams them for PC or Mac wherever you are. It’s simple to use – you just choose what folders on your computer you want ‘shared’ and away you go. It’s a doddle to set up, and ultimately boosts your storage capacity to that of your computer’s hard drive, but as you can probably imagine, 3G is fine for tunes and photos, but if you want to stream a video you’ll really want to be in a fast Wi-Fi spot. You can also use MotoCast for accessing documents and spreadsheets, which you can crack open and edit with the pre-installed Quickoffice app. And business users will also be keen on Citrix GoToMeeting, a swish video conferencing app that lets you pretend you’re in meetings with colleagues scattered all over the world.

Smart Actions is another useful app that lets you set loads of conditions on how your phone behaves automatically, dynamically even. It’s all about setting ‘triggers’ that will make the phone perform ‘actions’. This is handy for getting the most out of the already ample battery life, and a simple example is when your battery reaches a certain level, it’ll trigger the action of dimming your screen to conserve juice. But you can make it adjust your ringer volume between certain hours, only turn your Wi-Fi on when you’re at certain locations (home, work), automatically text friends pre-written messages when you’ve missed a call – even launch Maps when you get into your car. The customisability is nothing short of phenomenal – we even programmed it to launch Angry Birds when headphones were plugged in. And it did just that. It’s fantastic, and will be a shock to iPhone users who’ve very little control over their device’s behaviour.

On paper, the camera sounds impressive, and in most instances it did the job fine. Eight-megapixels is becoming the norm with smartphones in this price range, as is 1080p video recording, but stills looked a little noisy and washed out, even in good light.

The verdict

The RAZR is an impressive piece of kit. It’s strong, light, powerful and has some nifty pieces of software on board. The only things that prevent it from getting a higher score are a slightly uncomfortable grip, fat screen border and a feeling that Samsung and HTC had most of this covered six months ago.

Dan Curley