Motorola Razr review

The Motorola Razr is the latest Android-based powerhouse from Motorola. Does it shred the competition, or is it a blunt instrument?

November 22, 2011
Motorola_Razr_2011
Overall score78%
9.5 Design and Build
8 Screen and Responsiveness
6.5 Cameras
6.5 Battery Life
8 Software
Motorola Developer
Android Platform

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time for the heavy hitters in technology to come out with something to lust after.

Samsung has shown us the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note; HTC has the Sensation and Evo 3D; LG has the Optimus 3D; and speculation is thick about when Apple’s latest iPhone (the iPhone 4S) will land.

Motorola is trumpeting its latest competitor: The Android-powered Motorola Razr.

Design and build quality

The front of the Razr is dominated by its 4.3-inch screen. Space is left above for the front-facing camera, earpiece, a metal logo, and a hidden notification LED. Below the screen, you’ll find the usual Android buttons (from left to right: Menu, Home, Back, Search), and interestingly, the microphone.

The left side has a flap which covers the micro-SIM and SD card slots. It’s tricky to pry open, which is not necessarily a bad thing in this situation.

On the right side, from top to bottom, you’ll find the power button (perhaps taking suggestions from Samsung) and the volume rocker. The power button is metal and was easy to find, but hard to press, while the volume rocker is plastic and was easy to press.

The top holds all your I/O ports: microUSB, microHDMI, and the 3.5mm jack, while the bottom is devoid of anything (probably part of the effort to keep the thickness down).

On the rear, at the top, is the 8MP camera with LED flash, as well as the speaker (again, probably to keep the rest of the phone slim). The rear is covered by a Kevlar fibre layer, which was easy to grip and felt good to touch, while adding a level of toughness.

The Razr weighs a little under 130g, and measures at 130.7 mm x 68.9mm x 7.1mm. The last measurement is important, because that’s what makes it a Razr – it’s extremely thin. While thin would often translate to a phone feeling flimsy, the Razr feels rugged.

Overall, it’s a good looking and feeling design, with only a few minor niggles here and there, but nothing to really complain about.

Motorola Droid Razr

Motorola Razr

Screen and responsiveness

As mentioned before, the screen is 4.3-inches. It’s a Super AMOLED running at qHD resolution (540 x 960), which translates to about 256 PPI.

Spec-wise, the Razr’s screen is starting to look slightly mid-range, considering that we’re beginning to see 720p displays. However, in use it held its own quite well.

Text was crisp and colours were vibrant. The only real complaint is that our review unit had a lit pixel at the top in the middle, which is hardly something you’ll find on every device; and even if you did, you could hopefully return it and get a replacement.

Responsiveness was good with no complaints to be had. Simply navigating around was fluid, while browsing, typing and gaming all worked well.

Cameras

The rear 8MP camera is capable of taking shots at a resolution of 3264×2448 as well as 1080p video capture.

The quality of still shots in high-light and low-light situations was pretty much the same, which is to say: average. Other cameras (like that on the Galaxy S2) take richer, more detailed shots.
Video capture on the rear camera was similar – good, but not great.

The front-facing 1.3MP camera is decent, and offers 720p video capture which is more than adequate for video calling.

Motorola Razr side

Motorola Razr side

Sound and call quality

Call quality was good, with both the callers and the receivers reporting positive results.

The speaker on the back was mostly good, but it did sound tinny at times. However, the included earphones make up a little for the average speaker, with more than enough bass and volume for the casual listener.

Battery life

Battery performance was a little mixed.

In our video rundown test, the Razr managed to get between seven and eight hours, which is good considering that the Samsung Galaxy Note got around eight hours.

However, in daily use it barely managed to get through a day of moderate use (some browsing, picture taking, social networking, and gaming). Heavy users may want to pack their cable and/or charger.

Software

The Motorola Razr runs Android 2.3.5, and it of course has Motorola’s own custom UI skin on it. The skin is faintly reminiscent of Moto Blur, but it’s been given a lot of love.

The lockscreen looks similar to the stock Android 2.3 lockscreen, except that the right to left swiping action opens directly to the camera, and a switch to toggle sound has been put between the swipe bars. When you swipe across the screen to unlock the Razr, the whole lockscreen appears to move, which makes it look like you’re swiping a glass puzzle piece.

The homescreen has a cool 3D effect when you swipe between screens (similar, but not identical to HTC’s Sense). When you swipe between screens, the widgets and icons on the screen give a flash.

Widgets are still resizeable, and moving widgets and icons around also provokes a cute 3D animation. The widgets look familiar (like Blur), but they’ve been given a beauty treatment. The agenda widget in particular looks a lot like the one found in Honeycomb.

Swiping up from the quick apps bar at the bottom of the screen brings up an overview mode, similar to that of Sense and other 3rd-party launchers in the Android Market.

The app launcher is a fairly standard side-swiping affair, though it does have different sorting options (alphabetical, frequently used, recently used) and it allows for user-created groups and hiding of apps.

Motorola RAZR Back

Notifications also deserve a special mention, as each notification now has an icon to the right which you can tap on to dismiss that notification.

Moving along to apps; the Gallery app needs to be mentioned first. For some reason, the gallery only works in portrait mode, which really is a shame because it means that you can’t take advantage of the large, high-resolution screen. It also has a “feature” where it vibrates when you try to scroll past the end of your photo list. While some may find this useful, to me it felt like I was turning a gear the wrong way, which is not a pleasant feeling.

The social networking client that comes pre-installed should be good enough for casual users, but power-users will definitely want something with a little more grunt.

For viewing and editing documents, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, Motorola decided to include not one, but two different apps – both Documents To Go and Quickoffice are pre-installed on the Razr.

Motorola has also included some less traditional apps, like Smart Actions. Smart Actions allows you to define a trigger and an action (or set of actions) that take place when the trigger fires.

Triggers range from certain locations, to the battery being at a certain level, to you plugging in your headphones. Actions can be anything from sending a text message, to launching an application. In essence it’s a less powerful version of Locale or Tasker (which are 3rd-party apps in the Android market), but Smart Actions does have a much simpler interface and it’s free with the Razr.

What’s also really cool about Smart Actions is that it learns your usage patterns and comes up with suggestions for new actions. Within a few days of using the Razr, Smart Actions had figured out that I wasn’t using the device at night and I wasn’t charging it, so it suggested a mode to preserve battery life during that time.

MotoPrint lets you print various types of documents directly from the device via Wi-Fi, which is rather useful.

There’s also a link to Motolounge, which lead to a website that read “This service is currently not available on your network”. One has to wonder why the link is there if it doesn’t do anything.

Finally, there’s MotoCast, which is like your own personal Dropbox – without the space constraints. Setting it up is fairly easy: install the application (which should be on the phone – in our case it wasn’t so we had to download the ~80MB installer), create your login, choose what to share, and you’re done.

Overall, there’s a lot of great things software-wise, with very little to complain about.

Motorola Razr

Motorola Razr

Price

The Motorola Razr comes at an RRP of R6,999, which is slightly more expensive than the HTC Evo 3D (R6,888), but well below the Samsung Galaxy Note (R8,499 – R8,999).

Conclusion

The Motorola Razr is a solid device that manages to cover all the bases well, and doesn’t sacrifice much in its quest for thinness. The battery life may be a cause of worry for some, but Smart Actions can compensate somewhat.

If you’re in the market for a top-tier smartphone this festive season, the Motorola Razr should be one of your considerations.

Tags: Headline, Motorola Razr

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