Mobile Monday: Motorola RAZR Review

Once upon a time, Motorola captured cool in a bottle with the RAZR brand. Can lightning strike twice for its first Android RAZR?

In some ways, Motorola had its thunder stolen out from under it with the relaunch of the RAZR brand. RAZR used to be iconic, and clearly Motorola's hoping that some of the positive associations that the brand used to have will transfer to its new handset.

Motorola launched the RAZR on the same day as the Google Galaxy Nexus, another large and high-end Android handset, but one that has the critical market advantage of coming preinstalled with Ice Cream Sandwich. The RAZR's just "plain old" Gingerbread at this stage, and while Motorola's fast-tracked to become part of Google in the near future, that doesn't guarantee that the RAZR will see Ice Cream Sandwich any time soon. It's an Optus exclusive locally, available on contract starting at $59/month.

What We Like

The thin design. Sure, it's a little spoilt by the bump at the top that houses the camera and ports, but it's still an impressive bit of engineering to look at. The bump also makes it relatively easy to hold up to your ear without the phone slipping away. That's an important design note, as this is a huge handset that won't suit everybody — more on that later.

It's also a relatively fast phone for most tasks, and the qHD screen looks gorgeous when playing back video and viewing photos. The fact that Motorola's made MOTOBLUR more of an add-on than a mandatory part of the phone's setup process is a definite plus. If you're a fan of MOTOBLUR — there must be someone out there who is — you're welcome to it, but here on the sane side of the fence, it's nice to be able to ignore it.

It's also a nicely robust unit. The back is Kevlar, the front gorilla glass. It wasn't present on my preproduction review unit, but the final units should also be coated in a treatment that makes the RAZR actively water repellent. It'd still be a bad idea to take it swimming, but it should mean it's a phone that can survive the odd bump or splash.

The camera is decent. Just decent, not spectacular, with a very slight tendency to wash out photos when taking quick snapshots.

Specs 130.7 x 68.9 x 7.1 mm 127 grams with battery 4.5-inch 960x540 qHD Super AMOLED touchscreen 1.2GHz Dual-Core Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread 1GB RAM 8GB ROM microSD up to 32GB 8MP camera with autofocus, LED flash 1080p HD video recording 1780mAh battery

What We Don't Like

The thin design. Yeah, I know, this was also in the "what we liked" section, but bear with me. It's impressive engineering to be sure, but the wide size of the phone, and especially all that wasted bezel space means that you're still holding a wide phone even if it's relatively slender. The thickness of the phone doesn't do a whole lot to aid in ease of use or holding, and the bump means you're rarely going to aesthetically appreciate its thin nature. Against the flat back of the similar Samsung Galaxy S II, the RAZR feels paradoxically fat.

Here's some size comparison shots to give you a rough feel of the RAZR's size, but trust me; you need to get actually hands-on with one to work out if it's right for you.

RAZR vs Samsung Galaxy S II

That damn bezel. At first, I was just a little surprised to realise that the screen display doesn't go to the curve at the edge. I've now moved on; it's become that damn bezel. Damned, because it's a damned shame that it's there; without it the RAZR would be as thin, but the width would be significantly reduced. Either that, or it'd sport a slightly larger screen, justifying its width. Either way, it's a crying shame this isn't so. This is more than just aesthetics; the larger size of the handset makes it trickier to hold when using the camera, as an example. It's not a problem that everyone will have, but it has to be said; don't buy the RAZR on sight. Pick one up and make sure your hands are comfortable with it beforehand. In the interests of balance, I should point out that the same is true of the HTC Sensation XL, and will presumably be true for the Galaxy Nexus too.

General stability. I've got to tread a fine line here, as the model supplied to me by Motorola was noted as a preproduction unit, with specific mention made of the fact that it lacks the water resistant coating that the final models will have. Fair enough, and I've been doing my level best to keep it out of nearby suburban swimming pools. Still, I've hit instances of lag and apps crashing with the RAZR, and that shouldn't be ignored. How much of this is due to it being an early unit is all but impossible to say; I'd hope the final units don't spend quite so much time waiting to declare (for example) that there's no response from the Android market.

Verdict

Most phones sell themselves on a mixture of design and features. The RAZR's feature set marks it out as a high-end phone, but what'll either sell it or make you scorn it genuinely is the size. If you've got larger hands and you want a high end phone it's a decent choice, as long as you can tolerate that bezel. It's not alone in the market — there's an obvious comparison point with HTC's Sensation XL, which I'm testing at the moment, and the Galaxy Nexus, which I'm hoping to test very shortly indeed.

Would I swap the Galaxy S II for the RAZR? The RAZR's got a better screen and a better chance of getting Ice Cream Sandwich, but I'd still say the S II pips it purely on physical grounds. That damned bezel gets in the way, making it an uncomfortable phone for me to hold. That aside, it's a good phone, and Motorola's been a bit hit and miss when it comes to quality handsets in recent years.


Comments

    Looks like a great phone any Australian news?
    Definetly not one of youre best reviews though I havnt really got the impression on whether you like or dont like the phone.

      Optus exclusive. No handset repayment on $59 cap and above. Out now.

    Alex, could I ask that the article be updated with a photo of the RAZR straight on if possible? (please?) I'd like to try and compare "that damned bezel" with the GSII I have here. (and before anyone points it out, I know it won't be exactly accurate, but it'll give me a decent comparison I hope.

      just to add to it... photos to demonstrate the phone size should really be taken next to common objects etc
      Alex, I got no idea how big your hands are so its hard to say how big this phone is.

      thx good review looks like I might skip on this one after all

        Excellent suggestions -- I've added pics to compare it to the SGS II and a coffee cup to give you some sense of scale.

          How about some side shots of the Razr and GS2 so we can see the bevel from the side or side shots comparing the slimness of each?

    Does that mean the thinness wars are over and OEMs can focus on other things?

      I would guess the current features that are being battled are, processor, camera and bezel.

      Honestly with phones I am curious to see if processors level out in performance. Other than pushing more graphics and a bitter zip. I'm puzzled to what you could really do with them.

        Gaming.
        That's where things are going. Look at some of the new amazing looking 3D games that're coming out, some advertised as only really working on Tegra 2 devices (only Android tablets as far as I know), others optimised for the upcoming Tegra 3, 4 core processors.
        They're not phone anymore, they're proper computers.

    the spec sheet says "960x640 qHD", but qHD is 960x540. There seems to a a 100pixel discrepancy there. Can you confirm which one it is?

      It's 960x540.

      It's 960x540. I beleive it's also a pentile screen (unlike the SGS2) so pixel density probably won't appear to be better than a WVGA LCD screen.

        Pixel Density is Pixel Density, regardless of Pentile layout or not. If you want to split hairs, the controversial 'subpixel density' calculation highlights the different. But there's still no consensus as to whether this criterion has any merit or not. Most consumers won't start looking at colour borders with microscopes.

        As for this phone... I'm not particularly impressed. Consumers stopped worrying about thinness a long time ago and right now, manufacturers are just arguing over fractions of millimeters to throw on a spec sheet.

        Motorola seems to have no clear roadmap. The Droid Bionic is essentially this phone, but thicker, was released 5 weeks ago and is already obsolete. There's like 0 foresight and the Galaxy Nexus coming out later this month is superior in almost every category that matters.

    It looks OK but it's a pity that I swore that I will never buy another Motorola phone after they left the Australian Quench on Android 1.5 after promising an upgrade to 2.1. The US version WAS upgraded but they left the rest of the world unhappy. How can they be trusted?

    Any chance of a shot that shows how thin the Razr is against the SII and iPhone?

      The hands-on video I did a couple of weeks back has exactly what you're after -- and in motion, no less! http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/10/motorola-razr-giz-au-goes-hands-on-video/

    how come on the originial specs it was 1780mah for the battery, and the specs above only say 1600mah??

    Im not touching another motorola phone until im sure that motoblur isnt going to be getting in the way of a great os. I felt my d2 was ruined by motoblur.

    I live in the U.S. and on Sunday (11/6) my local Verizon store had the Razr available for hands on demos (won't be available for sale here until 11/11/11 at 11:11 a.m.). I was impressed with everything about the phone, especially the 4G speeds. One thing that strikes me as peculiar in the whole discussion of which phone is best is that call quality and frequency of dropped calls is rarely discussed anymore. An area that Motorola (from my and my families personal experiences) has always excelled in providing. I am sure the Razr will follow suit and not disappoint. Lastly, as much as I had looked forward to the GN (Galaxy Nexus), here in the states there is no firm release date and in fact the latest rumors put the phone at HOPEFULLY being released the 1st week of December. My frustration with Samsung, and their never ending product release delays, is such that if they haven't provided a firm release date occurring BEFORE Black Friday they can kiss my business goodbye. I might wait for a hands on with the HTC Rezound before making a final decision, but I know I can't go wrong if I choose the Razr. On a final note, I would pike to congratulate Samsung yet again on their, by far most amazing company talent, of disappointing, alienating and driving away customers. Kudos to you Samsung, and with just a little more effort you might be able to help Apple regain some of its lost market share.

    Bezel or bevel? I'm confused, are you refering to the corner angles that are not at 90 degrees?

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