Motorola RAZR HD Review: Long Live The Battery

Last year's RAZR paired a revelatory design with a had a lousy screen and lousier battery life. This year's update — the RAZR HD — put both of those weaknesses squarely in their crosshairs.

What Is It?

Motorola's latest flagship Android phone.

Who's It For?

People who don't want their phones to die. Ever.

Design

Very rectangular with a squared-off 4.7-inch 720p screen, an 8MP camera and a laminated kevlar backplate that feel as sturdy and futuristic as it looks. It also packs a huge 2530mAh battery.

Using It

Some devices feel solid. This feels bulletproof. It's powered by Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and runs a skinned version of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which Motorola promises will be updated to Jelly Bean in coming months.

The Best Part

Battery life will be reason enough to buy it for a lot of people. I tried — oh how I tried — to kill the battery. I tracked exercise via GPS, went on Navigation-led walks, all the while streaming music and leaving the screen on at full brightness. I downloaded several gigs worth of data over LTE, left Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the entire time. I streamed a movie, played video games, did plenty of emailing and Facebooking. Come 1.30am I was down to 28 per cent. Absolutely amazing. With my normal usage (which is still relatively heavy) I got through most of two days without a charge. That's how it should be, damnit!

Tragic Flaw

Motorola still hasn't fixed the camera problems that hampered the RAZR M. The RAZR HD really struggles to get a good photo. Contrast is inconsistent (though the built-in HDR mode helps with that somewhat) and white-balance is all over the place. You'll take three horrible pictures of the same thing in a row, then suddenly you'll get a great shot and you'll scream, "Why can't you do that all the time, you stupid phone!?" In a lower-end handset like the RAZR M, that's forgiveable. But there's no excuse for a camera this clunky in phones this good. Maybe a software update can save it, but you shouldn't hold your breath. Click here for sample photos/video.

This Is Weird...

The original RAZR was 6.85mm thick. The RAZR HD is about 8mm. That's still thin, but I mean, it's not exactly a RAZR, is it?

Test Notes

  • It's splashproof, as all gadgets should be.
  • Motorola's screens have gotten a lot better since the original RAZR, and they're certainly sharper. But the colour is still bad. Next to LG's Optimus G, the whites look yellowish-brown, and it's no where close to the HTC One X display's quality.
  • There is some radio wonkiness. Sometimes, (especially after coming out of a subway) the RAZR would register that I had full bars of 4G LTE — and indicate I was connected — but no data came in or out. You have turn aeroplane mode on and off to kick it in gear. That shouldn't ever happen.
  • It would feel very fast had we not just tested the LG Optimus G, which uses Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro. The Optimus G simply smokes the RAZR HD. The RAZR HD is quite speedy, but there is subtle lag here and there. Some of this is definitely Motorola's skin, which seems to trip up the lock-screen and keyboard. That may be somewhat alleviated by the forthcoming Jelly Bean upgrade. Maybe. We hope so.
  • It has a microSD card slot, NFC and a micro HDMI port for pushing video right to a TV.
  • I can't say enough good things about the kevlar back. It's strong and smooth, but grippy as well. The fact that the screen went from 4.3 inches to 4.7 inches from last year but the overall size of the device didn't grow is a much-appreciated design feat.
  • The call quality is great, and the built-in speaker is quite loud, which is an important but often over-looked feature.

Should You Buy It?

There is only one real reason to buy this phone above others, but it's a good one: battery life. There are faster, more powerful phones out there, but none that are as fast/powerful as this can last anywhere near as long. This is the phone you should take with you on business trips or long holidays, because you'll know you can use the hell out of it and it won't die.

Most importantly, the new RAZR HD serves as a proof-of-concept that all other phone manufacturers should take heed of: It's possible to put a gigantic, two-day battery into a phone and still have it be nice and thin. Right now that's the exception, but these two handsets clearly show that it could be — and should be — the rule.

Motorola Droid RAZR HD and MAXX HD Specs

• Network: Telstra exclusive (until December 31) • OS: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich • CPU: 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor • Screen: 4.7-inch 720x1280 pixel ColorBoost LCD • RAM: 1GB • Storage: 16GB + up to 32GB microSD • Camera: 8MP rear / 1.3MP front • Battery: 2530mAh


Comments

    Is there any word on whether the Maxx will be coming to Aus? That's the only phone at the moment that I'd have no hesitation handing over my hard earned money for. Otherwise I'll continue umm-ing and ahh-ing.

      I've heard the Maxx was purely a Verizon thing for the US only

    Noice, loving the battery, I've said for years they should bring out phones with larger batteries, I sell to businesses and most would take a 10mm phone over an 8mm one if the extra space was taken up by battery.

    I really hope HTC takes a leaf out of Motorola's book. I love my OneX but the battery life is terrible. Found the same with my old Incredible S.
    If Motorola can get a battery on a smart phone to last 2 days I don't see why anyone else can't.
    Although to release a new phone without Jelly Bean seems a major oversite to me.

      Didn't Google buy Motorola? why wouldn't they be getting Jelly bean on all their new phones?

        True one would think that would be the case but I'm nit privy to the inner workings of Google or Motorola. But, anyway releasing a "high end" phone in this environment without JB seems really silly. If the rumours are true we are about to see the Key Lime Pie released in a few days meaning this would be two versions out of date.

          That's something that has ways annoyed me with android phones.

    Not that anyone is ever going to see this comment - but I got mine yesterday and I found that the battery isn't as good as you're saying; HOWEVER this maybe because it hasn't had it's full charge cycles etc. yet. Time will tell!

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