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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 720×1280 pixel ColorBoost LCD
• RAM: 1GB
• Storage: 16GB + up to 32GB microSD
• Camera: 8MP rear / 1.3MP front
• Battery: 2530mAh

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