Motorola RAZR M Review: The Almost-Nexus Is Almost Good

The way Motorola has been carrying on since it was bought by Google, you'd think it was God's gift to the smartphone industry. It's promising the "best of Google" despite the fact that it's not offering a Nexus-branded handset any time soon. This is what happens, then, when a manufacturer sets out to go it alone on making a Nexus phone.

What Is It?

The RAZR M is a Kevlar-coated, liquid-resistant smartphone from Motorola that sports a 1.5-GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a massive 2000mAh battery, 8-megapixel camera and a 4.3-inch screen screen that spans edge-to-edge with a resolution of 960x540 pixels and 256 pixels per inch. It will run Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box — despite being released in November 2012 — but Motorola says Jelly Bean will arrive a few months after the release date.

What's Good?

The RAZR M's main selling-point is the edge-to-edge screen, and if I'm honest, it's amazing. The bezel was a big problem with the first RAZR smartphone, and this is a great way to get around it: put a screen on the thing that makes the bezel damn-near invisible. It actually gives you the impression that the screen is actually a lot bigger than the 4.3-inches it's packing. The bright, clear whites of this 960x540 screen are also remarkable.

The 2000mAh battery will keep you going all day, even with the 4G antenna active. This is a Telstra-exclusive handset, so 4G is a given, thank goodness.

Flip the handset over and you'll find that it sports the same tough, Kevlar exterior that defines the RAZR range, and inside it's still splash-proof. It's this sort of toughness that ought to be standard across the smartphone market by now.

When you actually get down to using the RAZR M, it's a delight. This is the first outing for Motorola's new-look Android skin, and as far as overlays go, this one's quite good. To be honest, I find TouchWiz, Xperia UI and Sense quite intrusive. Why won't you just let me use Android as it was meant to be? The Motorola is the closest a third-party manufacturer has come to making Android better with a third-party UI. Most of that's down to the fact that it gets down to the business of getting out of your way.

There aren't any gimmicks here, no pop-ups to annoy you, no "sign into me so I can get all your social/news/ringtone content" bars hovering around anywhere, it's just good, clean Android. The home screen is uncluttered out of the box, and swiping left will reveal a quick settings page for tweaking and adjusting things on the fly. That saves you having to have an extra widget on your home screen, which brings me back to how clean and easy it is to use.

The closest to gimmicky the RAZR M gets is with the return of Smart Actions. This is just an application that quietly toils under the surface to tweak and change things for you without you actually having to directly get involved. Set up a Smart Action like turning down the brightness and switching off Bluetooth when your battery dips below 15 per cent, and you won't have to touch it again. It's actually really pleasant.

As far as hardware numbers are concerned, the RAZR M clocks in at 1450 on Geekbench 2, meaning that it's as powerful as an HTC One X or an Asus Padfone — impressive, considering it's only packing a dual-core processor rather than the quad-core handsets it beat.

What's Bad?

Certain aspects of the styling here look like they're straight out of 2004. From the faux-retro font on the front-facing Motorla logo through to the desolate-looking back panel that ends up looking like a mish-mash of different textures and materials, it just feels wrong. It's also incredibly heavy, for what it's worth.

Once you start using the RAZR M, there's no getting past that screen. The pixels...I can see all of them. It's incredibly bright and edge-to-edge is a welcome addition, but it's not enough to draw my eyes away from the frankly massive pixels.

Also, what's with offering the best of Google and not shipping with Jelly Bean at launch? Come on, guys. You all literally work there now. Step it up.

Should You Buy It?

The way Motorola advertised the new RAZR handsets this year, you'd think that it was Google's emissary, sent to deliver us from the woes of the existing smartphone wasteland. 'Come with us, gadgeteers. Let us take you to Google's promised land where Maps are accurate, phones are beautiful and Android is unspoiled'. Ever since Google bought Motorola, that's the message I have been hearing.

The RAZR M isn't even delivering on all of this promise. The screen falls flat, the design and the weight makes it look dated and feel bloated and the camera isn't worth mentioning. On the positive front, it is tougher than your average smartphone with the kevlar and splash-proofing, it does have a bright, edge-to-edge display going for it (even if it is pixellated pain) and the Android skin is less intrusive and annoying than TouchWiz or Sense.

The RAZR M doesn't feel like a smartphone you'd be happy about owning for a full 24-months. It instead feels like a phone that belongs in the high-end pre-paid market. That's not a bad thing, it just means it's priced incorrectly. If this was $300-$349 outright, it'd fly off the shelves like the original RAZR V3 did.

If you want a RAZR that feels like it belongs on postpaid, check out the RAZR HD. Bigger, brighter and worth the price you pay on contract.


    "Jelly Bean will arrive a few months after the release date." - Lol, the history I've seen with most phones/carriers, you're better off getting a phone that comes with Jelly Bean out of the box, or rooting and flashing it yourself.

      Motorola are notoriously bad with updates. My old milestone didn't receive its gingerbreasd update nearly a great after release later

        Yeah, my dad got the Atrix last year and it hasn't had an update since, you'd think it'd improve now that it's Google owned.

      Jelly Bean was already released for the Razr M...last month! This article seems like it was "re-printed" from October.

      Worst phone. I bought this phone 3 weeks back. The third day screen went unusable. Went back and swapped it for another one and after 3 weeks again exactly same problem.when it happens you can't even turn off this phone.on top of this fixed battery.Don't buy it.

        Try holding both the power and the volume up button at the same time until it vibrates. This should force restart it.

    Does it have a glass front still? I find that's the weakest part of the phone, not what's normally a plastic back.

      the glass front is Corning Gorilla Glass, so its pretty damn tough too

    I manged to have a quick play with one of these at a local Telstra shop. I am actually really surprised how well the phone is built. I especially liked the swipe left to access quick settings (I don't usually use that many multiple screens).

    I own this phone and for what it's worth I can't see any pixellation at all nor feel any weight difference between it and an iphone 5 if held at the same time, nor could my iphone 5 owning friends. Fair point on the styling on the back, but I care about what the back of my phone look like about as much as I care about what the back of my computer monitors look like :p

      I own it, and agree whole heartedly with Buzz . . Good point Buzz

    I don't usually care that much about looks, but the back of that phone is remarkably ugly.

    One day these phone makers will get the idea and stop changing the UI, giving us pure Android and we can forget these months of wait.

    The Nexus 7 is brilliant in how you get the new version - this latest the version 4,2a is quite amazing.

    Instead one waits months, years or gives up hope of getting the latest OS and the prime reason is the phone company trying to get their skin working on it.

    If only Google had put LTE on their phone I could have skipped the abomination that is touchwiz, and honestly I doubt this phone is any better. In a year I doubt that it will be on Key Lime Pie.

    Got this phone and it's absolutely fantastic. Bit of a shame on regards to the screen since I made the switch from a DHD, but the pros outweigh the cons and I'm very happy with this thing. The pixels are a bit of an issue but eventually you just stop noticing them. Battery life lasts me about a day and a half, possibly more but that's because I've also got Juice Defender Ultimate.

    My phone lasts over a month on standby. You can borrow it while your RAZR is recharging.

    Last edited 04/12/12 1:07 am

    I own this phone and am a photographer so I know what a pixel looks like, the whole issue with pixelation is blown out of proportions, sure it's no retina display, but given the phone as a whole package, it's the best small form factor phone around at the moment.

      ...(I) am a photographer so I know what a pixel looks like...


      so what is the camera like? Also a photographer, but rely on phone cameras for taking blog photos.

    It has carrier branding which is also bad considering is a Telstra exclusive handset.

    "Motorola is the closest a third-party manufacturer has come to making Android better with a third-party UI."
    Are you serious? This UI is incredibly ugly. The gaudy interface looks like it was taken straight from XDA Themes; designed by a 10 year old who discovered Photoshop.

    I need to admit I was really disappointed at the price of the Razr M. Motorola really dropped the ball on that one I think.

    if it wasn't so expensive it would've been good for my dad. He doesn't want a big screen and frankly he wouldn't notice the pixels, he's more interested in battery lie and durability (he currently has a Defy with a bulky aftermarket battery).

      Ah, the battery lie.

      It's always a god-dammned lie.

    So a phone that weighs 124 grams gets an "incredibly heavy" under the 'What's Bad' section, but the Lumia 920 which weighs 184 grams gets a "Yes it’s heavy, but it’s something you get used to" under the 'Should you buy it' section.

    Hooray for consistent reporting?

    The display is the same Display that was called best in the world some time ago, its not bad by any means. Its totally fine and from normal using distance you cant see shit unless ur an eagle man.
    The weight is among the lowest weight is like 15-20g heavier...just to name one that one of my colleagues owns.
    The front is awesome, the "retro" font is the official Motorola logo, should they change it?
    Also its hiding the speaker nicely!
    I wont argue bout the overall design, all ill say is that more people like it then u and or imaginative friend who dont.

    So in conclusion your i rate your review 2/6 points for taking up stupid rants from some forums and writing the stupid stuff down.

    For those of you that have one of these phones, what's the connectivity like? I need a phone that's good in rural areas as well as city, but frankly, not keen on any of the Telstra Blue Tick phones on offer at the moment. Any other ideas?

      Meant to say 'reception' - not 'connectivity'.....

    I got the new Motorola RAZR M with a Telstra bundle. The girls in the shop said they all had them and loved them. I foolishly listened. Well I am peeved.

    The battery often runs out by 1pm after charging all night and unplugging at 7am (yes 6 hours). So much for the incredible battery. The basic functions included are sparse and second rate for example, the calendar function is a joke with unreadable format, the clock and alarm functions are also badly configured and difficult to use, The cut n Paste function doesn't appear to exist, no note taking ability unless you download a second rate app, the contacts function is messy and confusing and I keep get getting Skype contacts instead of a telephone number. The list goes on. If you have owned an iPhone, you may well hate this phone if you are a business person who just wants a sensible phone that actually works with the basic business functions. I don't need kevlar, just a phone that is ergonomically sensible and useable. This is my second Motorola mistake and will be the last.

    Good things,: Pretty screen, good curser function (because the key pad is not great), great word prediction*****. Can drag stuff over from your laptop with ease apparently (unlike the iPhone)
    Bad: See above + position of charger input is not easy unless you are left handed.

    I have had the RAZR M for a month now and love it . Had the Iphone 4s and 5 and they both suck. As far as design the Iphone 5 isnt much different. Both I phones have broken screens due to the weak design. Im a guy and dont have a purse to put the thing in and hate big bulky cases. Have dropped the Razr many times used in the shower and in the rain and the thing still looks and works perfect. If you want a phone thats sleek yet rugged with great features and not bulky this phone is it. If you wanna impress your freinds or own a purse get a I phone.

      You take your phone into the shower? I'm not surprised the other phones suck. I'm about to replace my 2.5 year old HTC Desire with another phone and I'm considering one of these. The Razr HD is easier to read but I'm not sure I want to buy a phone with the larger 4.7/4.8 inch screens. I don't know. Maybe I'll hang on till the next models are released; that can only be a few months away now.The HTC has been okay but I'll be buying another brand next time.

    The best reception money can buy. If you don't currently have a Motorola phone, you'll get more bars, faster speeds, and better sounding calls with this. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.

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