Saturday

Motorola Atrix HD Reviews


The Motorola Atrix HD is the latest in AT&T’s Atrix line of Android smartphones and it combines Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a gorgeous 4.5-inch ColorBoost display and 4G LTE speeds in one svelte package.

I’ve spent the afternoon with the Motorola Atrix HD and I wanted to share my first impressions of a device that will launch on July 15th for a mere $99.99 on AT&T.

Starting with the box, the Motorola Atrix HD box is nothing special. It’s a generic AT&T smartphone box that has all the usual suspects inside including a quick start guide and a USB charger.

Design

As for the Motorola Atrix HD itself, it immediately reminded me of the Motorola Droid RAZR and Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX with its design. While it doesn’t share the same name, it’s clear that this is AT&T’s version of the Motorola Droid RAZR.

The Atrix HD boasts Kevlar in the back and Gorilla Glass in the front making it an extremely durable device. In the hand, its thin form factor felt great and the device was so light that I thought the battery might of been left outside the device.

On the outside of the Atrix HD we have all the usual bells and whistles. On the right side lies the volume rocker and the power button. On top we have a trio of ports including the headphone jack, microUSB slot and the HDMI slot.

The left side of the device is void of any buttons and the bottom of the phone doesn’t have any ports to speak of. It doesn’t have any physical buttons on the bottom bezel either, just a nice AT&T logo.

On the back we have an 8MP camera that’s capable of shooting 1080p video and on the front, just near the center, there is a front-facing camera for video chat.

It’s a well-designed phone and it’s able to stay sleek without being flashy.

Display

The Atrix HD has a 4.5-inch ColorBoost display with a 720 x 1280 resolution display and 330 pixels per inch. Motorola hyped this display up and I believe it’s within reason.

The display is absolutely gorgeous. Colors are vibrant, text is easy to read, and everything on the display can be best described as crisp.

I’ll have to spend some more time with the display to make a final judgement but thus far, it’s extremely impressive.

Software
Motorola ATRIX HD 4G LTE Smartphone 1The Atrix HD comes loaded with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and new version of MotoBlur.

Its 1GB of RAM and 1.5GHz dual-core processor handle the operating system with ease. Opening apps is quick and browsing the web, at least at the moment, is a delight.

MotoBlur is on board and thus far, I am liking it, the new clock widget in particular.

Overall, I am really liking this device, especially at its $99.99 price point. One thing that I was disappointed to learn was that it will not support the Motorola Lapdock. That’s not a deal breaker, especially since Motorola says it left the functionality out to keep the cost down, but it would have been nice to have it on board.


Features
You may not expect much in the way of features considering the Motorola Atrix HD's midrange price of $99.99. I'm happy to say this phone packs in plenty of premium capabilities typically found on more expensive devices.

Waking up the handset launches its lock screen, which displays the time and date in cleanly drawn numbers and letters. From here you can toggle the phone's sound on or off by sliding a virtual switch at the top of the screen.

In the center of the display is a pulsating key icon that you drag right to unlock the Atrix. Pulling the key left, up, or down will whisk you directly to the camera, phone, or messaging functions respectively.

The Atrix HD runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, one step below Google's latest version, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Android brings support for all the Google services you know and love such as Gmail and Google +, along with Google Play stores for music, books, and movies.

Motorola does graft its own skin on top of Android, though it doesn't admit that or even refer to the UI at all. However you describe it, this is the remnant of the Motoblur interface of old. To start with there are two home screens but you can add up to five additional for a total of seven. The Atrix HD even offers a choice of blank screens or picking from four canned templates. Don't get your hopes up, though, as they consist of unimaginative titles such as AT&T Services, Social Networking, Entertainment, and On The Go. They are also filled with applications that are already in the phone's app tray.


I do like the funky Circles widget on the home screen that combines clock, weather information, and battery and memory status in one slick and interactive graphic. Flicking each of the widget's three circles rotates the view to display different information.

Noteworthy third-party applications preinstalled include the Kindle eBook app, Quickoffice for viewing common MS Office files, and Facebook. For more software, again, the Google Play store provides access to the over 600,000 app titles in the constantly growing Android ecosystem.

AT&T made sure to liberally sprinkle its own selection of bloatware onto the Atrix HD. Tucked inside of a folder on the home screen are shortcuts for a total of nine applications. These includde MyAT&T for looking up account information, U-Verse Live TV for watching over 4G, and the YP Mobile search app. Much of the software can thankfully be deleted, but a few such as YP Mobile, the AT&T Code Scanner, and AT&T Navigator can't be.

One big annoyance I ran into is how the People application displays contacts from the AT&T Address Book service. I had to mess around with the app's settings to make my Google Contacts the default, as any Android user should. Honestly that seems like a sneaky way to get people to use a service they likely never would otherwise. I also don't like how I had to download and sign in to the Twitter app for it to appear in the "Accounts & sync" area of the Atrix HD's settings menu. That's not a seamless way to integrate social networks into Android.

Motorola made another tweak to this Atrix by cutting something out. Unlike the Atrix models before it, the Atrix HD will not connect to a laptop dock and run a Webtop interface. Apparently the company has decided to drop its modular computing efforts for the time being. The phone will link to optional car dock and HD dock accessories, though, to add extra functionality.

Camera

I was really excited when I first fired up the Motorola Atrix HD's camera app. I immediately noticed how fast the phone's 8-megapixel sensor fired off shots, at under a second. The Atrix HD's autofocus system also managed to lock on in the same short length of time.

I was also impressed by the number of settings and extra features the camera comes with. Inside the menus are multiple capture modes including panorama and Multi-shot (burst). You can also manually adjust the exposure settings and choose from a list of eight special effects, plus four scene presets.

Unfortunately the Atrix HD's image quality didn't deliver. While snapping still-life pictures indoors, the phone's auto white balance had trouble choosing the correct lighting setting. Details were soft in these shots as well, drab and muted colors. Additionally, shooting images of fast-moving subjects under low light resulted in lots of blur.

The situation improved when I carried the Atrix HD outside, but not much. Colors were moderately vibrant under strong sunlight with pleasing green tree leaves and red and purple flowers. Details though were not very crisp and became especially lost in shadows.

Movies I shot with the Atrix HD, which can record video at full 1080p HD, were clear but colors looked bland and lacked punch. The phone picked up sound well though, easily capturing birds chirping, sirens, and splashing water while I stood in a nearby park.

Performance

Driving the Motorola Atrix HD's software is a swift 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, the same CPU used in the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3. To get an idea of the speed of this new Atrix, I had the phone run the Linpack bechmark (Multi-Thread). The Atrix HD turned in a high score of 187 MFLOPs completed in a quick 0.9 second. The HTC One X managed a faster 205.7 MFLOPs finished in 0.82 second. The Sony Xperia Ion on the other hand coughed up a low 82.6 MFLOPs and finished in a much longer 2.04 seconds. Everyday use backed up these benchmark results. The Atrix HD felt very nimble, flipping through home screens and launching apps with high velocity and no perceptible delay.

I tested the Motorola Atrix HD on AT&T's cellular network in New York. The handset delivered good call quality with callers telling me they couldn't tell I was calling from a cellular connection. They also didn't report any hiss or other distortion during calls. I had a similar experience, with voices sounding rich and lifelike. My only complaints are the phone's earpiece and speakerphone, neither of which provide much volume.

According to my New York tests, you won't likely lack for a fast data connection using the Atrix HD. Connecting to AT&T's new 4G LTE network, the handset notched an average download speed of 19.6Mbps. Upload throughput was impressive too, with the Atrix HD pushing files up to the cloud at a rate of 15.2Mbps.

Sadly almost every smartphone has an Achilles' heel, and the Atrix HD's is short battery life. In my anecdotal drain tests, the handset played an HD video file for 5 hours and 14 minutes. The HTC One X hung on for 6 hours and 35 minutes during the same test while the Sony Xperia Ion ran for 7 hours and 57 minutes. None of these handsets came close to the Samsung Galaxy S III's showing of 9 hours and 24 minutes.

verdict
For a sensible $99.99 price, the Motorola Atrix HD definitely offers a big bag of features such as an agile processor, quick 4G LTE data, and a massive and bright screen. It's not perfect, though, and the phone's camera is a perfect example. While it packs in tons of settings, its lackluster image quality can't be ignored. The same goes for the smartphone's short battery life. Still, if you only have $100 to spend on an AT&T handset, the Motorola Atrix HD is currently your best option. I'd snap this phone up over the $99.99 Sony Xperia Ion any day. For those who have no ties to Android, the $99.99 Nokia Lumia 900 may also fit the bill.