Motorola RAZR review

The Motorola RAZR is back, but not as we know it. The, er, razor thin clamshell was the ultimate fashion accessory six or seven years ago, but that was when a phone could be that and nothing more. The RAZR brand has returned enlightened, but has it really wised up during its years abroad? Let’s find out.

VerdictThe Samsung Galaxy S 2 retains its title as king of Android – for now

LoveA few smart exclusive apps, stupendously thin

HateSuper AMOLED screen disappoints, Android 2.3

Specs:Screen: 4.3-inch, 960 x 540 resolutionConnectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi, GPSCamera: 8-megapixel cameraStorage: 16GB, 32GB expandable via microSDHCBattery: 1780mAhSize/Weight: 130.7 x 68.9 x 7.1mm, 127 grams

Design and build qualityThis is getting a bit silly now. If you thought the Samsung Galaxy S 2 was thin, just get a load of the Motorola RAZR (aka the Droid RAZR). Or don’t actually, since it’s barely there at just 7.1mm thin.

There’s just enough space for a tray housing a micro SIM and SD card slot on the left, a camera shutter button on the right, and 3.5mm audio and mini HDMI out for connecting to your telly on the top, just above the camera, and that’s it.

It’s still amazingly sturdy though, and feels more pricey than plastic really ought to. Perhaps that’s the Kevlar backing, a curious choice of material for a phone. Admittedly, we didn’t check if it was actually stab-proof or not, but it’s a talking point at least. otherwise visually, it’s pleasant enough, although the diagonal lines reminded us slightly of the ugly Nokia X7. If design rates as a top factor for you, consider the drool-inducing Nokia Lumia 800 or iPhone 4S, or Android powered Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S.

ScreenSmartphone screen 101: There are two commonly used types of screen technology, LCD and AMOLED. The former is what most people are used to, but the latter can provide stunning colour and contrast as it ditches a backlight for the ability to turn individual pixels on and off. that mean black is actually black – an absence of colour.

Now, we’d normally be excited at the prospect of an AMOLED screen on the Motorola RAZR, as arch-rival Samsung (the company that makes them) tends to call dibs on them all. But actually, the 4.3-inch 960 x 540 display, which ought to be pin-sharp, is probably the worst feature of the whole phone.

You see, it uses a slightly older generation of AMOLED screen which uses fewer sub-pixels (yeah, there are pixels within pixels, stay with us), and when stretched to a large 4.3-inches it looks incredibly blurry.

On top of that, it’s framed by the world’s biggest border. It’s as though the Razr’s screen was at war with the phone’s edges, and had to be separated by a buffer zone mandated by the United Nations. Disappointing.

Key featuresWith a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and a gig of RAM, this phone is Power. It’s also pitched with businessy folk in mind, coming with a bunch of custom apps, as well as super secure FIPS 140-2 encryption. Perfect if your IT overlords are paranoid somebody will hack into your phone to read your messages and find out where the office Christmas party is going down.

One key feature the Motorola RAZR is missing, however, is Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”. It’s running Android 2.3.5 “Gingerbread” which, while technically the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, will only remain so for a few short days, at which point the Samsung Galaxy Nexus will stroll in with its HD screen and make it obsolete.

Now, Motorola says the RAZR will get an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, but do be aware that it’s made a hash of these over the air upgrades in the UK in the past. Atrix owners for instance are still sipping on Android 2.2 “Froyo”, though it’s long since melted.

UsabilityWe’ve never been fans of Motorola’s social networking skin atop its Android phones, called “Motoblur”, which is why we’re happy to report the name has been dumped, and the whole thing is now very much optional.

If you have a Motoblur account, it’ll be ported into a MotoCast account, so you can still get all your updates in one optional widget, but without all the what-on-earth-is-this-button-oh-why-is-my-face-there absurdities of Motoblur on the Atrix. Or not. We suggest the latter.

The keyboard is spacious and responsive, and best of all, the RAZR comes pre-loaded with an app called Smart Actions, which lets you program all sorts of actions based on certain contexts. Battery running low? It’ll automatically shut off email syncing. getting home? It’ll turn Wi-Fi on as you walk in the door. Granted, there are other means of doing this on Android phones, but that’s not the point. Here, you get the experience out of the box. Easy.

ConnectivityThe Motorola RAZR beats most of its rivals here, as on top of the standard 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS, it sports a mini-HDMI port, which means you can play back full HD video and whatnot on your TV in your living room. some of the RAZR’s rivals do this, true, but most require a special MHL adaptor that plugs into the USB port and acts as a mediator.

It also – drum roll please – turns into a laptop courtesy of Moto’s Lapdock 100 netbook shell. Slot the RAZR into the back and you can jump online with Firefox, QWERTY keyboard and all, all while viewing your phone’s screen as a scalable app. We didn’t get to test this sadly, but at around £270, do shop carefully. The Motorola Atrix shared the same talent, and it was a bit more clunky and impractical than we would have liked.

Camera and media playbackThe eight megapixel camera on the Motorola RAZR proved to be a more than adequate performer in testing, bucking the trend of over-saturized images designed to look like eye candy on a small screen with realistic, if duller colour reproduction – and good close-up skills to boot. actually though, our favourite bit about it is simply that you can launch the camera straight from the lock screen.

1080p full HD video meanwhile is smooth and sharp, but next to no auto-focus means you’ll need to keep your subject in the middle distance at all times.

Full HD MP4 video files opened flawlessly on the Motorola RAZR, and it seems the company is now stumping up to license a few more codecs: it played AVI videos too, and we had some luck with MKV container files too, although the audio didn’t always work with these.

Motorola’s music player meanwhile can be controlled from the lock screen (good), but is something of a confuddly mess: it’s no substitute for a decent third party app like Spotify.

AppsOnboard the Motorola RAZR you’ll find GoToMeeting, an app which will prove a godsend to Citrix users and nobody else, while Motoprint will let you send documents to a printer over Wi-Fi, so long as your printer is made by HP or Epson. Fun times!

If we’re honest, we’d say HTC “gets it” a bit more than Motorola. It’s about providing consumers with services, not apps, and it does that with a movie store, navigation, and in the future, even cloud-based gaming on the go.

The RAZR meanwhile, despite full Android Market access, feels more boring briefcase than exciting, which is surprising given the heritage of the RAZR brand.

Call quality/battery lifeYou can’t rely on Motorola for timely software updates, but you can bank on it for superb call quality, and as usual it delivers with the Motorola RAZR, which provides quad-band 3G and excellent reception and speaker performance. Tucked away inside that slim chassis is a hearty 1780mAh battery, which we found saw us through a day of moderate use, into the next morning. Do watch out though – as with the iPhone, it is non-removable.

Check out our Motorola RAZR review photo gallery: