Motorola ATRIX HD Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

With half of 2012 behind us, it’s been an uphill joy ride for AT&T, as the carrier has been graced with some stellar Android powered smartphones. In fact, it’s arguable to say that AT&T has the deepest lineup out of all the major domestic carriers – and it looks like it’s not stopping anytime soon! Thus far, we’ve seen flagship devices from HTC, Samsung, and Sony, though, one venerable manufacturer has remained silent throughout it all.

Motorola has been doing some serious work over on Verizon, as its DROID smartphones have taken the spotlight – especially the battery friendly Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX. It’s not that AT&T doesn’t get its fair share of equally compelling devices, as the carrier nabbed the ATRIX 4G and ATRIX 2 last year, but AT&T customers are starving for something that’s similar to what Verizon is blessed with. Thankfully, they’re heeding the call now that the Motorola ATRIX HD is finally here, which is sporting a drool worthy $99.99 on-contract price. After seeing so many stellar devices for AT&T, the ATRIX HD has a tough battle ahead of itself in an attempt to stay relevant amongst the pack.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide


Design:

Let’s not beat around the bushes with this one people, but there’s not much originality found with the design of the Motorola ATRIX HD – it’s actually a bigger version of the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX. We’re not too keen about its black/white paint job, but for those who prefer a uniform body, it’s also available in all-black. At its core, the ATRIX HD is a solidly built handset, which is evidenced by its sturdy plastic body, clean looking KEVLAR rear backing, and water resistant nano-coating. Still, our biggest gripe is that it feels too unwieldy in the hand because of the larger bezels surrounding its 4.5” display. By comparison, its overall size is nearly identical to the HTC One X because of those wider bezels.



You can compare the Motorola ATRIX HD with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Call it a rarity still, there are no capacitive Android buttons whatsoever with the handset, since they’re incorporated into the platform. Meanwhile, above the display, we find a very tiny earpiece, green LED notification light, and its front-facing camera, which has the ability to shoot 720p videos.


Just like the DROID RAZR and DROID RAZR MAXX, the ATRIX HD has a plastic flap on its left side that tucks away its microSIM and microSD slots. Additionally, the placement of its physical power and volume buttons are in the same locations on the right edge. However, we’re not fans of their indistinct feel and stiff response. Rounding things out, we spot the handset’s 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB, and microHDMI ports all lying on the top edge of the phone – though, it’s worth noting that this ATRIX doesn’t feature Motorola’s Webtop experience.


Much like its rivals, the ATRIX HD packs along an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash – with three notches nearby that tucks away the internal speaker. There’s no way of getting easy access to its 1,780 mAh battery.



Display:

Rather than employing an AMOLED panel, like what’s found on the DROID RAZR and RAZR MAXX, Motorola instead opts to grace the ATRIX HD with a 4.5” HD (720 x 1280) ColorBoost TFT display. Naturally, its pixel density of 326 ppi produces some sharp details that allow us to easily recognize fine text. And even though Motorola doesn’t elaborate on the ColorBoost technology, our eyes take note of the superb and vibrant color reproduction of the display, which is a bit more natural in tone when compared to the over-saturation of AMOLED panels. Throw in some decent viewing angles and a high brightness output, it really comes to life in many aspects – albeit, it still requires some shielding in direct sunlight. There’s no arguing that it’s one sharp display, but it still doesn’t come off as being more compelling than the Super LCD2 display of the HTC One X.



Motorola ATRIX HD 360-Degrees View:





Interface:

It’s anyone’s guess who’s influencing Motorola at this point, but one thing is certain, there’s no remnants of MOTOBLUR whatsoever with the ATRIX HD’s Android experience. No doubt, some will like the mostly vanilla Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich experience, however, the overall one isn’t as comprehensive as other custom UIs from the competition – like HTC Sense 4.0 or Samsung’s TouchWiz Nature UX. Nevertheless, Motorola’s choice of donning an unmodified Android experience might mean that the handset will receive updates faster (we hope).

Initially, it appears as though it’s a stock ICS experience on the ATRIX HD, which is noted by its on-screen Android buttons and typical app tray that breaks down the apps and widgets. However, Motorola manages to provide a single goodie in the form of the “Circles” widgets. Specifically, the widget consists of three circles that display weather/temperature information, various clocks, and one for the handset’s battery level, data consumption, and settings. Aside from that, the rest should be a very familiar one.



Functionality:

With the stock ICS experience on hand, there’s nothing out of the ordinary with the handset’s core organizer apps – seeing that their presentations and functions are unchanged.


Even though the Webtop functionality is missing in action with the ATRIX HD, Motorola is kind enough to bring over its SMART Actions app, which allows us to modify certain functions of the handset according to specific actions. As Motorola points out, it’s great tool for optimizing the performance of the handset, like its operation or battery life, but it requires some meticulous management on our part to become useful. Still, if you prefer having a firm grip on all aspects of the smartphone’s functions, this should be something that you’ll find satisfying.

With the real estate presented to us by its display, typing up messages with its on-screen keyboard isn’t an issue – mainly because both the Swype and stock keyboards are spacious and responsive.



Processor and Memory:

Joining the ranks of other select Android smartphones on AT&T’s lineup, the Motorola ATRIX HD is able to fly effortlessly with most tasks thanks to its 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. Maintaining a high level of performance with nearly everything we threw at it, there’s no arguing its blazing rate of operation – albeit, there’s an occasional delay every now and then with opening certain apps. Although it fails to conjure up class-leading benchmark scores, we’re not entirely saddened since its real-world operation is evidence enough to distinguish itself as a viable contender .


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
Motorola ATRIX HD4310562056,5
Sony Xperia ion2833604436,4
Samsung Galaxy S III US4520611159,4
HTC One X AT&T4958686357,7


Unlike its esteemed rivals, the ATRIX HD is lacking in the storage department out of the box. Honestly, you’ll need to throw in a microSD card in it because it’s only boasting 4.97GB of total storage!

Internet and Connectivity:

With 4G LTE connectivity in tow with this bad boy, you’re ensured lighting fast data speeds with AT&T’s network – that’s as long as you have it around your area of course. Even though Adobe Flash isn’t preinstalled, a quick visit to Google Play remedies that – thus, presenting us with that desktop-like experience. Most of the time, the handset retains a fluid movement with its navigational controls, however, it does suffer from jumpiness with its movement every now and. It’s not too irritating, luckily, but it does stand apart from other things. Nonetheless, the experience is more than tolerable to accept.


Being the GSM device it is, international travelers won’t come across any problems trying to get it to work with most wireless networks abroad – though, LTE connectivity is only available domestically via AT&T. As for its other connectivity goodies, it features a GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 with EDR, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and mobile hotspot connectivity. Strangely, it’s lacking NFC, which is increasingly becoming a standard with most high-end devices.



Camera:

One area that Motorola left untouched is the handset’s camera interface, which is unchanged from previous devices. To tell you the truth, it’s rather barren in terms of manual controls, but there are a few shooting modes and options that should tide some people over – but as a whole, we’re not particularly fond of its layout. Essentially, it’s lacking some deep custom options we’ve been exposed to with other recent devices to please hardened photo-happy enthusiasts. Just like its DROID siblings, the ATRIX HD emits a cool zapping tone when it snaps a shot.


Brandishing an 8-megapixel camera in the rear, it’s not an upgrade considering that the ATRIX 2 flaunted the same resolution. Unfortunately for this just made available smartphone, its quality is nowhere close to the level of its direct competitors – simply, we’re dismayed! Even in outdoor settings with plenty of lighting, it fails to deliver anything compelling, which is illustrated by its muddy details and bland color tones. Worse yet, its quality in low lighting is stubbornly poor, as it’s diminished by some noticeable instances of noise and graininess. Using the flash does little to alleviate its garish quality, seeing that it produces a vignetting effect that doesn’t illuminate properly the corners and borders of the shot.



However, its 1080p video recording quality fares a little bit better, but not by much. First and foremost, we do appreciate its smooth capture rate of 29 frames per second. Beyond that, we see pretty much the same results with its still capture quality. Specifically, its details are very dull in tone and that it suffers from a tiny bit of artifacting when panning quickly. Audio recording sounds decent, well, except for its inability to cut down wind noise.

Motorola ATRIX HD Sample Video:



Multimedia:

Showing its love for the stock ICS experience, both its gallery and music apps maintain their presentations. With the latter, we’re always tickled by the cool 3D carousel in play when browsing through our catalog, but beyond that, it packs a straightforward layout. Cranking up its volume to its maximum, it delivers a pleasant tone that’s never too irritating to the ear. Even better, its audio quality can be enhanced thanks to the available sound effects offered by the ATRIX HD.


Having the correct ingredients on hand, the Motorola ATRIX HD’s 4.5” HD ColorBoost TFT display is a beauty of its own when it comes to watching high definition videos. Playing our test video encoded in DivX 1920 x 1080 resolution, it’s naturally equipped in providing us with an excellent experience. Not only does it boast sharp details, but it’s the rich colors of its display that ensnares our attention above all.


Regrettably, there’s no support for Motorola’s Webtop experience with this ATRIX – as we’ve noted already. Rather, its microHDMI port simply coughs up the typical mirrored experience on a high definition television set. Call it a bummer, we’re curious to know why a standout feature like that is omitted with a top-shelf device such as this.

Software:

Being an AT&T bound device and all, it’s preloaded with all of the usual AT&T apps we’re so used to seeing – these include AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Ready2Go, AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, Live AT&T U-Verse Live TV, myAT&T, and AT&T Messages. As for the other on there, they consist of Amazon Kindle, Qik Lite, Quickoffice, Real Racing 2, and YPmobile.





Call quality:

Don’t let its itsy bitsy earpiece fool you because it manages to pump out some strong tones that enable us to listen to our callers with comfort. Furthermore, voices on both ends of the line are audibly distinct, noise-free, and clear. In addition to the wonderful experience through the earpiece, the speakerphone yields the same exact results – so you won’t ever miss a beat with conversations!

In high coverage areas, we didn’t experience any fluctuations with signal strength or dropped calls, however, its output seems to stay put at around the -85 dBm mark.


Battery:

We can wish all we want about seeing the 3,300 mAh battery of the DROID RAZR MAXX inside of this one, but instead, the ATRIX HD is mellowed out with an uncannily low 1,780 mAh battery. And of course, we’re not terribly surprised to find its performance well below the competition, as it provides less than a single day of juice. Obviously, it’s enough to get us through a grueling work day, but it’s something that’s going to require nightly charges.


Conclusion:

Oh Motorola! We were expecting so much more out of this one, especially when AT&T customers have been waiting an extensive amount of time for something other than the ATRIX 2 from last year. Aside from the larger and higher resolution display, there isn’t anything particularly compelling that we haven’t seen before on an Android driven smartphone from Motorola’s camp.

However, we can’t count out the lovely $99.99 on-contract price that it’s flaunting. Much like the Sony Xperia ion before it, the $100 price point is increasingly becoming the budget high-end category for AT&T’s Android lineup – if it even exists! Donning such a stellar price point, there’s no questioning the kind of value it has to offer consumers, but it’s been too handicapped to distinguish itself as a superior device to Moto’s previous efforts. Having seen such stellar Android devices like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III, there’s just too much left to be desired with the Motorola ATRIX HD.

Software version of the AT&T review unit:
Android Version: 4.0.4
Build Number: 7.7.1Q-115_MB886_FFW-14
Kernel Version: 3.0.8-00036-g9409db6

Motorola ATRIX HD Video Review:





Pros

  • Affordable $99.99 on-contract price
  • Sharp looking HD ColorBoost display
  • Nice, mostly stock ICS experience

Cons

  • Weak battery life
  • Shoots terrible photos

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

8.9
10 Reviews

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