Motorola Atrix HD Review

Filed under Reviews by Kenneth Pennington on July 25, 2012 at 5:47 PM
Motorola Atrix HD

Motorola Atrix HD

Motorola’s relatively quiet demeanor in the smartphone market as of late has been unsettling. In fact, the folks at Motorola haven’t released a major smartphone since the announcement of the DROID RAZR and DROID RAZR MAXX last year. Finally, the Atrix HD will break Motorola’s silence on AT&T. With a Snapdragon S4, high-definition screen, and Android 4.0, the Atrix HD is a top-tier device.

But, can it compete with the likes of HTC’s One X? Can it compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S III? Find out below as we put the Atrix HD through the paces.

Feature Overview

  • 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB internal storage (4.7 GB available)
  • microSD slot
  • 1780 mAh battery
  • 4.5-inch 720p ColorBoost™ TFT LCD display
  • 8-megapixel camera
    • 1080p HD recording
  • 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
    • Motorola skin
    • On-screen buttons

Hardware Design

Motorola’s design team has taken most of its cues from their earlier RAZR devices. The back of the Atrix HD is KEVLAR®-branded silicon like the RAZR, the shape is similarly boxy with rounded corners, and the camera rests up top in a small pentagonal container. With significant cues from last year’s designs, it’s hard to award Motorola very many points on the inspirational front.

The front of the device is dominated by a beautiful plate of glass that tapers off towards the bottom in a pentagonal fashion. The front-facing camera and miniature speaker reside up top in the center. Down low, the AT&T logo may look like a button, but it’s not. In fact, there are no capacitive or physical buttons on the face of the Atrix HD. Instead, Motorola opted to utilize Android 4.0’s on-screen button layout. Without buttons to take their place, I wish Motorola reduced the size of the top and bottom bezels.

Around back, the device’s KEVLAR® backing was made significantly more attractive than the one on the RAZR series. The pattern is a more subtle argyle, which doesn’t call as much attention. The camera lens, flash, and external speaker sit up top in an organized row.

The power button is textured and clicky, so it’s easy to find inside of a pocket or purse. Unfortunately, the volume rocker isn’t the same design. On the opposite side, the microSD and microSIM slots are covered by a fingernail-openable cover.

Next to an HTC One X or a Samsung Galaxy S III, the Atrix HD doesn’t really catch the eye. It looks plain and uninspired. I’m firmly convinced that Motorola is capable of making a great looking device. They’re just not there yet with the Atrix HD. Thankfully, the device comes in two colors: white and black.

Display

In 2012, the smartphone display market is as competitive as ever. Apple’s Retina Display, Samsung’s Super AMOLED series, Nokia’s ClearBlack AMOLED, and the Super-LCD 2 are all competing head-to-head. Over the past two years, display quality has become one of the most integral parts of a phone’s success or failure. Motorola’s attempt to step up in this department is called ColorBoost™.

The ColorBoost™ display on Motorola’s Atrix HD is a 4.5-inch TFT LCD panel with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution and 326 pixels-per-inch density. There are two industry leaders which really stick out as the ColorBoost’s competition: Samsung’s Super AMOLED HD and the Super-LCD 2. Samsung utilized the former for their Galaxy S III series of phones, while HTC chose the latter for its One X flagship.

Unfortunately for Motorola, the ColorBoost screen on the Atrix HD fails to take the cake. It’s not better than the Super AMOLED HD or Super-LCD 2. Its colors are nowhere near as vivid and contrast ratios nowhere near as great as the Super AMOLED HD. Viewing angles still lag behind the Galaxy S III and One X.

Having said that, the Atrix HD’s screen may take third place in the industry. Whites on the Atrix HD are arguably brighter than those on the One X or Galaxy S III. Images and text are as sharp as the competitors’ as well.

Software

Motorola's Ice Cream Sandwich

Motorola’s Ice Cream Sandwich

Motorola’s theme efforts atop of Android 2.3 Gingerbread were less than satisfactory. Previous themes from Motorola have been entirely too heavy, with major style inconsistencies and poor design choices. This time, Motorola’s employing a ‘change less, add more’ strategy for styling Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

I’d have to say their efforts to stay consistent with the Android 4.0+ Holo design were rather successful. A changed lockscreen keeps consistent with the drag-to-icon circle one from the AOSP builds of Ice Cream Sandwich. Once unlocked, users are treated to a mostly stock launcher application. The mechanism for adding, subtracting, and reordering homescreen pages has been completely overhauled, adding significantly useful features to the once-stock launcher.

Icons were not kept stock, though. Instead, Motorola chose to swap out the traditional Holo-themed icons for the same ones used in Motorola’s Gingerbread builds. In Ice Cream Sandwich, these icons feel a tad out of place.

Twelve bloatware applications have been added to the Atrix HD, but they’re all removable and/or able to be disabled: AT&T Code Scanner, FamilyMap, Navigator, Ready2Go, Messages, Smart WiFi, Live TV, Kindle, myAT&T, Real Racing 2, Vehicle Mode and YPmobile. SmartActions allow users to automate daily tasks to save battery, change modes, and prepare you based on times, actions, and locations.

Overall, Motorola’s created a solid experience on top of Android 4.0.

Camera

Motorola continues to release high-end smartphones with middling cameras inside, and the Atrix HD is no exception to that trend. Photos were acceptable, although not commendable. The camera on the Atrix HD won’t match up to the one seen on HTC’s One X or Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Low light pictures were lacking, and our daylight stills could have been sharper and better focused. Colors were fairly bright, although there’s room for increased saturation.

Our recorded videos were seriously lacking in quality. Without proper image stabilization, the 1080p HD video we captured was noticeably shaky. Check out the video below.

Performance

The Motorola Atrix HD is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 seen in the HTC One X (on AT&T) and Samsung Galaxy S III (on AT&T). It’s a dual-core Krait processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, paired with the Adreno 225 GPU.

The software experience is mostly fluid, although there are hiccups here and there. The “Add a page” and “Manage pages” menus aren’t all that fluid, which is concerning with such a powerful chip inside. In addition, there’s noticeable lag when loading widget previews in the launcher.

On the whole, applications launch instantly and work fluidly. Multitasking worked effectively, and switching between the applications was easier and more enjoyable than on HTC’s Sense platform.

Battery

Given the outstanding battery life on Samsung’s Galaxy S III and HTC’s One X, we expected nothing less from the Atrix HD. All three devices hold the Snapdragon S4 inside, so battery life should be comparable. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get as many hours out of the Atrix HD. The Atrix HD can last a little less than one full day of use, meaning you’ll want a charger with you after getting home from the office.

Conclusions

The Atrix HD takes the cake as Motorola’s best smartphone on the market. Disappointingly, it cannot compete with Samsung or HTC’s latest flagships. Next to the One X or Galaxy S III, the Atrix HD fails to stand out in any significant way. It’s not the best looking device, it doesn’t have the best camera, it isn’t significantly faster or more capable, and its battery life stats are abysmal. Put simply: why would one choose the Atrix HD over an existing flagship phone on the market?

When a major brand pushes out a flagship phone, we expect it to excel in areas beyond the competition. The Atrix HD fails to do that, and we can’t recommend it over the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III on AT&T.

7 Responses to “Motorola Atrix HD Review”

  1. Excellent review, Kenneth!

  2. Xingster says:

    IMOH, this is kind of a step back from the OG Atrix- that was state-of-the-art, and had an impressive battery and screen to match, at the time. Now the Atrix line just seems alot more like a budget line of phones…

    • Yep. You two hit it right on the nail. It’s not that this phone was extremely bad in any one way. It’s that it isn’t beyond the competition; it isn’t state-of-the-art in any way. That’s what I expect from companies when they release a flagship. I expect some innovation. You don’t have to create the best phone on the market, but at least give me something significantly better on your device. If not, there’s no reason to buy at all.

    • torine says:

      the atrix hd destroys the iphone 4s though.

  3. Kenny Erwin says:

    I’m with Xingster on this. this doesn’t seem like it’s too terribly better than the OG Atrix. Kenneth, with your work on the Atrix (big fan of it, btw) I’d imagine you can’t be too happy with the direction they’ve taken the Atrix brand.

  4. DANIEL says:

    and why they not make a really atrix, with the thickness of razr the battery of maxx, the fingerprint, webtop and 2gb also 4core, why not

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