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Review: Motorola Razr HD – Too little, too late

Allan Swann
March 5, 2013

Price: £399, contract TBC
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It took its time getting here, and while the Motorola Razr HD is a great phone it is a victim of its delayed UK release and a high price.

Google’s purchase of Motorola has seen the company grow more focused ‘ just two phones to market (including the Intel powered Razr I reviewed last year), instead of fifteen. The Razr HD feels like a mid-way product of that refocused Google attention. The little brother of the appallingly named Motorola Razr Maxx HD (which was more famous for its whopping 3300mAh battery ‘ and the high price tag which matched it), the Razr HD retains the rather neutral front face (it’s a love it or hate it proposition) ‘ a black rectangle with curved corners.

LOVELY KEVLAR DESIGN

Motorola’s ‘edge to edge’ screen marketing is nonsense (they claim that although the phone seems smaller, it still managed a 4.7-inch screen because less space is wasted on the bezel) ‘ yes the Gorilla Glass goes to the edge, but the rendered screen underneath stops a good half centimetre before it. No way is it edge to edge.

Otherwise the design of the phone is exemplary ‘ the back is a lovely kevlar knit, which feels like no other phone (very grippy, a strange semi-metallic/plastic hybrid), with metal running down the sides of the phone in a nice industrial design (screws and all). Most importantly, it is one of the best phones in the hand I’ve used for a long time.

It sits nicely and is a joy to hold, weighing just 146g and nice and thin at 8.4mm. Motorola also claims it is ‘splash resistant’ – although judging by the open ports and speaker grills, I wouldn’t chance it.

To summarise, the phone looks a bit retro with its industrial curves (which I like), and feels like a nice strong durable piece of kit ‘ pragmatic design as much as anything ‘ it feels like a businessman’s tool. Much better than plasticky phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3.

 

TASTY VERSION OF LATEST ANDROID

This extends to the Motorola interpretation of Android, it’s running the latest version Jellybean. The homescreen uses the top third for Motorola’s ‘circles’ such as clock, battery and weather. Flicking left is settings, right takes you to apps ‘ which I like compared to other Android implementations that clutter with news feeds or media players. It is of course all modifiable.

Motorola’s touches are nice and unobtrusive ‘ for example putting the phone to sleep does a nice retro TV off (i.e. it cuts to black via a pinpoint, like old CRT TVs used to). Motorola also throws in Quickoffice (normally £15) and Motorola’s own SmartActions. This is basically an app/mod that automates basic functions from your day to day life ‘ for example, if your calendar shows that you go into the same meeting every Monday at 10am ‘ it will automatically silence your phone (in case you forget). You can even build your own ones into the system, and profiles such as ‘Home’, ‘Office’ and ‘Airport’.

It’s pretty basic stuff, but the battery saver (now on most rival devices too) is quite handy in that rather than being fully automated, you can choose your triggers and actions, (i.e. if battery drops below 25%, lower screen brightness, kill wi-fi and kill all background apps)

 

ALREADY OUT OF DATE SPECS

Jellybean functions as perfectly as any other device. The Razr HD doesn’t struggle with any films, apps or games, and there aren’t any unnecessary load times.

Much of the criticism levelled at the phone has come from the fact that it was released in the US in September, which makes it quite dated here when the next gen of phones are launching. It has a dual core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. We would’ve liked to have seen Motorola drop the price to £350 – £399 puts it in competition with the Samsung Galaxy S3, and nearly double the price of a Google Nexus 4.

 

THE Screen is limiting

The screen has nice colour reproduction, menus and games all look OK, but it is definitely not as sharp (720×1280, or 312 pixels per inch density) as some of the 400PPI+ monsters being released now. The Xperia Z, for example, has a stunning 1080×1920 screen. Putting those phones side by side and the Razr HD does a good job of matching them for clarity, colour and contrast, until you play a game, read text or look at HD photos, where its lack of sharpness is very noticeable.

 

MEDIOCRE CAMERA

While the rest of the phone is pretty decent all round – especially for the £350 price – the camera is only average when compared to rivals. Outdoors it is as good as any other, producing some nice colours and sharpness, but indoors it struggles. White balance appears to be a problem on Auto mode, it gives indoors shots a blue tinge – made worse by the LED flash (which also washes everything out).

motorola razr HD

4G + AWESOME BATTERY = HAPPY

What you are paying for is 4G and a good battery ‘ 2530mAh – much bigger than most phones in this market position, which hover around 1800-2100mAh. What does this translate to? Well, a full day of conventional use (phone calls, wi-fi, texting, emails, minor YouTube and movie watching and Facebook updates) the phone still had 45% charge, which is class leading. Watching movies for two hours left the battery hovering around 86%, which equates to around 7 hours of viewing time total. Angry birds for an hour dropped it to around 84%.

Talk time was more than enough for any reasonable user ‘ it never ran out during the day (Motorola claims 16 hours of talk time).

If you do want the latest quad-core, top shelf 2013 smartphone (and I still don’t believe there is a use case for 4 cores yet), then perhaps hold off. But if you want to do a fair comparison, look at our group test in April’s issue of What Mobile (available March 14) ‘ this phone is of that generation, and matches those phones very well ‘ but is still a bit expensive for what you get.

CONCLUSION

Its a tough call here. This feels like a bridge phone; like we are waiting for an updated version to follow (most likely, the long rumoured ‘X-Phone’ Motorola is building for Google to announced in May). Google’s influence is felt in the Android OS implementation, which is lovely, functional and unobtrusive. The body of the phone is distinctive, and a pleasure to hold and use. The screen is a bit dated for 2013, as are its internals (the processor), and the camera is only average. The best thing about it is definitely its battery life, which is exceptional even when using 4G. Motorola have hurt it by pricing it at £399, which seems a bit bizarre for a company that is struggling in this market.

VERDICT

Motorola’s latest shows signs of the company’s Google related revival. It has a great body with lovely industrial design, but the processor and screen are dated. The camera is also weak. Pricing it at £399 really doesn’t help its case.

+ Fantastic body
+ Awesome battery life
+ Good Android UI

 

‘ Specs are six months old
‘ Expensive
‘ Poor camera

PERFORMANCE
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DESIGN
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USABILITY
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FEATURES
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OVERALL
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