Review: Motorola RAZR

Our score: 2/5
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January 5, 2012 1:16 PM
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Published: January 5, 2012 12:45 PM
Updated: February 3, 2014 4:46 PM
By Florence Legrand
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
The Motorola Razr has ditched its clamshell design for 2011. This high-end Android smartphone is aimed to please the most demanding, tech-savvy users but, unlike the Google Galaxy Nexus, released at almost the same time, the Razr isn't yet loaded with the latest version of Android—it's shipping on Gingerbread 2.3.5 with an update to Ice Cream Sandwich due in 2012.


A quick glance at the tech specs confirms the Razr's high-end status, as it boasts a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus scratch-proof screen, a 1.2 GHz TI dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, an 8-Megapixel camera, Bluetooth 4.0, a MicroSD card slot (unlike the Galaxy Nexus, the 16 GB memory can be expanded), a micro-HDMI output (the phone also uses a micro SIM card) and a 1780 mAh battery. All of this is loaded into a shock-resistant, scratch-resistant and splash-proof casing. That certainly sounds great, but can this all-new Razr match the high standards set by Motorola's original Razr smartphone? Let's take a closer look.

Design & Hardware

There are two immediately striking things about the Motorola Razr. The first is the phone's large size, as the Razr is one of those outsized handsets that seem to be popular at the moment. The phone's size is further emphasised by its angular design, as unlike most of its competitors, the Razr has a chiselled, almost rough-and-ready kind of look rather than the sleek, smooth curves seen elsewhere. The second eye-catching thing about this phone is its rather remarkable slimness—at 7.1 mm it's slimmer than the Sony-Ericsson Xperia Arc! When viewed from the side, these thin edges further accentuate the large front face.

Motorola Razr Review

For technical reasons (to make room for the camera and flash), the handset is thicker towards the top, giving the Razr a kind of lop-sided slope that we're not huge fans of.

The bigger your hands, the more comfortable you're likely to find the Razr, as with smaller hands it soon becomes tiring (when holding it up to talk on the phone, for example). Plus, we can't really understand why Motorola has left a thick black border around the screen. If this was slimmed down, the phone's size could be trimmed too.

Otherwise, we're glad to see that the Razr still has that handy notification LED that flashes when you get a text message or an e-mail, for example.

All in all, the Razr has the kind of design that you'll either love or you'll hate—it's all a matter of taste. We, however, can't help thinking it's a pretty masculine kind of phone.

Motorola Razr Review - Kevlar casing

Motorola has built this phone with some interesting materials. The rear casing may be non-removable, which means the battery can't be user-replaced (something we're seeing more and more), but it's finished in Kevlar fibre. This has a nice rubbery feel, and is sturdy and scratch-resistant. In fact, after spending a week in the huge handbag of a mother of two during our tests, the Razr still looked spotless with no scratches or marks on the casing—many other smartphones haven't held up so well!

The screen has a scratch-resistant coating and, here too, we didn't spot any damage at all. What's more, the handset has a splashproof finish, which is handy if you're one of those people who even takes their phone into the bathroom, or if your kids like playing with your phone.

The Razr is certainly a well-made piece of kit. The handset feels solid, sturdy and really feels to be a cut above the various all-plastic smartphones. The Razr doesn't feel too heavy to handle either.

The 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen (as seen in the Galaxy S II) has a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels (qHD). Screen quality doesn't seem quite as good as in the Google Galaxy Nexus or the Galaxy S II, with a less accurate, less sharp onscreen image. In fact, pixels (of which there are fewer) are more visible on this display, which in turn makes the picture look less crisp and sharp. That said, this difference in quality is only very slight, and the Razr display is still very good—more demanding users may appreciate the warning, though. Otherwise, the screen has all the same advantages and disadvantages you'd expect from this type of display technology—so while you get infinite contrast and deep blacks, you also get super-bright colours and green shades that look blue when you tilt the screen. Finally, we found the screen to be sufficiently responsive.

Interface & Navigation

A new flagship handset means a new interface, so it's out with Motoblur—the GUI that wasn't a hit with everyone, and which was often criticised for not being very logical—and in with Motocast, a lighter GUI layer developed by Motorola for the Andoid OS. Thankfully, though, it still has the same handy hub for managing social networks in one central location.

Motorola Razr Review - social network hub

In terms of graphics, Motocast isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's all a matter of taste, of course, but we noticed that the girls in our office found it a bit too 'masculine', like the handset itself, in fact, with comments ranging from 'it's cluttered and ugly' to 'it's garish', which isn't untrue. While there have been some welcome improvements, such as fast access to the camera and silent mode on the new homescreen, some things we hoped to see have been overlooked, such as quick access to settings from the navigation bar. Note that five homescreens are available.

Motorola Razr Review - homescreen


Although it's no rival for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Motocast does have some decent original services. For example, the Smart Actions app lets you preset the phone in relation to your activities using various profiles. You can therefore programme the phone to switch off the ringtone when you arrive at work, to cut out the Wi-Fi connection between certain times (to save battery life), to start the audio player as soon as you plug in headphones, to launch Google Maps as soon as you're in the car etc.



Motorola Razr Review  - smart actions
Sony vaio z



Similarly, Motocast allows you to access content such as films and photos stored on a computer or on the Xoom tablet via 3G or Wi-Fi. That means you can stream music and videos to your phone without loading up its internal memory with files. The computer you're streaming from does have to be left on, however.

The print widget is pretty good too, as you can send a photo or a document directly to a Wi-Fi printer.

Motorola Razr Review - widgets

The Razr interface is smooth, responsive and fast, even when downloading apps, multitasking or loading up web pages.

Multimedia

Can the Razr take decent pictures with an 8-Megapixel sensor that's not backlit? Let's just say that we've seen better smartphone cameras (notably the Apple iPhone 4S and Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc et Ray) but, then again, we've also seen worse (like the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation XE). Note that the Razr is very slow to focus, which makes it feel really out-dated—smartphone cameras usually don't do too bad on that front these days. Pictures are relatively sharp with a decent level of detail. Contrast is a little excessive but noise is kept in check reasonably well and colour fidelity isn't too bad. As is often the case, you'll get better results in good light than in darker environments.

Barbi razr
Scen razr



The Razr films 1080p video that's not bad quality for a smartphone—jumps and glitches are rare. The image is, however, disappointingly blurred.

Sound quality is OK, so long as you ditch the headphones that are supplied as standard. Although the speaker doesn't do a great job at high volumes, it's still a fair bit better than the speaker in the Google Galaxy Nexus.

Motorola Razr Review - web browser

With its more-than-decent 1.2 GHz dual-core TI processor, the Razr breezes its way through games, which is a real boon for a handset like this.

Web browsing is very pleasant too, with pages that load up quickly and a practical bookmark system.

The battery will last a day, but with more intensive use (Wi-Fi, video playback, games, video recording, GPS) you may need to recharge by late afternoon. In any case, that's still an improvement on the Galaxy Nexus.
2/5 Motorola RAZR DigitalVersus 2012-01-05 13:45:00

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Plenty of connections (micro-HDMI etc.)
  • High-quality build and finish
  • Fast and responsive
  • Decent enough battery life for a smartphone

Cons

  • Poor-quality camera
  • Motocast interface won't be to everyone's taste

Conclusion

With this highly respectable (but not entirely faultless) handset, Motorola has earned its place among the ranks of high-end Android smartphone makers. With a distinctive design, some handy exclusive apps, plus loads of connections and multimedia functions, the Razr certainly has plenty going for it. If you overlook its interface—that could do with redesigning—and the sub-standard camera, the Razr stands out for its unique design and its custom widgets.

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