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Motorola Atrix HD Review

I have had the Motorola Atrix HD in my possession since early July, but since the Galaxy S3 launched at a similar time, it had to be put aside for a while. Now that things in the Android world have cooled off, it seemed like a great time to revisit the third edition of AT&T’s semi-successful Atrix line. By no means do Motorola or AT&T expect this phone to blow minds and take over the game, however, there are some interesting new features that stick out that we felt were necessary to talk about, knowing that Motorola and Verizon have something special planned for September 5

The Good:

  • Specs:  The specs for the Atrix HD are impressive for the most part. It sports a 1.5GHz dual-core processor (assuming it’s a Snapdragon S4), 4G LTE, a 4.5″ HD ColorBoost LCD display, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, expandable storage to 32GB, and it runs Ice Cream Sandwich. On paper, it should be one of Motorola’s most powerful and impressive devices to date. Unfortunately, I can’t brag about how great the performance is, something I’ll touch on down below.
  • Display:  This is by far, the best display we have seen from Motorola in a couple of years. It’s HD, not PenTile, has a crazy high 330ppi, and looks fantastic with this ColorBoost technology. There are no shared pixels, something you can see in the macro shot below. I also compared it at full brightness to the Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy S3 to show you the difference in tech. Bright colors seem to really pop on the LCD HD of the Atrix, a descriptive term we usually reserve for Super AMOLED displays. When looking at something with much more naturally coloring though, the device to me, seems to tone it back down.

  • Build:  Motorola has always built some of the higher quality phones on the market. The Atrix HD is no different, in fact, it feels just like the DROID RAZR which was another solid phone. Buttons are all placed well (lock switch on the side, thank you!), the soft-touch kevlar backing is their best yet, and there aren’t any creaky noises when using it, unlike the Incredible 4G LTE. I wouldn’t say that this design is going to win any awards, as it has become sort of tired, but again, it feels just as good as any other Moto phone.
  • Camera:  The 8MP camera on the Atrix HD is solid. Depending on the lighting, some of the photos I took appear a bit washed out, but for the most part, I thought they came out looking decent. In low light, things get a tad grainy, but on what smart phone do they not? The shutter itself is incredibly fast. Motorola gives you their standard set of options, however, it does appear to be missing a macro option, which is disappointing. Overall though, the camera in the Atrix was as good, if not better than those that were in any of Motorola’s previous phones.

  • Newest MotoBlur:  In the latest version of MotoBlur (skin on top of Android), Motorola has changed it up quite a bit. It still looks mostly like stock Ice Cream Sandwich aside from the new way that Moto has chosen to organize home screens. When you first boot the phone up, you only have one home screen to play with. If you want more, you swipe to the right and are greeted with a page that asks what kind of page you would like to create. From here, you will find pre-set pages to choose from or you can simply go with a blank one. It’s a move I’m a big fan of. Gone are the days when Motorola would load up 7 home screens with spam and bloatware that could potentially overwhelm customers – in is the minimal goodness. Motorola also created interactive icons with previews. If you check out this post, you’ll understand what we mean and why we are fans. Blur has quickly become one of our favorite Android skins after being in the doghouse for so long.

  • Price:  At $99 on a 2-year contract, AT&T priced this phone right. It has almost all of the goodies you could ask for in a new smartphone, including a beautiful HD screen. It should get you through two years without slowing down into a massive pile of junk. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this phone was discounted to FREE before too long, especially now that the HTC One X, a superior phone, is sitting at the same $99 price point.
  • Storage:  Motorola only tossed in 8GB of internal storage, but they also gave you a microSD slot so that you can add removable storage, should you need more. Google and their Nexus devices have gone away from the microSD slot movement, so we are always pleased when we see other OEMs stick to them. This day and age, you can fill up storage pretty quickly with high-res photos, HD videos, and music collections.
  • On-screen Navigation Buttons:  Thank you, Motorola! We have loved on-screen navigation buttons ever since Google introduced them with the Galaxy Nexus last year, so to see other OEMs finally start to make them standard, makes us happy. Sure, they tend to take up a few pixels while navigating around, but they hide during important screen usage, aka while watching videos. They also helped shorten up the chin on this device when compared to something like the DROID RAZR.

The Not-so-Good:

  • Performance:  As I mentioned earlier, the Atrix HD has all of the specs to be able to perform with the best of them. Unfortunately, during my time with it, it failed to live up to my expectations. The Snapdragon S4 is the processor that has taken over the world this year because of its power and efficiency, however, I notice stuttering and jitters on this phone all of the time. Swiping between screens is fluid for the most part, but even when swiping through pages in the app drawer, I noticed a jerky experience. It’s also slow to load apps, switch tasks, and sometimes requires multiple presses on icons before anything will happen because it’s processing other things in the background. In 2012, with the amount of power at a smartphone maker’s fingertips, there should be no lag. The Atrix HD did not pass the test.
  • Battery Life:  The battery life on the Atrix HD has been all over the board. It sports a 1780mAh battery, so it’s not the 3300mAh beast that is in the RAZR MAXX. On my first couple of charges, I was unable to get through an entire day, as you can see in the screenshot below. After setting the phone down for a month and picking it back up yesterday, I’ve noticed a slight improvement, but nothing to write home about. In fact, the phone completely died overnight, even though I left it with about 40-50% of a charge. When it comes to a smartphone, I want one that manages power much better than this.

  • Design:  This design is old and tired. It was interesting and sort of cutting edge with the DROID RAZR on Verizon, last year, but it’s not impressing anyone this year. HTC and Samsung continue to impress with their phone designs skills – Motorola, not so much.
  • Keyboards:  Both keyboards on the Atrix HD are two of the worst I have ever used. It comes loaded with a slightly tweaked stock Android keyboard (basically has been elongated) and Swype, both of which struggle at all times. The stock keyboard can’t keep up with quick typing, plus the elongated buttons make it a challenge if you are coming from another phone. Swype on the other hand, works well if you like to swipe words, however, as always, it can’t keep up with quick typers. I personally, would ditch both and invest in Swiftkey immediately, should I ever find myself stuck with the Atrix HD.

  • No NFC:  If you were hoping to get into the NFC and mobile payments game with your next smartphone, skip the Atrix HD, as it does not contain an NFC chip. It’s unfortunate, especially as we near the end of 2012 and mobile payments are bound to be our future. They had to cut somewhere to keep the price down, right?

Unboxing and Quick Look:

YouTube Preview Image

Gallery:

The Verdict:

The Atrix HD is a solid mid-range phone. At $99, it’s priced right, however, with the HTC One X now selling for that same $99, it would be hard for me to recommend this to anyone on AT&T. The One X remains one of the top 5 Android phones on the planet, while the Atrix HD was never going to hit that status. Again, it’s a fairly polished phone, but there are others at this price point that can beat it.

  • guardheart

    does anybody know why Tango wont load up on this phone?

  • danana

    I have the hd just got it… my question is do i let the battery totally die before i charge it or should i charge it at 40-50%

  • Jeffrey

    I totally agree with this review. Motorola still making the same boring design. They need to make more candy bars design and stop for a bit with those square designs.

  • http://www.DavidPat.com David Pat

    I loved the Droid 3 design language but it’s nice to see ATT get a good Moto phone. The Atrix line sells well because of the great pricing.

  • durangojim

    So is this basically what the review for the razor had will be?

  • Knlegend1

    I’m starting to believe that motorola hasn’t figured out power management. I’m guessing that’s the reason the Maxx even exist. I thought the S4 would change that but I guess not.

  • kixofmyg0t

    Motorola. KEEP USING THAT DISPLAY.

    On another note, great review. I totally agree with your points. I do like what Moto did with Blur, toning it down and all but I ***HATE*** the keyboard. But I bought Swiftkey back when I had my DX and it’s keyboard went crazy so I don’t really have to use Moto’s.

  • http://TransientTangent.com/ Blake Mitchell

    Why won’t Motorola cut down on the bezel size?

  • azndan4

    Like usual, Motorola fails to impress.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    I don’t know how Moto does it but they always manage to make good hardware run like crap. I always thought it was bad coding in motoblur, but now that blur is barely even a skin anymore it still can’t perform. I was going to recommend this phone for my dad, but I think I’ll just tell him to grab the One X.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      Definitely go with the One X.

      • DroidFann

        My friend sent great pix with the One x, but the video with the one x had a lot of noise in the back ground, but it was a waterfall he was shooting too. He also described some of the same bugs that my gnex had before the .4 update, but his phone had .4 So it sounds like the sense 4 has some bugs in the skin os.

  • Blades

    Uh oh…..it’s got rounded corners like an IPHONE. Watch out Motorola!

  • KleenDroid

    Amazing