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Motorola RAZR XT910 Review
6th February 2012
One of the most significant new Android handsets to be launched last year, the Motorola RAZR XT910 is a big, powerful and expensive beast which might just be the boost that Motorola need to regain their once-powerful position in the mobile phone market.
Motorola RAZR: Out of the box
The RAZR comes in a compact box, with just the phone, charger and USB cable and a couple of small pieces of documentation and that's it. The battery is already in the phone (in any case, it is not user removable) and the RAZR's generous allocation of 8GB of flash means that a microSD card is not necessary, although you can add one if you like.
The sheer size of the RAZR is striking. Front the front, the phone's "footprint" is 33% larger than the iPhone 4S, but when you pick it up it seems amazingly light at just 127 grams (13 grams lighter than the iPhone). The next impression is just how thin it is, coming in at just 7.1mm thick except for the camera area. Finally, the unusual Kevlar back is soft to the touch and provides a firm grip on the back of the phone.
The build quality seems to be very good, there are no creaks or loose panels. It probably helps that the handset is completely sealed, thus eliminating the usual back panel.
For the uninitiated, there is a bit of a challenge next. The RAZR takes a micro SIM card in the side, which is much smaller than a standard SIM and is the same type of card as used in the iPhone 4 and 4S. Your carrier should be able to supply you with a micro SIM free of charge (although it might take a few days to arrive), although braver people can choose to cut the SIM down to size using scissors or special micro SIM cutters which are widely available.
Powering on the device takes you through a typical Android setup process, but it is immediately obvious that the large 4.3" 540 x 960 pixel super AMOLED display is going to be a joy to use, it is not only pleasingly large but also very bright and sharp at the same time.
Underneath the display are a row of touch-sensitive keys for "menu", "home", "back" and "search". It is quite possible to activate the keys accidentally, a problem that other similarly designed handsets have.
If you are familiar with Android devices, then setting it up is easy and quick and you should be running in no time at all. The operating system is Android 2.3, so it might be a little different from your older Android smartphone. During the setup process you can sign into a bewildering number of social networking sites and other web services which allows you to use things like Facebook from the very first time you use it.
Motorola RAZR: In use
All Android devices are pretty similar these days, and the RAZR is no exception. All the standard applications are here with a few Motorola add-ons which clutter it up just a little.
This is a 3.5G device with support for 802.11 b, g and n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Reception and range seems to be as good as other devices in general. One downside is an annoying problem with password authentication with the Wireless LAN (WLAN) - it seems that if you are in a marginal reception area then the RAZR can fail to authenticate via WPA with your WLAN.. this wouldn't be too bad a problem, except for the fact that the RAZR then "forgets" the WLAN password and will not connect again unless you re-type it. If you have complex password then this is very inconvenient. A recent software update seems to help a little, but the problem can still re-occur.
The large high-resolution display and the fast processor make the RAZR a very good platform for web browsing. Almost all pages render perfectly, and the handset supports Adobe Flash content as well.
The built-in Android browser is very good and there is very little need to use anything else, although there an excellent version of Opera available which is even better. We tested the mobile version of Firefox on the RAZR too, but it was very unstable and slow and cannot be recommended.
Content loads very quickly, and you can pinch zoom and scroll without any delays. If you find that the screen isn't big enough then you can connect to a larger monitor with an optional HDMI cable, which is an easy way to share content with those around you.
The large screen size and very high resolution display make the RAZR a much better web browsing device than the previous generation. It's not quite up to the experience you'd get on a tablet though, simply because the display is still relatively small.
The stills from the eight megapixel camera are of very high quality, but are not quite as good as those from a dedicated digital camera. The same goes for the video capture quality - good, but you'd still get better results from a dedicated HD digital camcorder. Of course, all these dedicated gadgets are expensive, and if you were stuck with the RAZR alone then I suspect that you would still be reasonably happy with its results.
Click the images below to see the full-size photograph.
In the comparison shots below you can see that the RAZR's camera produces some impressively sharp pictures that can certainly rival dedicated digital cameras in terms of sharpness, but of course most digital camera come with far superior zoom and flash facilities.
Video capture capabilities are also very good with 1080p HD video capture which works well in most circumstances. Again, a dedicated digital video camera will probably give better results overall (especially with optical zoom), but the RAZR does a very good job overall. You can see a sample video below:
The music player is pretty straightforward to use, and if it recognised the track you are playing it can download additional content relating to the artist. Audio playback with the phone itself seems pretty good, although the phone sounds better when placed on a flat surface. You can also use a 3.5mm headset or play back through a Bluetooth connection.
Bluetooth playback was a mixed bag. We tested this with a Renault in-car Bluetooth system, and although most of the time it worked well there were occasions where playback had to be un-paused on the handset. The Renault system also failed to read the filestore on the phone directly, a task which it can do on some other handsets without a problem. In playback on Bluetooth there were occasional drop-outs which were a little annoying.
You can also listed to a baffling variety of internet radio stations, podcasts and interface with DLNA compatible equipment on your home network.
The RAZR is capable of carrying out "Smart Actions" that depend on things like locations, docked status and time. Many of these features revolve around saving the battery life, but it can also be used for reminders or starting applications at a certain time. It lacks the ease of use of Apple's location-based reminders though, and we suspect that it will need more work to be really useful.
Click the picture on the right to enlarge.
This is a really fast device, with an AnTuTu benchmark of 4777 in our tests, coming in slightly slower than the similarly configured Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note but way ahead of almost everything else.
Multiple applications can be run quite smoothly, although occasionally the RAZR freezes for a few seconds, presumably as a higher priority task hogs the processor.
One issue with Android phones is battery life, and the RAZR XT910 squeezes in a large 1780 mAh battery to keep it going. Android 2.3 is better at power management than older versions, which is a help, and the RAZR can easily last a whole day with light use. Even so, as with almost all Android phones, you will want to know where your charger is in case some process eats up the battery.
It's worth noting that there is a US variant of the RAZR called the DROID RAZR MAXX which packs a huge 3300 mAh battery, which might be an attractive proposition if ever it is released worldwide.
One key selling point with the RAZR is the range of accessories. Ours was supplied with an HD dock which connects to the microUSB and HDMI ports on the RAZR. The problem is that the connectors were not aligned properly on the first dock and it had to be replaced.
There is also a dedicated (but somewhat expensive) vehicle mount kit that works very well, and although generic mount kits are also available you have to remember that the RAZR is a large device and you will need to check carefully. One interesting feature with the Motorola kit is that there is a hole cut in the mount for the camera, so it should be possible to use the RAZR as a dashboard video camera if you want.
A Lapdock 100 was meant to be supplied with the RAZR, this handy (but pricey) add-on turns the RAZR into a mini notebook. However, presumably due to supply problems, the dock never arrived.
One other issue is cases. The RAZR doesn't ship with a case, and the very large size of the device means that it is hard to find one that fits. In the end, a Krusell Luna XXL Pouch was found to fit quite well, although we guess that other cases will be available over time.
The optional HDMI cable is a very obvious accessory to go for. The RAZR can play back quite adequately on an HD display, although the output is only 540 lines compared with 1080 lines on most TVs, but even the highest resolution we have seen on a phone is 720 lines.
The Motorola RAZR XT910 is a very good Android handset, and it looks distinctly different from other rival devices. There are a few little niggles here and there, but many of those are the fault of Android rather than the phone itself.
It's a very fast device, it has an excellent display and a high quality camera, it looks distinctly different from everything else on the market and it comes with a wide range of accessories. The drawbacks are price and availability - not all carriers have it available, and if you have to buy it SIM-free then it is really expensive.
The 4.3" display is probably as big as most people will want to go - anything larger than this starts to become cumbersome. It's certainly much easier to use than the relatively small screen on the iPhone, however that is likely to improve with the upcoming rumoured iPhone 5.
So, if you are looking for a high-end Android smartphone that doesn't follow the crowd, the Motorola RAZR is certainly something you should consider.
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