Motorola RAZR HD The Review. a day in the hands of a maniac…

Motorola are launching a new offensive on the fast emerging 4G LTE handset market with a masterpiece of design and function, the Kevlar and glass wrapped RAZR HD. With the rich heritage of the RAZR family it was only a matter of time till Motorola got the formula right once again, randomly changing design has that effect.

The sleek design, smooth ICS interface and incredible speed of 4G combine into the perfect storm of a handset. This phone may be even better than the original RAZR flip phones.

In the Technoid Labs here at Highpants we were lucky enough to receive a brand new RAZR HD for testing this week. This was the first unboxing in quite a while that had a crowd gathering, generating many oww ahhh moments. The RAZR HD was quickly put into service, first impressions universally concluded that this is one sharp looking and sleek handset.

In the 4G handset market the iPhone 5 has quickly taken position as the number one handset while the Samsung SIII has taken the 3G market by storm, and these are just two of the fierce competitors in the mobile phone handset market. HTC have been providing 4G LTE handsets from the outset, they now have high end 4G models; the One X and One X HD are HTC’s super phones. LG has their new Optimus G super phone as well. The handset market has to be one of the most competitive and fast changing markets in the world, a tough battlefield.

At the moment Motorola has a serious chance to win market share through the shakeup that is the 4G transition, if they have the right weapon, which the RAZR HD may just be.

The phone
First the incredible edge to edge display catches your eye, and then the slim 8.4mm profile and edgy design draw you in. Here at Highpants we like the looks, we like them a lot. The dark grey chequered pattern of the Kevlar casing not only looks sharp but the Kevlar is very resistant to twisting giving the phone a very solid feel, especially considering the slim line body.

Droid Razr HD, slim profile.

The Kevlar rear case isn’t the only protection integrated by Motorola. Gorilla Glass up front and a splash resistant coating inside and out makes the RAZR HD one tough handset. So far this week it’s survived a number of carpet drops and constant use without a scratch or sign of ware.

Around the edge of the phone the little space available is dedicated to volume and on/off on the right and mini HDMI, USB and Sim card slot along the left edge. A standard headphone jack is in place at the top edge of the handset.

The brains of the operation in the RAZR HD’s case is the dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 CPU. The Snapdragon processor may seem to be a compromise being dual core instead of quad core, quad core or 4G, and it is a compromise but it is also plenty fast none the less.

Until the release of the next generation smartphone chipsets the compromise will continue, chipsets that include quad core and 4G LTE are due Q4 2012 or Q1 2013.

The dual core CPU uses a speed increase and improved design to keep pace with the quad core chips. The results are a fast dual core that is fast, keeping the UI super smooth. The 1GB of DDR RAM allows a multitude of apps to stay open in harmony, with the CPU running at 1.5Ghz there is never any touch screen lag or app stuttering. Taps and gestures are responded to instantly with no noticeable lag or latency, much of which is down to the Adreno 225 GPU.

A monster 2500Mha battery is flattened out and framed behind the massive 4.7 inch display. Motorola has also recently released the RAZR MAXX HD, which is essentially the same phone with an uprated battery, replacing the 2500mha battery with a 3300mha slab of lithium, providing up to 30% more run time.

Smart phones and tablets, with their touch screen interface and gesture based control are very visual machines, obviously making the display an essential ingredient. The RAZR HD doesn’t disappoint, the 4.7 AMOLED display offers incredible detail and rich colours with brightness and contrast that’s off the chart, black is pitch black, colours vibrant and rich.

The high contrast ratios and bright display make the RAZR HD’s display very useable in bright outdoor environments. In the dark the display can light a room, not that you will notice, the bright display combined with a good game will draw you in.

The Samsung Super AMOLED HD display uses a Pentile sub pixel arrangement, reducing the number of elements required to power a pixel, allowing the 4.7 inch display to reach the 1280×720 resolution, 312 pixels per inch.

The Camera

8MP Camera and Kevlar rear.

Out of the box the RAZR’s camera app is very usable and has enough new features to hold a new users interest, such as myself.

Other camera apps can obviously be installed but the burst mode and panorama shot mode, backed up by the 8 megapixel sensor have piqued the interest of yours truly, enough to keep me swinging into unseen obstacles for a few more days yet, the rapid fire burst mode is strangely satisfying as well. Aperture control and picture effects are included, bringing out the artistic photographer in us all. A 1.3Mp front facing camera is included for video chat and the ubiquitous mirror application.

The LED flash is surprisingly bright and doubles nicely as a nighttime flashlight.

Video can be captured at resolutions all the way up to full 1080p high-def. Both modes photo and video make use of the touch screen display to control settings and allow manual movement of the focal point of the camera.

The RAZR HD runs a lightly skinned version of ICS (4.0.4), a clean and fast UI that’s easily customizable. Google Play Store is the first stop for downloading apps and games. The hunt for new software is an adventure in itself, trawling through the online store, testing and enjoying. Determined to avoid the money trap of mobile apps the free apps have been the order of the day so far. The quality and number of apps available is generally very good and there is months of entertainment easily available.

All of the classic ICS improvements are there, side swipe applications to shut them down. Swipe down from the top of the screen to view recent tasks and access settings. Settings also allows data limit alarms and download limits to be set to avoid the bill shock that comes with 30Mbps download speeds.

Installing and organizing your apps has never been simpler as well, hold down on the app and move or delete, simple. New frames or screens can be quickly setup with a 4×4 grid of app and widget icons on each screen. I will be juggling and tweaking this layout for weeks yet.

Which Android am I?

3 on screen buttons at the bottom of the display replace any physical buttons on the front of the phone, giving the handset a very clean monolithic look. The three buttons provide back, home and tasks functions with the tasks screen allowing you to swipe left to right to close an app.

Motorola has also included a number of its own app’s, Drive Mode provides a vehicle dash interface for all the important road warrior tasks including maps, directions, music and voice control. There’s also SmartActions, a type of macro recorder, allowing multiple actions to be recorded and repeated later. Voice commands and facial recognition unlock functions are also included.

Office and media playback apps are pre-installed, Motorola have included QuickOffice for documents, Play Movies, Play Books and Play Music for media playback.

The Jelly Bean upgrade should be available Q4 2012, rumours are suggesting late October.

4G Performance
4G data speeds are obviously the major difference when considering 4G versus 3G, we speak at the same speed on both after all. The question of 4G speed versus 3G and Quad core power is quickly answered with the RAZR in hand, go with 4G.

Once other mobile internet functions such as tethering are taken into account it becomes a no brainer. The speed of 4G makes everything smoother and frankly enjoyable, while the power of quad core is really only used by games running at higher resolutions, 1080p especially. Quad core makes sense on a tablet with more memory, larger screen and massive battery. A 1080p HD tablet such as the Transformer Infinity WiFi direct tethered to a RAZR HD could be the ultimate combination.

Possibly handier than a Batman utility belt factory the USB and Wifi tethering are invaluable options, functions available on most ICS 4G handsets and handy on all of them. Tethered speeds, even over USB, were incredible with nearly 30Mbps download speeds achieved. The internet on a tethered PC using 4G can at times be noticeably quicker than a DSL connection. Only cable is still quicker it seems, if you can afford the 100Mbit fibre connection.

4G and fast, but it’s all about the screen… site was run on the PC with 4G tethering to the RAZR HD. The results were a ping of 38ms, 29.12Mbps download speed and 10.60Mbps upload speed. It felt fast while testing the tethered PC, I knew to buckle up for this test; it was going to be a wild ride. Lucky I did buckle up, when the results appeared I was floored.

A 3G dongle recently tested saw speed results of 2Mbps download and 400k upload, it can vary with some 3G connections going a couple of times quicker but nothing close to 4G.

As a device used to provide internet on the go the RAZR HD performed flawlessly and with the blazing speeds provided by the 4G connection it was every bit as fast as a wired connection, no compromise required.

The extremely limiting of 4G is the standard 1GB plan (here in Australia), a major restriction, as is the cost of extra downloads.

Plans vary in the three countries that the RAZR HD is available; Australia, USA and Canada. While it is competing against the iPhone and Galaxy it is generally priced well under the big two.

A Maniac walking with RAZR in Hand
The end of the first few days of life with the RAZR HD have all been extremely positive, this is indeed one sleek handset that will grow on you at incredible speed. Already it is taking over many aspects of my life. First to go were the social media duties that a number of PC’s and an iPhone 3GS have performed in the past.

Add a 32Gb microSD card and the RAZR could possibly take over portable storage and media transport duties, retiring multitudes of USB sticks jingling in pockets around Highpants HQ. The PC internet tethering has been a life saver function on a number of occasions already. Not viable as a daily internet pipe due to the cost but the 4G speeds do make it a glorious backup plan.

Gorilla Glass up front, Kevlar bringing up the rear…

As grandpa Simpson would say ‘The question of whether the RAZR HD beats the iPhone 5 is really two questions; iOS 6 versus Android ICS and hardware’. Hardware wise the RAZR wins on the spec sheet and the display wins in real life, in your hand. The iOS 6 v Android ICS question is largely decided by personal taste, now that both are fairly equal functionally.

The other main competition for the RAZR HD is of course the Samsung Galaxy SIII, still only 3G but a fast and handsome quad core handset. While the Samsung Galaxy SIII may have a curvy and slightly feminine shape the RAZR HD has an edgier masculine design, who knows where iPhone 5 fits in there. Possible the final factor that closed the deal for me was that RAZR looks so good in black and its main competition just don’t do black, an insane point possibly but superficially very important to some. It is by far the best looking black phone on the market, free of the cheap plastic look of some.

The RAZR HD may just (unofficially) be the Nexus S2 in a turtle shell suit of armour. For those waiting for the new Nexus it is an interesting option. With the tight integration of all of Google’s apps and only light skinning of ICS it has a very Nexus feel. Life with the RAZR HD has so far been a pleasant surprise, it is a welcome edition. Motorola have a real life iPhone / Galaxy killer on their hands, wrapped in Kevlar and Gorilla Glass its one sharp RAZR.

Reference: Motorola RAZR HD

Motorola RAZR HD Specifications

  • Touch Screen; Capacitive Multi-touch
  • Software Platform: Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich (upgradeable to Jelly Bean in Q4 2012)
  • Size: 67.9mm, 131.9mm, 8.4mm
  • Weight: 146g
  • Display: 4.7” 720p Super AMOLED HD Display, 1280 x 720 resolution, 312 ppi
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 1.5 GHz dual-core
  • Graphics: Adreno 225 Qualcomm GPU
  • Camera: 8 MP, 1.3 MP P2P Video, 8x Digital Zoom, Auto Focus, LED Flash, Touch screen controls
  • Video: Capture/Playback/Streaming, HD Video, DivX, H.263, H.264, MPEG4
  • Storage & Memory: 1GB RAM x 16GB FLASH , 12GB user available memory, expandable with optional microSD card
  • Storage Expansion: Micro SD, MicroSDHC up to 32GB
  • Connectivity: 3.5mm, USB 2.0 HS, HDMI, DLNA, OMA DM, Over the Air Sync (OTA), NFC (SIM based)
  • Battery:2530mAh, 16 hours run time
  • WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz/5GHz), with Mobile Hotspot
  • Bands/Modes2 Varies by country: LTE: 700(B17),800(B20),1700(B4),1800(B3),2600(B7) MHz; WCDMA: 850,900,1900,2100 MHz; GSM: 850,900,1800,1900 MHz
  • Bluetooth, Stereo Bluetooth Class 1, Version 4.0 LE+EDR
  • Messaging/Web/Apps:MMS, SMS, Email (Corporate Sync, Google Mail, Motorola-Proprietary, POP3/IMAP embedded, Push Email, Yahoo Mail) IM (GTalk), HTML 5 Webkit
  • Audio: AAC, AAC+, AAC+ Enhanced, AMR NB, AMR WB, MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA v10, WMA v9
  • Location Services: aGPS (assisted), AGPS (autonomous), sGPS (simultaneous), Standalone GPS, eCompass, GLONASS
  • Pre-loaded Applications: SMARTACTIONS, Chrome for Android, YouTube, Google Talk, Maps, Quickoffice