Search Engine

Monday, November 14, 2011

Motorola Droid RAZR and Lapdock review: Best designed Android smartphone on the market

1120techjeff droidrazr.jpg
The Motorola Droid RAZR is $299 with a 2-year contract with Verizon Wireless.

Motorola has combined its two most popular brands to create the Droid RAZR Android smartphone.

I got to spend a few days to review the device recently and I found there was a lot to like.

The Good
Fine design: The marketing push behind the RAZR has focused on the hardware design, and Motorola delivers. At 4.5 ounces and and oonly 0.3 inches thick, this phone got lost in my pockets a few times despite its large 4.3 inch screen.

And unlike the iPhone with its glass front and back and Samsung phones with plastic bodies, the RAZR is built tough. The back features Kevlar fiber and screen is beautiful and features scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. The phone also is built to resist splashes of coffee or at the pool.

LTE speeds: I enjoyed 10 megabit per second downloads, about 10 times faster than Verizon’s 3G service. For an extra $20 a month, the speed can be shared with other devices using the RAZR’s mobile hotspot. The LTE service was spotty for me in West Michigan, but it is set to expand later this month.

Powerful: The 1.2 GHz dual core processor kept applications and the Android 2.3 operating system zippy. I did hit a few glitches with apps, but overall it was a solid experience. There also is 16 GB of internal storage and a 16 GB MicroSD card that can be upgraded to 32 GB.

Decent included apps: The email and music player apps are above average. The MotoCast app allows streaming music, photos, video and documents from a home computer. For business users, there is full Microsoft ActiveSync support with encryption and remote wipe in case the phone is lost.

Battery story part 1: Using 3G, the battery performance is the best I've seen for an Android phone, easily lasting a full day.

Smart Actions: Nerds can really customize their experience with Smart Actions. For example, when I plug in the phone to charge after 8 p.m., I set it to automatically turn off sounds. The GPS detects when I’m at home and activates WiFi. There hundreds of Smart Action combinations users can create.

Hand-holding setup: Several included videos on the RAZR give tips on how to use the phone.

The Mediocre
Camera: While taking 8 megapixel camera is fast to snap images, the resulting color reproduction lags behind other smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4S. It also records 1080p video with stabilization features.

On-screen keyboard: Motorola didn’t change much from the stock Android keyboard, so I would recommend trying SwiftKey. Or if you are adventurous, consider trying the included Swype keyboard.

The Bad
Battery story part 2: On Verizon’s 4G LTE network, battery life continues to be an issue. Using the phone heavily on 4G will drain the battery in less than four hours. The cutting-edge design means no way to swap out the battery, although external battery packs are available.

Bad buttons: Having the lock screen and volume buttons on the same side of the phone makes it confusing to press the right one.

lapdock.jpgThe Lapdock is a small laptop shell that uses the power of the Motorola Android smartphones to run a Firefox browser and phone apps.

Webtop with Lapdock
I got a chance to use the Moto Lapdock 100, a 10-inch netbook-like shell that plugs into RAZR to use the phone’s Webtop features.

The experience is a bit like a Dr. Frankenstein creation. A small window on the Lapdock's screen lets you access the phone’s interface. The phone’s notifications popup across the top of the desktop screen.

When a call comes in, the phone rings and a button to answer the call pops up on the Lapdock's screen. But answering the call is awkward since the phone switches to speaker phone and is tethered to the Lapdock.

The Lapdock includes a old, sluggish version of Firefox browser that is passable. I used Google Docs on the Lapdock to write the first draft of this review and it can handle Flash video, such as Hulu. Why this doesn’t use Google’s zipper Chrome browser is a mystery to me.

Unplugging the RAZR from the Lapdock and the phone remembers which web browser tabs you had open on the Lapdock. Replugging the phone back into the Lapdock, and within a few seconds it has restored the session.

The keyboard and trackpad are the typical small netbook mess -- a bit cramped but better than typing on a tablet touchscreen.

At $199, this could be the right fit for some people. The Webtop experience also is available with a $30 adapter that plugs into a TV, but you have to supply the keyboard and mouse. I would prefer to put my money toward an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, however.

Buying advice
At $299, the Droid RAZR is some of the best smartphone hardware I have used. However, LTE technology continues to be a battery hog.

The RAZR had the unfortunate timing of being announced in the same 24-hour period as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which also is coming to Verizon’s LTE network within a few weeks and will sport the next version of Google smartphone software, Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich. The RAZR should get this software update sometime in 2012.

The RAZR is another solid addition to Verizon’s lineup, but I would wait to see what the Samsung Galaxy Nexus delivers before making a purchasing decision.


Bluetooth / Mobile Accessories said...

The Motorola Droid RAZR is easily one of the best smartphones on any network, thanks to its ultra-thin but strong design and beautiful Super AMOLED Advanced display.

Post a Comment