Motorola RAZR MAXX - expert review
Motorola has always been a big player in the mobile phone market. The Motorola RAZR V3, released late 2004, was one of the most popular handsets of that year. It sold over 130 million units, had a four year marketing campaign, spawned multiple spinoff handsets and was eventually succeeded by the RAZR 2 series. It remains to this day the most popular clamshell style handset.
Recently, however, Motorola fell behind market leaders Apple, Samsung and HTC, eventually being purchased by Google. October 2011 saw the resurrection of the RAZR brand with the new Motorola RAZR (Codename: Droid RAZR) running Google’s Android OS. This handset was then succeeded in May by the RAZR MAXX. Can this new RAZR stand-up to the likes of the S3 or One X and fill the shoes left by its ancestor the V3? Geek Squad put the Droid RAZR MAXX to the test!
First let’s look at the specs:
Processor: Dual-Core 1.2GHz, Dual-Channel RAM Processor
Memory: 16 GB internal, expandable up to 32GB with a micro SD card
Display: 4.3-in.; Super AMOLED Advanced qHD (540 x 960)
Camera: 8 MP and 8X Zoom (rear facing), 1.3 MP with 720p HD video capture (Front)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G supported!!
Battery: 3300mAh Li Ion (Which is huge if you didn’t know!) 380 hours standby time
OS: Android 4.0 (update out at the end of June)
(All specs from Motorola.com)
Design and Build
The phone has a glossy dark silver finish and a rectangular design. The back is made of Kevlar-laced polycarbonate, and the rear facing camera, LED flash and speaker sit in a separate bar at the top. Along the right edge are the power and volume keys, with the left edge containing the Micro SIM and MicroSD card slots neatly hidden by a panel cover.
The front of the phone houses a 4.3" touchscreen and touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom. While the 540 x 960 display was impressive in the first RAZR, we were expecting an improvement second time round. The S3 and One X both have a resolution of 1280 x 720, which make the screens in these phones look considerably sharper and brighter by comparison. However it’s not all bad, I found video playback looked natural and the viewing angle is excellent.
At the top of the phone we have the front facing camera and along the top edge of the handset are the headphone jack, Micro USB and Mini HDMI ports, embedded in a rubber strip.
When compared with the first Droid RAZR, (released Oct 2011) the MAXX’s only new feature is an increased battery capacity. To accommodate this, the MAXX is 1.9mm thicker than the original RAZR. The two phones are identical in almost every other way.
The phone is easy to grip, thanks to the slightly raised edges and Kevlar-laced back. Even when taking a photo the square edges allow you to hold the phone without worrying about dropping it. One major aesthetic flaw we found with the design was the small hole drilled in the front of the AMOLED screen between the Menu and Home Keys. This is the microphone, but why this hole couldn’t simply be on the bottom edge I’m not sure. There is a second hole on the back in the same location for the noise cancelling microphone; this will potentially be covered by your hand when making a call, preventing it from doing its job.
The battery is where the MAXX comes into its own; with a 3300mAh capacity it has the biggest battery on the market today and hence lasts longer. I tested the device for a weekend and was impressed that it lasted the full two days even with a lot of Wi-Fi and 3G usage. My only gripe in this area is that the battery percentage displayed isn’t specific enough, the figure was always a denomination of 10 (E.g. 90%, 80%, 70%) so I didn’t know if there was 89% or 81% left, it just read 80%.
How long your battery lasts is a big issue with today’s power hungry smartphones, so the bigger the battery the better, could this be the big selling feature the Droid RAZR has to set itself apart? We pitted the S3, One X and Droid RAZR MAXX in an extreme battery test, keep your eye out for the article coming soon!
You get 16GB of internal storage with the RAZR MAXX, which is the standard for most smartphones; including the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S3. The storage is expandable with the addition of a MicroSD card slot, something the iPhone and HTC One X doesn’t have. It can handle up to 32GB extra, making the total storage capacity 48GB.
The rear-facing camera can take up to 8MP photos, which look sharp, but a little washed out and quickly pixilate when you’re zoomed in. The camera can also record HD video, but it suffers from the same pixilation issues. There is no improvement here upon the original RAZR, which is a shame. The front-facing camera is 1.3MP and fine for self-portraits and video calls, although the quality isn’t HD, it’s still very usable.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS
The handset currently ships with Android Gingerbread (2.3) which is hard to believe considering almost every other Android handset released this year comes with the latest Android ICS (4.0) OS. We managed to get our hands on a pre-release RAZR MAXX running Android ICS, this does add some extra functionality to the handset over Gingerbread such as Face Unlock, however, it’s still heavily customised with the Motorola user-interface.
Moto Switch User-interface (UI)
Motorola has dropped their previous MotoBlur UI and created a new Android skin, which they are calling Moto Switch. It’s quite a heavy customization of the Android interface, replacing many icons with Motorola’s custom ones and unique graphical transitions. In my opinion the interface feels cluttered compared to other “vanilla” Android handsets.
There are some positive points to the Moto Switch UI, for example, the Gallery widget. This lets you link to your favourite social networking site and see all your Facebook albums direct on the homescreen of your phone. Moto Cast lets you stream and sync music and photos directly from your PC. It’s not a cloud storage service like Dropbox, but is handy for accessing your files without the need to upload them first.
The MAXX is relatively smooth to use; you can multitask, browse the web, snap pictures and play back videos relatively bug-free, but the OS does seem to trip over its own feet from time to time. For example, within 10 minutes of first using the phone we had trapped one widget under another.
The Motorola RAZR MAXX does have a lot going for it; the build quality is solid and it appears to stand up to a lot of multitasking. With the new and unique features hidden away in Motorola’s Moto Switch UI and the biggest battery life of any smartphone we have tested, RAZR MAXX does seem to have the whole package. The problems arise when you pit the phone against competitors Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, as it may be considered almost dated in comparison. Back in 2011 the new RAZR’s specs were impressive, but with increased competition from giants like Samsung and Apple, RAZR MAXX is left struggling to keep up.