Motorola's Droid Razr is the reemergence of one of the most successful mobile brands, and it lives up to its popular predecessors.
When Motorola launched its Razr flip phone in 2004, it was known for its razor-thin design and immediately became the hottest device on the market. Now, nearly a decade later, Motorola is hoping lightning will strike twice. And one thing about the Droid Razr is certain: it's still sleek and slender. At a hair under 0.3-inches, Motorola staked its claim with the thinnest smartphone, a feat that immediately makes it stand out.
As far as design goes, besides being thin and attractive, the Droid Razr is also durable. A Kevlar-weave material covers the back, while Gorilla Glass protects the front. If you tend to drop your phones in puddles, fear not -- it comes with a water-repellant coating. But at more than 5-inches tall and 2.7-inches wide, it's large. You can still hold it without a problem, but your hands will get a workout. I would have preferred softer square edges. It would make the phone easier to use with one hand. Instead, Motorola went for a futuristic look, with sharp, angular lines. If you have small hands, you'll want to try it in person first.
The lack of frills lets you focus your eyes on the centerpiece: a beautiful 4.3-inch display. It runs on Super AMOLED technology, so colors are rich, images and icons are sharp and the 960-by-540 pixel resolution keeps graphics nicely detailed. Compared to the top-notch iPhone, though, the Droid Razr doesn't quite measure up to the Retina display -- it clocks in at 256 pixels per inch versus Apple's 326 ppi density.
Since the Droid Razr's display is about an inch larger, that means the iPhone's sharpness is much more noncable too. In addition, fonts seem a bit fuzzy around the edges if you look up close, due to the use of a PenTile matrix layout. Compared to the Galaxy S2, images do not look quite as crisp either, but I'm being picky here. You wouldn't notice it unless you look at them side-by-side.
The blacks, fortunately, are deep black and color saturation is vibrant. Overall, Motorola added a larger screen, but didn't improve on the density -- so the quality suffers. If you plan on doing a lot of Web browsing, it won't matter much. But if you need detail, like watching movies, then it's a poor choice.
The 8-megapixel lens has great points of focus and takes incredible sharp pictures. On a PC screen, you'll be able to see a large amount of detail. The single LED flash, meanwhile, is fantastic -- it manages to brighten up the room without washing out color -- and the shutter is fast. There's almost no shutter lag, making it well-suited to take unexpected shots -- perfect if you have kids. You can also record 1080p high-definition video -- the quality is just as good -- with auto-stabilization software to make your shaky videos look steadier. Even when you record fast-moving objects and you've hit the Starbucks a little hard, the clips come out smoother.
A 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, meanwhile, works well for video chat, but don't think about using it for much more than that. Even self-portraits for Facebook are a far cry from back lens.
The Razr runs on Gingerbread. Sadly, Motorola couldn't leave Android alone and added a skin on top of the operating system. It's truly useless, full of over-the-top animations that slow down performance. In addition, Verizon and Motorola both loaded bloatware, but thankfully, some of the more egregious apps can be uninstalled. That means you won't have to see "Let's Golf 2" and a Blockbuster app clogging your screen and eating up memory.
And one of the pre-installed apps is genuinely great. Smart Actions lets you customize settings depending on where you are. For instance, you can set it to recognize your bedtime and transition into a silent ringer. It can help save battery life too, since you can get the phone to automatically shut off power-draining features -- like 4G -- at certain times. It's also useful for more specific tasks -- if you tend to drive through your friend's neighborhood a few times a month, you can set it to automatically text them when you're close to their house. That saves you from texting while driving and helps you remember to cherish your old friends -- a huge win-win.
Motocast is another unique feature. You can broadcast from a PC to the phone, as long as your desktop is running and connected to the Internet. That means you can listen to your iTunes catalog remotely, but videos are copyright protected.
The Droid Razr runs on a speedy 1.2-gigahertz dual-core chip, which performs tasks without a hiccup. Apps boot quickly and run smoothly, and overall performance is snappy. Network speeds will are the best of the best as well, since it supports Verizon's 4G LTE service.
But the non-removable 1,780 mAh battery isn't as great as I'd hoped -- maybe it's the price it costs. You'll last about a day before charging, but that's if you don't use much. More likely, you'll run out before the end of the workday, especially if you stream movies, browse the Web and otherwise use 4G. If you use Smart Actions wisely, it'll help, but think about buying another charger to leave around the car or office.
The Droid Razr has a few more bells and whistles. You get an HDMI port to mirror on a high-definition television, which is nice if you want to watch a clip from your phone. And it comes with a microSD card slot with a 16-gigabyte card pre-installed -- a nice boost from the meager 8-gigabytes of onboard storage.
The only knock is the strength of Verizon's line-up this holiday season. The HTC Rezound and S2 are both worthy opponents with top-flight specs. Well, okay, make those two things: if you want the latest Android software, you won't get it here. Motorola may push out ICS in the future, but you'll have to wait a while. But if you're fine with Gingerbread, the Razr is a solid choice. Motorola's helpful features accent the slick design, large screen and top-notch camera -- and it's a fair price for an excellent phone. ♦
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