Starting with the HTC One X back in April, Android flagships have a few common features: A 1.5Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor, LTE, 4.7Ē+ screens, 8MP cameras, NFC and 16GB+ built-in storage. Now Motorola throws their hat in the ring with the RAZR HD LTE.
While I appreciate how detailed the RAZR HD LTEís name is it a bit of a mouthful. Then again I guess I should be happy itís not called the Motorola 2012 RAZR HD LTE NFC 8MP KEVLAR 4.7 2500MAH.
With itís sharp edges and the exposed weave on its Kevlar back the RAZR has a very striking and memorable design.
Now if you look at the RAZRís specifications youíll notice that theyíre very similar to the ATRIX HD LTE I reviewed recently. Indeed, looking at the spec sheets the 3 main differences are the bigger screen (4.5Ē LCD vs 4.7Ē Super AMOLED), NFC and bigger battery (2530mAh vs 1780mAh). Bigger and more or better right?
The entire back is covered with a Kevlar tub unlike last yearís RAZR which had a metal frame and a kevlar insert. The RAZR HD also has a metal frame which you can see on the sides.
In my hand, the RAZR feels really solid. Itís got a nice heft to it that you donít get from the Galaxy S III or HTC One X but at the same time it doesnít feel bulky. Out of the 3 phones I like holding the RAZR most. Size-wise the RAZR feels slightly smaller than the other 2. Whatís even more impressive is that the RAZRís non-removable battery is about 20% bigger than the GS3ís and 40% bigger than the One Xís.
One reason why the RAZR is a bit smaller is because Motorola managed to reduce its footprint by using on-screen menu buttons. The GS3 and One X use physical ones.
Did I mention the RAZR has a 4.7Ē Super AMOLED HD display? The screenís deep blacks are perfect for the on-screen buttons because itís hard to tell where the bezel stops and the screen ends. They almost look like physical buttons.
Super AMOLED is known for having outstanding black levels and incredible contrast. The RAZRís Super AMOLED doesnít disappoint.
Colour temperature seems slightly warm. Actually, the screen looks very similar to my GS3ís screen only itís slightly smaller.
At maximum brightness, the colours are almost exactly like the GS3. The RAZR might be slightly more saturated but the difference is very small. I did notice that the RAZRís screen at its lowest setting is much dimmer than the GS3ís. This is good if you sometimes use your phone in the middle of the night (like me). It wonít sear your eyes like the GS3 does.
Pixel peepers will be sorry to hear that the RAZRís screen is arranged in a PenTile matrix. That said it doesnít bother me at all. I actually carry an Apple iPhone 5 (non PenTile) and GS3 (PenTile) around and Iím never bothered by the GS3ís ĎPenTileíness (graininess).
On a side note, I donít think PenTile will be going away anytime soon. Samsung has sold 20 million GS3ís so far so customers have voted with their wallet that they donít care about PenTile. I also suspect that if the GS3 came with a Ďregularí pixel layout it would have less battery life.
The viewing angle is outstanding. Thereís no off-angle colour shift till youíre almost at the screenís viewing angle limit. At that point the screen goes a little purple.
Outdoors, the RAZR behaves just like the GS3 so it tends to go black if itís really sunny.
Thereís a status LED in front above the earpiece and next to the front-facing camera.
MicroSIM and microSD card tray, micro USB and micro HDMI slots.
I have mixed feelings about Motorola using a tray for the microSIM and microSD. While Iím not a fan of the skinny doors Motorola uses on the ATRIX and RAZR V, a tray requires you to use a paperclip to change the microSD which can be a nuisance. Still, most people donít change their memory cards that often so itís not a big deal.
power, volume buttons
flash, camera, speaker
I donít really like the camera software. I tend to take a lot of pictures quickly. It feels like the camera tries to refocus every time you press the shutter button. This isnít a problem if your subject is static. The problem is that it makes the RAZR terrible if youíre trying to run and gun. To be fair, no phone is good at running and gunning but there are phones which are better than the RAZR in this regard.
Still, the RAZRís focus speeds are decent, itís just that it should realize if your subject has moved off or not.
It feels like it focuses slowly plus it uses slow shutter speeds so I end up with a lot of blurry pictures. Iím not a fan of the UI either. Itís not attractive and I donít find it particularly intuitive. That said, itís not so bad you wonít get used to it.
In the past Motorola was known for sometimes over customizing their software. You can see Googleís influence in the software. While itís not a Nexus phone itís not far off. Itís pretty much stock android with a custom skin, a couple of extra programs and printing support built-in.
I might be missing something but it appears the cool swipe-able icons from the ATRIX HD LTE And RAZR V are missing from the RAZR HD LTE. Perhaps thereís a setting that I missed but by default theyíre missing. Itís really strange that Motorola would omit this from their flagship phone. My guess is that they decided to put Chrome as the default browser late during development and couldnít get a swipe-able icon ready for Chrome so they ditched it all together. Hopefully theyíll bring it back.
Another puzzling omission is the lack of printing support, after all, it was present on the ATRIX. While I rarely print from my phone I have done it before and itís a handy feature to have. Again, I suspect they removed it because they made Chrome the default browser and didnít have time to add that feature back in.
Included is a file manager. I donít remember if it was present from the ATRIX and RAZR V but this one includes Samba support so you can connect it to Windows PC file shares. I couldnít get it working with my Windows 7 computers.
Thereís a nice ĎGuide meí app that shows you how to use the phone.
There is DLNA support. You can find it in the settings. I didnít notice this on the ATRIX.
Probably the biggest extra that Motorola threw into the RAZR is their ĎSmart Actionsí program. With Smart Actions you can activate rules depending on what youíre doing. For example, you can set up a sleep rule that automatically runs at night which disables emails, lowers the screen brightness and turns off your ringers. Probably the coolest thing about Smart Actions is that itís location aware. So you can set up a work action that runs automatically whenever you get to work.
Another cool feature is the Vehicle Mode which is like a launcher with bigger buttons so that you can use it more easily while youíre driving.
Since the RAZR is available from Rogers it includes the usual Rogers extras which you canít remove even if you decide not to use them. Just remember that you can hide them from the menu. (settings -> apps -> choose the ĎAllí tab -> scroll to the program and then choose Ďdisableí. I did notice that they didnít include the UrMusic app - not sure when they stopped forcing it on their customers but kudos to Rogers for finally not including it.
SunSpider (lower is better):
HTC One X (Tegra): 1364
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 1848.5
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1959.4
Apple iPhone 5: 3723
Anyways, the RAZR scores slightly better than the GS3 which itís closest competitor spec wise. The Tegra 3 does really well when it comes to SunSpider - I canít wait for my One X+ to arrive.
Itís worth pointing out that the iPhone 5 which is the fastest phone I have ever tested when it comes to SunSpider (~900ms scores) does terrible with Chrome. Itís probably a combination of the iPhone 5ís default browser Safari being very optimized while Chrome isnít.
Vellamo HTML 5 (higher is better):
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 1632
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1630
HTC One X (Tegra): 1608
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: 1324
Vellamo Metal (higher is better):
Samsung Galaxy S III: 580
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 553
HTC One X (Tegra): 492
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: 393
Here the RAZR scores first in the HTML 5 test while itís second to the GS3 in the Metal test.
GL Benchmark 2.5:
GL Benchmark 2.5 is an OpenGL gaming benchmark thatís available on both Android and iOS. This makes it useful for comparing Android devices with iPhones. 2.5 is the new version with higher resolution graphics. Android phones were getting close to the older versionís maximum score in version 2.1 while most newer iOS phones were at that point a year ago.
The Egypt HD on screen test runs at a deviceís native resolution plus tests are capped at 60 frames per second. Devices with higher resolution displays are at a disadvantage here. This test is useful for giving us an idea of relative gaming performance. If a device has a lower resolution display and the same graphics processor it will run the test more smoothly.
Egypt HD on-screen (frames per second, higher is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 39
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 22
Samsung Galaxy S III: 21
HTC One X (Tegra): 15
No surprises here. The iPhone 5ís A6 processor has a very powerful graphics chip. It will be interesting to see if the HTC One X+ with its newer Tegra processor and the LG Optimus G with its quad-core Snapdragon with Adreno 305 will be able to beat the iPhone 5ís A6.
Looking at the actual test the RAZR and GS3 get a little choppy sometimes while the One X is a slideshow for a lot of the test.
The offscreen test runs at 1920x1080 regardless of the deviceís native resolution plus there is no frame rate limit. Itís useful for directly comparing different graphics processorsí absolute performance.
Egypt HD off-screen (frames per second, higher is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 29
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 13
Samsung Galaxy S III: 13
HTC One X (Tegra): 9.7
Again, no surprises here.
Basemark is another OpenGL gaming benchmark. It's only available on Android:
Basemark (frames per second, higher is better):
HTC One X (Snapdragon): 31.95
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 31.13
Samsung Galaxy S III: 29.8
HTC One X (Tegra): 18.31
Here the RAZR fits in between the Snapdragon powered One X and the GS3.
Iím a little disappointed that the RAZR HD LTE with itís mighty 2530mAh battery only ships with a 4.3watt (850mAh) charger. To be fair the GS3 and One X arenít much better, they only come with 5 watt (1 amp) chargers. Still, itís worth pointing out that the Xperia ION comes with a 7.5watt (1.5 amp) charger. I tried faster chargers with the RAZR and itís charge rate tops off at around 7.5 watts. So a 2.1amp charge (like a tablet charger) will charge it faster than the included charger.
To test the battery I charge the battery, set the screen brightness to maximum, turn on airplane mode and then play a video until the phone shuts off.
Battery Test (mins, more is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 381
Samsung Galaxy S III: 368
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 297
HTC One X (Tegra): 268
HTC One X (Snapdragon): 262
With its smaller but otherwise similar display and bigger battery Iím very surprised that the RAZR doesnít do better here. Iím speculating here, but the GS3 uses a special video player from Samsung while the RAZR uses the basic Android one. I suspect the GS3ís video player is more optimized than the RAZRís one which is why it has better battery life here. I feel the same thing is happening with the iPhone 5.
I normally use AnTuTu battery tester but I noticed the RAZRís processor wasnít at 100% during the test so I decided not to include the results.
Finally, Iím trying something new: GL Benchmark 2.5 has a new battery tester feature. I find this to be a very realistic test. There are few things that consume as much power as 3D gaming. When Iím playing Infinity Blade II on my iPhone it feels like the battery meter goes down in 10% increments. Playing games uses the screen constantly plus it can really tax both the phoneís processor and graphics processor.
Gaming also keeps phones from using a lot of their Ďtricksí that save power. For example, the Nvidia Tegra 3 has a 5th processor thatís only used for light tasks. A benchmark like this is a good real-world test for when you get hooked on a processor intensive game.
GL Benchmark 2.5 Battery test (mins, more is better):
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 208
Samsung Galaxy S III: 165
Apple iPhone 5: 129
HTC One X (Tegra): 115
Here the RAZR does really well, if you look closely at the score, the RAZRís battery is only 20% bigger than the GS3ís yet it manages to score 26% higher. I guess the extra 6% is from the smaller screen. Actually, the GS3ís screen is about 4% bigger so either all else being equal the RAZR is about 2% more efficient or thatís just the margin or error in the battery test.
As a phone:
This time Iím trying something new when it comes to testing RF performance. Before I only tested HSPA because I didnít have enough LTE phones lying around to get a good feel for whatís good and what isnít. Now that I have a couple Iíve come up with a 2 new tests.
My house is in an interesting location. If you look out my bedroom window you can actually see a network tower. However, the tower is about 1 mile away. So, if you have line-of-sight the LTE signal is quite strong. If you move away from the window the signal drops quickly.
On my main floor I get a relatively weak LTE signal and in my basement I get virtually none.
So I took my iPhone 5 and the RAZR, put them against my tower-facing window and ran some speed tests (not simultaneously but one after the other). Interestingly, the RAZR was consistently faster in this situation. When I moved away from my window both phones gave similar results. Based on this quick test the RAZR is able to make better use of a strong signal or rather, a weak signal but high-quality signal.
Next I ran a speed test as I was walked down the stairs to my basement and then stood in the landing. Every single time I ran the test the iPhone would drop to HSPA before I reached the landing while the RAZR was able to complete the test while hanging onto LTE. After the test was done the RAZR usually dropped to HSPA.
When I came back out of the basement both phones took a few minutes to find LTE.
So based on these 2 tests the RAZR has superior LTE performance.
Sound quality wise the RAZR has a bit more bass than the iPhone but the RAZR also tends to sound a little fuzzy. Iíd pick the iPhone over the RAZR in this regard. I also found that the iPhone 5ís maximum earpiece volume is louder.
As far as the speaker goes both are pretty loud though the iPhoneís speaker has more bass.
When it comes to high-end Android, all manufacturers have to play the hardware game. So, while the S4 Snapdragon is still very competitive itís about to be supplanted by Qualcommí and Nvidiaís quad-core offerings in the very high-end. The HTC One X came out around 6 months ago and the HTC One X+ is just around the corner, so Iím a little disappointed that the RAZR is a little late to the game.
Iím also a little puzzled by the software, Android 4.0.4. While there arenít many Jellybean phones available, I hoped that Motorola would include it on their late to market flagship phone. Especially since Googleís their daddy now. My guess is that there may be political reasons why the RAZR only gets 4.0.
What really annoys me is that Motorola hardly did anything software-wise to distinguish the RAZR. Aside from Smart Actions (which is a really nice program) and DLNA thereís very little to distinguish the RAZR from a Nexus phone. It has even less Motorola customization than the ATRIX HD which had swipe-able icons and printing support. That would be cool if the RAZR came with the latest version of Android but it doesnít.
So should you buy the RAZR? Technically itís slightly better than the GS3 but the GS3 has more accessories, the software has some interesting tricks (picture-in-picture being my favorite), plus itís getting a Android 4.1 update soon. My guess is that the GS3 will be a more interesting device a year from now. Iíd say get the GS3.
As for the HTC One X itís about to be succeeded by the HTC One X+ so itís probably better to wait to see how much that oneís going to cost.
When it comes to the iPhone 5 it's really tough to say because they're so different. If you already own an iPhone and are happy with it I'd advise you to stick with iOS.
Still, if you can look past these points the RAZR is a very solid phone which is the most impressive of the 3 from an engineering standpoint. Smallest phone with the biggest battery, most interesting construction, etc.
If the RAZR came out 6 or even 4 months ago Iíd say run out and buy one. But at this point youíre probably better off waiting or getting something else.
- good RF
- nice screen
- interesting materials
- battery life
- not much extra software
- ships with slow charger
- camera software
- late to market