Hereís my review of the Motorola ATRIX.
The ATRIX is a solid phone. Personally, I think 4Ē is the perfect size for typing on an Android. Despite the ATRIX beefy hardware, itís more or less the same size as similar single core phones. As far as the build quality goes, the ATRIX is a pretty solid device despite the fact that it has a removable back cover. What I like is that the back cover doesnít completely cover the sides - that means it doesnít squeak or creak when you squeeze it.
The screen measures 4Ē and has a resolution of 960x540, higher than last yearís crop of high- end Android phones. For example, the Galaxy S and HTC Desire have 800x480 displays while the Motorola Milestone and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 are at 854x480.
The ATRIX LCD is arranged in a Pentile Matrix. Most LCDís are not arranged like this so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I whipped out my macro lens and took some pictures of some random phones on my desk: we have the Galaxy Sí super AMOLED display, ATRIX LCD, Galaxy Tab LCD, Nokia N8 AMOLED and the iPhone 4 LCD.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Samsung Galaxy S
Apple iPhone 4
Each pixel is made up of subpixels. All but the Galaxy S and ATRIXís subpixels are laid out in an RGBRGB format (red-green-blue-red-green-blue, thatís normal). The Galaxy S is laid out in a RGBG format while the ATRIX is actually laid out in a RGBW format where W is white. So it has a white subpixel.
While itís high resolution text is indeed very sharp and the white subpixels make for a bright display, I canít help but notice that the colour white shifts more than Iím used to when I view it off angle.
Another thing I noticed besides the off-center colour shift is that the ATRIX LCD looks dottier when youíre viewing an area where the pixels are all a similar colour. Iíve also noticed more banding than Iím used to. At first I blamed the display but I notice these problems on the lapdock which has a Ďregularí LCD too. So I suspect these are actually the result of a poorly written display driver. I also suspect that the ATRIX isnít dithering colours properly.
One of the ATRIXís main features is that it has a dual core processor. Indeed according to Quandrant, the Atrix scores 2646. To compare, the Nexus S scores around 1600 while the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc gets 1315. Benchmarks are nice but is there a difference in real world usage? To test this, I compared the ATRIX with the Arc by using them side by side. I launched programs, webpages, and the ATRIX was usually slightly faster. I say slight because I doubt I would notice the speed difference if they were side-by-side.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Xperia Arc is running Android 2.3 while the ATRIX has 2.2. 2.3 is usually faster than 2.2 though the speed difference between the two versions in real world applications are usually minor.
Regardless, Iím sure eventually extra cores will make more of a difference in subsequent version of Android so the dual cores are more of a future proofing feature. Keep in mind that this is assuming Motorola provides updates for the ATRIX.
There is 16GB of built-in storage (10GB usable) along with a micro SDHC card slot. I tested the built-in storage speed by hooking it up to my computer and copying some large files. The ATRIX copies files at a very slow rate - less than 4MB/s. If youíre going to copy a lot of stuff to the ATRIX, do it overnight or better yet, get yourself a fast micro SDHC card and copy stuff to it using a reader.
The power button is actually at the top of the ATRIX. It doubles as a fingerprint reader. It works really well and is very intuitive to use since most people place their index finger on top of the phone anyways. Make sure to hold the ATRIX how you would when you take it out of your pocket when youíre teaching it your fingerprint.
Since the ATRIX can download at up to 14mbps plus it runs Android 2.2 so it has a wireless hotspot feature. I live in an area with extremely weak network signal so I didnít test the maximum speed extensively but my wife used it to get her laptop online in the car a few times. She found that the ATRIX kept disconnecting. Keep in mind this is just one case so it might be the ATRIX, her laptop or the network we were testing on (Bell). That said, she tethers with my Samsung Galaxy Tab in the car all the time (same laptop on TELUS which is the same network) and she doesnít usually complain about being disconnected.
The ATRIX features Motorolaís MOTOBLUR. MOTOBLUR is basically a collection of widgets which show you updates from MySpace, Facebook, LastFM, Twitter, Email, Corporate Sync, Picasa, Photobucket, LinkedIN, Yahoo! Mail, etc. Thereís also an app which lets you view recent updates in a list. Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung all have similar programs/widgets on their phones. I donít like how Blur handleís email. When you setup your email accounts with Blur theyíre totally separate from the email accounts in the Email and Gmail apps. To be fair, Sony Ericssonís Timescape app is like this too.
You need to sign up for a BLUR account (or have an existing one) to use the ATRIX. This is part of BLURís ability to remotely wipe the phone in the event you lose it.
There is a file management app to browse the ATRIXís file system. It also lets you browse SMB (samba, windows file sharing) shares. If youíre having trouble getting the SMB part working, try changing the ATRIXís workgroup name to something else. You can also enter the SMB servers by IP address instead of name.
Thereís a DLNA app that you can use to send media from the ATRIX to your DLNA enabled device (PS3, XBOX 360, WDTV, etc). I tested it with a WDTV and it worked. It can also playback media from a server. I was mildly surprised that the app could actually playback SOME of my files stored on a server (the one on the Galaxy S doesnít playback anything). It didnít like any of my high definition files and the quality tended to be quite poor for the files it could play...
While there are some other Motorola customizations, overall their customizations are not too heavy. So if you donít like them theyíre not too obtrusive.
The ATRIX camera has a resolution of 5mp with autofocus and a dual LED flash. AF speeds are faster than the Motorola Milestones but itís not as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S or iPhone 4. Shutter speeds are generally too slow so you have to hold the ATRIX very still when youíre indoors. Picture quality is acceptable outdoors and not that great indoors. Indoors, the ATRIX gets really noisy and it struggles to get the proper white balance. The camera and camcorder apps both support the forward facing camera as well.
Video quality is acceptable both indoors and out.
Now besides itís dual core processor, high resolution display and fingerprint reader, one of the ATRIXís other key features is itís support for the lapdock and home theater dock accessories. The lapdock is basically, a battery, display, keyboard with touchpad and usb ports that you can hook the ATRIX up to. Itís sort of like a laptop without a processor.
The docks attach to the micro USB and micro HDMI ports on the side.
The keyboard is quite good and the touchpad is huge. Itís so big I actually found myself accidentally touching it a lot. Fortunately you can turn the touchpad on/off by double tapping the top left corner of the touchpad. The screen measures 11.5Ē and has a resolution of 1366x768 which is actually pretty high. Typical netbooks which cost less than the lapdock usually have 1024x600 displays. You also get 2 USB ports (for a mouse and keyboard) and a battery. The battery powers the lapdock plus it also charges the ATRIX when you connect it. Thereís a button in front of the lapdock that lets you see how much charge it has left. You charge it with the supplied 20W laptop-style power adapter.
Itís very thin and weighs less than most laptops. Despite itís low weight, the dock is very solid and well made. Itís made from high quality materials.
The lapdock is an interesting alternative to a laptop or a tablet. Itís definitely not as powerful as a notebook (or even a netbook) but the big screen, physical keyboard and USB ports gives it similar utility.
I could really see myself using the lapdock if Iím on a short trip and donít want to bring my full sized laptop rather than bringing an ATRIX + a tablet. Iíd take the lapdock over a tablet + a physical keyboard any day. Donít forget you can also connect the lapdock to an external mouse.
Itís also very convenient since you can continue whatever you were doing on the ATRIX when youíre using the lapdock/theater dock. If you want to do more, the ATRIX actually has a full version of Firefox (the same kind youíd get with a Linux desktop distro) complete with Flash support which works with the lapdock. It works really well. The catch is that you canít run Firefox unless the ATRIX is connected. Once you disconnect it, all you can do on the ATRIX is see a list of what pages you were last looking at and browse the bookmarks.
There is also a file browser, PDF reader plus you can print. It found my networked HP inkjet printer. The purpose of these lapdock apps are for when youíre using the lapdock only - they arenít really Android apps (technically they are since they reside on the ATRIX but you know what I mean).
Speed-wise you can tell the ATRIX is slower than say an ATOM powered netbook. If youíre viewing YouTube with the lapdock, itís pretty much limited to 480p and lower. You can choose to view higher resolutions but it will be choppy. Still, for most web browsing itís sufficient.
Of course if you want to use Android apps you can access the phone just like you would if you were holding it. The screen automatically resizes the ATRIX screen so it fits the lapdockís screen though the lapdock screen isnít touch sensitive so youíll have to use the touchpad or connect a mouse.
The home theater dock has 3 USB ports, a micro HDMI, power connector and a IR sensor. It comes with a remote control. I was extremely annoyed that the dock has a micro HDMI cable - where am I supposed to buy that for a reasonable price in Canada? Luckily I just got back from Chicago so I picked one up for 5 bucks. The dock has a nice heft to it so it slide all over the place.
When you connect the ATRIX to the dock, you can either use it for just charging, you can also use it like you would on the lapdock or you can use it as a media center.
If you use it like the lapdock, youíll want to connect a keyboard and mouse to it. If you donít have one handy you can use the ATRIX screen as a touch screen complete with left and right mouse button.
If you use it in media center mode, you can just use the remote control. The remote is useful but itís also one of the flimsiest remotes I have ever seen.
The home theater dock is a nice accessory but I think it would be a lot more useful if the ATRIX came with an awesome camera instead of a merely Ďokayí one.
If youíre using it as a media center, it would be nice if the ATRIX had more comprehensive codec support. Itís able to playback some of my older divx files but it doesnít know what to do with newer HD ones. It prefers mp4ís. Also, donít forget the it takes a while to copy files to the ATRIX. Another thing I should remind you of is that you can stream content to your DLNA enabled TV, XBOX 360, PS3, WDTV, etc. Of course you could also use the ATRIX with the dock to surf the web, check email on your TV.
Iíll be honest, when I first saw the Lapdock and Home Theater dock I thought they were neat but pointless, however, having used them I now think theyíre one of the ATRIXís best features. The catch is the price. While theyíre high quality accessories itís hard to ignore the fact that a netbook costs less than the lapdock and a WDTV costs about the same as the Home Theater Dock.
RF performance is good. Incoming sound quality is good while outgoing isnít very good.
Battery life is also excellent. With itís much bigger than average 1930mAh battery (compared with 1500mAh you get from other higher end phones) You might be able to get 2 days of use out of the ATRIX.
All in all the ATRIX is a pretty awesome phone. Instead of just bringing one new feature to the table (dual core) it has a higher resolution display (compared with other Android phones), a finger print reader plus compatibility with the lapdock and home theater dock.
There are 2 main downsides to the ATRIX; the display is a disappointment; the colour just isnít right. Hopefully it can be fixed in later version. The other issue is that the ATRIX only ships with Android 2.2.
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