• Crowded at the top: Our Motorola ATRIX HD LTE review

    In terms of 2012 flagship Android phones, first came the HTC One X which was followed by the Samsung Galaxy S III. Both share very similar specs including support for LTE. Now we have the Motorola ATRIX HD LTE which is packing similar hardware. So which of the 3 should you buy?

    While pretty much all Smartphones are plain slabs these days, last yearís Motorola RAZR was an interesting interpretation of the plain slab. It was wide and had sharp angles. The Kevlar back is bare with its weave exposed. There were some nice details including the Motorola logo and the volume buttons.

    All this really exaggerated how thin the RAZR was. It actually felt thinner than it really was.

    left to right: ATRIX, RAZR

    top to bottom: RAZR, ATRIX

    At a glance, the ATRIX HD follows the RAZRís design DNA with some exceptions. While most of the hard edges have been smoothed out, what really sticks out is that the ATRIX is actually thicker its competition - (the GS3 and One X) even though it has a smaller screen.

    top to bottom: ATRIX, One X, GS3

    left to right: One X, ATRIX

    left to right: GS3, ATRIX

    Initially, this really bothered me. The flatness/thinness really made the RAZR special. While not a fat phone the ATRIX thickness makes it feel like an unauthorized knock-off of the RAZR.

    Motorola really missed an opportunity to the make the ATRIX more one-handed friendly.

    Still, after using the ATRIX for a few days itís still a pleasant phone to use. Itís nice to hold and for the most part, a solid phone. My only complaint is that the MicroSD/micro SIM slot cover flexes a little because itís located right where I grip the phone.


    Micro SIM card and MicroSDHC card slots

    power and volume buttons

    camera, flash, speaker

    headphone jack, microUSB, micro HDMI

    Yes, thereís a separate micro HDMI port on top. On the GS3 and One X you have to use a MHL adapter if you want to connect a HDMI cable. With the ATRIX you just need a micro HDMI cable.

    The screen looks fantastic. Itís bright with very good viewing angles. Itís a LCD display so it lackís AMOLEDís deep black levels but it is noticeably better out in the sun. While it has the same resolution as the One X and GS III itís slightly smaller so itís bit sharper though the difference isnít great. I couldnít help noticing that the ATRIXís screen looks more recessed than the One X and S III screens. When you look at the One X and S III you get the feeling that their screens are painted onto the glass. With the ATRIX you can tell that the screen is underneath some glass, like youíre staring through a lens.

    The ATRIX lacks physical menu buttons. So it uses on-screen ones like the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7. Personally, Iím not a fan of the on-screen buttons because they move around. I also find that theyíre easier to accidentally press than physical ones.. Thereís enough space at the bottom of the ATRIX for them, why didnít they just put them in?

    Iím not a fan of the camera software. While it allows you to shoot video and take pictures simultaneously, pictures are only captured at 1920x1080 (2mp) instead of at max resolution (8mp). I wish it had the shutter and record buttons on the same screen like the HTC One X. There is a burst mode but you have to go through the menus to turn it on. Instead of taking rapid fire shots as long as you hold the shutter button like the One X and S III, the ATRIX takes 6 shots in rapid sequence regardless of how long you hold the shutter button for.

    I wasnít impressed with the cameraís performance. I found it struggled with focus a lot. While it is capable of taking sharp photos I ended up with lots of blurry photos because of the dodgy autofocus. Video quality is a little better - it does a decent job of capturing audio.


    In the past, Motorola was criticized for over customizing their phones. While Motorolaís customization have gotten lighter, last yearís RAZR was still a little heavy in this regard. So I was surprised that the ATRIX is almost a stock Android phone. The main menu UI is Motorola but some of the apps like the Gallery are now generic. I was a little surprised because Iím pretty sure the RAZRís gallery app was a 3rd party one.

    Speaking of Gallery apps, while the generic app allows you to share your pictures with 3rd party services (like Picasa) it doesnít display albums from them. So in that respect Iíd like to see a little more functionality.

    The main menu is actually pretty interesting. Certain app icons can be swiped to reveal more information. For example, if you swipe the email icon on the home screen it will show you your latest emails without you having to open the app. Swiping the browser icon shows you your most visited pages, the phone icon shows recent call activity. Other apps icons that support this are the phone app and text messaging app.

    So MOTOBLUR or whatever they called it on last yearís RAZR is now completely gone. That means the extra Motorola security and social networking apps are gone. Also gone is Motorolaís MOTOCAST. I actually thought MOTOCAST was pretty cool but to be frankly, most of these appsí functionalities can be found on 3rd party programs. Removing them allows Motorola more time to focus on the rest of the software.

    There is printing support built-into the ATRIX though itís only for the built-in apps.

    One feature Iím happy Motorola kept is their Smart Actions 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.

    Other extras I spotted include Voice Commands, a timer, and a file browser. Bell also preloads some extra Bell software: Bell RDM, GPS Navigator, Mobile TV, Self Serve and Sympatico link. Since the ATRIX is running Android 4.0 you can disable (but not remove) these Bell programs from the apps option in the setup menu.


    There is about 5GB available for storage. I copied a 3.4GB file to the ATRIX and observed speeds of around 12.3MB/s. You can add more storage using micro SD cards.

    SunSpider (lower is better):

    SunSpider is a javascript benchmark that runs on any browser. For all four phones I ran SunSpider using the built-in Android browser and not Chrome.

    Motorola ATRIX HD
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 1781.5
    HTC One X LTE 1550.9
    Sony Xperia ION 2490.2

    Here the ATRIX smokes the competition. Its score is 2x as fast as the Xperia ION (which is sporting an older processor). Note that this doesnít mean the ATRIXís browser draws pages twice as fast as the IONís.

    Vellamo (higher is better):

    Motorola ATRIX HD
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 2364.96
    HTC One X LTE N/A
    Sony Xperia ION 1271.12

    Vellamo is a suite of benchmarks designed to test a browserís performance. Again the ATRIX does very well here.

    GL Benchmark (on screen, higher is better):

    Motorola ATRIX HD 5063
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 5423
    HTC One X LTE 5571
    Sony Xperia ION 3342

    GL Benchmark is a 3D gaming benchmark that uses Open GL. Iím a little surprised that the ATRIX scores about 10% lower than the GS3 and One X.

    Basemark (higher is better):

    Motorola ATRIX HD 30.09
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 29.8
    HTC One X LTE 31.95
    Sony Xperia ION 18.1

    Basemark is another OpenGL 3D gaming benchmark. Here the ATRIX is competitive with the GS3 and One X.

    Battery life:

    The ATRIX has a 1780mAh battery which is not removable.

    AnTuTu Tester (Battery, higher is better)

    Motorola ATRIX HD 578
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 756
    HTC One X LTE N/A
    Sony Xperia ION 495

    For some reason I canít get the HTC One X to finish a AnTuTu battery tester run. The ATRIX scores between the Xperia ION and Galaxy S III.

    Along with AnTuTu battery tester, I measure battery performance using my own test. I charge the phone, max out the brightness, turn on airplane mode and play a video until the phone shuts off.

    Motorola ATRIX HD 210
    Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 368
    HTC One X LTE 268
    Sony Xperia ION 293

    The ATRIX HD does very poorly in this test, contradicting my findings in AnTuTu. My seat-of-the-pants feeling is that the ATRIXís battery life isnít very good. Unless you use it sparingly it will struggle to make it through the day. The One X and GS III both feel like they have superior battery life to the ATRIX.

    As a Phone:

    Sound quality is slightly fuzzy sounding but otherwise itís decent. Maximum earpiece volume is average. RF performance is excellent.

    Which one?

    As a Galaxy S III and HTC One X owner Iíll be honest, it took me a few days to warm up the ATRIX. However, once I got used to it I realized itís definitely a match for those 2 phones.

    So between the 3 phones hereís how I see it. The HTC One X is probably be best all around phone except that it lacks expandable storage which is a HUGE minus. Itís really hard to recommend the One X to anyone because of this.

    The Galaxy S IIIís screen doesnít work well outside and I find my to be kind of buggy at times. It does have good battery life (when itís not buggy) and is the most flexible when it comes to storage.

    The ATRIX sort of slots between the 2. Itís as fast as the One X and its screen is almost as good but you get expandable storage and excellent RF performance. The ATRIXís biggest weaknesses are the camera and battery life. From a design standpoint the ATRIX is also a bit of a let down. It has a smaller screen than the other 2, yet itís the thickest.

    I hate to say it, but between the 3 there is no clear winner. Really, you have to look at the pros and cons of each and see which best fits your needs. Either that or just buy all 3. One thing's for sure: Itís getting crowded at the top.


    • screen
    • fast
    • good sound quality
    • screen
    • RF performance


    • battery life
    • kind of thick
    • camera
    • no physical menu buttons
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Crowded at the top: Our Motorola ATRIX HD LTE review started by howard View original post
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. zephxiii's Avatar
      zephxiii -
      Always tradeoffs
    1. drunkdrunk's Avatar
      drunkdrunk -
      Nice review ....

      Sent from my SGH-T999 using HowardForums
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Was playing with the ATRIX when I noticed that it doesn't have NFC support. Not a big deal now but could be an issue later.
    1. LouisR's Avatar
      LouisR -
      Here's another question: is the bootloader locked?
    1. zephxiii's Avatar
      zephxiii -
      I played with one at Best Buy today, very nice screen and motor's ICS is so clean and nice....sucks about the battery life though.

      Sent from my MB865 Atrix 2.
    1. B407's Avatar
      B407 -
      Motorola has done an excellent job with their software lately. Hopefully with the google acquisition, they'll gradually improve their software updates roadmap. Out of all the manufacturers that create android devices, only Samsung and the current lineup of premium Moto devices offer a UI experience that is smooth and responsive enough to rival iOS and Windows phone.
    1. BrandonH's Avatar
      BrandonH -
      I've got an unlocked Atrix HD that I purchased from Ebay. I didn't realize this would actually be the Bell version and not the AT&T version, that's fine I don't like the AT&T logo at the bottom of their version anyway. But one problem I am having is that I can't get the LED notification light that I've read the AT&T version has to work on my phone at all, can someone with a Bell Atrix HD tell me if theirs has a notification LED, or if mine is just not working? Thanks.
    1. zephxiii's Avatar
      zephxiii -
      Just saw anandtech's review, batt isn't too bad but the battery could have been bigger.

      Sent from my MB865 Atrix 2.
    1. RightThere's Avatar
      RightThere -
      A lousy camera has made this one a no go for me as well. Most reviews I've seen complain about this as well.