I was reminded yesterday of the Droid RAZR launch event. One of the RAZR product managers excitedly leapt at the opportunity to run me through some benchmarks on the demo device, a rare opportunity at these sorts of events. The results were, for the time, startling. Motorola took some time to optimize the browser in ways that set it head and shoulders above the competition in some benchmarks. The result was a Sunspider score that was fully half of its predecessor the Droid Bionic. 

That's how I felt as I started to run the Motorola Atrix HD through its paces yesterday. The Atrix HD softens the hard edges of the RAZR design philosophy a touch, and to good effect. The white sample we received is understated and rather pretty, though I wonder if I wouldn't have preferred an all white back, rather than that expanse of Kevlar. And inside, Motorola has moved on from the OMAP 4 that won their hearts last year and adopted Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4. Yes, the MSM8960 scores another design win. 

The results we're seeing, though, are a bit odd. 

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

Vellamo Overall Score


Linpack - Single-threaded

Linpack - Multi-threaded

BrowserMark

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen (720p)

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen (720p)

In the PC space there've been countless periods when we've had our suspicions that something sneaky was happening behind the scenes to generate extreme results in synthetic tests. I'm not suggesting Motorola's done something untoward; moreso than in the PC space, the AOSP code all OEMs start with leaves plenty of room for them to optimize to a particular hardware set-up. The numbers in the Sunspider score, though, exceed even Qualcomm's own Mobile Development Platform. Meanwhile, the rest of the benchmarks strike a much more conservative tone. We'll try and do some digging to figure out what's happening to generate these results leading up to the review. And we'll keep a close eye to see whether these synthetic results translate to real world performance. 

For now, let's talk about Motorola's ICS skin, a huge departure from even the not-Blur variations we'd recently seen. All OEMs have their own clock/weather widget, and Motorola is no different, theirs is playful and features transparency effects that are oddly satisfying and allow the background to peek through. Folders work just like vanilla ICS, but home screens are laid out in a left to right fashion; and in a departure from other skins, only the main home screen is populated initially, the rest are fully absent. A swipe to the left reveals a prompt to add a blank page or one from a template. Motorola also tweaked some of the app icons, so a swipe up or down from atop the Phone icon brings up a Favorites pop-up, or Bookmarks for the Browser. This is actually a nifty way to add this functionality without cluttering your home screens with widgets, and I say kudos to Motorola for this one. 

I haven't had a chance to characterize the display, but subjectively colors are bright and viewing angles are great. The body feels incredibly sturdy, as the RAZR before it, and the textured ring that goes around its edge has a pleasant tactile contrast to the smooth plastic of the rest of the frame. One note on that frame, around the display it is a glossy white plastic, but along the back it is a matte pearlescent white, not sure why the two-tone effect but it isn't jarring even when noticed. The larger screen means the excessive bezels of the RAZR are gone, while the Kevlar back continues to feel a bit out of place. We've only just begun our review process so we'll get back to it. 

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  • Impulses - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    That's not even remotely close to fragmentation, which has become a vague bogeyman... That's akin to calling Firefox or Chrome on a PC fragmentation of Windows, lol. The launcher is just an app like any other, any user that's not aware they can change it by installing a new one from the Play store probably couldn't care less about OS versions. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    +1 Reply
  • azntwboy - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    it would be great if you could please do a color accuracy test on this screen. so far there hasn't been a recent Android device with actual good color reproduction. its a shame. it makes me feel like getting an iPad 7 if the rumors are true, but I really don't like the proprietary methods of Apple. but I am in real need of a device with accurate colors for my work. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    According to some intial reviews the 'ClearBoost' screen on this is oversaturated and the colors come off as very fake. Hopefully there are different color profiles, and if so they will each be tested. Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Over saturated colors seem to be the order of the day on mobile displays since it impresses people in store, same as TVs really. We just don't get much in the way of calibration tools. My EVO's SLCD2 display seems more over saturated and less accurate than my one year old tablet's IPS display, I can't even imagine how SAMOLED displays look when showing off skin tones and other things very sensitive to color accuracy. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Been looking at replacing my SGS1 Captivate for the past month of so... Its been an okay phone, battery always sucked, the speaker phone sucked, the Alarm sucked even more. I never cared for its shape in which the top and bottom look/feel alike. The power button didn't stuck out quite enough. But it was the first Galaxy phone 2 years ago at $225... within a few months, $100.

    Luckily, there is an at&t store with actual live phones (only Apple is willing to provide all at&t locations with real phones, not dummy mock-ups) to feel and use. Only thing that sucks about ALL of todays phones is the quest for larger screens... How about some 4" screens?

    Lumia900 = $100 / Pros: looks great, feels great, camera button. Cons: WP7 (dead end platform, again MS?) and the screen edge kind of cuts into your hand... you feel it. Also, all the tech is 2 years old.

    SONY Ion = $100 / Bigger than it needs to be, nice metal back, pretty wall paper (typical SONY) - has a dedicated Camera shutter button! CONs: Can't open the cover for the USB/HDMI - stupid rubber thingies. No nails. Also, not hearing anything great about the phone... not even here. skip!

    Pantechs = $1 phones, older tech... seems to be cheap / breaks easily.

    Samsung GS3 = $200 / Like the actual HOME button. at&t has red now. Top end phone. CONs: Cheap glossy plastic back feels as cheap as it looks. Feeling the back, you'll barely notice which end is up. Still in consideration.

    Samsung Galaxy Nexus = $200 / Feels better than the SGS3, same button arrangement... just removed from at&t. Its bottom end is bigger, so you know quickly which way is up.

    HTC One X = $200 / Excellent shape and feel... has texture. Love the message light. CONSs: The power button is on the top. Okay, my personal issue. I'm used to it on the side.

    Motorola ATRIX HD = $100 / Looks very nice - a but old-school looking. Can tell which end is up - front and back. No covers over HDMI/USB. Smallest screen of new phones (4.5") Cons: No actual phone buttons (how well does Launcher7 run on it?) - don't know if this is a good or bat thing yet.

    I really wish they would make phones with physical main buttons. Like the Samsung Rugby.
    Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Samsung GS3, Galaxy Nexus & HTC One X are all solid phones.

    I personally will go for the SGS3 for the superior overall experience, put a case on it if you don't like the plastic. Pick Nexus for the fastest software update. Or One X for the beats I guess.

    I got SGS2 and I love it, having it run "naked" this whole time. No screen protector, no case. I really like the phone shape and the texture(TMobile SGS2) of its back.
    Every time I pick up my gf's iPhone 4s, I say it out loud, "This iBrick is heavy." All iPhones I saw have cases, so that made all of they look/feel cheap.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Yep, they are all great phones. So we should choose based on preference.

    I don't put phones in cases. They are made to look good, no? Beats means nothing to me... It's branded loudness for the most part. I've returned a dinky Sony phone because it was flimsy garbage (looked nice) and spent $230 for an unlocked Sony slider which I still use today as an alarm clock.

    There are different covers for the iPhone. Having a glass back is a problem as many people break them. I've been considering the iphone4, it's a very nice looking phone.

    The SGS3 has a cheap feel... But has a nice shape. The hdmi on the MC is handy.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link


    ... which if any of them support SD or microSD?? I'm not going to buy a phone or tablet without it,

    Arbie
    Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    The Atrix HD has a microSD slot on the side (you can see the cover on the left side in the pictures above) - supports up to 32GB.

    Really can't wait to see the full review of this phone... waiting, waiting, waiting.
    Reply

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