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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  • Burticus - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    How is it? I crave a smartphone that I can leave the house with without taking a charger with me. Reply
  • peevee - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    The Android phone makers are completely insane. 5 years (!!!) after iPhone release they still cannot comprehend one simple truth - plastic belongs in $1 stuff, not in $600-$800 phones (and that is what even $0 subsidized price really is). You just cannot make it look and feel expensive with plastic, even if you call the plastic "polycarbonate" or any other name. Steel, Aluminum alloys, Titanium, glass, noble woods, leather - your choice, but not plastic (and preferably not magnesium alloys either - they look and feel - as in "specific thermoconductivity" - too close to plastic).
    And there should not be any visible joints on the back - they look unsightly and produce creaks.
    And there should be immediate updates to new Android versions the same day Google releases it (you can make your testing-development on betas) for as long as hardware supports it (which is AT LEAST 3 years).
    It is not that expensive - component cost of $500 notebook is MUCH MUCH more (processors-LCD-battery etc) than the $600 phone.
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    The seams on the back vary... some have kick stands, some have removable backs - which look a bit better since you don't need a slot for the SD-CARD and SIM CARD...

    The good thing with a non-removable back is a more water-proof phone... slightly.
    Reply
  • Demi9OD - Monday, August 06, 2012 - link

    I own this phone but am considering switching it out for the HTC One X during my 30 day grace period. I got caught up with the hype and started with a SGIII. The screen dimness was really unforgivable even at full brightness for use as a navigation unit for driving. I took my old Droid X2 (Verizon) and the SGIII into the AT&T store to compare screens. The X2, though hated on for the low quality screen, was just a beast in the brightness department on full torch. It ran pretty well with CM7, but had it's flaws, especially with Pandora. The Atrix HD looked a little brighter at full blast and they sucked me in with the $100 cheaper entry, the free vehicle dock, and $40 worth of free accessories. This made the Atrix HD effectively a $20 phone compared to the SGIII and HTC One X @ $200.

    My complaints with the Atrix HD are primarily due to the battery, which drains incredibly quickly. The camera is also sub par. The display is definitely over-saturated, akin to cranking up digital vibrance on an nvidia video card if you are familiar with the effect.

    All that said, does the One X have a vehicle dock with built in charging? Both my Motorola phones, the X2 and Atrix HD, have fantastic Moto brand vehicle docks with drop in charging. This is much preferred to connecting a cable every time I use it in my car.
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Really? The worst I read about the phone is the battery life. But that with tweaks and using their SMARTACTIONS seems to help a lot.

    I use a real camera for photos... so that means little to me. I was looking at the dock anyway... so that makes it a better deal, I guess the dock doesn't charge, eh?
    Reply
  • Demi9OD - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Battery life has improved over a couple of cycles. The vehicle dock charges and is really nice. Sticking with the Atrix HD. Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Got the Atrix HD. The battery life has improved quite a bit in its first week. The first day was horrible... in which little usage sucked up battery life. 7 days, with typical Phone/data usage - I'm only using 50% battery within 24hrs.

    GPS is smokin... love it
    Reply
  • Nolimitsdesigns - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    I've been reading through this forum and have realised people make no sense.
    In the earlier comments people were slating the Atrix family without giving any actual reasons. The comment that iphones are better got to me. Until the iphone 5 the Atrix (even the 4g) wiped the floor both on paper and in life.
    I've had an atrix and had no problems that weren't my own doing (had a problem with rooting) and I now have an atrix 2 which also has no problems. Haven't yet seen it necessary to get the hd. I also don't like the look.
    Another thing that proves people aren't that bright is the constant comparisons to quad core phones. Phones with twice the power will be faster. Simple. They will over heat. They will drain their batteries. A good dual core though will prove better in day to day life. Until they improve the batteries or consumption.
    Tegra chips are great for gamers and I agree (with earlier comments) that phones will soon overtake consoles. Tegra chips are(in my experience) reliable and friendly on the consumption front. I would much prefer my old atrix 4g to an iphone 5!!
    Reply

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