The Verizon Droid Incredible 4G LTE raised the question, is there room for a mid-range phone? As it turns out, there is, but the latest Incredible is not it. Too many compromises made some solid components into a less than capable whole. So, what happens when you stir the pot again and draw out a different brew? We’ve laid hands on the Atrix, and the Atrix 2 that followed, and come off impressed by the handsets, if underwhelmed by the WebTop UI that accompanied the standard Android install. The Motorola Atrix HD, though, takes a very different tack than its predecessors. From software, to design, to internals, there’s very little legacy left in the Atrix HD; but with the Droid Incredible 4G LTE’s design so hampered by its past, could the Atrix’s break from tradition be a good move?

We’ll start by taking a look at the handset and its design. AT&T’s Atrixi of the past were somewhat somber affairs. They had delicate curves that formed simple shapes and seemed to somehow ape the curve of the Palm Pre, while remaining taciturn with the all-black motif. It was a fitting contrast to the look of the Droid devices Motorola was releasing for Verizon, with their sharp edges and hard angles. One look at the Atrix HD, though, and its ancestor is immediately apparent; the Droid X. A broad thin expanse of smartphone, with a substantial hump to house the camera has pretty much come to define the new look of Motorola. The design was honed with the Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX, and now it finds itself applied outside of Verizon’s branding for the first time in the US. 


S
imilar width devices, with varying screensizes: (top to bottom) Samsung Galaxy S III 4.8", Motorola Atrix HD 4.5", Motorola Droid RAZR 4.3", LG Nitro HD 4.5"

As with almost all phones these days, the 4.5” display dominates the front of the device. Much has been made of the large bezels around the screen, and truth be told there’s something to it. It’s almost exactly as wide as the Galaxy S III, and just a hair shorter. I’m not nearly so bothered by the bezels, as I am by the materials, but we'll get to that in a moment. The front-facing camera is just right-of-center, and the proximity and light sensors are terribly well-concealed just to the left. There’s a strip along the bottom, just below the AT&T logo, that hides the voice mic, and a matching strip at the top. There's little to differentiate this phone from the RAZR brood, as even the tapered corners make an apperance, though here not nearly so angular. The edge of the device has a dark black plastic rim, wonderfully clicky power and volume buttons grace the right edge of the device, with the power button grooved to stand out from the smooth volume button. The rim widens at the top to contain the microHDMI and microUSB ports, in the now standard Motorola fashion. The headphone port is also along the topside of the device, though thrown off to the right. The bottom edge is featureless, while the left edge has a door that conceals the microSIM and microSD slots. I often worry that a design with a moving part will wear after repeated use; here though, that little door is sturdy to the point of frustration. The amount of force required to loosen it is far higher than should be applied on a delicate consumer electronics device. Further, the door edges into that black rim a bit, and never looks entirely seated. 

And that brings us to the back. The plastic on the back is a white pearlescent matte, a contrast from the glossy plastic of the front. In our preview I mentioned that I found the Atrix HD pretty, and I do; but the different plastics just strikes me as such an odd choice as to be a niggle that plagues me whenever I look at it. At a distance, you’d hardly notice it, I don’t even know I’d be able to express it in photographs. But up close, the effect is noticeable, and begs the question: why? I’ll likely never know. The back is of course dominated by that layer of Kevlar, which stands out a bit poorly in what is an otherwise softer looking device. Perhaps if the Kevlar came in a variety of hues it wouldn’t seem so out of place, but the matte pearl plastic looks awkward next to the weave. The classic camera hump is gracefully reached on the Atrix HD, and houses the 8MP/1080p shooter, with LED flash and a pretty substantial speaker grille. Also tucked away, at the top and bottom, are additional microphones, that can be used for noise cancellation and stereo audio recording in videos. 

I still think the Atrix HD is a pretty phone, and might feel better about it in its Titanium livery; but the little design choices that take away from the phone are enough that I can’t quite endorse the look. Instead, I’ll say this, if you liked the RAZR’s looks, and you wanted something a touch softer, this is exactly that. 

Physical Comparison
  Motorola Atrix HD HTC One X (AT&T) Samsung Galaxy S III (USA) Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX
Height 133.5 mm (5.26") 134.8 mm (5.31") 136.6 mm (5.38") 130.7 mm (5.15")
Width 69.9 mm (2.75") 69.9 mm (2.75) 70.6 mm (2.78") 68.9 mm (2.71")
Depth 8.4 mm ( 0.33") 8.9 mm (0.35") 8.6 mm (0.34") 8.99 mm (0.35")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 129 g (4.6 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 145 g (5.1 oz)
CPU 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430
GPU Adreno 225 Adreno 225 Adreno 225 PowerVR SGX 540
RAM 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 2 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2
NAND 8 GB NAND, with up to 32 GB microSD 16 GB NAND 16/32 GB NAND, with up to 64 GB microSDXC 16 GB NAND, 16 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled
Camera 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP Front Facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.9 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 4.5" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT HD ColorBoost 4.7" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT 4.8" 1280 x 720 HD SAMOLED 4.3" 960 x 540 SAMOLED Adv.
Battery Internal 6.76 Whr Internal 6.66 Whr Removable 7.98 Whr Internal 12.54 Whr

Display
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  • Belard - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    The Atrix HD does include the Car Dock/Charger. It re-configs the phone to a GPS type device and hands-free home just by plugging it in. The dock costs $40 (on the Motorola site).

    http://www.motorola.com/us/consumers/Vehicle-Navig...
    Reply
  • kpb321 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I assume that the color issue persisted with the new phone you received to resolve the camera issue since you didn't say otherwise. When I first saw the specs and price for this phone I figured it would end up being a pretty solid mid level phone and most people probably wouldn't be bothered by the display or if they were it would be at a level where they couldn't put their finger on why it bother them. Reply
  • dymelos - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I know most of these are written with certain things in mind, and mostly started before market adjustments happen. But when you put a mid range phone againist a high end phone (the htc one x) thats the same price as each other, its hard to recomend the mid range phone. The htc has been 99 at att for over a month now. Its the best phone for the money that they carry as far as complete packages are concerned. Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    And the AHD is already $50 at most places other than AT&T... They can't revise the article d every two weeks. Reply
  • bill4 - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Umm, they can edit the line referring to price, or update their conclusion, or come out with these reviews in a more timely manner, or SOMETHING.

    Talking about how this is the only Krait available for 99 when the One-X has been 99 for weeks just makes the article look bad.

    Just overall, the review isn't timely enough. This phone came out in late July IIRC. At that time I was kind of interested in it as an SGS3 alternative. That seems like forever ago and the Anand review is just now hitting? It's way too late to do any good.

    However, Anand does the most thorough phone reviews that I trust the most. A lot of reviews from all the phone sites, while they may review the phone a day after release, are really shitty. To me they're more like first impressions masquerading as reviews.

    So I guess, it's a big catch 22, and I dont know the answer. But just in general I wish this review was more timely by far. Like maybe first week of August or anything.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Anandtech adjusts, and learns, from things like this. I hope the next phone review is a bit more forward thinking and includes scenarios such as price drops ( if they think the price will drop just after, or even before the review is released). Reply
  • MrMilli - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Jason, it seems you're not too familiar with v-sync.
    The differences between the onscreen and offscreen tests (v-sync'd and not) are perfectly normal and have nothing to do with 'thermal issues that arise because of the heat generated by the screen'.
    The simple explanation is that when v-sync is off, the gpu doesn't have to wait for the monitor to refresh to send the back buffer to the frame buffer. This will cause an increase in frame rate, even under 60fps.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    They have discussed this before. I believe they disable Vsync for both, Its a developer option, but I don't remember the specifics. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I've been playing with HTC One X, SGS3 and a bit with the ATRIX HD finally. (I did consider the Nokia 900 and iPhone4s - No on iPhone because of Apples lawyers and iPhones are more prone to theft - no on WP7... and its dead end system... even at $50).

    I helped my business partner go with the Samsung GS3... its quite nice... and these 3 phones include an LED messaging light (handy!). But the screens on GS3s are a bit dark.

    Because of the Power button and USB connector location, I tossed out the HTC-One X. Otherwise, its screen, the feel of the body scores a 10 in my book. The Camera is still odd to me. I just won't deal with that button arrangement. Hence, we have CHOICES.

    Love the HOME button on the GS3... Can't stand the glossy plastic feel - the phone is too big for me to make it even bigger with a cover. The cover my friend bought, feel apart after a month.

    The review cleared up a few areas that helps me out on this... THANKS Jason. (sorry for poking ya about it) - I wish the camera was a bit better, but I use real cameras when photos count. Hence, the 8GB of memory means nothing to me. The issues you bring up are valid (the SD slot cover) and slightly odd looking back. Would NFC added more than $5 to the price? I *WILL* be going with the white version because I like how it looks from the front and side. IMHO, they should have made it solid... it would have looked more modern. I actually like how the texture differences feel. The black band has speckles on it (think IBM type-writer/keyboards of the 80s) which is old-school texture..

    I love how the phone feels (not quite as much as the HTC One). I've played with putting it in my pocket and seeing how I can get phone out. I wish it was a bit smaller. The VOL buttons can be set to control ZOOM or SHUTTER... very smart. Also, because of the lack of MAIN buttons, there is a bit more flexibility in using the phone.

    At least down here, at&t is including a CAR-DOCK ($40 usually) with this Atrix HD... so its almost like paying $60 for the phone. The DOCK attaches to you car and your phone clamps to it. What the dock does is charge your phone and puts it into a GPS mode... It'll operate in a hands free mode (speaks your text messages / speaker phone modes). When you remove the phone from the dock, it can "tag" your car location... so if its in a big parking lot, the Atrix HD will point to your car. (unless it was stolen, of course)

    I like the standard interface of the Atrix HD too... over the Samsung and a bit over the HTC for the very reasons you pointed out... using it on the phone is quite nice. I've been using launcher7 on my Galaxy S1 phone for 1.5 years. (It a WP7 Launcher interface) - I think I'm good with ICS on the Atrix to keep it stock.... its a nice screen and to reduce to basic plain color blocks seems a shame.

    I'm glad you did a proper battery test. Reviews I've seen from end users "battery sucks" had me worried. hence, I trust reviews that use standards that can be compared to products, not just what someone decides based on their own usage. None of the phones on your list is as bad as my 2 year old Galaxy S1.

    PS: I've seen the preview photos of the Lumia 820... that is a very COOL looking phone. Too bad they don't make an Android version. :) I'm sure Launcher 8 will come out if I feel the need to use that User Interface style. There is also WP7 style Phone Dialer / Texting apps too... ITs that kind of flexibility that keeps me on Android.

    PS: I always recommend people to still try out the phones themselves to make sure they are comfortable with it. I trust the HTC One X - but its still not for me.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    You have the battery in the RAZR MAXX, but it's not used in every phone you make.. why not? It would be a huge draw. No other manufacturers have cottoned on yet that people want huge battery life, but you did.. with one model. Reply

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