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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  • SanLouBlues - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Is it easy to flash with other ROMs? My current Motorola Droid Pro is crippled with the stock ROM and it drives me up a wall. Reply
  • bjacobson - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Given Motorola's track record of support for existing devices I'm staying the heck away from this one. My Atrix4G, hailed as the world's most powerful phone when it was released just one year ago, still does not have ICS or JB. It has 1GB RAM, 16GB ROM, and dual core 1ghz A9 (Tegra2), no reason it shouldn't receive ICS, JB and (potentially Android 5.0), but I'm not holding my breath to get even ICS.

    In addition Motorola's touch screens leave a lot lacking. Every phone of theirs that I've used (OGDroid, Droid2, Droid3, Atrix4G, Droid Bionic) has too low of a resolution of touch-sensing and has a grid of "dead zones" where the screen will jitter if you hold you finger there while dragging something (like the notification bar). Makes for a very unpleasant phone experience that I do not want again.

    So needless to say I will be going HTC or Samsung or frickin anybody else but Motorola next round.
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Atrix HD is sold by the Google owned Motorola... Support should be improved, no?

    Also, I had the same problems with my Samsung.

    The carriers are the biggest problems with updates.
    Reply
  • bjacobson - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Yes.
    It probably will be, I'm just TO'd that I still don't have a new version of nderoidz
    Reply
  • blakflag - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    totally agree.. I also got the Atrix 4G and the update support has been terrible. Regardless of how good the hardware is, without timely updates it's not worth it. Gonna go with a Google Nexus branded device next time. (stock Android is better than any of these tarted up skins the OEMs put on there) Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    You'll probably be disappointed to find out that all the future Google Nexus phones will be made by Motorola! Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    That's just speculation, and also irrelevant since updates would be handled by the Android software team regardless... Doubly irrelevant if rumors of an expanded multi-manufacturer Nexus lineup are to be believed. Reply
  • ados_cz - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Galaxy S III is quad core. Reply
  • eric appla - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    there are two variants. The one listed here is also correct it is a USA model which is dual core while the international version is a quadcore Reply
  • ados_cz - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Aha, thanks, did not know that. Reply

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