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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  • TareX - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    Being an early Atrix adopter, I'll never buy an Atrix again. It was clunky, buggy, had poor battery life, and froze inexplicably. And before you tell me that was a messed up unit, I'll have you know this was my second replacement.

    I bought a Galaxy Nexus on launch, and will be holding on to it till Key Lime Pie hits on a new Nexus (I/O 2013?).... Other than the lack of MicroSD, the Nexus line really seems to be way ahead of the competition, thanks to the vastly improved software year in and out.

    Motorola did a good job on the 2012 Atrix dock, but I don't need it, now that I'm planning to get the Nexus 7... which reminds me: When is Anandtech planning to review it?
    Reply
  • kaspyyy - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    In Moto's defense, the bulk of that issue probably lies with Nvidia and the very poor documentation for the Tegra 2... the Tegra 2 had lots of problems with android including, but not limited to, inefficient usage of battery and horrible governing that led to choppiness in the operating system. Nvidia really shot themselves in the foot with that one. Reply
  • ammyt - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    I personally am waiting for the Quad Cortex-A15 chip from Samsung's Exynos, GOD it will be a beast! Reply
  • Thermogenic - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    How is that a defense of Motorola? He picked a poor chipset to use for their phones - it is still their fault. Reply
  • ol1bit - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    For the record, I blame Motorola, not Nvidia. The Asus Prime I have an tegra 3 kicks some serious butt.

    I love it!

    My buddy has the Droid X2 with the tegra 2 and had no problems either.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    One would assume that nVidia learned something going from Tegra 2 to Tegra 3, so that's not really a fair comparison. Reply
  • TheJian - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    So you hate NV so much you can't even read his post?
    "My buddy has the Droid X2 with the tegra 2 and had no problems either. "

    His buddy's experience is not unlike a LOT of other people. Tegra 2 did fine for what it was supposed to do. Cheaply get into phones so they could get a foothold and start to create a phone ecosystem for gaming. Tegra 3 expands on that. I expect the wayne or logan chips to put a serious dent in consoles (ok, logan/stark? but heck, logan is 2013 so good enough). Microsoft and Sony agree. Well, that phones in general will hurt them (not just NV based), so they're axing better hardware and going the cheapo crap route. Witness the game devs already whining about lack of overall power in next years consoles. This will only further kill their platforms as phones pass them by and in the case of Tegra actually get good gaming on your TV via the phone and an Xbox or Playstation controller. I think some other controllers work also, pc based if memory serves.

    They laid the groundwork already with support for these. Apple should wise up and support gamepads and spend money on devs like NV does or they will see android/NV do to them what they did to RIM. Rim had enterprise and neglected fun stuff. Apple added fun and exchange at the same time making rim un-special. They chose to ignore it and still do. Apple currently has retina and that's about it. Put a game side by side on Apple and Tegra3 and you see why you want a tegra (tegrazone games - if you're a gamer at all). Once retina is ubiquitous (middle of next year?) what do you need one for? It will then be about the fact that a parent only needs to buy a kid a Tegra3 based phone and they need no xbox360/ps3 (or whatever is next).

    Nvidia already has a great relationship with devs, routinely paying money to them for optimizations (thereby cheapening the cost for a dev's game) on PC games and now phones too. If Apple doesn't start spreading a bit of wealth Nvidia will have a good 50-100 "better looking" games under their belts and iphone will be 2nd rate. Siri is beaten by android already. Activations are 2.x to 1 android vs. apple, and now gaming looks to be getting much better on android via NV. Rim grew for a bit as others took share, but that ends as the pendulum swings quickly for a company ignoring their users interests. Apple is growing but not nearly as fast as android. Look at their quarterly report and articles around the web regarding this. The writing is on the wall. Aim your phone at consoles or die slowly :) By the time the next consoles come out we'll have another die shrink on SOCS, more cores and a pretty good console like experience. At least on android/NV, possibly others if their optimizations work on other android based phone also...not sure about that - I hope they do! goodbye consoles then...LOL. I pray daily for consoles to die. :)

    NV says Stark will be 100x Tegra2. I don't believe any company regarding future stuff, but if they're 1/2 right it should punish any new console not much faster than the last revs (and stuck in console stone for another 6-10 years). On top of that phones are subsidized over the plan costs. Parents might see that as a FREE console...ROFL. Console's days are already numbered. Video killed the radio star....Phone killed the console star...LMAO. It's about time ;) FYI 191mil revenue came from NV's consumer products business in Q3, and 109mil in Q4 (floods /Tegra 2 declining sales noted for last quarters overall lacking). Then again, maybe recent rumors of Xbox Next being semi potent will come true (still stuck in stone no matter what).
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    I'm ashamed to say I read all of that comment. The only things more staggeringly vast than its length were the gaps in your logic. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Some of us just want a nice phone to work as a... PHONE... Tegras are still SLOWER than the iPhone and iPads when it comes to gaming. Its shocking, a year later and they are still playing catchup.

    Its good to see Android phone tech getting better and better, more battery life, better CPU performance.

    So far, this Atrix HD is upper/middle of the road and half the price of the HOX or SGS3.
    Reply
  • Miggleness - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    I hear you. I just sent my Atrix back to the service center for the third time in 8 months. Reply

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