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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  • Schadenfreude - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I hate to be "that guy" - but the correct first sentence/question "is there room for . . ." instead of "their".

    There, I said it!
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Thanks, it's fixed now. Their's always one. :) Reply
  • noblemo - Friday, September 07, 2012 - link

    Similarly, I think "tack" should be, "tact." Reply
  • noblemo - Friday, September 07, 2012 - link

    Well, "tactic," actually. Reply
  • coolhardware - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Thanks for mentioning the Atrix HD's color balance issue!

    I too have a Motorola phone with a 'nice' display, the Motorola Photon. The display looks 'nice' when you look at the spec sheet, but when you actually look at the screen it is way skewed toward blue.

    However, there is a software solution that has worked well for me:
    http://www.jdhodges.com/2012/07/correcting-color-b...
    and after making the adjustments using the Android color filter app the screen looks MUCH better!

    I hope this helps anyone else in a similar situation and I would love to see how the Atrix HD subjectively fared after being adjusted using software. :-)
    Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Interesting device,now lets see what they have to show today,hope it's something relevant (if anyone cares Moto is live streaming the event on their youtube chan) Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    If 8GB worth of NAND Flash clearly isn't worth the $100 difference between this one and the Galaxy S III or the HTC One X when it debuted, one has to wonder why the GS III and certainly the iPhone 4S sell for so much in the first place.

    Oh well, no more iPhones for me. I'm tired of basically being cheated on the cost of Flash.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    SGS3 is lighter, has a bigger, removable battery, SAMOLED display (which is superior to normal LCDs in my book), double the RAM and double the NAND. That's what that extra $100 gets you. I'd chose the SGS3 over this any time. Reply
  • zero2dash - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I strongly considered the Atrix HD because I didn't want to pay $200 for a SGS3 and I hoped that the Atrix would be "good enough" for half the price. In the end I figured I might as well buy something that meets or exceeds my needs now, and should hold up in the future.....and I went ahead and paid the extra $100 for the SGS3. Couldn't be happier.

    The general consensus seems to be to not compare the AHD to the SGS3 or the One X and I think that's a good point to make, because the AHD is, as the review states, more of a middle class device than a higher class/top tier phone. With One X's now being lowered to $99, I think the AHD is an even harder sell than it already was and I expect these to drop to $49 before too long otherwise they're going to have an even worse uphill battle. Clearly the price tag of the SGS3 is not scaring people off.....and for good reason - it's a phenomenal phone, arguably the best phone available today.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    The AHD is already $50 at several third party retailers... Probably free during holiday sales, quite a lot of phone for very little (contact renewal and that whole ridiculousness aside). Reply

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