A good smartphone these days needs a great screen. To that end, marketing lingo offers nothing. Motorola has dubbed this 4.5” TFT-LCD display, its ColorBoost display. I’m not sure what that means, but I do know that the 1280x720 panel has a lot of potential. We take displays seriously, and so, like every other aspect of our reviews, we try to gather as much objective data as we can. There’s something to be said for subjective analysis though, and so we’ll start with that. I want to like this display, but something bugged me from the moment I lit it up. I think this is what people feel when they say they hate a PenTile AMOLED display's color balance. PenTile never bothered me much, but the Atrix HD display does. I couldn’t come close to seeing individual pixels from a normal viewing distance and there were excellent viewing angles, but that’s something we’ve come to expect from any tolerable handset. There was something else . . .

Brightness (White)

Brightness (Black)

Contrast Ratio

Chart topping brigthness makes me recall Motorola's use of PenTile RGBW in many of last years models to boost brightness. There’s no such trickery at work here, just a powerful backlight. Such a strong backlight has its deficits though, and in this case it’s the black level that falters a bit. We’ve seen worse, and the contrast remains respectable. So if all of this looks good, what is it that bugs me about this phone’s display? 

 

We use ColorHCFR and Voodoo Screen Test Pattern to characterize our displays, and one of the most delightful features is that it builds these great charts. Two charts I’ll highlight here spell out my issues pretty clearly. The simplest is the color temperature chart (right, and a bit difficult to make out), which breaks down the color temperature at the various intensities. What we see is a distinct and drastic blue push, so much so it's off the charts at a few measurements. The CIE chart, gives us a clearer look at what’s happening. The plane is one defined color space, and the black triangle represents the sRGB color space, the standard for CE displays. The white triangle is the Atrix HD’s display’s color space, and you can see a distinct shift towards the blue in this triangle. That shift makes for vibrant blues, but it also makes other colors fall off their mark. I’ve always been a pixel density enthusiast (I’d never considered owning a TV larger than 27” until 1080i was in play), but as the mobile industry continues to scratch that itch, I find myself disgruntled with shifts in color accuracy. What does this mean for everyone else? Honestly, go play with it. I can tell you that it’s bright and dense with good contrast, but that I don’t like the colors. You might love them, and that’s fine. That’s the thing about subjective analysis, it depends on the subject. 

Introduction and Design Performance
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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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