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Motorola Atrix review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Class leading high res screen
  • Dock accesories are genuinely useful
  • Fingerprint reader is useful

Cons

  • Camera is below par
  • Slightly dull design
  • Dock accesories don't come for free

Key Features

  • High res 4.0in screen (540 x 960)
  • Android 2.2 operating system
  • 1GHz dual-core processor
  • 5.0 megapixel camera with LED
  • A range of docks for adding extra functionality
  • Manufacturer: Motorola
  • Review Price: £439.99

Billed as the most powerful smartphone in the world, Motorola could hardly be making a more bold claim as to the Motorola Atrix abilities. While it's debatable whether this is truly the best of the best of the best, the company has at least done something to put all that oomph to good use. Thanks to a range of dock accessories, you can turn this humble phone into a laptop or desktop computer, or a multimedia player.

Putting aside the extras for a moment, the phone itself looks like a fairly typical Android phone. With dimensions of 117.8 x 63.5 x 11 mm it's a little bigger than your average smartphone but crucially smaller than most of its dual-core processor equipped rivals such as the HTC Sensation, Samsung Galaxy S II and LG Optimus 2X. This makes it rather easier to handle, making for less stretching this way and that to reach all its buttons and the full expanse of its screen.

It's the screen that helps in this regard as it's only 4in across as opposed to the 4.3in models used on much of the aforementioned competition. We feel this is a more sensible size, giving a good compromise between being large enough for comfortable viewing (especially for video) and being small enough to use easily.

The screen also trumps many others thanks to its high resolution, which Motorola calls qHD. Whereas most of the competition offer 480 x 800 pixels, the Atrix packs in a near iPhone 4-equalling 540 x 960. The result is a sharper display and one that can fit in more detail (134,400 pixels more). It's a good quality panel too, with strong colours, deep black levels and decent viewing angles. The iPhone 4 is still slightly better overall (though of course much smaller) and the OLED panel of the Samsung Galaxy S II has even punchier colours and better viewing angles but we'd take the extra pixels over the latter any day.

Motorola Atrix 17

Getting back to the phone's design, it's somewhat generic with a full-frontal slab of glass inset with four touch sensitive buttons below the screen, while the back consists of a single plastic panel covered with a simple but fetching chequered pattern. There's almost a utilitarian vibe to it but not so much that it's ugly, just a tad bland.

Motorola Atrix 29

The use of touch sensitive buttons is an ever-contentious issue as they can be rather awkward compared to a proper physical button but we found few issues in day-to-day use on this phone. That said, we generally do quite like the reassurance of a button for core tasks like returning to the home screen.

Motorola Atrix 32

Connectivity and features are thankfully areas where the Atrix sets itself apart rather more. As well as packing in all the current must haves – microUSB, microHDMI, headphone jack, 5-megapixel camera and microSD card slot– it has a unique extra: a finger print reader.

Motorola Atrix 30

This is incorporated into the power/screen lock button that sits at an angle on the edge where the back meets the top. Just tap the button to activate the screen then swipe your finger to unlock it. It's easy to setup, works very well and there's a backup unlock code in case you happen to mislay your finger. What's more the power button is nice and easy to reach, unlike on some other smartphones. It really is a great addition. Our only grievance is that you can't specify how long it takes for the phone to lock itself, as on most other security modes. So, every time the phone's screen turns off you have to swipe to unlock it again.

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David Horn

July 15, 2011, 7:44 pm

"The result is that while it's not the fastest phone going..." certainly goes nicely with "The Fastest Phone in the World".

Cliff

July 15, 2011, 8:22 pm

Hi David - If you're referring to the homepage teaser: "The most powerful smartphone… in the world." That was our attempt at a Clarkson-ism. Of course the humour gets lost when you explain it, but the review itself should expand upon (and debunk) this claim. Thanks for your comment.

David Horn

July 15, 2011, 8:42 pm

Thanks Cliff - what actually piqued my interest is that I think one of the networks in the UK advertised the Atrix with exactly this slogan, which confused me.

Apologies for the complete sense of humour failure!

simon jackson

July 15, 2011, 8:52 pm

I've been using the atrix for a month or so now and i've been very impressed with it. I ditched the motoblur launcher in favour of golauncher. Not because i have any particular problem with motoblur - i actually don't think its anywhere near as bad as some people would have you believe - but just because i wanted more in the way of customization options.

The performance of the phone is great, not withstanding nonsense claims about fastest phones in the world. Processor wise its pretty much the same layout as the SGSII - two arm cortex a9 cores - albeit without support for the ARM NEON instruction set. How much difference this makes is up for debate. Also, more instructions = more silicon = more power consumption, so its a double edged sword. What seems to make a much bigger difference is the OS version - and the reviewer has missed out a big improvement in gingerbread over froyo: the EXT4 filesystem. It offers greatly improved performance supposedly, and is the default for gingerbread. The SGSII therefore, already benefits from this. Check out this quadrant score for an overclocked LGOptimus 2x:

http://blog.gsmarena.com/t-mobile-g2x-a-k-a-lg-optimus-2x-overclocked-to-1-5ghz-scores-4570-in-quadrant/

Faster than an SGSII with the same clock, but that's probably just down to the variability in repeat quadrant runs. Linpack score is up from 36 to 54, which is a huge improvement, and a lot of that is attributable to EXT4.

Gingerbread (with an unlocked bootloader) is imminent on atrix, so it might be worth doing an update when it drops, because it should offer significant improvements. Motorola are usually pretty good when it comes to device updates, unlike samsung, which is why i originally decided to go for the atrix.

Another big reason i opted for tegra 2 is gaming. Not that tegra 2 is more powerful than an sgs2 - a lot of people believe the opposite - but because it is more widely supported. Plenty of games wont run out of the box on sgs2 because its GPU uses some proprietary texture streaming mode. You have to use chainfire 3d to get stuff to run, which is a faff i can do without.

Other things that swung it motos way were the high resolution screen for web-browsing (although it is a pentile screen, which is worth pointing out - it doesn't bother me, but some people aren't keen) and the huuuuuge battery.

Bugblatter

July 15, 2011, 11:34 pm

Lots of games only work natively on Tegra 2 because Nvidia paid lots of games developers to write their games to exclude everything else.

That's from reading the Clove blog, which I trust.

Craig Turner

July 16, 2011, 1:09 am

I'd love to know a bit more of the flash player and the phone's capability. I refer to how well it handles HD Flash?

Whether using the lapdock or just the phone itself, will it play a HD flash video from like youtube?

I can't seem to find an answer to this.

Thanks!

simon jackson

July 16, 2011, 2:31 am

@Bugblatter

There are issues with texture streaming on the SGSII which is how chainfire 3d came about. You're quite right though, and that's precisely what i meant by "compatibility". Whether software is intentionally hamstrung so it wont work on other hardware or not, the result is the same: without faffing about with custom roms you will not be able to play the game on other hardware platforms.

One other thing I would caution against though is underestimating the value of optimising software for particular hardware. Tegra 2 versions of games no doubt run well on other powerful smartphones. They may well run better on tegra 2 though.

Ed

July 18, 2011, 6:29 pm

Hi Craig, I've just investigated this for you. Results are that it's nearly impossible to get HD video to play on the phone itself - youtube doesn't offer it on the mobile version and it's darned difficult to get the desktop version to select an HD version. As for the lapdock, 720p video just about works but it doesn't stay in sync well and drops plenty of frames. All told, sticking to 480p is the way forward.

Craig Turner

July 18, 2011, 7:01 pm

Thanks for checking Ed! :)

btel

October 19, 2011, 3:27 pm

Long story but I had an atrix but had to send it back but nothing to do with the phone. I am now thinking about getting it back or go for the S2.Spoke to a friendn about the Atrix & was told that the software fails after about 3 months can anyone spread any lighht on this claim thanks

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