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Motorola Atrix - Docks and Verdict

By Edward Chester



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First up on the Motorola Atrix dock roster is the simple multimedia dock, which is available for around £25. This has a microUSB socket and audio jack on the back and houses the Atrix at a comfortable viewing angle. While docked it will charge, allow data syncing and play back music. When in-situ a prompt pops up asking if you'd like to switch to the widget clock interface. This provides a nice large clock display, access to some useful apps like the music player and alarms, and a brightness button to insta-dim the display.

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Not enough for you? Well how about the HD dock and IR remote?!

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Coming in at around £50 this dock significantly bumps up the extras with three full size USB ports, microHDMI socket and an extra power input to go along with the audio jack (there isn't a microUSB for data syncing), and of course a remote. This combination lets you plug in USB storage devices to play back the files thereon while piping out the results to a TV. A simple but very easy-to-use and tidy multimedia interface pops up when you dock the device and the remote works brilliantly for navigation. You can also use the ports to connect the Atrix to a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and open the Webtop interface to use it as a mini desktop.

Motorola Atrix 28Motorola Atrix 8

Webtop is essentially a mini operating system, which primarily consists of a Firefox web browser, file manager and the aforementioned media interface. Limiting as this sounds, the browser is essentially a fully-fledged desktop one so supports Flash and can be used surprisingly effectively for web apps like Google Maps, Hotmail, Google Docs and the like – even We7 works. Both docks also have removable inserts (like on Apple's docks) suggesting compatibility with future phones.

Still not convinced? Okay, so now for the big daddy, the Lapdock.

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Housing an 11in screen, a keyboard, touchpad, stereo speakers, a couple of USB ports, and a set of batteries, the lapdock can be used to turn the Atrix into, give or take, a proper laptop. The screen has a decent 1,366 x 768 resolution and is of good quality, the keyboard is lovely to type on, the trackpad does a good job, the speakers are passable and the batteries will last for seven hours and leave your phone with a full charge at the end of it. It's also an incredibly well-made bit of kit, in fact it's one of the most beaitufully crafter devices of its form factor we've ever seen. It's nearly all metal, is just 14mm thick and weighs just 1.1Kg – it even has the true mark of quality: a lid that requires only one finger to open. So what's the catch?

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Well, there are a few. For a start, there's the price which, at £250, is quite reasonable considering the build quality but is a little close to netbook territory (and it's not like the lapdock can use the phone's data connection seamlessly – it still requires a tethering-enabled tariff). Another small grievance is the lack of a headphone jack – instead you must use the one on the phone, which is awkward to get to.

Motorola Atrix 4Motorola Atrix 7

Most problematic of all, though, it uses the same interface as the HD dock, which while impressive has severe shortcomings. You can't really install apps, and doing anything outside what's mentioned above requires you to use the phone interface which is shown in a little window the same size as the phone. Even games can't be put into some kind of fullscreen mode.

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The result is a product that one would be overjoyed to receive as a gift – it's a great alternative to something like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer or a netbook in terms of being a basic writing, browsing and multimedia tool – but is not something we'd buy as too many alternatives offer too much more, even if they can't match it for style or build quality.


As a standalone phone, the Motorola Atrix competes well against the dual-core Android competition due to its high res screen, unique fingerprint scanner, great battery life and comfortable form factor, though is let down by a mediocre camera, some unnecessary interface tweaks and limited video support. As such, it rather depends which you prioritise.

Add in its dock accessories, though, and it shines out brightly. There is something undeniably cool about having one device perform so many of your daily functions. Unfortunately these docks don't come for free and the lapdock in particular simply can't compete for functionality with a laptop, netbook or even tablet. If and when Android updates come that more comprehensively support it then it could be amazing but as it stands, it's a nice to have, not a must have.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

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".


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:


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.


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.


simon jackson

July 16, 2011, 2:31 am


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.


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! :)


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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