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Motorola Atrix - Performance and Interface

By Edward Chester


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Review Price £439.99

Going some way to allowing Motorola to state that the Atrix is the most powerful phone is its inclusion of a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. While we've seen 1.2GHz dual-core phones, this still remains one of the most capable phone chips on the planet. It also accompanies this with 1GB or RAM, where some alternatives have only 750MB.

Motorola Atrix 10

The result is that while it's not the fastest phone going, the Motorola Atrix zips along astonishingly quickly. From loading apps through playing the latest 3D games to simply browsing through your pages of apps, few things cause this phone to trip up. This is perhaps most acutely felt in the web browser where it copes particularly well with Flash videos. Where non dual-core handsets can struggle to play some videos and will get generally sluggish when doing so, you'll have no such issues on the Atrix. That said, the browser can otherwise be a bit stuttering when zooming in and out, though this is a common issue on Android handsets.

Motorola Atrix 16

This isn't helped by the Atrix only running Android version 2.2, rather than the latest 2.3. The core changes it misses out on are support for NFC and some keyboard and text editing improvements, neither of which are crucial for most people. However, the final piece in the 2.3 puzzle is a general refinement of the interface, just giving it a bit of spit and polish that does make quite a bit of difference in general use.

On a practical level, though, the Atrix is absolutely ready for battle. All the core Android elements are present and correct with excellent core phone features like the dialler, contacts and text messaging apps, great web features, and of course the plentiful app store, which although it still trails the iPhone store for quantity and quality has seen a number of high profile additions in recent weeks and months.

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The reason for such tardiness in updating this phone is that Motorola has fairly heavily modified the interface. Starting with the main homescreen, it's mostly standard stuff with seven homescreens available to fill with widgets and apps, a typical Dialler/Main Menu/Contacts array of shortcuts along the bottom, and a modification-free notifications drop down. However, one really notable change is that when you slide left and right between desktops, the shortcuts along the bottom disappear to be replaced by markers to indicate which of the seven desktops you're on. While useful in a way, this is annoying as you have to wait for these markers to disappear to again access the shortcuts. Silly Motorola, bad Motorola!

Otherwise, we like that the main menu hasn't been messed around with, as on many rivals. It's just a simple alphabetical list of apps – the desktops are there for you to organise your apps in whatever way you want.

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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".


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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