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