The holidays are lurking just beyond the seasonal horizon. In less than a month, we will all be locked in the stifling vice-like clutches of last-minute shopping madness. But a plan of attack can stave off waiting in tedious long lines, depleted stock shelves and unnecessary money spent. If a solid inexpensive mobile device was on your gift-giving list, then Motorola and AT&T can help with the latter of those chores via their $99 mid-range 4G Motorola Atrix HD (w/ 2yr subscription).
The Motorola Atrix HD steps away from it predecessor, the Atrix 2, with a number of major differences. I’ve heard the Atrix called a “a cross between the DROID RAZR HD and the Atrix 2″. That’s not a wild claim. They look very similar with the rounded corners, kevlar back and the dearth of physical buttons. But the Atrix HD is near-wafer thin at 8.4mm thick and only weighs a measly 4.94 ounces. The ColorBoost display supports 1280×720 image resolution, which is handsome, without questions. But don’t sip the Kool-Aid At&t is pouring into the marketing hype. It is not the “highest” resolution of a phone (‘ello Retina!). There are similar suitors out there.
Regardless, I found the display to be immaculate with great color balance and enhanced brightness. I enjoy the larger screen real estate over smaller offerings such as the iPhone. Plus Motorola has drenched it in a bit of liquid armor. Despite the tough kevlar back, the company has coated the screen with a nano-coating to help protect against spills and other fluid-fumbling.
The unit is powered by the 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core. This is another break from its forbearer. The Atrix 2 made use of a Tegra 2 with TI OMAP. While you should be excited for this departure from the Tegra, the benchmarks below provide a sobering, but wholly accepted, insight on the matter. Service related tech is impressive. But the speedy LTE is the standout feature here. The Motorola Atrix HD supports AT&T current radio bands as well as UMTS, quadband GSM and EDGE. You can also factor in older HSPA+.
Moving on to the “soul-stealer”, we have a 8-megapixel camera capable of full HD video capture. There is also a front-facing camera, which does 720p video recording. Video can output to a secondary source via the HDMI-out min port. All your favorite Bluetooth profiles are in attendance. WiFi is 802.11 a,b,g,n–familiar stuff. The Atrix HD features side volume rocker and lock button on its right side. The left side houses a micoSD slot (capacity is 32GB). As you can see this is not the blueprint for a mid-range phone. HDMI-out, 1080p video capture and the like are high-end features that can often warrant a higher price.
It comes together handsomely and comfortably. The Motorola Atrix HD is a distinguished looking device. We received the white model and it looks sharp. I should mention, it doesn’t seem to attract dirt and finger prints like other similarly colored devices. It feels solid and tightly compact upon picking it up, which I appreciate. No one likes airy flimsy electronics. The few physical buttons are very easy to reach with single-hand use and perform with reliable responsiveness. I can’t speak highly enough of the display and it’s vivid color. That brightness does suck up nearly 50% of the device’s battery life at times. So therein lies the rub. Coming full circle, with the benches below we see all that high-end innards underwhelmingly produce mid-range performance in games if not internet browsing.
The performance may be midrange, but I must reiterate: the price is commendable for the tech-to-performance ratio. Not to mention the Motorola Atrix HD also has few other “softer” tricks up its mobile sleeve. The OS in use is the scrumptious Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. But the big “M” has has included “Motorola Applications Platform”, TouchWiz and Sense 4 running in lock step with the OS. MAP offers a different lock and home screens, where the home screen can be customized to great a degree. I must say I really like the way the new circle widgets function. There are 3-total on the home screen and each holds a dual function. Tap the “Time/clock” circle widget to reveal your most recent missed call or text. Tap the battery status widget and it flips to offer a gateway into your widget settings. It’s simple but looks cool and is rather prosaic and practical. On top of all that is the Smart Actions app. This automatically tailors your phone settings and behavior to accommodate what you may be currently doing. Place your phone on a vehicle navigation dock to have your texts read aloud, or even have an “I’m driving!” auto-reply sent to all incoming text messages. Smart Action functions can be more tailored and customized, as well. Display brightness toggles and toggling Bluetooth and WiFi are also options. Smart Actions live up to their namesake and offer intelligent and intuitive functionality to Atrix HD.
In general the software performs quite well. There is a great deal more than the average user will need. Plus the doubled up applications are annoying. I don’t want to weed through three different map applications, three different text applications, 3 different movie/media playback applications and so forth. But it all runs so speedy. Moving from screen to screen, in and out of app is so seamless. Everything seams to transition very smooth, even and peppy.
Integers incoming! It’s time for the numeric tale of the of the tape. As you can see here Sunspider shows some amazing performance, some of which, I must say, is not really noticeably indicative of real world speed while browsing. If you look carefully we see the Atrix HD is about 20% slower than the Archos 101 XS tablet we reviewed this Summer.
Yet Browsermark shows something different and bit more accurate. We know Sunspider can be compromised by companies giving special treatment to their browser in order to hit high benchmark scores. I have little problem with this as mobile device purchases should never be guided by synthetically generated numerals. In this case, Atrix HD’s real world internet browsing is very speedy, albeit approx. 30% slower than the leading Archos 101 XS. The Motorola Atrix HD comes in a very close 4th place falling just behind the HTC One S. Don’t let 4th place sour your opinion on the Atrix HD’s internet browsing prowess. The speed difference between 4th and 1st place is barely noticeable.
The graphics side, things are business as usual. The numbers tell a lot, but not speak little on how smooth games perform on the device. Games like Tomb Raider, Need for Speed, GTA III, Chaos Rings all play great. There is no noticeable slowdown or game breaking sluggishness.
I’ll just come out and say, the Atrix HD’s least alluring feature is it’s camera but not for lack of trying. The feature set in the camera application is laudable. You can even take panaramic photos the exact same way Apple boasts about with the latest iOS update. There are a number of editing tools and functions to play with. But nothing is going help the poor photo quality. If you can stumble on nice even natural lighting then the Atrix HD will pop off some solid and even flattering pictures. Anything less than stellar natural lighting will produce a great deal of noticeable noise and some ghosting. The color is everywhere from just “good” to over-saturated. The upshot… Capturing moving pictures seems to immune to these misgivings. Video recording is solid and the quality is great, especially at 1080p.
I came away sold! I like the Motorola Atrix HD. Any iPhone users looking to make the Android leap should feel confident picking up this device. The freedom to use your phone as an actual storage drive is liberating. Call quality yields no complaints from me or those on the receiving end. The camera is again, the major thorn in the Atrix HD’s big toe but it’s not a deal breaker by any means. The battery life is playing 2nd runner to the camera. That gorgeous display is so probably, because is sucking the life out the phone at 79% battery life usage. On a whole, battery life, for general use, is just above 5hrs. That’s tough. Plus the battery cannot be removed. So forget any upgrading ideas you may have.
If you’re like me then you will want to do some digital housekeeping, upon nabbing a this device. Some of those doubled up apps and bloatware should be expunged with extreme prejudice. You may even extend the battery life a bit. If that can be achieved then this $99-find could burgeon into a gem all its own. Still the Motorola Atrix HD is a great mid-range phone that would make a fantastic holiday gift.
Bottom Line: The Motorola Atrix HD is a fantastic mid-range device. Some features and performance aspects even push it in the high-end category. But this is a mid-level device to be truthful That’s not a bad thing at all. The camera and battery life need some work but just about everything else is quite nice for the price.
- Great performance belies the $99 price tag
- Motorola custom software works great
- Gorgeous display
- Speedy and vibrant interface
- Noise oversaturated camera images
- Lack of battery life longevity
The Motorola Atrix is available at Amazon for $99 with a two-year AT&T service subscription.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.