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Hands-on: Motorola Razr HD - A Clean Android Experience

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 18 comments

Motorola's new Razr is back and better.

Earlier this month, Motorola unveiled three new Razr phones, all running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

While it may seem odd that a company owned by Google isn't packing its phones with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Motorola is taking a new approach with Android that brings it closer to its parent company.

The first hands-on example of this approach is from a Razr HD, running on Rogers' LTE network in Canada. In what should please most Android enthusiasts, Motorola has done away with its MotoBlur UI customizations.

In my review of the original Razr (as in the Android model, not the flip phone), I found MotoBlur to be a distraction from the core functionality. (At this point it's important to note that my personal device is a Galaxy Nexus, so I'm partial to stock Android – or at least something very close to it.) Motorola has taken away MotoBlur and the result is a much cleaner OS that will reside on the new Razr phones.

The lightly customized version of ICS running on the Razr HD has a similar look and feel to stock Android, with an app drawer that appears to only add a favorites section. The Razr HD also incorporates the software-based buttons like the Galaxy Nexus.

 

Motorola's customizations have been reduced to some custom functionality, such as the allowance for quick swipes to access device settings and speed dial options, and software apps such as the much-loved Smart Actions from the original (Android) Razr.

Making a return bigger than ever is the Kevlar-backing that we so loved from the previous model. Instead of it being just a sheet of Kevlar, with the Razr HD, the entire back cover is made of that sturdy, yet pleasant-feeling soft-touch material. Phone designers should just give up on trying to make phones out of metal, plastic and glass and just go with this Kevlar stuff Motorola is using.

The original Razr (both models, I suppose) earned their titles for being exceptionally thin. While the new Razr HD, at 8.4mm thick, isn't quite as thin as the previous model, it doesn't have that camera hump. Moreover, the Razr HD takes up basically the exact same footprint as the previous model, but with a 4.7-inch screen, improving upon the old one's 4.3-inch panel. Even better is that Motorola packed a 2,500 mAh battery inside, leading the company to boast that this is a true "all-day phone."

Old vs. New:

 

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  • 1 Hide
    jacobdrj , September 27, 2012 6:28 PM
    I like the idea of a Kevlar back. While I know the stuff is durable, does anyone know if the snap-fits that would keep it connected to the body of the case are also durable? Kevlar is a bit more expensive than some other phone backing materials and would be a pain to replace if the snap-fits failed...
  • 2 Hide
    kawininjazx , September 27, 2012 7:06 PM
    I am still running my droid x, skipped the SIII, I have been considering the Razr M and Razr HD, I just don't want to renew my verizon contract and lose my unlimited data. Decisions, decisions....
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , September 27, 2012 8:27 PM
    Best thing about this is... they also have a Hd MAXX phone, similar specs with this one but even bigger battery.
    If that one comes with unlocked bootloader on GSM, I'm all over it.
  • 0 Hide
    frombehind , September 27, 2012 8:29 PM
    kawininjazxI am still running my droid x, skipped the SIII, I have been considering the Razr M and Razr HD, I just don't want to renew my verizon contract and lose my unlimited data. Decisions, decisions....


    Pay the full price for the phone, and you wont =)

    It will jsut be treated as a device upgrade
  • 2 Hide
    dr1337 , September 27, 2012 9:31 PM
    Is that your hand Marcus?
  • 0 Hide
    subaru41 , September 27, 2012 11:27 PM
    Sweet. I hope they bring it out on other carriers, and not only Verizon.
  • 0 Hide
    txwest06 , September 27, 2012 11:56 PM
    same here, I have a droid x on verizon w/unlimited data, but upgrading to a new phone. just depends on how much data you use. if you travel often & use lots of data might be worth keeping unlimited. however, I checked my monthly data usage & it's less than 1gb, so don't care if I lose unlimited data.
    I don't want to keep having to keep pay full retail price every time I want to upgrade to a new phone.
    not sure if family share is for everyone might work for familys, however, for individual users the plans should offer more flexibility instead of one plan fits all.
  • 0 Hide
    jesh4622 , September 28, 2012 12:21 AM
    Seriously, people are still staying on verizon after being cheated out of unlimited data and being forced to pay for your own upgrades? On top of the highest rates in the industry?
    I would use ANY other company after all the shafts verizon has thrown my way.

    -ex verizon customer
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 1:06 AM
    Nails on hand in pic are gross
  • -1 Hide
    jackt , September 28, 2012 2:28 AM
    Too large borders ! too big ! And why the buttons are on display ???
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , September 28, 2012 2:31 AM
    I love MC's version of Android 4.0 & 4.1. I have the Atrix HD (still on 4.0) and its quite nice. The circles widget is useful and looks good. I LOVE that the Home screen is always on the LEFT... always hated its center location with Samsung.

    I still like the HUMP because I can feel which way is UP.

    MC needs to improve the camera software (they did come out with an update which DID improve the camera a bit and added HDR and a few other effects). The screen is bright and colorful (compared to the SGSIII), but its color is a bit off - which I can live with.

    The current Motorola phones take a about a week to get its power savings working good. After its first 100% charge, with minimal use within 2-3 hours, the phone showed 70% battery life. OUCH! People have been returning these phones... freaking out.

    After two weeks, I'm usually 60%~55% battery left at the end of the day. I've gone two days without charging for 20% left.

    The only thing I give BAD marks for "pure Android" is that the clock & timer adjustment isn't as easy as it should be... A numeric keyboard SHOULD always be shown so I can enter "6:45" if I want to... not spinning tiny little wheels into position.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , September 28, 2012 3:15 AM
    jacktToo large borders ! too big ! And why the buttons are on display ???

    A bit... its just like the Atrix HD. It looks fine. The Droid M has a 4.3" screen in a phone body that is just as narrow as an iPhone 4/5... that screen is very close to the edge.

    But having a bigger boarder may protect the display better... I don't have data to confirm.

    A TRUE Android 4.x phone has the main buttons on the display itself. I've gone from a 2yr old Samsung to the Atrix HD with the same screen as you see here and I'm good with it. I was worried at first.

    They can ROTATE with the phone. So if you are Texting or using a browser and many other apps, those menu buttons can move around... which *I DO LIKE*.

    I'd like to see Motorola enable the MAIN Screen/Home rotate on their regular phones like they do on their slider models. An example: http://www.techrockstar.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Motorola-Photon-Q-1.jpg

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 7:10 AM
    @belardo, when you've got spinning dials for entering values, try just pressing on the number you want to change. That normally brings up a keypad entry method so you don't have to spin to get what you want.
  • 0 Hide
    becherovka , September 28, 2012 8:03 AM
    jacktToo large borders ! too big ! And why the buttons are on display ???


    Its borders are not too Large side and top they are one of the smallest borders on any phone...
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , September 28, 2012 8:29 AM
    It's all good. I'm happy on my DROID RAZR MAXX. :D  Purchased it JIT to keep my unlimited data plan and pay the subsidized price.

    I know there's going to be a DROID RAZR MAXX HD, but with the same battery. It'll probably draw more power, have a SLIGHTLY better screen and not last as long as my phone. In the end, I just care about the battery. Otherwise, every other Android phone pretty much does what I want/need it to do.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 10:44 AM
    With the snapdragon processor the maxx hd should last even longer despite the small display increase. It looks pretty big, though. Ideally, the M should have come with an HD display. The size and build are perfect and i suspect the HD model will trickle in the spring.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 3:11 PM
    How is the actual camera performance on the new RAZR HD. How does it compare to the SIII and the iPhone 5?

    I have a droid X and my camera is HORRIBLE compared to the HTC Rezound and the SIII!!
  • 0 Hide
    nitestorm , September 28, 2012 4:55 PM
    I wonder if they improved the camera on the Razr HD? With the Razr M, I heard they didn't. Right now I loved the fact it's has a bigger hd screen and larger battery. But if it has a good camera like the gs3, then I'll opt for it.