The Motorola Atrix 2 has crept out from under the iPhone 4S' coattails this weekend for a mere $99 on contract. Poor Atrix 2: launched with no fanfare, unlike the first Atrix 4G, which received a mini-blast of marketing not unlike its Droid cousins on Verizon when it launched 7 months ago. That doesn't mean the Atrix 2 isn't an excellent high end Android smartphone. What's improved from the original Atrix? The Atrix 2 has a larger 4.3" qHD display and that sometimes grainy PenTile matrix is nowhere to be found. Text is easier to read on the larger display, and movies are more enjoyable too. The phone has HSPA+ 21 Mbps, and we got notably faster speeds vs. 14.4 Mbps AT&T phones like the Atrix 4G and iPhone 4S. The phone got from 5-12 megs down in Ookla's Speedtest.net app, and 1 meg up. Combine that with the mobile hotspot feature (included with 4 gig and higher data packages), and you've got something really useful here.
The Atrix 2 runs Android OS 2.3.5 Gingerbread with typical Motorola UI and software customizations that we like just fine. You get their squared off app icons and lots of account and social network integration, but the UI isn't needlessly gussied up. A 1GHz dual core TI OMAP CPU powers the phone vs. the Tegra 2 in the first Atrix, and they both benchmark at 2250-2300 in Quadrant. The Atrix 2 scores 67 in Linpack's multi-thread test, which is solid. Experientially, it feels responsive, though we noted just a hint of lag now and then that we didn't experience with our Droid Bionic running on the same CPU.
Though you lose the ability to play the small number of high quality Nvidia Tegra Zone games with the Texas Instruments CPU, the Atrix 2 is a very capable 3D gamer and I've found that it's stronger at some 2D tasks like video playback. The Atrix 2 has no problem playing 1080p high profile MPEG4 videos; a task that many 1GHz dual core Tegra 2 tablets and smartphones can't do well (and in some cases not at all).
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Motorola Atrix 2 Video Review
The phone has a gig of RAM like all Webtop compatible Motorola Android phones, and it can run that pared-down Linux desktop environment with the Firefox web browser when plugged into the new Lapdock 100 or other Webtop docking accessories. If you're not familiar with Webtop and the Lapdock, do check out our review and video review of the original Atrix, which covers these in detail.
The Moto has a front video chat camera that works with Gtalk video but we couldn't get outbound video working in Skype 2.5. It has a rear 8 megapixel camera with LED flash and there's a dedicated hardware camera button (all phones should have this). Images are a bit stark: sharp but not hugely color saturated, and as with many Moto phones, there's a significant delay the first time the camera starts up. Subsequent starts are quicker and there's minimal shutter lag. The camera can shoot 1080p video. The camera isn't as good in terms of image and video quality as the Samsung Galaxy S II on AT&T and the iPhone 4S, but it's acceptable.
Motorola knows how to make phones that work well as phones, and the Atrix 2 is no exception. Reception is above average, and call quality courtesy of Moto's CrystalTalk technology, is very good for both incoming and outgoing voice. The smartphone does a good job of combating ambient noise for outgoing voice, and incoming volume is adequate for home and office. The rear-firing mono speaker is quite loud and full once you raise volume up to 66% or higher. It doesn't ramp up evenly and is relatively soft at lower volume settings, but set it above 66% and it's very loud.
Battery life is quite good for a dual core smartphone with a large display. We chalk that up to Motorola's solid power management that features options to run at lower power overnight, and to the fairly large 1735 mAh Lithium Ion battery. We more often find batteries that high in capacity in power-hungry LTE and WiMAX 4G phones, and it's more than ample for this relatively power-frugal HSPA+ phone. Though the original Atrix had a slightly higher capacity battery, the Atrix 2 lasts equally as long on a charge.
For $99 with contract, this is a lot of high end Android goodness. If you're a Moto fan or simply are looking for the best Android phone you can get for little money, the Motorola Atrix 2 and LG Thrill 4G are our top budget picks on AT&T. In fact, it feels weird to call them budget phones since their specs are anything but budget. If you've got more to spend, the Atrix 2 has obvious competition from the Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S. However, we don't recommend buying a cheaper phone if you really prefer a more expensive model since the contract price is one tenth or less of what you'll spend in two years of monthly service payments. But if money is very tight and you're not wow-ed by the iPhone or the Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus display and extremely fast CPU, we wouldn't blame you for picking the Atrix 2. It has a sharp qHD display (higher resolution than the S II), a solid build, it works with the optional Webtop accessories and it has Motorola's one-two punch of great call quality and reception.
Price: $99 with a 2 year contract, $449 without contract
Phone:GSM quad band world phone with 3G/4G HSPA+ 21 Mbps on the 850/1900/2100MHz bands.
Camera:8 megapixel autofocus rear main camera with LED flash, can shoot 1080p video @24fps. Front video chat camera.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Has micro HDMI port (cable included).
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
Software:Android OS 2.3.5 Gingerbread with Motorola software and their Webtop Linux environment for Lapdock and HD Multimedia Dock. Adobe Flash player and standard Android app suite included such as Gmail, Gtalk, YouTube, web browser, email, Maps, Navigation, Places and Books. AT&T Navigator, Family Map, AT&T Live TV and Yellow Pages Mobile bundled. Motorola software includes a file manager, Zumocast, DLNA, Phone Portal and Task Manager. Quickoffice included to view, edit and create MS Office documents.