The Atrix HD has a 4.5" TFT LCD with ColorBoost (Motorola's marketing term). As the name implies, it has excellent colors that are rich yet not unnatural. The 1280 x 720 display is tack sharp and gets plenty bright. Viewing angles are also wide, though the HTC One X's viewing angles are a bit wider with less glare. Moto's display reminds us of LG's IPS displays, and that's a good thing. As Motorola likes to remind us, since this isn't a Super AMOLED display like the Galaxy S III, there's no Pentile Matrix and resulting smaller number of subpixels. The 326 ppi display is thus sharp with no text jaggies upon close inspection.
Calling and Data
The Motorola Atrix HD has simply excellent call quality. In fact, AT&T's top four Android phones all offer excellent voice (Atrix HD, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III and the Sony Xperia Ion). Incoming and outgoing voice are extremely clear, full and volume is adequate. The speaker is also better than average in terms of volume and fullness, and it reminds us of the original Droid's speaker.
The phone is quad band GSM with 3G and 4G HSPA+ on the 850/1700/1900/2100MHz bands. It has LTE 4G and download speeds averaged 23Mbps while upload speeds averaged 17Mbps in the Dallas area. Those are obviously excellent data speeds that are similar to AT&T's other top LTE Android smartphones.
Reception is solid on 3G and LTE, as we've come to expect from Motorola, and LTE reception is again identical to the top four Androids on AT&T.
Performance and Horsepower
Don't let the budget price fool you: the Atrix HD has the same 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 "Krait" CPU as the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III on AT&T. That's currently the fastest CPU available on a US Android smartphone, and the Atrix HD indeed feels fast. Motorola's very clean rendition of Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich no doubt helps speed things along as well. The phone has the usual 1 gig of RAM but only 8 gigs of internal storage (~ 5 gigs available) vs. 16 gigs on the big boys. That's still plenty of room for large app installations, and there's a microSD card slot located on the phone's side so you can further expand storage for media files and documents. Motorola says the Atrix HD is compatible with cards up to 32 gigs capacity.
Software: Ice Cream Sandwich
I really like what Motorola has done with Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich; or more specifically I like what they haven't done. This is the cleanest skin on Android I've seen yet for ICS handsets, and that's a good thing. It doesn't bog down the smartphone or dumb down the UI and try to make it look like Gingerbread so folks won't have to learn a new trick here or there. Motorola's custom square icons are here, but that's pretty much it for significant UI changes. One thing they did add (or rather subtract) is a unique home screen treatment where you start with one main screen and add others, as you desire. You can start with templates or just an additional empty screen. For those who don't clutter their home screens with endless widgets and icons, this is much cleaner and you won't be swiping through unwanted and unnecessary screens.
Motorola's Smart Actions from the Droid series is here, and it offers useful settings customizations based on time of day or locale. You can have it use different sounds and email schedules when at work vs. home, for example. When it's bedtime, it can automatically reduce power consumption by increasing sync intervals.
Well, it isn't all puppies and roses. The 8 megapixel camera is distinctly average, and this is the one area where the Atrix HD falls short of the One X, GS III and Sony Xperia Ion. It has a bright LED flash and it can shoot 1080p video at 30 fps, but photos lack the sharp detail of the competition. Photos have visible artifacts and both photos and video have oversaturated colors (which some folks may like). It's not a horrid camera; it's just not excellent like the 8MP and higher competition on AT&T.
The Atrix HD has a front 1.3MP camera that worked well for video chat using Skype and Google Talk. Our video partners said we looked clear and bright.
Though I own and use phones with sealed batteries that can't be swapped on the road, I'm not a fan. If you're 9 hours into a business trip and your phone runs out of juice, you're either tethered to an AC outlet instead of getting work done or you're juggling external battery packs that trickle charge the phone. Such is the price we pay for thinner and lighter smartphones.
The Atrix HD, like the RAZR, has a Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. We do wish Moto and AT&T had gone with the RAZR MAXX's much more ample battery, but this is a $99 phone. That means a 1780 mAh battery that will get average users through the day with the usual regime of nightly charging. If you're a light user, you'll probably go 2 days on a charge. If you're a streaming video addict, play games with gusto or navigate using the GPS for daily trips, the phone may not make it until bedtime. The same is true of the HTC One X (battery also sealed inside) and the Xperia Ion. The Samsung Galaxy S III's 2100 mAh battery earns 20 to 40 minutes longer runtimes, which isn't much, but it does have a removable battery.
We're really impressed by Motorola's first Android 4 handset for AT&T. It has the stylish good looks of the Droid RAZR with the price tag of a bargain smartphone. The 720p display is very sharp and colorful with good viewing angles and outdoor visibility, and the speaker is above average. Call quality is tops as are data speeds and the phone is fast thanks to ICS and the Qualcomm S4 CPU. The sealed battery isn't ideal for road warriors who need 12 hours of heavy use per day on a charge, but for average use it's adequate (and no worse than the HTC One X). Our only complaint? The camera is decent but doesn't hold up against AT&T's top Android phones. But if high quality imaging isn't your top priority and your budget is tight, the Motorola Atrix HD is a winner.
Price: $99 with 2 year contract, $449 without contract
Websites: wireless.att.com, www.motorola.com/us/consumers/home
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