A qHD 960 x 540 pixel capacitive Super AMOLED display lights your way to nearly all manner of interaction with the phone. That resolution was top dog until a few weeks ago when the 720p HTC Rezound and Samsung Galaxy Nexus were announced for Verizon Wireless. It's still a sharp and fitting resolution for a 4.3" display, and we found text clear and comfortable to read in web pages and eBooks. Since it's Super AMOLED it has those impossibly saturated colors that ran amok on last year's Samsung high end Android phones. A lot of folks love that look, and it is enticing when watching videos or viewing photos. It has high apparent contrast, deep blacks and is very colorful. Motorola can't escape Pentile display complaints. They use it on their LCDs and some folks slam them. So they switch to everyone's darling Super AMOLED, and they get slammed because underneath that super-thin, low power display there's a Pentile matrix (just as there was on Samsung Super AMOLED phones, that's how the display is designed). Yes, Motorola could have gone with Super AMOLED Plus that uses a standard RGB pixel arrangement, but Super AMOLED Plus isn't capable of qHD resolution at 4.3". That's why Samsung Galaxy S II phones are all stuck at 800 x 480.
We find the RAZR's display absolutely lovely. The colors may be a little CSI Miami, but they look cool. I find it very difficult to discern individual pixels unless I look very closely when viewing text. If you've been a fan of Samsung smartphone displays, you'll like this one. If you put it under a microscope or serious macro lens it will look more pixelated than the 720p Super LCD display on the HTC Rezound. But that's not how I use my phone, how about you? The Galaxy Nexus will likely look more pixelated than the Rezound too, but similar to the RAZR since it too uses a Super AMOLED display with Pentile matrix. The Galaxy Nexus is 720p, but it also stretches those pixels across 4.6 inches vs. 4.3 on the Droid RAZR.
Horsepower and Performance
Pinch zooming is fluid, apps launch quickly and Adobe Flash Player 11 is fairly smooth with fairly responsive controls (Flash isn't slickly fast and smooth on Android in general). The phone has 1 gig of RAM (standard for Motorola Webtop phones) and 16 gigs of internal storage complimented by a 16 gig microSD card. The phone runs Android OS 2.3.5 with Motoblur (though Motorola has toned down Motoblur and no longer refers to it by name since it wasn't well-received in its first year).
Thin phones get warm when working hard doing things like streaming video or playing games. The Droid RAZR gets warm on the back, but not as hot as metal-backed phones since metal transfers heat more than Kevlar. It's not uncomfortable, but you'll notice it.
Calling and Data
Droid Bionic owners, raise your hands. You want to know how the RAZR handles 3G-4G handoffs, don't you? As a Bionic owner in a weak LTE area, I know that when my phone bounces between 3G and 4G many times throughout the day, battery life suffers (that's true of all phones) and the Bionic sometimes loses the active data connection, requiring a flight mode toggle or reboot. The Droid RAZR has identical reception to the Bionic, and it's just as likely to flip-flop between 3G and 4G if your 4G coverage isn't solid. But I found it less likely to lose the data connection altogether on the RAZR. It did drop the data connection twice is a week of use, but my Bionic dropped it 7 times. So far, only the HTC Rezound hangs onto a 1-2 bar LTE 4G signal indoors like a champ. It probably helps that Qualcomm makes both the CPU and radio chipset in that phone.
Data speeds on LTE are among the best on Verizon, just like the Bionic. We averaged 15Mbps down and 4.4Mbps up in the Speedtest.net app, which is a few Mbps faster for downloads than the Samsung Stratosphere and HTC Rezound. Apps download quickly and web pages are WiFi-fast. The phone can act as a mobile hotspot for an additional monthly fee, and it's certainly up to the task. Except the battery. The LTE mobile hotspot feature is hard on any phone's battery, and we noted that an hour of hotspot use could drain 35 to 40% of the phone's charge if we actively used data on our laptop. Since you can't swap in a spare battery or use an extended battery, it's not terribly practical for road warriors who need the hotspot feature and a phone that can run for more than half a day on a charge.
Call quality is excellent, though incoming voice sounded a bit less full than the Rezound. Outgoing voice is also excellent and beats many phones currently available on Verizon (except the Bionic, which is similarly excellent). The speakerphone is relatively loud and full for both voice calls and multimedia.
Camera and Multimedia
It's time for Motorola to step up and improve their cameras. The 8 megapixel shooter on the Droid RAZR isn't bad, it's just not as good as the competition from Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson. The camera is a bit faster than the sometimes glacial Bionic camera, but it hunts for focus if lighting isn't bright. Photos lack the color saturation of the competitors, but detail is good. The camera shoots pleasing 1080p video with good frame rates, and it integrates well with social networking and sharing sites.
The front 1.3 megapixel video chat camera does a decent job, and it works with Gtalk. We fired it up with Skype but for some reason, outgoing video didn't work. Likely a Skype update will remedy this.
Video playback of the MPEG4 variety up to 1080p is very good using the phone and an HD TV via the micro HDMI output that mirrors the display's contents. The phone is compatible with Motorola's Webtop accessories like the Lapdock 100, and that means it can be a poor man's laptop of sorts. Webtop is an application on the phone that runs a stripped down version of Linux with a file manager, the Firefox web browser and Android apps when connected to a compatible Moto accessory.
Verizon and Motorola bundle Verizon Video (streaming video for a daily/monthly fee), VideoSurf, Slacker, NFL Mobile and Netflix. Motorola's MotoCast is a very cool app that's basically a rebranded version of ZumoCast on the Droid Bionic. You can use it to connect to your Windows or Mac computer and copy or stream content from your computer's hard drive. That means you can access your iTunes library (non-DRM content only), stored videos and documents anywhere you can get a 3G/4G or WiFi connection on the phone. Good stuff.
Here's where things get iffy. It's not that 1870 mAh isn't a lot of juice for a smartphone battery; it most certainly is. The problem is LTE plus a non-removable battery. We still ding the iPhone for lacking a removable battery, but it's even worse here because the RAZR is a much larger phone that will really bulk up with a battery jacket, and the Droid RAZR has LTE that gobbles battery power. Turn off LTE and run the phone on 3G and your problems go away. Even with heavy use from 7am to 10pm, the RAZR has enough power to get you through the day. But for most of us, the appeal of an LTE phone and Verizon's already well built-out network is using that wickedly fast data. If you do, the battery won't last more than 8-10 hours with moderate use that includes calling, downloading emails, push Google services, social networking updates and some streaming video. Top that off with indoor coverage problems with the TI + Qualcomm chipsets and the waffling between 3G CDMA and LTE that causes, and it doesn't get any better. Here, where our signal does switch many times per day, we left the fully charged Droid RAZR on our desk at 11pm and repeatedly found it dead at 8am the next morning. In other words, standby suffers too. Motorola's Smart Actions app comes to the rescue and it can intelligently stop data transfers and turn off the GPS. In fact, after our battery died overnight, Smart Actions popped up at boot and suggested we turn on the Battery Extender and Nighttime Battery Saver actions.
No doubt, the Motorola Droid RAZR on Verizon is one of the most unique and sexy phones we've seen. And despite its extreme thinness, it's strong with the help of a metal frame, Corning Gorilla Glass and a Kevlar back. But it's a wide phone, and I suggest that you fondle one in person unless you have large mitts. The phone might be too wide for comfort for those who have smaller to average size hands.
The display is super-colorful and sharp, and it's bright enough to be used outdoors. Viewing angles are wide and we rather enjoy looking at it, especially when we used more colorful wallpapers instead of the pre-installed Verizon Droid black and red abstracts. The Moto is fast, and LTE blazes. But LTE also eats battery, as does the phone's inability to hold onto an LTE signal indoors in low to low-moderate coverage areas. That's a problem with most Verizon LTE phones right now, except the thoroughly Qualcomm third gen HTC Rezound.
Price: $299 with a 2 year contract, $649 without contract
Websites: www.verizonwireless.com, www.motorola.com
The Droid RAZR, Droid Bionic and HTC Rezound.