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Motorola RAZR HD Review: In Depth

The Good

  • 4G (LTE) capability

The Bad

  • Expensive
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The sun is setting on a pre-Google Motorola, but before their current company image bows out completely, there are still a few important handsets flowing out of the pipeline, not least of all the Motorola RAZR HD: a marriage of Moto’s distinctive RAZR design language with attributes taken from many of the company’s other top tier Android handsets.

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The DROID name has proven to serve as a strong source of sales for Motorola in the US, with many Stateside consumers loyal to the brand, however in Europe and more explicitly the UK, the company’s devices stand alone and have to market themselves on their own merits, making this market a much tougher nut to crack. Can the flagship status of Motorola RAZR HD win over the hearts of mobile fans in the UK?

Motorola RAZR HD review: Design

The overall aesthetic of the RAZR HD is undoubtedly exactly what Motorola was aiming for, with a strong sense that this is a direct evolution of the original Android-based RAZR which arrived back in late 2011. All the hallmarks of premium Motorola are there, such as the subtly angled corners, the DuPont Kevlar backing and metal elements including the frame and screws. Indeed the overall sense of masculinity that high-end Motorolas tend to exude is very much present.

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Such a distinct design language serves as a double-edged sword however, as although in the hand the RAZR HD feels like one of the most solid and well put together phones we’ve handled of late, its imposing looks may alienate certain consumers seeking a cleaner, more minimalist design language. In some ways it could be seen as over-designed or over complicated, especially when we’ve seen simpler, cleaner designs from Motorola with broader appeal in the past.

The RAZR HD does feel built to last and indeed an element such as that Kevlar back is not solely a cosmetic feature, it’s real, and the plaited fibre design gives an extremely comfortable soft-touch finish which provides ample grip too. Another feature which has been present since the 2011 RAZR is the use of Splash-guard technology: a hydrophobic nano-coating which the RAZR HD has been treated with, both inside and out. This special coating will help ensure that should you spill liquid anywhere on the phone, it’ll remain unharmed, like water off a duck’s back.

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Beyond the nano coatings and Kevlar, the rest of the RAZR HD’s design is a little more terrestrial. The front of the handset features a 4.7-inch screen, earpiece and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. Above the earpiece also sits an LED notification bar which flashes different colours for different reasons; it’s not pretty but it’s functional. A volume rocker and ridged metal power/lock key populate the right side whilst the left accommodates a pop-out microSIM/microSD card tray, microUSB port and microHDMI port. The headphone jack sits on the top, whilst that Kevlar back is all that remains house the loudspeaker, LED flash and rear 8-megapixel camera.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Screen

The RAZR HD’s frontage is dominated by an incredibly punchy 4.7-inch 720p HD display. The rather large bezel, especially when compared to the likes of the RAZR i, does detract from how big the screen actually is, but in real world use, media junkies will appreciate the extra real estate.

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Although being an AMOLED screen using PenTile technology, non PenTile and newer displays have the edge, on its own merits, users will still appreciate the clarity, not to mention the vibrant colour gamut that the RAZR HD’s display offers. Blacks are near perfect, whilst whites are a little off, edging towards grey over white, but contrast remains good.

The screen’s viewing angles impressed us the most, with next to no colour distortion or loss of brightness vertically or laterally. The slick Gorilla Glass 2 on the handset’s front is also the best place to see that Splash-guard coating in action, feel free to run it under a tap, just don’t submerge it in a glass of water.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Operating system

In the pre-Android era, Motorola handsets were known for their distinctive designs but lacklustre user experiences, adopting Google’s mobile OS changed all that. The updates have been subtle but the Jelly Bean-based Motorola experience is their best yet and features some significant additions which would be great to see featured within the stock Android experience.

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For the most part Motorola have left out any native integration with services like Facebook and Twitter leaving it up to the user to pick and choose what they want to install from the get-go, something we appreciate. The most notable Motorola-specific app is Smart Actions, another feature which first appeared on the 2011 RAZR. Smart Actions is a native automation service which lets you configure tasks based on different triggers, such as time, location, connection status and more so that you can have the state of your phone change without having to lift a finger, it’s a pretty elegant system and a nice inclusion.

The homescreen widgets are also innovative, with a swipe to the left revealing a quick settings panel, making it extremely easy to toggle certain settings on and off such as WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile data and flight mode. Alongside this, a swipe right will offer up an ‘add a page’ tool which can be chosen to configure a blank screen or one of four pre designated homescreen layouts. In fact many of the elements of the RAZR HD and Motorola’s other recent handsets feel geared towards teaching those new to the OS, how best to utilise all of the features available.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Camera and multimedia

Motorola has never been known for its camera tech, but the 8-megapixel snapper on the back of the RAZR HD is a great representation of what the company is capable of. Colour reproduction is accurate and contrast control is competent unless under very extreme conditions, with its biggest weakness in low light.

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Noise is rife under dark conditions and also more inclined to crop up in artificial lighting but outside pictures retain their clarity. The macro functionality is particularly pleasing, with a good depth of field and quick focusing capabilities. To keep things interesting, Motorola has also given the RAZR HD a number of inbuilt image filters a la Instagram to jazz up shots on-the-fly.

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Although the display only supports a 720p resolution, the camera can film in full 1080p HD at 30fps which adds a little more life to the questionable flagship spec sheet. Quality is good with a fast if not over-active auto-focus, again great depth of field, good contrast control and image stability; colours look vivid on the AMOLED display, but lose a lot of their kick when looking on larger, more conventional displays.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Storage and connections

Most likely in an effort to keep down bulk, the HD opts for a non-removable back panel design, however the aforementioned SIM tray slides out to accommodate a microSD card too. Compared to some rival devices, it’s a little limited, accepting cards up to 32GB in capacity and not 64GB, but there’s also 16GB of internal storage space, 12GB of which is accessible to the user.

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Next to that microSIM tray sits two ports, one for data transfer and charging via microUSB and another serving as a microHDMI out to throw content on a big screen. Now that Motorola has dropped its Webtop, desktop computer interface, the HDMI is best used for watching movies as opposed to anything else. Should cables not be your thing, the RAZR HD also features WiFi, Bluetooth with NFC and DLNA sharing capabilities including Xbox compatibility, an interesting native feature highlight who Motorola are targeting with the HD.

Along with the LG Optimus G, the Motorola RAZR HD is part of a very select group. Despite it’s 4G (LTE) radio, no carrier, whether they offer 4G now, or will do in the coming months, has taken up the handset. It may be that the cost of the handset may deter customers in their eyes or there are more enticing propositions already out there, but to pick up a RAZR HD for usage on an LTE network, you’ll have to pick it up SIM free and un-subsidised.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Performance and battery

With the new wave of flagships now populating the market, the hardware offering of the Motorola RAZR HD which was noteworthy in 2012, doesn’t maintain its appeal as we press towards the second half of 2013. The brains behind the brawn of the HD is a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus chip, twinned with 1GB of RAM. In truth despite its ‘on paper’ specs look a little tired, but in practice the HD actually a great device.

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The lightly skinned Android alongside such hardware keeps UI lag to a minimum, whilst the beefier 3D titles for the most part don’t give the HD any trouble, even if they have the potential to look better on the likes of the Sony Xperia Z or HTC One with their newer Snapdragon quad-core chips.

It’s the battery that really sets the Motorola RAZR HD apart from equivalent handsets. Taking a leaf out of the RAZR MAXX’s book, the HD features an impressively large 2530mAh which does well to squeeze inside the phone’s 8.4mm thick body. Motorola bill the RAZR HD as ‘The All-Day Phone’ and we’d have to agree: in fact if you’re willing to forgo 4G speeds and stick to HSPA+ 3G, you’ll have no trouble approaching a day and half between charging sessions. In truth even with 4G switched on, the RAZR HD’s battery does an incredible job of keeping the phone going for longer and in truth it’s one of its most impressive skills.

Motorola RAZR HD review: Conclusion

It’s an unusual proposition to come across and for the most part the biggest shortcoming of the Motorola RAZR HD is its timing. It’s certainly one of the most well built phones we’ve encountered in recent months and the battery life is phenomenal, particularly when it has to deal with 4G usage; which to date has proven to be the most battery intensive task for most smartphones.

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Motorola mean well but especially in a market like the UK where their brand has less presence and the RAZR HD’s hardware is now stagnating, the asking price of around £400 is simply too dear. With other 2012 devices like the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE going for around £50 less and toting a quad-core processor and support for double the removable storage we don’t see how anyone can justify the Motorola. That is of course unless you need its capabilities as a powerful semi-tough phone or if any other brand just won’t cut it.

The Motorola RAZR HD is a great device with regards to its arrival as the DROID RAZR in the US, but things have moved on and in our eyes it isn’t worth laying down the money now when Google are looking to go big with their first in-house Motorola device later this year.

Specification

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