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Motorola RAZR i Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Intuitive UI

The Bad

  • Pricey on launch
4

It’s the Intel inside the Motorola RAZR i that gives the Kevlar coated phone its suffixed ‘i’ and its point of differentiation in a sea of Android smartphones. Virtually the same as the US bound Motorola RAZR M build-wise, the RAZR i forgoes the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip in favour of an 2GHz single-core Intel Medfield processor. The differences don’t end there though. Thanks to the fact that Intel worked closely with Motorola on the camera, the Motorola RAZR i includes both a physical camera button and a ten frame per second full resolution burst mode. It’s certainly impressive, but is it enough to help Intel break into the hearts and minds of mobile users?

Motorola RAZR i: Design

Grrrrrr. Motorola have a habit of putting together devices designed with considerably more testosterone than the competition and the RAZR i is no exception. With an 8.3mm girth, it feels beefy in the hand, especially when considering its skinny RAZR heritage. Exposed screws and an industrial flair round off this masculine mobile, not to mention the angry looking Kevlar back.

Motorola RAZR i Design front 2Motorola RAZR i Design image 3Motorola RAZR i Design Image 5

Whether that’s all good or bad will come down to individual preference, but there are some highlights that are just plain great. Firstly, almost bezeless, this is a 4.3-inch screened device that feels like a 3.7-incher of old, a huge improvement over the considerably fatter faced RAZR and RAZR MAXX.

Next up, this is a hardy handset. Not advertised as a tough phone per se, it still manages to deliver water resistance thanks to a resilient nano-coating, not to mention superficial weather and dust sealing. 

The rubbery plastic sides do feel a little cheap and it’s pretty clearly no iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia or HTC One rival in terms of design. Still, anyone prone to watering their mobile, or simply after a masculine, hardy handset might warm to the RAZR i, we certainly did after a week with it.

Motorola RAZR i design image frontMotorola RAZR i design image backMotorola RAZR i Kevlar backing

 

Motorola RAZR i Screen

The curse of the 4.3-inch PenTile qHD AMOLED display. The original Motorola RAZR’s screen looked like a hyper saturated sensory assault, only compounded by Motorola’s jagged, loud wallpapers. The Motorola RAZR MAXX was just as offensive except this time it was the sensory assault that wouldn’t end thanks to its 3300 mAh battery. In the Motorola RAZR i though, Motorola have delivered something altogether unexpected – a corker of a display.

Motorola RAZR i screen

At qHD resolution it’s sharp enough to make most tasks look good. Text is sufficiently sharp, movie detail is pretty strong and thanks to the AMOLED tech colour is vibrant and blacks deep. In addition to looking less hyper-saturated, the screen on the RAZR i doesn’t look as ‘bitty’ as on past RAZRs. It’s more superficial, feels more immersive and generally gets a much more whole hearted thumbs up.

Motorola RAZR i User Interface

In the past we’ve described the post-MOTOBLUR era UI as caught stylistically some where between Panam and Total Recall – the original, of course. In its latest evolution found on the Motorola RAZR HD, RAZR MAXX HD and RAZR M in the States as well as the RAZR i in the UK, it’s all looking a bit more current.

Still not offering HTC One levels of visual polish, when it comes to functionality though, Motorola can be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Primarily, this is the best UI for quickly tweaking connection settings, with a swipe left pulling up a very comprehensive quick settings page complete with toggles.

Motorola’s right hand homescreen wizard page isn’t quite as fantastic as the quick settings page, but still manages to innovate and make Android a bit more self-explanatory. You can add a page, either choosing to go with a blank page or a pre-set template. These consist of Media, Mobile Office or On the go and are pre-populated with relevant widgets and shortcuts, perfect for the trepid smartphone user. As seasoned Android heads, we would like the option to switch this screen off, but alas, couldn’t find the option anywhere.

The next highlight comes in the form of Motorola’s circles clock widget, packing shed loads of function. How much functionality? Access to a digital and analogue clock, date, alarms, recent calls and texts, weather in multiple locations, battery life and settings. A swipe or each circle flips it like a coin and activates its alternate function – fantastic to look at and fantastic to use.

In addition to these highlights you get Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich and all the wonderful apps in the Google Play Store. The operating system runs smoothly on the Intel chip despite this being a pre-release software. The home screens do occasionally stammer, especially when going into overview mode, however we’re fundamentally impressed by how little impact the Intel chip has on user experience – and we mean that in a good way.

Motorola RAZR i Camera and Multimedia

With the RAZR i packing an 8-megapixel camera complete with f/2.65 lens, it’s spec-wise near enough the head of the game in all but aperture. What really makes it an exciting prospect though is the physical camera button and the 10fps burst mode, both features absent from its US counterpart, the Motorola RAZR M.

Starting with the burst mode and it works well. You can get an idea for the speed of capture in the gifs below and click through for larger version. What doesn’t work so well is the need to switch the burst mode on in the settings and either have burst or single capture. We would much rather it automatically activate with a long press of the shutter key a la HTC One series.

Motorola RAZR i 10fps burst mode example 1Motorola RAZR i 10fps burst mode example 2

Pure picture quality is surprisingly good. Noise creeps in pretty readily, but pictures tend to come out clear, vibrant and colour accurate with decent dynamic range. The LED flash on board ensures it’s usable in low light too making for a relatively versatile camera. While not at the top of the pack given the noise handling and clunky UI, the Motorola RAZR i is still a respectable camera phone.

Motorola RAZR i Camera Sample 1Motorola RAZR i camera sample 2Motorola RAZR i camera sample 3//cdn.recombu.com/mobile/images/phones/1203/1348750187.jpgMotorola RAZR i camera sample - no flashMotorola RAZR i camera sample - Flash

Video recording is also something of a highlight. Full HD video is captured at 30fps with great continuous focus that can be nudged into action by a simple tap of the screen. Once again, noise is a big barrier in low light, though the on board video light helps.

Using the RAZR i for other media is also pretty great. This is largely down to the battery which we’ll come onto later, but the combination of a screen rocking HD aspect ratio, expandable storage and a decent processor makes it great for movies, music and games.

Motorola RAZR i Connectivity and Storage

LTE or 4G is pretty much the only thing lacking from the Motorola RAZR i in terms of connectivity with 3G, DC-HSPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and a GPS all on board. Chrome recently landed on the Intel powered device so even the browsing experience is amongst the best you can get. The screen is decent, though won’t be quite as sharp for text heavy sites as LCDs packing higher resolution displays.

There’s 8GB of internal storage with expandability via microSD card. This means you can get a total of around 40GB on board which should be ample for most users.

Motorola RAZR i side viewMotorola RAZR i ports

Motorola RAZR i Performance and Battery

If you’re going to differentiate a phone by its processor, it needs to perform well. With a single core 2GHz Medfield chip inside, it’s certainly an oddity for a current generation contender and we genuinely didn’t know what to expect. Switch it on though, and it works. Use it, and it performs. Multi-task and it glides. Play Asphalt 7 and you can practically smell the burning rubber. Occasional UI stutter aside therefore we weren’t left wanting in terms of day to day performance and we weren’t even using final software.

Add to this an ample 2000mAh battery and we can a) excuse some of the girth and b) rejoice at a phone that lasts for a full day with some juice left in the tank. With decent audio quality too, it’s pretty clear that Motorola have a winner on their hands.

Motorola RAZR i Conclusion

So it’s pretty much all good with the Motorola RAZR i, especially if you can stomach the macho design. The screen has great viewing angles, the UI is innovative being more user friendly than other Android phones and the camera delivers decent, albeit slightly noisy pictures. Add solid performance and class-leading battery life into the mix and you can consider us impressed. At £342, roughly the same as the HTC One S or the Nokia Lumia 800 it’s a fair price and that’s only going to go down, meaning that in today’s smartphone wars, the Motorola RAZR i easily holds its own. 

Specification

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