Motorola Droid Razr review:
Motorola Droid Razr (Verizon Wireless)
Editors’ note: We’ve updated this review with the correct name of the processor. It is the TI OMAP 4430 processor. We’ve also updated the display portion of the review after
closer comparison with competing handsets.
We lowered the rating of and removed the Editors’ Choice Award designation from the Droid Razr on January 27, 2012, since reviewing the Droid Razr Maxx, its follow-up product, which offers much improved battery life.
When the Motorola Razr first debuted in 2004, it made headlines for its stunningly thin profile. Indeed, the Razr was the impetus behind the slim phone trend that dominated the industry for years. Because of its huge success, Motorola stuck to its superskinny phone formula, churning out identically thin handsets like the Slvr and the Krzr. The trend could only last for so long, however, and Motorola was soon in need of something new.
In 2009, Motorola came back swinging when it embraced the Android OS and launched the Motorola Droid. The Droid became the ultimate anti-iPhone with its “Droid Does” advertising campaign, and catapulted Android to the masses. Motorola was finally back, and in a big way. Motorola made other Android-based handsets like the Flipout and the Atrix 4G, but “Droid” is still arguably the company’s most recognizable brand.
Yet, Motorola did have a few mishaps along the way. The Atrix suffered from poor data speeds during its initial launch, and the Droid Bionic was delayed for months after its initial announcement. Motorola would do well to release a showstopper of a phone to get back into the public’s good graces.
Enter the Droid Razr. In one of the best marketing moves we’ve seen all year, Motorola has combined two of its most powerful brands into one phone. The Droid Razr is just as its name suggests: a powerful Droid smartphone packaged in the superskinny Razr design. It boasts all of the latest smartphone technologies like a dual-core processor, Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, and support for Verizon’s 4G LTE network bundled inside an impossibly thin chassis that’s also remarkably durable. The price will likely knock you off your feet, but then, so will the phone.
Motorola claims that the Droid Razr is the thinnest phone in the world, and while we can’t prove that, we’re inclined to believe it’s true. Measuring 5.14 inches long by 2.71 inches wide by 0.28 inch thick and weighing only 4.5 ounces, we were immediately struck by how slim and lightweight it felt, despite its large footprint. There’s no denying the wow factor of the Razr’s ultralight body, and it does indeed fit perfectly into our pants pocket. Yet, we felt it was a bit too large for our small hands (no thanks to the rather wide bezel surrounding the display), and the squared edges resulted in slight discomfort when held. It’s also a tiny bit top heavy because of the hump in the back that houses the camera lens.
The Droid Razr has a remarkably skinny profile that’s only
0.28 inch thick.
In order to accommodate such a skinny profile, Motorola sought innovative ways to construct the phone, resulting in quite the marvel of industrial design. Motorola claims the chassis is built out of diamond-cut aluminum, and the thin sheet of glass dominating the front is sculpted around the edges to fit just so. Instead of a regular battery cover, Motorola simply coated the back in Kevlar, which has a surprisingly smooth and soft texture. Of course, that means the battery is not removable, which is a trade-off that many might not appreciate. Motorola did develop a Smart Actions app to help conserve battery life, but we’ll get to that later.
The Kevlar backing won’t make the phone bullet-resistant, but Motorola did seek to make the Droid Razr as durable as it could. It has a “nanotechnology coating” that guards the phone against the occasional splash. We placed the Droid Razr under running water for a few seconds, and the water did seem to bead and roll off it, like on a freshly waxed car. It’s not water-resistant however, so we wouldn’t go swimming with it. The Corning Gorilla Glass display is also said to be scratch-resistant.
The Droid Razr has a gorgeous 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display. It does have a rather wide bezel, however, and the phone might be better suited for larger hands.
While its slim profile is certainly stunning, the Droid Razr’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display is nothing to sneeze at, either. It’s simply gorgeous, with vibrant and rich colors plus tack-sharp details; it reminds us a lot of the AMOLED screens we’ve seen on Samsung handsets. The Droid Razr does use a Pentile matrix display, so images are not as smooth as on those same Samsung phones. Text in particular has a very slight graininess to it. The qHD 960-by-540-pixel resolution reduces that effect considerably, but it’s not quite as vibrant as the display on the iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy S II By itself, however, we maintain that the display is excellent.
We were very impressed by the responsiveness of the display. Overall navigation felt seamless and snappy thanks to the phone’s 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor. There was virtually no lag when multitasking between different apps.
The left spine is home to a microSD card port plus a slot for a Micro-SIM card. The Droid Razr uses the latter purely for LTE;
international GSM versions will likely use it for voice as well as data.
Beneath the display are four touch sensor keys for the Menu, Home, Back, and Search functions. On the right spine are two skinny volume controls plus a silver power/screen lock key. The volume keys click satisfyingly into place, but the power key is disappointingly squishy. On the left spine are the microSD card port and a slot for a Micro-SIM card. As the Droid Razr is for Verizon, the Micro-SIM card is purely for LTE; international GSM versions will likely use it for voice as well as data.
On the top of the phone are the 3.5mm headset port and the Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports. A camera lens sits on the back along with an LED flash and an external speaker. Sitting above the display is a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capability.
The Motorola Droid Razr ships with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and a refined and lightweight version of MotoBlur that we’ve already seen in other Motorola handsets like the Atrix 2 and the Droid Bionic. It has up to five customizable home screens, and at the bottom row of the home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the messaging inbox, the camera app, and the main menu. When you tap the Home button in standby mode, you will see a zoomed-out view of all the home screens, similar to HTC’s Sense UI.
You navigate the main menu by swiping side to side, and the apps can be organized into groups. There is a very slight flicker animation that occurs when you swipe screens. The default lock screen has the usual swipe-to-unlock control, a vibrate/sound toggle, plus a camera app shortcut in case you need to get to the camera quickly from the lock screen. As for the virtual keyboard, you have the choice of either the default multitouch Android keyboard or Swype.
The Droid Razr has a plethora of features to meet most of your smartphone needs. It has all the basics, like GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 (which supports a new generation of low-power accessories), Wi-Fi, and a mobile hot-spot capability that lets the phone act as a modem for up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices. The mobile hot-spot option costs around $20 extra per month, however.
As you might expect, the Droid Razr supports all of Google’s apps and services, and most of them come preinstalled: Gmail, Google Talk, Google Search with Voice, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Books, Places, Latitude, and YouTube. You also get the usual phone and PIM tools like a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a file manager, a task list, voice command support, a speakerphone, and more.
Motorola really packed the Droid Razr to the gills with plenty of additional apps to enrich your smartphone experience. They include Amazon’s Kindle app, Blockbuster, Let’s Golf 2, Madden NFL 12, Netflix, Slacker Radio, MotoPrint, and VideoSurf. Verizon also threw in a few of its own, such as Device Setup, Verizon Instant Messenger, My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, V Cast Tones, Verizon Video, VZ Navigator, and Visual Voicemail, which costs around $2.99 a month.
Corporate and government friendly
Motorola is aiming right at the BlackBerry when it claims that the Droid Razr is ready for both corporate and government usage. It has full Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support, and it even features government-grade FIPS 140-2 encryption for e-mail, calendar, and contacts. Other security features include remote wipe, PIN lock, SD card and device encryption, remote enable/disable of camera and Wi-Fi, and more.
Mobile workers will also appreciate apps such as Quickoffice, which lets you create and edit office documents; Citrix’s GoToMeeting video conference app; and the portable PC experience that Webtop provides (more on that below).
MotoCast, Webtop, and Smart Actions
A few of the more-intriguing apps are courtesy of Motorola. MotoCast, for example, lets you stream your documents and media files with your home or work computer. It brings the cloud concept of sharing files to a more local and secure location. MotoCast works with the Gallery app to share photos, and the Music app to share music files.
Like a lot of other high-end Motorola Android phones, the Droid Razr ships with the Webtop app that lets you get portable PC functionality. Simply connect it with a compatible accessory like the Lapdock 100 (10-inch screen), the Lapdock 500 Pro (14-inch screen), or an HD Station, and the Webtop platform will launch automatically. The Lapdocks come equipped with a keyboard and touch pad, but you’ll have to contribute your own input devices if using something like the HD Station.
The Webtop platform is essentially a Linux-based operating system that provides a Netbook-like experience for creating documents and surfing the Web via a full Firefox browser. The interface is quite bare-bones, and consists of a simple dock or launchpad with a few applications. The phone’s screen is replicated on the larger display as well, and you can still access your phone’s contents while you’re in the Webtop environment. A notable application is the full Firefox browser that is only accessible via Webtop. There’s also an integrated Citrix application that lets you access virtual desktops. You can read more about the Webtop environment in our review of the Atrix’s laptop dock.
Last but not least is the Smart Actions app that addresses battery life concerns. It’s essentially an automation tool that follows a set series of rules. For example, you can arrange it so that the phone automatically turns off Bluetooth and GPS when you connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Or you can set it so that the brightness automatically goes down to 0 percent if you have less than 20 percent battery life left. It was actually surprisingly effective in conserving battery life in our brief time experimenting with it, which is definitely welcome for a phone without a removable battery.
The Smart Actions app is not all about saving battery life, however; you can set it so that the ringer automatically turns off when you’re at work, or to launch the music player when you plug in your headphones. It uses location-based and user settings to let you create as many automated tasks as you desire.
Aside from third-party apps like Slacker Radio, the Droid Razr actually has a surprisingly solid built-in Music app. Similar to the one we saw on the Droid Bionic, the Music app on the Droid Razr has plenty of features, such as Internet radio, a whole Music Store courtesy of Verizon Wireless, and support for podcast subscription and playback. As we said before, you can also use the app to stream music from your home server via MotoCast. The Droid Razr has 16GB of onboard memory, a preinstalled 16GB microSD card, and can support up to 32GB cards. It supports AAC, AAC+ AAC+ enhanced, AMR NB, AMR WB, MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA v10, and WMA v9 formats.
With such a luscious display, it’s no wonder that Motorola saw fit to bundle the Droid Razr with Netflix. Indeed, Motorola claims that the Droid Razr is the first phone to be able to play Netflix video in HD quality. We queued up a recent episode of “Top Gear U.K.” (which we think is one of the best-looking shows on TV), and were stunned at the crystal-clear quality of the video. Colors were rich and deep, and blacks were true. Even on 4G LTE, the video was stunningly sharp, and it was a treat to watch it on such a wide display. And since the Droid Razr has a Micro-HDMI port, you can hook up the phone to a large-screen HDTV for an even more immersive experience. You can do so via DLNA as well. You can download videos from the Android Market or load your own as long as they’re in the H.263, H.264, MPEG4, or WMV v9 format.
The Droid Razr has an 8-megapixel camera lens on the back.
The Droid Razr brings over its speed and performance philosophy to its 8-megapixel camera. The camera app launches very quickly–about 1.1 seconds from the lock screen–and there’s almost no shutter lag in between photo captures. If the camera is trying to focus on something or if you have flash enabled, it might take a second or two longer to snap a picture. You can adjust the resolution, the shutter tone, the color effects, shot modes, and the exposure. Other settings include geotagging, a self-timer, several scenes that include Macro and Night Portrait, panorama mode, and flash.
The Droid Razr takes sharp and detailed pictures, but there is often too much image noise. Some images look washed out as well.
Picture quality was decent most of the time, with crisp images and good detail. However, the color accuracy wasn’t always there. Even pictures taken in bright daylight looked rather washed out. In low light, most photos had noticeable image noise, and the LED flash did little to rectify the problem. The Droid Razr also has full 1080p HD video capture capabilities, with several audio scenes like Stereo, Wind Reduction, Concert, Balanced, and Front Facing to choose from. Video quality was quite good, and the auto stabilization helped prevent video from looking shaky.
We tested the Motorola Droid Razr in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was very good, but not without a few flaws. On our end, we heard our callers clearly with plenty of volume. They had natural-sounding voices as well. However, we did detect a faint hint of fuzziness in the background.
Motorola Droid Razr call quality sample
On the other end, callers reported similar audio quality. They had no problems hearing us, and didn’t detect a lot of background noise. Yet, they heard the same fuzziness and the occasional hiss at times. Speakerphone calls fared relatively well, though callers said our voice sounded a little hollow.
As for music quality, the Droid Razr’s speakers emitted powerfully loud sound, and though a little tinny, the quality was pretty good for a phone. We would definitely recommend a good pair of headphones for better audio quality.
Data speeds on Verizon’s 4G LTE are quite frankly, amazing. Using Ookla’s Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of around 30.5Mbps and upload speeds of 13.2Mbps. Loading CNET’s mobile page took 7 seconds, and the full CNET home page, complete with Flash ads, loaded in just 11 seconds. As we mentioned earlier, we managed to stream Netflix videos at HD quality over 4G with amazing clarity. There were the occasional buffering skips during the initial burst of streaming, but it soon evened out after a few seconds.
The 1.2GHz dual-core processor did its job quite well. We swiped and scrolled without any sense of sluggishness, and switching and launching apps felt smooth and seamless. However, we did notice that the accelerometer sometimes took a couple of seconds to kick in when switching from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa.
The Motorola Droid Razr has a 1,780mAH battery, which is a nice size for such a slim phone. It has a rated battery life of 12.5 hours talk time and 8.5 days standby time. We’ll have to run a few more tests to be sure, but anecdotally, we thought the battery life was pretty good. After a normal day’s use of surfing the Web, checking e-mail, looking up directions on the map, plus the occasional Netflix testing, the phone was down to around 50 percent battery life, which isn’t too bad for a smartphone. The aforementioned Smart Actions app also helps to conserve battery life. Yet, we do think the nonremovable battery will deter some power users.
According to the FCC, the Droid Razr has a digital SAR of 1.45 watts per kilogram.
The Motorola Droid Razr is a marriage of Razr beauty and Droid brawn. Like the original Razr, the superslim and ultralight Droid Razr offers an undeniable wow factor the second you pick it up. It also has a wonderfully vivid 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display, and is remarkably durable with its scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and Kevlar-coated exterior. The Droid Razr has impressive specs, like a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor, support for Verizon’s blazing-fast 4G/LTE network, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, Webtop functionality, and more.
But, the phone isn’t perfect. Its large footprint and squared edges might scare off those with smaller hands, and the battery is sadly not removable. Picture quality was also not quite as smooth and vibrant as we wanted. However, we think the Droid Razr more than makes up for these deficiencies with its remarkable speed, power, and good looks. Its $299.99 price is very steep, yes, but for those who covet cutting-edge smartphone tech in a slender package, this top-of-the-line phone might be worth it.