|Introduction and Specifications|
|Motorola Mobility, now a division of Google, has been on a tear as of late, releasing potent new Android superphones to the market, in competition with the iPhone 5, Samsung's Galaxy SIII and many others. Not long ago we gave you a look at the recently released RAZR M, the 4-inch little brother to the hot, new device that just showed up here in our lab the other day.
Motorola's RAZR HD sports a larger 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display, the same 1.5GHz Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, and it's currently running Android 4.04, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, we've heard, is projected to be coming to the device in a follow-on update.
Considered the middle sibling of Motorola's latest RAZR Trio, the RAZR HD has the same basic platform configuration and identical display as the highest-end RAZR MAXX HD, though the MAXX has a larger 3300mAh (2530mAh for the RAZR HD) battery and 32GB of internal storage versus the RAZR HD's 16GB of on-board storage (12GB usable). Aside from those differences, along with a slightly thinner 8.4mm chassis and a more palatable $199 price tag on contract, the RAZR HD strikes a balance of usability, style and performance that should appeal to many superphone consumers. First, let's take you on a quick walk-around of the device and then we'll dig into the specifics of design, build quality and performance.
Motorola RAZR HD - Also available in white...
Before we even put this phone through its benchmark paces, we can tell you up front that the combination of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon S4 SoC offers a very responsive, satisfying smartphone experience. And with Jelly Bean right around the corner, things will get even more buttery smooth, provided Verizon and Motorola are on their game and deliver a timely update to the device.
Let's take a closer look at the hardware...
|Design and Hardware|
|First impressions are everything. And when you spring this phone from its box, it's obvious how well-built it is, from its Kevlar backing to its gorgeous 1280x720 display (one of the best PenTile displays we've seen yet on a smartphone). The RAZR HD feels a bit heavier in the hand than phones of similar size, like the Samsung Galaxy S3, (which isn't a bad thing) though it does feel noticeably narrower, allowing your hand to wrap around the screen more easily. Those with dainty digits might appreciate this but the device doesn't feel quite as good in the hand due to the smoother edges found on similar high end devices. This of course is a matter of preference, however.
In addition, the sharper lines of the device, especially around the corners of the RAZR HD, make it slightly less "pocketable" perhaps, causing a more noticeable bulge. Conversely, though the GS3 definitely feels larger (and it is, slightly), the RAZR HD feels a bit thicker and more solidly built. The RAZR HD also offers not only a microUSB port but also a mini HDMI port as well, which is something the GS3 doesn't offer.
As for Motorola's now signature Kevlar backing, we can't say enough about it. One of the nagging complaints we'll continue to make about high-end Samsung phones is the thin, flimsy plastic used for the removable backs of their handsets. It mars an otherwise well-built feel. Not so with the Droid RAZR HD. Its backside Kevlar skin not only provides a durable surface but feels great and resists fingerprints and scuffs better than any device on the market currently. The downside? You guessed it, the RAZR HD's battery is not user serviceable. Is it a showstopper? Definitely not and its something consumers are learning to live with on many smartphones these days, including the iPhone 5.
And again, the 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display of the RAZR HD is definitely one of the nicest PenTile screens we've seen to date, with excellent contrast, rich color saturation, good brightness and wide viewing angles. Unfortunately Motorola makes inefficient use of those 4.7-inches with on-screen primary menu buttons for basic Home, Back and Application switching controls. As you can see, the buttons eat up a fair amount of screen real estate, and along with the lower DPI setting (which we actually preferred since web page text is much easier to read without zooming in), you'll find yourself scrolling more on this smartphone, versus competitive devices.
|Software and User Experience|
|The RAZR M ships with Android 4.0.4, and there's only a minor skin present on the OS. In other words, Motorola has tweaked the vanilla Android experience that you'd get on phones like the Galaxy Nexus, but they don't go nearly as far as their previous approach, MOTOBLUR used to. When you boot the phone up, there's a typical clock / weather / charger widget up top, but the rest is fully customizable.
The RAZR HD features the option of creating up to six additional home screen pages and swiping to the left in the shade brings up the Quick Settings feature. Motorola's Circles Widget icons shows you the time, weather and current battery life at the top of the home screen. Swiping down on these coin-like widgets flips them over offering additional info for weather and even texts notifications. The keyboard is stock Android 4.0.4 with a microphone button at the ready up front, which we prefer as a method of texting. Incidentally, voice to text works pretty well, though perhaps not quite as reliable as we've experienced on the Galaxy S III.
Motorola also offers a quick voice command menu for functions like calling, search, texting, email etc. We really liked that feature and found it useful for quick voice controlled operation of common functions you'd used every day on the phone. If you're a big Siri or "Hello Galaxy" fan, you might find this basic functionality limited, but it gets the job done for most things you do on a smartphone these days. Finally, the rules menu allows you to setup action settings for the device which will put the phone in various states depending on what you're doing. Drive Smart, puts the phone in vehicle mode. Battery Saver turns off certain features of the phone and dims the screen, when the battery is low. Sleep Rule sets the phone to silent mode, but allows certain calls to come through if you want specific people to be able to reach you. You can also create your own custom rules with different combinations of situation scenarios triggering different actions on the device.
|Camera Performance and Battery Life|
|The current implementation of the Android 4.0 camera application is excellent and Motorola does little to get in the way of it with customizations or tweaks. It just works and on this smartphone, and it works quite well.
Motorola RAZR HD Camera Sample Shots
The 8MP rear camera with LED flash is common across all members of the new Motorola RAZR family and it's actually one of the better setups currently in the Android universe. Quality and sharpness were above average, with the ability to take multiple shots without experiencing much, if any, shutter lag. There are also a healthy number of options in the stock Camera app. You can adjust the scene mode, flash, exposure, and effects, while the "Modes" screen lets you select Panorama, Multi-shot, Timed shots and HDR.
Overall image quality is above average, with white balance that seems to be better than usual in low light. The RAZR HD's onboard flash isn't so great (as with many smartphone cameras) but the phone tends not to turn it on unless ambient lighting very dark.
With any LTE phone, battery life can be an issue. Motorola claims you should be able to enjoy up to 24 hours of "mixed use" time and days of standby time from the phone's 2530 mAh battery. To put these numbers to the test, we put the RAZR HD through our standard HotHardware battery test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics, Flash media and text. The page automatically refreshes itself every three minutes. We set the phones display to 50% brightness and turned off Wi-Fi for the duration, leaving only an LTE connection active to the internet.
When we ran this test, the Motorola RAZR HD lasted for 403 minutes connected to Verizon’s LTE wireless network before shutting down. In our real world testing of the phone, the RAZR HD's battery had no trouble making it through a whole work day (8-10 hours) with moderate to heavy use, checking email, surfing the web, making calls, etc. without needing a charge. Of course, your mileage could vary depending on how much you use the device or what sorts of things do you with it.
|Performance Testing: CPU, Browser And Graphics|
|In addition to using the Motorola DROID RAZR HD in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the handset compares to other smartphones in the same class of devices.
In the Linpack test, the Droid RAZR HD put up an impressive score, thrashing flagship phones from six to nine months ago and even besting the HTC One X and Galaxy S III by just a hair, though they share the same dual-core Qualcomm Krait architecture in the Snapdragon S4 SoC.
In our graphics tests with GLBenchmark and An3DBench XL, the RAZR HD proved itself about on par with other high-end Android superphones, but unable to catch the powerful A6-based Apple iPhone 5. Fillrate for the dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC with Adreno 225 graphics isn't anything to write home about, though overall geometry and rendering throughput is respectable. However, actual gaming on the RAZR HD was plenty responsive with some of Mot/Verizon's included titles like Real Racing 2.
|4G LTE Performance Testing|
|Since networks and browsing speeds are a key feature of any smartphone, we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the Motorola RAZR HD compared to some of today's hottest smartphones using the SpeedTest.net app across the Verizon 4G LTE network.
The Motorola RAZR HD managed impressive throughput of about 27MB/s downstream and 18MB/s upstream. It's interesting to see the trends emerging now in carrier performance. We conducted this test in an area that had a fairly low density population but offered a 5 bar signal strength for both carriers. The AT&T Galaxy S III offered an impressive 40MB/s downstream result, besting the RAZR HD by a wide margin, but fell short of upstream bandwidth, on the order of about 5MB/s slower than the Verizon-enabled RAZR HD. Download throughput is where most users will experience and measure network performance but 27MB/s for the RAZR HD is plenty fast for anyone in a smartphone usage model.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
|The Motorola DROID RAZR HD is an exceptional phone in its current price range of $199 on contract. The RAZR HD easily has best in class build quality, with a sturdy, stylish and trim exterior that offers the sort of design quality rivaled only by devices from HTC and maybe Nokia's Lumia series. Performance with the RAZR HD is about on par with virtually any high-end Android handset on the market today, with its dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC offering responsive, silky-smooth performance, navigating around Motorola's lightly skinned version of Android 4.0.4. Screen rendering with the web browser is fast, along with responsive multi-gesture reactions to pinch/zoom etc.
For us, the primary let-down of the RAZR HD is the inefficient use of its 4.7-inches of screen real estate. If Motorola could only see clear to removing the on-screen Android buttons, moving them down to capacitive touch-enabled locations in the body of the phone, the RAZR HD would be a darn near perfect combination of beauty, brawn, rugged build quality and grace. That one gripe aside, we really like the RAZR HD and feel it's a good value at is current price point, for those looking to tap a 4G LTE network for a completely satisfying mobile computing, social networking and communications experience.