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First Australian review of Motorola’s 4G RAZR HD

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:34 pm 04/10/2012

Performance

The first of two 4G phones Motorola that will be launching this year, the Motorola RAZR HD is the result of Google and Motorola really working together, thanks to the search engine’s acquisition of the owner of the RAZR brand.

Designed to be strong, competitive, long-lasting, and stylish, it’s a different machine from the RAZR we saw last year when Motorola relaunched the once seriously successful brand.

While obvious things like the screen size, chip, operating system, and connection have changed, so too has the thickness, which has actually increased from 7.1mm to 8.4mm, no doubt thanks to the bigger battery in the new handset.

In the hand, it’s a better experience than last year’s RAZR. Even if you have small hands, you’ll find the grip is noticeably better, with a slight curvature of the back – compared to none on the original RAZR – that makes it rest in the palm much more easily.

There’s a touch more heft here – 20 grams, actually – and all up, the RAZR HD manages to feel like a solid phone.

You can feel the quality in its design too, with the Kevlar-backed handset exhibiting an almost rubberised feel, making it just that much harder to fall from the hands. Motorola’s power button has little lines cut into it too, which provide a touch of resistance and help to point out which of the two buttons you’re touching.

The left side of the RAZR features a SIM card slot hidden by a tray, with a microSD slot underneath. The microUSB charge and data port is further along the right, next to the microHDMI out.

The same water-resistant coating from the first RAZR is included here, so don’t worry if you get caught in a flash storm. Likewise, Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass will protect the screen from your keys, adding more robustness to this already well-built handset.

While the use of Kevlar on the back is an awesome concept that lends itself to more protection, you’ll be surprised just how dirty this can get with simple touches. Chances are that you won’t notice the grubbiness until you shine some light on the back, and the good news is that it’s easily wiped down with a cloth, but it’s worth noting just how easily it can pick up on smudges.

Using the phone, you’ll find Motorola has provided a reasonably recent installation of Google’s Android operating system, with version 4.0 here, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, with 4.1 or ‘Jelly Bean’ set to arrive later in the year.

The main screen on Motorola's RAZR HD starts in the middle. Swipe left and you'll have a quick option toggle, while swiping right yields the page creation screen.

We’re used to seeing the different overlays that various manufacturers bring to Android, but Motorola’s unique perspective means its handsets can take on an approach more in line with what the company that owns it – Google – wants.

That means that the look of Android on the RAZR HD is very close to stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich: it’s clean, simple, and close to what we’ve seen on recent tablets, so if you have one of those, you’ll very much be at home here.

Like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus released late last year – the first phone with Ice Cream Sandwich – there are no printed-on soft buttons like other handsets, with the screen reserving a section of the 720p display at the bottom for on-screen soft buttons that can change based on what you’re doing and what app you happen to be running.

Most of the design here appears to come from Google, with a four icon dock with menu shortcut in the middle, the blue and black dropdown menu and status bar, and horizontal scrolling application menu.

The latter of these works by scrolling left to right, with tabs set out for your favourite apps, the Google Play Store, widgets, and every app or game you have in general. Getting around the menu can take repeated finger swipes, as there doesn’t appear to be shortcuts to let you jump from page one of your widgets to page ten, which appears to be one of the negatives of this layout.

It’s not all Google though, and Motorola has provided some neat changes, with the home screen offering a settings toggle page when you scroll all the way to the left, and extra home screens easily created from either a blank page or one of several pre-loaded templates.

The phone’s regular lockscreen is Google’s typical “drag the circle to a different spot,” but Motorola has pre-mapped applications to load when you pull the unlocking circle up (phone), left (camera), or down (text messaging), with the right direction bringing you back into whatever app you had before you locked your phone. A touchscreen volume switch also sits at the top of this lockscreen, allowing you to quickly turn the ringer on and off.

Smart Actions

Motorola has also programmed in a feature called “Smart Actions” which is a series of programmed variables that can save you battery power, send you notifications, and do a lot more. You can design your own actions by selecting certain things – GPS location, time of day, date – and then get the phone to respond by acting on something, such as playing music automatically, running an alarm, sending an SMS, or turning off data and letting you get some sleep.

The phone will even monitor your battery life over time and pop up with a message informing you that these exist, and that maybe you should run them, which is useful, especially if you’re trying to conserve power.

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Price (RRP)

$720 outright; Available on plans from Telstra;

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Well priced against its competitors; Excellent build materials that make it more resistant to everyday life; Great video modes;

Product Cons

A little on the heavy side; Kevlar back can look grubby; microSD slot hidden under SIM tray, requiring a pin to get access to; Mediocre battery life;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Design

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