Motorola RAZR M reviewed: the "M" is for "Mini"
4.0Overall Score
Price (RRP): $600; Available on plans from Telstra Manufacturer: Motorola

Packing in a 4.3 inch screen and 4G speeds, the RAZR M is a smaller Android smartphone for people who don’t want a big screen device, but still desire the quality and features found in those bigger premium devices. So if you have smaller hands, or hate the feel of a big device in your pocket, you’ll be at home here.

Features

The second of Motorola’s 4G phones to hit Australia, the M continues the RAZR name by bringing the same design, high quality materials, and close to stock Google operating system, while partnering it with a smaller screen.

Dropping down from its bigger 4.7 inch brother, the RAZR M takes a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED screen and partners it with a 960×540 qHD display, covered in the second generation of Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. The screen runs from edge-to-edge on the side of the handset, which makes the screen appear as if it dominates the phone altogether.

Motorola has even kept some of the high end materials as its HD brother, retaining the Kevlar fibre on the back, and a degree of splash-protection on the handset.

Inside the phone, you’ll find a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB RAM. In fact, it’s the same set of specs Motorola has used in the RAZR HD, with the exception of the storage amount, which sits at 8GB internal here, plus the microSD slot, of course.

Connectivity is pretty much identical to the RAZR HD, too, with 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi operating on dual-band, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, Near-Field Communication support, GPS, and of course, that nifty 4G LTE support for Telstra’s own high-speed network.

Multimedia is also near identical, with an 8 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture, while the front-facing camera has been cut down from a 1.3 megapixel model to VGA, so less impressive self-portrait stills are capable here.

While Motorola is owned by Google, it’s not the latest version of Android that you’ll find here, with Ice Cream Sandwich, also known as Android 4.0, used here. The good news is Jelly Bean (4.1) is coming, though Motorola hasn’t said when.

On paper, it sounds like the M in the RAZR M name stands for “mini,” with very similar internals, but it does have a key difference outside of the reduced screen size, and that’s mainly from the battery.

With a smaller screen size, we’re not surprised the battery has been cut down in size, but there’s a change in 500mAh here, with this phone holding a 2000mAh compared to the 2500mAh in the HD.

Not too many buttons occupy the phone, as per normal with smartphones these days, and on the RAZR M, you’ll find a power button and volume rocker on the right side, while all soft buttons – back, home, task manager – are part of the operating system, as per Google’s design of the latest Android OS.

Over in the ports department, there are only two here, with a lone 3.5mm headset jack sitting at the top of the handset, while a microUSB is on the left side. A flap for the microSIM and microSD is also on the left, making it easier to open the slots than with the SIM ejector port tool that was necessary on the HD.

Performance

Following on from the RAZR name, the M is like its HD brother, with similar specs, similar design, and similar, well, everything.

Pick it up and you’ll see how close the two are, with the front looking like a smaller version of its high definition brother, the back still adorned with that almost rubberised Kevlar, a black frame encasing everything else.

The buttons are noticeably different, still sitting in a similar configuration – both on the left, power button above a volume rocker – though unlike its HD sibling, the buttons lack texture, and are undistinguished unless looked at, different only in length and colour.

This means you might find yourself squeezing the wrong button when picking it up out of your pocket, a minor thing as it is.

Motorola’s choice of screen is different too, with a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED display supporting last year’s high resolution of 960×540. There’s nothing wrong with the screen here, as it’s bright, and the viewing angles are good, with almost 178 degrees from any angle.

Over on the operating system front, this is, once again, the same mostly stock system we saw on the RAZR HD XT925. Google owns Motorola, so we’re not surprised, and you can expect the interface to be as Google envisioned it, complete with soft buttons at the bottom of the screen taking up 72 pixels in height, and reducing the total screen resolution to 888×540.

This can make some apps and games appear slightly off, stretched to a slightly unorthodox resolution.

Motorola has a few changes here, still nothing different from the RAZR HD, so expect the oh so convenient quick settings screen on the left most home screen, and the ability to quickly create more homescreens from templates or a blank canvas.

A special widget with flicked rotating circles informing you of missed calls, messages, the weather, and the time, while Smart Actions will let you program your own scheduled instructions as well as switch off things like your data connection to conserve battery life.

One of the more important features of the phone is, of course, access to Telstra’s own 4G network powered by Long-Term Evolution technology. Without a doubt, this is one of the fastest 4.3 inch handsets we’ve ever felt, with speeds as high as 63Mbps down and 25Mbps up experienced in Sydney’s CBD on the Motorola RAZR M.

You certainly shouldn’t have any problems with data speeds here, and over in the system performance area, it’s much the same.

With a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, the speed is pretty much bang-on with the RAZR HD, punching out the same benchmark with a result higher than the Tegra 3-powered HTC One X. Synthetic benchmarks don’t really prove much, mind you, so it’s worth noting that we had no problems jumping to and from apps in playing with the RAZR M.

But we did have problems in other places, as the RAZR M isn’t quite the master stroke that its brother almost manages to be, making some enemies in a few key places.

One of these damn near killed us: the battery life.

Even though the Motorola RAZR M is rated for 2000mAh, you’ll probably only pull a day of life max, and that only happened to us once.

The first day of use, we managed a little over a day from the battery.

Most of the time, our regular day was checking social networks, calling people, receiving messages, dealing with emails, and playing a game or two, and with that test, our handset ran out of juice before the end of a day.

According to Google’s battery settings, the Super AMOLED screen in use here was a major killer of the battery, and we don’t think the 4G helps that much.

It can also get mighty hot, and if you make use of the graphics for any mobile gaming, you’ll find the phone is a touch warm, like having a summer in your pocket. Not the greatest of results, but it does cool down relatively quickly.

Second, third, and fourth days, however, and the battery life died before midnight. It's really a charge once a day device.

Despite having a near identical camera (from what we know) to the RAZR HD, the performance feels weaker, with focus that doesn’t always work, and images that appear slightly soft. It’s not terrible, but the one-touch focus that you expect from a touchscreen smartphone just isn’t always here, and we found it struggled especially with close-up details.

One thing has us completely confused, and that’s what happens when you write “I” with the Android built-in keyboard.

Type a message to a friend like “I didn’t see you at the bus stop” and the automatic spellcheck system will try to make you type “in” instead of “I”, resulting in some very strange messages to friends and on social networking.

Likewise, an intermittent error seemed to be found in the data connection, which would occasionally terminate itself and not allow a connection with anyone or anything for a period of minutes.

The Motorola RAZR M has a problem with the letter "i".

Conclusion

With a smaller display and comfortable body, Motorola’s RAZR M would be an excellent pocketable handset, if it weren’t for a battery life that jumps around .

For the most part, Motorola has created a device that performs, and is more comfortable than you might expect, but with barely a day of juice expected from the battery, just be aware that you will need to charge it often.

Motorola RAZR M reviewed: the "M" is for "Mini"
Price (RRP): $600; Available on plans from Telstra Manufacturer: Motorola
Easy to hold; Doesn't need a pin or SIM ejector to open either the microSIM or microSD sections; 4G speeds are excellent;
Battery life is barely a day; No microHDMI; Camera focus isn't the best, and images can appear soft; Spell check seems to make you write "in" when you write "i";
Overall
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Value for money
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4.0Overall Score
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