THE MARKETING BLITZ swirling around the Droid Razr’s launch drive home these twin selling points: thin, yet powerful. This wafer of a smartphone measures just over a quarter of an inch thick along most of its chassis before filling out at the top where the camera lens and flash; speaker; and HDMI, USB, and headphone jacks reside. A layer of Kevlar fiber drapes the backside, and the Gorilla Glass covering the 4.3-inch display has a water-repellent coating for protection against errant spills and inevitable raindrops.
For all its vaunted thinness, the Razr feels very sturdy in your hand, while its substantial surface area assures that it doesn’t feel small. If anything, it’s a bit unwieldy for one-handed operation. The thin build has its share of downsides, too: The side-mounted power and volume buttons are too small, and this is one of the rare Android form factors that doesn’t let you remove the battery.
We do, however, cherish the generous qHD Super AMOLED Advanced display, which exhibits vivacious colors and deep black levels. The Razr is one of the first smartphones to allow Netflix streaming in HD; and for what it’s worth on a screen this size, movies, other HD video, and games look extraordinary.
At 5.15x2.7x0.28 inches and 4.5 ounces, the Motorola Razr is almost flat and wide enough to flip a pancake.
The Razr’s 1080p video recording isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s certainly good enough for us to keep our pocket camcorder at home; we think minor image noise and motion blur are forgivable on a smartphone. Shots from the 8MP rear camera look much better, with excellent contrast and detail, at least when conditions are favorable. The camera struggles somewhat in low light, and we found its image stabilization only slightly effective.
Aside from instability with Google Music (DoubleTwist worked fine), and a bug that doesn’t pass audio through the HDMI output, the Razr performed admirably in our testing. Basic operations such as screen swipes and website scrolls flowed effortlessly, as did high-end mobile games—including the bundled Madden NFL 12.
We’ve sampled each of the major carriers’ so-called 4G options in the San Francisco Bay Area over the last year, and Verizon’s 4G LTE has beaten the competition mercilessly. Verizon’s network enabled the Razr to deliver silky-smooth video and music streaming as well as web browsing. The average download speeds of 5,806Kb/s and upload speeds of 4,433Kb/s we measured are lower than what we’ve seen reported in some other areas of the country, but Verizon’s network thumped the competition in this region.
Battery life varies greatly depending on how much you’re taxing the Razr’s 1.2GHz dual-core OMAP and its 4G data connection, but we were able to squeeze out slightly more than 24 hours of moderate use on a single charge, and that included a few hours of podcast listening, a couple hours of streaming video, and about an hour of talk time. That’s quite good, but wear on that nonremovable battery could be a problem over time.
As usual, both Motorola and Verizon go heavy on the bloatware, which can’t be uninstalled without root access. MotoCast, however, delivers some real value. It connects the Razr to your networked PC wirelessly, so you can stream media or transfer files to and from your phone from anywhere.
If you like a large display, the Droid Razr gives you a whole lotta smartphone with little downside. While the $300 price tag (with contract) sits at the high end, healthy competition all but ensures that deals will be available sooner rather than later.
Motorola Droid Razr
Excellent, large display; high-end CPU and graphics; 32GB memory; 4G LTE with mobile hotspot capability.
Nonremovable battery; occasional bugs; small buttons and large frame make for difficult one-handed use.
Android Gingerbread 2.3.5 (upgradeable to 4.0)
1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460 w/1GB RAM
4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced, 960x540 (qHD)
16GB internal; 16GB Micro SD installed (black model only)
8MP rear with auto-focus and LED flash; 1.3MP front
1080p at 30fps rear; 720p front
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G LTE, Micro USB 2.0, Micro HDMI