I was reminded yesterday of the Droid RAZR launch event. One of the RAZR product managers excitedly leapt at the opportunity to run me through some benchmarks on the demo device, a rare opportunity at these sorts of events. The results were, for the time, startling. Motorola took some time to optimize the browser in ways that set it head and shoulders above the competition in some benchmarks. The result was a Sunspider score that was fully half of its predecessor the Droid Bionic. 

That's how I felt as I started to run the Motorola Atrix HD through its paces yesterday. The Atrix HD softens the hard edges of the RAZR design philosophy a touch, and to good effect. The white sample we received is understated and rather pretty, though I wonder if I wouldn't have preferred an all white back, rather than that expanse of Kevlar. And inside, Motorola has moved on from the OMAP 4 that won their hearts last year and adopted Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4. Yes, the MSM8960 scores another design win. 

The results we're seeing, though, are a bit odd. 

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

Vellamo Overall Score


Linpack - Single-threaded

Linpack - Multi-threaded

BrowserMark

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen (720p)

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen (720p)

In the PC space there've been countless periods when we've had our suspicions that something sneaky was happening behind the scenes to generate extreme results in synthetic tests. I'm not suggesting Motorola's done something untoward; moreso than in the PC space, the AOSP code all OEMs start with leaves plenty of room for them to optimize to a particular hardware set-up. The numbers in the Sunspider score, though, exceed even Qualcomm's own Mobile Development Platform. Meanwhile, the rest of the benchmarks strike a much more conservative tone. We'll try and do some digging to figure out what's happening to generate these results leading up to the review. And we'll keep a close eye to see whether these synthetic results translate to real world performance. 

For now, let's talk about Motorola's ICS skin, a huge departure from even the not-Blur variations we'd recently seen. All OEMs have their own clock/weather widget, and Motorola is no different, theirs is playful and features transparency effects that are oddly satisfying and allow the background to peek through. Folders work just like vanilla ICS, but home screens are laid out in a left to right fashion; and in a departure from other skins, only the main home screen is populated initially, the rest are fully absent. A swipe to the left reveals a prompt to add a blank page or one from a template. Motorola also tweaked some of the app icons, so a swipe up or down from atop the Phone icon brings up a Favorites pop-up, or Bookmarks for the Browser. This is actually a nifty way to add this functionality without cluttering your home screens with widgets, and I say kudos to Motorola for this one. 

I haven't had a chance to characterize the display, but subjectively colors are bright and viewing angles are great. The body feels incredibly sturdy, as the RAZR before it, and the textured ring that goes around its edge has a pleasant tactile contrast to the smooth plastic of the rest of the frame. One note on that frame, around the display it is a glossy white plastic, but along the back it is a matte pearlescent white, not sure why the two-tone effect but it isn't jarring even when noticed. The larger screen means the excessive bezels of the RAZR are gone, while the Kevlar back continues to feel a bit out of place. We've only just begun our review process so we'll get back to it. 

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  • haukionkannel - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    It is 99$ with two years contract... So in free market 400-500$... Reply
  • dagamer34 - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    Only 8GB of internal storage plus the HTC One X isn't going to have a price adjustment so soon after launch (though there are plenty of places to find it cheaper than directly from AT&T). Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    It's just $99 because there's no way Moto was gonna be able to best the SGS3 hype machine or the two month lead the One X has. You're looking at the specs, like any enthusiast would, but specs are not necessarily the biggest factor in moving phones off carrier's shelves. Simple word of mouth, hype, and store employees bias would bury this phone if it were $200...

    Nevermind that it seems to have fewer software modifications than Samsung or HTC's equivalent, or that Googorola will probably have tons of help in porting new OS versions for quicker updates. It does have a smaller battery than the competition tho, they should release the MAXX version already instead of waiting several months.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    The $99 price point probably means we'll see it at $50 at some third party soon after launch if not as a pre-order tho, that's pretty incredible for a high end phone like this... And here I thought my $120 EVO LTE was a good deal. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    As long as the phone sells well, it will be a $100 phone. Older Motorola phones have kept their $100 price point. This is mc first hires android model... Which severely devalues the older phones. Heck, I can get a new iPhone 4 for $100.

    I'll try this atrix phone in the next few days... It looks like it will be the phone for me.
    Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    Moto has nothing better than this one and selling their top phone at 100$ is just tragic. The One X has no SD slot, the S3 doesn't have a very good screen,build quality or looks and if Moto couldn't sell this at 200$ they need new marketing folks.
    Granted the Atrix HD has a smallish battery and a huge bezel but since there is no great phone out there 200$ was ok.
    Reply
  • shabby - Saturday, July 14, 2012 - link

    What is it with moto and its love for thick bezel's? This phone is 2mm wider than a galaxy nexus and has a 0.15" smaller screen. Even the razr is 1mm wider than the galaxy nexus and it has a puny 4.3" screen... hello moto! Reply
  • nevertell - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    This functionality is available on all android devices that are capable of running Go Launcher EX. I've been using it on my 3VO for quite a while, it;s way better than sense in many ways. It has a multilevel dock and it doesn't matter if you use it's complimentary software (GoSMS, GoThis, GoThat) or stick with the stock software packages, it integrates really well with the phone.

    I always thought of this as one of the greatest strengths of android, since even though you may have a manufacturer preloaded "desktop environment", you can always use the one you like on most of android devices out there. It's just like with desktop linux distributions now, where you can choose gnome2, gnome3, KDE, enlightenment, XFCE and many other DE's/window managers.
    Reply
  • jeffbui - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    Fragmentation. To a casual user (95%+ of the population) this is unknown and unavailable. Reply
  • nevertell - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    Just as with the desktop environments, these "mobile environments" are cross-compatible. They are even better at adapting to different software environments as they are just a bit more than a glorified window manager for a home screen.
    I don't see this kind of fragmentation any kinds of problems, since you can still access the same programs and use them as you would on either HTC sense, Touchwiz or Go Launcher. The only pieces of software that cause fragmentation are things that are truly unavailable on certain devices whilst being widely adopted on others, such as a manufacturer's built-in camera app or the whole OS, heck, gingerbread is still the most popular Android, even though Jelly Bean is just around the corner.
    Reply

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