The Verizon Droid Incredible 4G LTE raised the question, is there room for a mid-range phone? As it turns out, there is, but the latest Incredible is not it. Too many compromises made some solid components into a less than capable whole. So, what happens when you stir the pot again and draw out a different brew? We’ve laid hands on the Atrix, and the Atrix 2 that followed, and come off impressed by the handsets, if underwhelmed by the WebTop UI that accompanied the standard Android install. The Motorola Atrix HD, though, takes a very different tack than its predecessors. From software, to design, to internals, there’s very little legacy left in the Atrix HD; but with the Droid Incredible 4G LTE’s design so hampered by its past, could the Atrix’s break from tradition be a good move?

We’ll start by taking a look at the handset and its design. AT&T’s Atrixi of the past were somewhat somber affairs. They had delicate curves that formed simple shapes and seemed to somehow ape the curve of the Palm Pre, while remaining taciturn with the all-black motif. It was a fitting contrast to the look of the Droid devices Motorola was releasing for Verizon, with their sharp edges and hard angles. One look at the Atrix HD, though, and its ancestor is immediately apparent; the Droid X. A broad thin expanse of smartphone, with a substantial hump to house the camera has pretty much come to define the new look of Motorola. The design was honed with the Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX, and now it finds itself applied outside of Verizon’s branding for the first time in the US. 


S
imilar width devices, with varying screensizes: (top to bottom) Samsung Galaxy S III 4.8", Motorola Atrix HD 4.5", Motorola Droid RAZR 4.3", LG Nitro HD 4.5"

As with almost all phones these days, the 4.5” display dominates the front of the device. Much has been made of the large bezels around the screen, and truth be told there’s something to it. It’s almost exactly as wide as the Galaxy S III, and just a hair shorter. I’m not nearly so bothered by the bezels, as I am by the materials, but we'll get to that in a moment. The front-facing camera is just right-of-center, and the proximity and light sensors are terribly well-concealed just to the left. There’s a strip along the bottom, just below the AT&T logo, that hides the voice mic, and a matching strip at the top. There's little to differentiate this phone from the RAZR brood, as even the tapered corners make an apperance, though here not nearly so angular. The edge of the device has a dark black plastic rim, wonderfully clicky power and volume buttons grace the right edge of the device, with the power button grooved to stand out from the smooth volume button. The rim widens at the top to contain the microHDMI and microUSB ports, in the now standard Motorola fashion. The headphone port is also along the topside of the device, though thrown off to the right. The bottom edge is featureless, while the left edge has a door that conceals the microSIM and microSD slots. I often worry that a design with a moving part will wear after repeated use; here though, that little door is sturdy to the point of frustration. The amount of force required to loosen it is far higher than should be applied on a delicate consumer electronics device. Further, the door edges into that black rim a bit, and never looks entirely seated. 

And that brings us to the back. The plastic on the back is a white pearlescent matte, a contrast from the glossy plastic of the front. In our preview I mentioned that I found the Atrix HD pretty, and I do; but the different plastics just strikes me as such an odd choice as to be a niggle that plagues me whenever I look at it. At a distance, you’d hardly notice it, I don’t even know I’d be able to express it in photographs. But up close, the effect is noticeable, and begs the question: why? I’ll likely never know. The back is of course dominated by that layer of Kevlar, which stands out a bit poorly in what is an otherwise softer looking device. Perhaps if the Kevlar came in a variety of hues it wouldn’t seem so out of place, but the matte pearl plastic looks awkward next to the weave. The classic camera hump is gracefully reached on the Atrix HD, and houses the 8MP/1080p shooter, with LED flash and a pretty substantial speaker grille. Also tucked away, at the top and bottom, are additional microphones, that can be used for noise cancellation and stereo audio recording in videos. 

I still think the Atrix HD is a pretty phone, and might feel better about it in its Titanium livery; but the little design choices that take away from the phone are enough that I can’t quite endorse the look. Instead, I’ll say this, if you liked the RAZR’s looks, and you wanted something a touch softer, this is exactly that. 

Physical Comparison
  Motorola Atrix HD HTC One X (AT&T) Samsung Galaxy S III (USA) Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX
Height 133.5 mm (5.26") 134.8 mm (5.31") 136.6 mm (5.38") 130.7 mm (5.15")
Width 69.9 mm (2.75") 69.9 mm (2.75) 70.6 mm (2.78") 68.9 mm (2.71")
Depth 8.4 mm ( 0.33") 8.9 mm (0.35") 8.6 mm (0.34") 8.99 mm (0.35")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 129 g (4.6 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 145 g (5.1 oz)
CPU 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5 GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430
GPU Adreno 225 Adreno 225 Adreno 225 PowerVR SGX 540
RAM 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 2 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2
NAND 8 GB NAND, with up to 32 GB microSD 16 GB NAND 16/32 GB NAND, with up to 64 GB microSDXC 16 GB NAND, 16 GB microSD class 4 preinstalled
Camera 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP Front Facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.9 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 4.5" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT HD ColorBoost 4.7" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT 4.8" 1280 x 720 HD SAMOLED 4.3" 960 x 540 SAMOLED Adv.
Battery Internal 6.76 Whr Internal 6.66 Whr Removable 7.98 Whr Internal 12.54 Whr

Display
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  • eric appla - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    does anybody make rugged smartphones? No mater what phone I had they rarely lasted more then 6-12 months so i ended up with Sonim XP3 but it's too bulky but i could live with that.
    True problem is the buggy SW.
    From the Smartphone on the market Motorola razr seems like most robust but battery live is poor.
    If anybody have an idea what else to look at please post here.

    Criteria are following
    1) Durability
    2) Reliability
    3) battery live 3 days of medium use or replaceable battery to be able to carry spare battery for longer weekend hikes
    4) Android

    Thanks
    Reply
  • MrMilli - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    The Sony Xperia acro S has IP57 certification but has a non-user replaceable battery. Reply
  • Zoomer - Friday, September 07, 2012 - link

    The upcoming Xperia V would do too. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Its out-dated, but kind of matches your 4 items

    http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/devices/samsung/r...

    Samsung needs to modernize that phone. Its buggy and the battery tends to such. But it is tough.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Maybe adjust your behaviour first? I have broken 2 phones out of 5 I owned, one because of a car/bike accident and one because of a fight I was in. My 2 most recent ones (HTC TP2 and Samsung SGS2) have survived 20+ and 15+ months so far. Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I have zero broken phones out of all that I've owned since 1999 (and a few pagers before that). Work has always paid for my phones + service (currently iPhone 4S). I'll probably break one when I pay for it myself... Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Just get a good case? Hard to imagine anything breaking inside an otterbox. Reply
  • Peanutsrevenge - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    'Sensible screen size: Maybe, just about.
    MicroSD: Check
    Removable battery: FAIL.
    Decent performance: Check

    Another phone that fails to tick the boxes a mate wants ticking.

    Why oh WHY can't Android phone makers put decent hardware in a phone <4" with removable battery and SD card slot?
    Even going for 4.2-4.5" with those requirements is hard to find and their important features for a great number of people.

    Sod saving that 2mm thickness, give us removable batteries!
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Removable battery isn't a major issue for most people. As long as there is a way to hard-reset the phone. My Galaxy S1 Captivate has a handy slide-removable cover - which gets used a lot because it locks up.

    Talk time on todays phones are pretty good.

    The HTC ONE X has a non-removable battery, also can't add memory to it.

    Even thou the S3's cover can come off... it actually works pretty good underwater... a video is on CNET... dropped in a fish bowl for a few seconds. Only thing dumb about it - She tried to turn the PHONE OFF (but it thought it wanted her to unlock/reboot) - rather than pull the battery ASAP.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Jason -

    It doesn't "beg the question"; it "raises the question". In basic terms, to beg a question means to take something for granted.
    Reply

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