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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  • locowolf - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Any chance that you can start testing battery life on GPS in some of these reviews? I am astonished at how fast GPS runs down the battery of my HTC One-X and would love to see how other smartphones fare. Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    Well... I finally got my Atrix HD today. So far, I'm liking the phone a lot... much more than my Galaxy S1... and personally, I still like it over the SGS3. Still getting used to Android 4.0

    Anyways, soon after activation - there is a 66mb upgrade for the Atrix HD phone which is supposed to:
    - Improve battery life (always a good thing)
    - Improve Wifi
    - some security fixes.
    - Improved Camera functions and image quality.

    Since I just got the Phone and did the update on its first charge, I don't have much to compare it with.

    Improving Camera and battery life would be a big boost to the phone.

    I really really like the Circles, how the info is provided.
    Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    One week of use...

    Battery life seems to be getting better every day. Also, I've shut down some useless apps, mostly at&t ones for thinks I just don't need.

    Best Buy is now selling this phone (by itself) for $30... a steal.

    The phone fells great. The review is pretty accurate on its shortcomings (SIM cover). I also played with a friends new Samsung Galaxy S3, fixing some settings... and was glad to have bought the Atrix HD over the Samsung (even thou it is a somewhat better phone on the hardware end)

    4.1 will only make the Atrix a much better phone.
    Reply
  • kbird1976 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    How do I know if my phone is charging.. I thought there was a blue flashing light,but its gone Reply
  • kbird1976 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    can you remove/change the keyboard that suggest words ? I hate that, I just want the old fashion touch 1 letter at a time ! Sorry, but I am an older user and swype isn't for me, nor the suggestion of words.

    Thanks !
    Reply
  • KjunMan2012 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Stay away from the Motorola Atrix HD as it will not last the length of your contract. Purchased one at AT&T on 8/24/2012 with a 2 year contract. The phone battery lasted until 10/20/2012. After many questions by warranty such as "Do you leave the phone on at night?" I was able to obtain a new one under warranty spending $14.95 for expedited shipping.
    I doubt this phone will last until the end of the contract as the battery which cannot be changed will die again and at that point I have nothing, nada, for a phone. Maybe it will get dropped overboard while fishing as it is insured. Probably will end up buying another phone on eBay to get to end of contract. Wanted to pay for a new Samsung and trade in this NEW Motorola but they would not deal or wanted $450.00 for me to change phones. I am stuck with this one but no more Motorola phones for me. My son has the Samsung Galaxy III and has no issues with it. Should have spent the additional $100.00 and got a quality phone. John Arbuckle said "You get what you paid for". Boy, was he right!
    Camera is poor on the Motorola. Photos come out rather yellow looking. Difficult to save photos and some I have not been able to delete.
    My suggestion. spend a little more money and get a much better phone than the Motorola. I hope it lasts till contract ends but i am not confident.
    Reply
  • Jay72 - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - link

    If I run Lin pack multi threaded 10 times on my atrix HD, I get from 250 to 300 MFLOPS on 9 of the runs. Reply

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