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Droid RAZR Review: Editor’s Choice

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Back in the day the Motorola RAZR was the phone to have, even though the popular phone had some pretty serious issues. But there was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the thin flip phone in someone’s hand, usually in pink.

The newest RAZR delivers where it’s important, earning our Editor’s Choice award.

Motorola has decided to revise the brand for the Android era, delivering a smartphone that lives up to the aesthetic ideal of the RAZR name without burdening itself with baggage from the past. The Droid RAZR is a thin phone that’s so light you may suspect it runs on fairy dust and hopes, not a dual-core processor and an all-day battery.

At $299 it’s one of the more expensive phones for Verizon Wireless, but between the speedy 4G LTE network, robust performance, and beautiful 4.3-inch display, this premium phone could be worth the price. Most Motorola RAZR buyers will pay less than this since Android devices typically get marked down significantly shortly after they are released.

Droid RAZR by Motorola

Pros

  • Snappy performance
  • Beautiful qHD display
  • Lightweight, this, attractive design
  • Long battery life
Cons

  • Unimpressive cameras
  • Annoying bloatware

Design and Hardware

Droid RAZR right

The Droid RAZR is one of the thinnest Android smartphones around, measuring 0.3 inches thick. Like the Droid X, the top of the phone adds a few millimeters to accommodate the camera, presumably. Since the RAZR is so light — 4.5 ounces — this makes the phone feel a bit off balance since the top is noticeably heavier.

Droid RAZR back

Given its size (5.2 x 2.7 inches) and the big, gorgeous 4.3-inch display on the front it’s hard to believe that it weighs so little — 4.5 ounces. If having the thinnest, lightest phone around is your thing, the RAZR aims to deliver.

The RAZR’s holdability rating is high mostly thanks to the light weight, though I am not a fan of the slightly boxy edges. I prefer a smooth curve as it’s more comfortable. The RAZR isn’t uncomfortable to hold, all the same.

Inside the impossibly thin and light casing the Droid RAZR holds some impressive hardware:

  • CPU: 1.2-GHz TI OMAP 4330
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Internal Storage: 16GB
  • Display: 4.3-inch, qHD 960 x 540 resolution
  • Cameras: Rear – 8MP; Front – 1.3MP
  • Battery: 1780 mAh battery

Droid RAZR top - mini HDMI, microUSB and headphone ports

MicroUSB and mini HDMI ports sit on top with the headphone jack. You’d typically find the SIM card and microSD card slots under the back cover, but the RAZR’s battery is not user-accessible so they’re concealed under a cover on the left edge.

Droid RAZR left side - SIM and microSD card slots

The power button on the right edge sticks out just enough to find it by feel, as does the volume rocker. There’s no dedicated camera button.

Display

Droid RAZR

The RAZR’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display is impressive. The 540 x 960 qHD resolution really suits the screen size, offering more lines of text on web pages and in books, crisper fonts in some cases, and better HD video viewing.

Colors are nice and deep and offer high contrast. However, while colors are bolder than the HTC Thunderbolt, they’re also less true to reality due to the contrast. That said, watching HD video is a pleasure on this screen and viewing angles are quite wide.

Droid RAZR and HTC Thunderbolt - screen comparison

Out in the sun the display did well with brightness up high. To be fair, on a fall day there usually isn’t very strong direct sunlight anyway, but I still didn’t have to step into a shadow in order to read the display on either dark or white backgrounds.

Performance

Droid RAZR Quadrant resultsDoes a phone really need a dual-core processor? The 1.2-GHz TI OMAP 4330 CPU inside accounts for a portion of this phone’s high asking price, so it needs to be worth it.

Having that extra power makes the Droid RAZR a super snappy phone. Those times when I had to wait for it to do something were the result of communicating with the network or the Wi-Fi hotspot, not so much the processor. Opening apps, switching between them, and going from an app to the Home screen all happened quickly.

Playing games, such as Madden NFL 12 mobile (pre-loaded) and Plants vs. Zombies, really shows off the CPU’s power. In Madden the 3D graphics rendered beautifully, from the players to the stadium and the crowd. I didn’t notice any lag or skipped frames.

Motorola’s Motoblur skin employs a lot of visual flair, and on a less robust phone that might slow things up. Not so with the Droid RAZR.

In benchmark testing, the RAZR scored a bit higher than the Droid Bionic in both Nenamark tests and in Quadrant. Compare their scores to a single-core smartphone like the HTC Thunderbolt and you see a significant difference:

Droid RAZR

  • Nenamark 1 — 48.3 FPS
  • Nenamark 2 — 27.2 FPS
  • Quadrant — 2637
Droid Bionic

  • Nenamark 1 — 47 FPS
  • Nenamark 2 — 27.7 FPS
  • Quadrant — 2228
HTC Thunderbolt

  • Nenamark 1 — 30.3 FPS
  • Nenamark 2 — 11.7 FPS
  • Quadrant — 1220

Even if you’re not a gamer, having a dual-core CPU is beneficial. It means a smooth, fast experience with the OS (which will be even more important when the Droid RAZR gets its Ice Cream Sandwich update) and future-proofs it against apps that will grow more robust and processor-intensive with time.

Droid RAZR Speedtest.net results

In addition to a fast processor, this phone also has the benefit of being on a fast mobile network. In New York City I saw download speeds ranging from 6.27Mbps to 17.52Mbps and upload speeds ranging from 6.9Mbps to 1.92Mbps on Verizon’s LTE network.

I streamed an episode of CSI from CBS.com that wasn’t optimized for mobile and the quality was good overall. There were only a couple of hitches. High quality video on YouTube played smoothly with no pauses. Flash-based games ran well, too.

Battery Life

 

Droid RAZR back

Battery life impressed me, given how thin the phone is and the powerful guts. It’s rated to last for 12.5 hours of talk time and, for many users, all-day battery life seems a possibility.

On the first day the RAZR lasted from 8am to 12:30am with a sliver of juice left. It had been on Wi-Fi for a few hours, but mostly on 4G LTE. In that time I made about 45 minutes of calls, played YouTube videos, took pictures and video, played a few games, added all of my social networks to the Home screen widget (which updated regularly), and downloaded several apps.

Looking at the battery info, I saw that Wi-Fi used up the most power. In the settings, there are three notification options instead of just the one. Wi-Fi was constantly ready to alert me, thus draining juice.

The next day I unchecked all of these options and kept Wi-Fi off. At 11 hours and 39 minutes of use I was down to 20% battery. I used it as I had the day before.

My usage probably qualifies as medium, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the battery life over the next few days as I continue to use the phone to see how it fares. Heavy users may not see as long a life, especially if they have more services pulling down data in the background. If this sounds like you, keep the Wi-Fi on so the phone can hop onto a hotspot when in range. If you keep the notifications off it will drain less power.

Unlike almost every other Android phone, the battery on the Droid RAZR is not user-accessible, so you can’t buy an extended battery if you’re a power user.

Call Quality

Calls made with the Droid RAZR were clear on both ends. I was surprised at how clear voices sounded even when making mobile to mobile calls. I was able to surf on 4G while talking to a friend.

One wouldn’t suspect that the single speaker on the back of the phone next to the camera is as powerful as it turned out to be. The volume gets impressively loud for such a slim phone. I was able to listen to music and calls with moderate background noise and still didn’t have to turn the volume up to 100%. More importantly, the alarm was loud enough to make me up in the morning despite a high-speed fan sitting right next to the bed.

Audio quality isn’t superior like the HTC Rezound, but it’s about on par with the iPhone.

Cameras

Droid RAZR 8MP camera

I wasn’t impressed with the image or video quality of the RAZR’s rear-facing camera when taking pictures indoors. There’s noticeable noise and images lack sharp details. The flash doesn’t usually help. Outdoor shots fared better.

Droid RAZR Camera Test - Indoors Droid RAZR Camera - Indoors

Droid RAZR Camera - Outdoor Droid RAZR Camera - Outdoor
Click to Enlarge – More Test Pictures in the Gallery

The camera app offers some decent settings and modes, but nothing out of the ordinary for Android. It’s not consistent when it comes to speed. Sometimes it takes shots fast, but many times it took a while to focus even when there wasn’t much movement to confuse it.

The front-facing 1.3MP camera doesn’t take super sharp shots, either. When I tested video chatting on Google Hangouts the image was clear, if fuzzy at the edges. If you’re in good light, the camera does well for this purpose.

Droid RAZR Front Camera Test - Google Hangouts

Video tests revealed the same issues with image quality. I do like the video stabilization feature for the camcorder, though. However, in the first test video you can tell when the software has corrected for shake with a wobbly image,

Software and Apps

Currently, the Droid RAZR is running Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread. Motorola and Verizon Wireless promised an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich that is coming in a few months.

The version of MotoBlur on the RAZR is the same as what ships on the Bionic. And just as with that dual-core phone, the visual elements don’t slow the RAZR down.

MotoBlur isn’t as slick as HTC Sense, nor does it have as many useful widgets. But this version is much better than on Motorola phones of the recent past. The eye candy is a little overdone in some areas, such as the widgets that flash at you as you switch Home screens.

One of the upgrades from stock Android is that the recent apps (accessed by tap and holding the Home button) aren’t restricted to the last 8 in use, but the last 16. If you’re a heavy multitasker like me, this is a nice touch.

Verizon Wireless pre-loaded apps - Droid RAZR

There’s an even split between useful pre-loaded apps and bloatware here:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Blockbuster
  • GoToMeeting
  • Let’s Golf 2
  • Madden NFL 12
  • MotoACTV
  • MotoPrint
  • My Verizon Mobile
  • Netflix
  • NFL Mobile
  • QuickOffice (full)
  • Slacker
  • SmartActions
  • Social Location
  • Social Networking
  • Task Manager
  • Tasks
  • V CAST Tones
  • Verizon Video
  • VideoSurf
  • VZ Navigator

Pre-installed apps aren’t normally removable (with a few exceptions) and thus take up space on the phone. At least here there are many good ones, such as Netflix, QuickOffice, SmartActions, and Slacker, and the phone has 16GB of ROM, so you’re not likely to run out of space.

Smart Actions, an app from Motorola, is of particular interest. With this users can program the phone to perform specific actions when triggered. There are 11 sample actions to give you an idea of what you can do.

Smart Actions - Droid RAZR Smart Actions - Droid RAZR

There are 11 triggers or activation queues such as location, timeframe, Wi-Fi connection, battery level, missed calls, and even motion detection. The 15 actions cover most basic functions, like turning on GPS or Airplane Mode, launching apps, changing the default ringtone, and even sending a text.

One of the first Smart Actions I created was an alarm. It might seem too simple, but consider this: when you’re at home you wake up a certain time on weekdays. But if you’re on vacation, you don’t need to get up at 6am, necessarily. I’ve forgotten to turn off my alarms on vacation plenty of times with unpleasant results. But with the alarm tied to a location, I can set a playlist or my local public radio station app to only play at 6am when I’m at home.

Smart Actions - Droid RAZR

I wish I could trigger the Wi-Fi radio to turn on when I reach a certain location. This doesn’t work in SmartActions because the location trigger needs both GPS and Wi-Fi on. Wi-Fi (without the notifications) doesn’t take up much battery, but GPS does.

Conclusion

Droid RAZR by Motorola

At $299 the Motorola Droid RAZR is one of the more expensive choices for Verizon Wireless. The dual-core power, 4G LTE speeds, light weight and thin profile certainly speak to it being a premium phone worth the price. And the long battery life is a big advantage over the Droid Bionic, which we deemed worth the same cost.

Shutterbugs won’t be wowed by the cameras, but they’ll do for quick shots and video calls.

If you buy the phone today you’ll likely not suffer much buyer’s remorse, but lately even expensive phones have ended up on Amazon and Wirefly at a discount for new and renewing contracts within weeks. If you’re experiencing some sticker shock, hold off for a little while to see what sales come up.

K. T. is a lover of technology, gadgets, and all things geek. She has the enviable job of playing with evaluating mobile tech and apps all day. Follow K. T. on Twitter @KTBradford, on Google+ and Tumblr or email her via her website, KTBradford.com.

22 Comments

  1. BrianB13

    11/11/2011 at 12:20 pm

    The only really great thing about this phone is that it is thin.  The fact that it has a sealed battery is not a good thing.  The fact that it has an older dual core processor (4430) in not a good thing when comparing it to the processors in the Rezound and Nexus.  Comparing it to the Bionic and the Thunderbolt are rediculous comparisons.  Then you have all of the usual bloatware (that’s why Verizon is pushing it so hard) and of course Blur over the top (yuck!!).  Its not optimized for ICS like the Nexus is.  Even though it will get ICS early next year, it still has the 4 hard wired buttons on it where the Nexus doesn’t.  There have been reviews that the display isn’t all that great. 

    I guess if you are a Moto fanboy, this is the phone for you.  Kudos to those that passed on the Bionic in favor of this phone.  I prefer the Rezound and the Nexus over this phone and will get the Nexus.  Glad there are high end phones to choose from.       

  2. Adam Truelove

    11/11/2011 at 1:26 pm

    Sorry, but there is no way anyone should buy this phone over the Nexus.  And man, those pictures it took look awful.

    • Lop

      11/12/2011 at 5:02 pm

      Adam Truelove, I find your comments literally every where I go for some reason and all you really say is bash Moto. Please get the Galaxy Nexus’ cock out of your mouth and anal passage, you’re making yourself worse than the typical diehard iPhone fans.

      • Anonymous

        11/12/2011 at 6:58 pm

        People like Adam have no life. He thinks everyone must think as he thinks and like what he likes. He finds it hard to believe that  every one isn’t a nerd asshole like he is. Some of us like the RAZR just like it is, warts and all. There are no perfect phones Adam and you are an annoying piece of garbage with your Motorola fanboy crap. So wait for your nexus and I’m sure the reviews will find things wrong with it too. The difference is, most of us don’t care. We like what we like and could care less what morons like you think.

        • Alexander Garcia

          11/13/2011 at 11:33 am

          ***applause***  Well said my friend. Well said indeed.  :-)

      • Alexander Garcia

        11/13/2011 at 11:34 am

        ***applause***  Well said my friend. Well said indeed.  :-)

  3. Jacastillo66

    11/11/2011 at 6:42 pm

    Physically this phone is more attractive than the nexus. The nexus is too rounded for my taste. Plus, the camera is rounded which looks lame. I’ll grab the razr because it’ll perform great AND look good in my hand.

  4. tony

    11/11/2011 at 8:01 pm

    I have the bionic, Its nice. no Dout the best android phone there is….  Moto Fan boy?  Grow up

  5. FUCKYOU

    11/11/2011 at 10:08 pm

    fucking retards

  6. Youranidiot

    11/11/2011 at 10:08 pm

    talking shit about a phone that they have never had in there hand…nice

  7. motorola admirer

    11/12/2011 at 11:32 pm

    I have seen  it.  Could live with ICS pending, even a slower dualcore, but without NFC, NO. Everything will be NFC-ed from 2012, so nice as the RAZR is, will wait for sth better. Still prefers the looks of the Motorola Droid Bionic.

  8. Ricktheprick

    11/13/2011 at 7:55 am

    Editor’s Choice? It has the typically crappy Moto camera. I argue that the camera is a very important feature on a smartphone, and that a camera as horrible as this one should inhibit any thought of an Editor’s Choice.

    I personally checked out the camera on this thing. It is an abortion.

  9. Anonymous

    11/13/2011 at 2:35 pm

    I cannot wait to get my Droid Razr. It’s a far superior phone than iPhone4S in MHO. With the 4G network and double the data plan package from Verizon, its just a gr8 deal to miss!. (I still own a Razr v3)

  10. DuckDuckGoose

    11/15/2011 at 5:06 am

    I bought the Razr. Couldnt be happier with the phone.

  11. Anonymous

    11/16/2011 at 8:51 pm

    phlpn.es/7x9vmd

  12. Alphawolf47

    12/05/2011 at 7:20 pm

    Bought it and it is very fast.  I find my photos are superb….maybe the guy taking the shots?
    Clarity superb. Very light and fits well in my hand and in my pocket. The sound quality is real good, but I connect it to my speakers.  There will always be something newer, a better price.  But unless you are a gamer most of this chip bravado is crap.
    With the ability to update is to Ice Cream…you just can’t lose.  Iam sure the Nexus will be great…but I just thought it was too big.

  13. Smouse247

    12/31/2011 at 6:50 pm

    First off the pictures taken on this camera are incorrectly published from a lot of websites.  The photos shown on here are the 6MP version on the Razr and NOT the 8MP the camera can provide.  The the default 6MP is used to fit the screen of the Razr.  In order to get the 8MP you need to go to the setting of the camera and adjust. You know notice it does not fit the Razr screen as well, but surely is more detailed.  I own a Razr and was happy to see that the default camera is NOT the 8MP but the 6MP as shown on a lot of reviews.  truly happy with the overall rigidity and functionality.

  14. motorola droid

    01/04/2012 at 2:46 am

    This DROID is the king of DROIDS. Just look at those specs, so much better than the iPhone. This is a great example of freedom and openness and choice that is great for the consumer. Yeah it looks like the DROID X but it has incredible specs and the DROID OS that is incredibly open and free. You don’t need apps with DROID OS like with the iPhone because of this openness and freedom of droid. This is DROID RAZR totally beats the Galaxy DROID Nexus.

  15. Simon B.

    01/30/2012 at 9:07 am

    have had this phone now since before launch and haven’t really had any major concerns. the unbreakable screen is amazing if you drop it on it’s side, corner or back. just don’t drop it on it’s face onto stones. that does crack it. been a little slow since the recent update, but should be upgrading to ics very shortly. camera is good but light levels are low. probably just a crap light sensor or something (as covering the camera with your finger shows iphone levels of light. wifi drops every now and then, like actually won’t even reconnect for a few seconds which is annoying, but this doesn’t seem like a motowide problem (never had it with my atrix, defy, or any other moto phone i have had (every android one)) my only real concern is the lapdock. i have the atrix one and it looks great and holds a lot of power. the razr one (which works with the xoom2) is  absolutely shite. it is thick (no continuity with the razr) and the larger version with webcam is just as bad. Overall looks 8/10 (huge bezel + boxy) performance 9/10 (was 10/10 until last week) desirability 6/10… it’s a motorola. they can outperform the leading smartphones all they like, motorola made the razr (iconic) pebl (iconic) aura (£1400 to £3500 (gold with diamonds))

  16. Linda

    06/29/2012 at 9:00 am

    Hello everyone I now have Droid Razr it is the best phone by far.. The only thing that I see wrong with this Droid Razr is the picture quality that I know they could have done better. So if your a picture buff I suggest something different. Other then that its awesome.

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