Motorola Atrix 4G In-Depth Review

Written by Matthew Gissentanna. Posted in Featured, Mobile, Review, Tech News

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Devin and I both got our hands on the Motorola Atrix 4G. These aren’t review units, these are our actual phones and we have been putting them through extensive tests during our first weeks of use. For the review process we decided to do something a little bit different. Since Devin and I are two different people, we figured the best way to cover the device is to review it at the same  time.

We will be covering the following areas:

Hardware (Design)

Software (UI)

Camera (Picture/Movie Quality)

Media Consumption (Music, Movies, YouTube, Flash)

Phone (Call Quality, Speakerphone)

Data (Speed, Consistency)

Batter (Life, Charging Time)

Final Thoughts (Should You Buy One)

Before we get into the review, lets see what the Atrix 4G offers on paper.

Specifications Overview

4″ qHD display

TFT Capacitive touchscreen

16 million colors

540 x 960 pixel resolution

Gorilla Glass from Corning

1 GHz Dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2

ULP GeForce GPU

1 GB RAM

Android 2.2 Froyo (upgradeable to 2.3)

5 megapixel camera

2592 x 1944 pixels

Auto-focus

LED flash

720p video @30 fps

1080p video (via update)

Front-facing VGA camera

Accelerometer

Biometric fingerprint reader

16 GB on-board storage

HDMI port

GPS w/ A-GPS support

Digital compass

Lithium 1930 mAh battery



Hardware (Design)

Devin: The exterior design of the phone I definitely like. The phone itself I was a little afraid of after seeing it in picture. It almost looked “toy-ish”. Initially, I heard a lot negative things in terms of the plastic used to construct the device. In hearing that, I put two-and-two together. I thought that, with all the money Motorola spent to put power into the phone, they would slack on the hardware. It’s not Motorola’s signature metal they use, but this is FAR from cheap plastic, or Galaxy S material.

This phone is solid. The phone itself isn’t heavy at all, but the phone could definitely cause extensive bodily harm if thrown hard enough. Well, that’s with anything, but you understand. The thing about most phones I don’t like is that the phone feels solid in the front, but in the back of it feels hollow. Almost like all the innards aren’t really fit snug in the back of the device. This phone, on the other hand, feels very even distributed in terms of weight.

On the bottom left-side of the phone you have your micro usb and your mini HDMI for 720p output. If I remember correctly, 1080p isn’t too far away. On the right side of the phone you have you volume rocker. Here is where the phone gets unique. On the back of the phone, at the very top, is your fingerprint scanner. Good thing they have instructions on how to turn this device on, because I was confused at first. The fingerprint scanner doubles as your on, off, and standby button. I personally find this a pretty comfortable placement for a power button. I don’t really care much for it being on the side of the phone. I guess it’s because its something different.

Matthew: I have to admit, when I first pictured up the Atrix 4G I immediately got horrid flash backs from the Galaxy S phones. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are great phones, but the build quality was less desirable. The Atrix is a weird combination of heavy plastic. It has a very light feel to it but not cheap. It reminded me of the LG Optimus 2x, Black, and Revolution that we played with at CES. When I first heard about the Atrix aka Olympus coming to AT&T, I immediately thought of the excellent build quality of the Droid, Droid 2 and Droid X. While we don’t get rubberized plastic, the Atrix will take a beating. The buttons are spaced out and placed intuitively. I always keep using the volume down button to turn my device on because I am not used to having a power button at the top. The qHD screen and the front and rear facing cameras bring a flag ship feel to the device. This is definitely one of the combination of hardware out there for Android.

 

Software (UI)

Devin: Before we get started, I want to tell you that I am in no way shape, or form, a fan of Motoblur. I do not like Motorola’s bloatware and they fact that they lock down their devices. You also have to remember, I’m not just a casual user.

This does not take away from the fact that this phone is snappy as ever. The Tegra 2 processor pushes out enough processing speed to make the phone blaze through screens. The first thing I had to do when I got the device is run a quadrant just to see what kind of performance this device was getting. It clocked it a huge 2400 stock. That’s for all you tech savvy folks.

The phone comes with enough applications to start you off. It has a “Social Networking” application that will quickly integrate all your social networking needs into one application. It also comes with a built-in task manager and file manager. They’ve even included Need for Speed Shift, to show if the phones processing power. For all you business folks, the phone comes with your usual Gmail and Email applications. Like getting prepared for a Microsoft Office presentation before you reach the workplace? QuickOffice is the way to go.

The Motoblur widgets are beautiful, and really show off behinds the Atrix’s qHD display. I did notice a bit of a slowdown after adding loads of widgets onto the home screen. That was just me being a moron and trying to test the phones speed threshold.

As far as the phones UI, I have to give it a “meh”.

Software overall? Well, I just love Android!

Matthew: Atrix 4G comes with Android 2.2 Froyo and all the features like hotspot, flash, etc. While I am an Android purist at heart (Google Experience FTW), I do find motoblur to be half offensive half complementing. The motoblur interface is everywhere. From the keyboard, to the launcher, Motorola is all over the device. I will say this. I think I love motoblur’s widgets more than any other 3rd party skin. However, I have noticed that each widget uses a process and I have a feeling alot of widget will contribute to bad battery life. Alternate launchers are one of Android’s easiest way to customize it to make it your own. While motorblur has its positives, I can’t say wouldn’t pick a Google experience over it. 

Camera (Picture/Movie Quality)

Devin: The Atrix currently houses a 5mp rear facing camera. The picture indoors is a lot better than most phones, but outdoors is a total different ball game. You know when you are in a dark room, and someone all of a sudden turns on all the lights. Well there you go. Everything is completely washed out. Completely taken over by the sun. The camera also records at full 720p resolution. I currently own a bloggie and a Dell Streak. Its not TOO much better then the Dell Streak, but doesn’t compare to the bloggie at all.

Matthew: I can’t really speak to highly of the camera quality. First, I’ll talk about the positives. The camera on the Atrix 4G took very good pictures indoors and close up(macro). However, when taking pictures outside the colors seemed washed out and dull. The 5PM camera supports 720P HD recording at 30Fps and performed pretty good with moving objects and even when moving from room to room with different lighting. It’s good but not great. I wouldn’t use it over a Flip HD/Sony Bloggie.

 

Media Consumption (Games, Music, Movies, YouTube, Flash)

Devin: This device handles gaming and movies like a BOSS. The Tegra 2 really holds it together when you are playing games that contain a lot of junk on the screen. As far as video, the only format I have used so far are AVI. I must say that the rewind and fast forward were a tad big weird, but its not a deal breaker.  Actually, it may just be Rockplayer causing this problem. Let me test..Yep, it is.

Matthew: When it comes to media, I seriously put the Samsung Galaxy S devices on top of the hill. You can throw anything at it. Even mkv bluray files. The Atrix 4G is a bit more picky. I has some trouble playing some avi files but most mp4 files played flawlessly. The Tegra 2 processor is perfect for movies, games and even YouTube. The qHD display is a treat to watch movies on. I spent most of my gaming playing Dungeon Defenders. Even at intense moments when there was a bunch of crap on the screen the Tegra 2 just laughed at it. I was extremely impressed with the performance. Games for devices running a Tegra 2 processor are only going to get better. With the Atrix 4g, this phone will be a standard for a while. I’m kidding it will be standard for 5 months tops lol.

Phone (Call Quality, Speakerphone)

Matthew: Motorola phones have always had outstanding call quality and speakers. The Atrix is no different.  I am able to use the speakerphone in a semi-loud environment and listening to music doesn’t disappoint either. While riding in the car, the phone speaker is very loud and callers don’t have any complaints of the way I sound. The noise canceling microphone really shines. One of the Atrix’ finest quality is the external speaker. Placed on the back of the phone, the speaker doesn’t get obstructed while in your pocket or while laying on a table. My biggest pet peeve with a phone is the loudness of the ringer. Even with a ringtone created from an mp3, the phone will not go unnoticed. I find myself running the ringer volume at about 75%

 

Data (Speed, Consistency)

Matthew: Because the Atrix touts 4G at the end of it’s name you would think speeds would support it. On the contrary. The highest download speed I received was about 3.3Mbps and Upload 385Kbps. The crazy part is that I have gotten more on the Google Nexus One and the HTC Aria. AT&T is currently under fire about disabling the HSUPA Upload capability on the Atrix and the Inspire. I am sure once the 4G network goes live, the phones will receive some sort up update. Overall, the speeds were consistent enough to do what most do on a phone. Twitter, Facebook, and web browsing were very enjoyable. Afterall, you can’t tweet faster just because your upload is 4Gish.

 

Battery(Life, Charging Time)





Matthew: The Motorola Atrix is equipped with a 1950Mah battery. On paper its sound awesome. However, I have been getting mixed results. I am able to get about 14-15 Hours on light use and about 8-10 Hours on heavy use. Heavy use to me is a few calls, several texts, internet, gaming, movies, and wifi running the entire time with a touch of hotspot. I am disappointed in how long it takes to charge via usb and computer. The included battery charger seems to be the fastest way to charge the phone. If you think you can get a full charge from a usb cable and a computer, prepare to wait about 2-3 hours. None the less, it is still MUCH better than any phone out there.

If you manage your battery via the “Battery Manager” application included on the Atrix, you can get more out of your battery. The app allows you to specify peek and off peak hours so that your phone doesn’t work hard while you are sleep or rarely use it. For example if you work from 8-5, you can set the phone to disable data after 15 minutes of inactivity and turn the brightness down. That way when you get off work your phone is still full. As you can see on the images. I have gotten about  6 Hours of usage and I have 80% left. The Atrix 4G does have an issue with the battery meter. It only measures in 10% increments. So as soon as you take your phone off the charger and it falls below 100%. Your meter will read 90%. It’s annoying but bearable considering the long battery life. You won’t really have to watch over it like you do other phones.



 

 

Final Thoughts (Should You Buy One)

Devin: My final opinion? This phone is awesome. It is, by far, the greatest Android experience I’ve had hands-down. The phone incorporates all known Android features and packs it all into a durable, solid phone with a lifespan of about 1000 years. The camera quality is great, except for when taking pictures outside. How unfortunate. The software is snappy as hell, surfing on top of that Tegra 2 wave, taking mobile gaming to the next generation. This is a pickup I recommend to anyone looking for an Android device this year.

Matthew: The Motorola Atrix will probably be the best android phone on the market until it’s brother the Droid Bionic comes to Verizon. The Atrix is packed with features and horsepower to keep anyone happy. Things like the fingerprint reader and front facing camera may seem like novelties but are actually quite useful when it comes to functionality. I highly recommend this phone for AT&T customers or those looking to change carriers for a full featured phone. The additional dock accessories that are available for the Atrix make this phone the most complete gadget out there.

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