Motorola and Google recently completed their merger, but before their wedding day both companies got close and started working together. The result is the second generation Droid Razr line. We’ve already seen the budget baby of the group, the Razr M. Now it’s big brother Droid Razr HD’s turn. This Razr sports a large 4.7-inch display but a svelte body, making it feel less like a monster phone and more like something pocketable.
Available for $200 on contract, the Razr HD joins superphones like the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S3 on Verizon Wireless’ network. How does it stack up against these mega phones? Read on to find out.
Design and feel
For those of you out there lamenting the fact that smartphone screens are getting bigger and bigger, the Razr HD’s 4.7-inch display won’t end your sadness. However, just like the Droid Razr M, the Razr HD does what it can to feel like a smaller phone. Despite the larger screen, the Razr HD is almost the exact same size as its predecessor, the Droid Razr, which had a 4.3-inch display. This means you get the benefit of extra screen space without bulk.
For a big phone, the Razr is certainly thin, coming in at just .33 inches. In the hand, it feels very comfortable despite the 5.19 x 2.67 -inch footprint. That’s partly due to the balanced weight and rubberized coating on the back, which wraps around the bottom edges, making for a good and secure grip. This phone won’t slip from your hands easily. The top edges aren’t as rounded, giving the Razr HD a precision look. Nice touches like the rough surface on the power button and the placement of it and the volume rocker on the top right edge show that Motorola is paying attention to the details that make for comfortable design.
The headphone jack sits up top and the Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports are on the left edge near the bottom. Just above that is the door for the microSD and SIM card slots. It sits flush with the edge and requires a special tool (included) to open. Motorola went with a sealed-in battery to achieve the thinness it desired. This means you cannot replace the battery, unlike on the Galaxy S3, which is a similarly slim phone.
We like that the camera is flush on the back, which helps the lens resist scratching. A small speaker sits to the right of that and delivers good volume and decent audio quality for alarms and speaker calls.
The Razr may not qualify as “rugged”, but it should prove to be a tough phone to mess up. The backplate is made from Kevlar, the sides are reinforced by a metal band, the front is protected by Gorilla Glass, and the device is coated with water-repellent to protect it from minor splashes. The Kevlar backing may be more of a gimmick than a useful design inclusion (it won’t stop a bullet!), but may prove necessary for people who carry their phones in their back pockets – few phones can survive a sitting.
Despite Motorola now belonging to Google, the Droid Razr HD is launching with Android 4.0 instead of the newer version 4.1 (Jelly Bean), though the company promises that Jelly Bean is on the way. At least with this phone you get an un-messed with version of the operating system and no MotoBlur – an much-despised skin that Motorola was infamous for forcing on users over the last few years.
The same things we liked about the interface on the Razr M we like here. The Razr HD keeps things simple on the software side with just a few extras thrown in that actually make using Android easier. At launch, there are only two homescreens, though users can add more. There’s only one widget included, called Circles, and it’s a nice little information area that offers the time, weather, and battery level at a glance plus a few other bits of info if you swipe it. Off to the left of the main Home screen is a quick settings area that gives easy access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane Mode on/off toggles and other oft-needed functions.
There aren’t a ton of pre-loaded apps to contend with on the Razr HD. Aside from Verizon’s offerings — which can be useful, especially My Verizon Mobile and the data usage widget — there are a few games plus media and productivity apps. Motorola’s “Smart Actions” is among the most useful, as it makes scheduling daily functions and tasks easy and even makes suggestions based on how you use the phone. We also like the Favorites section of the App drawer where you can drag the apps they use most.
The default on-screen keyboard is an improvement over some recent Motorola offerings. Whether typing with one hand or two, we found the keyboard accurate and the auto-correct function very helpful. It even makes suggestions for the next word before you start typing, similar to SwiftKey. The overall functionality isn’t as good or robust as SwiftKey, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Motorola also pre-loads Swype as an option.
The Droid Razr HD runs on a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor just like the Razr M and the Galaxy S3. It’s backed by 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage and has a Micro USB port for charging and connection, Micro HDMI, and microSD ports, plus a headphone jack. NFC, DLNA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and 4G LTE connectivity over Verizon’s network are also included.
The 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display has a sweet 1280 x 720 HD resolution and a high pixel density. This display technology makes for screens with rich colors and true blacks, thus the initial wallpaper and color scheme pops impressively. Outdoors, the display remains visible with brightness turned up or set to auto. Indoors, you can turn it down to 20 percent without sacrificing quality (and save some battery in the process).
Overall performance was very impressive thanks the Snapdragon processor. However, we did note a bit of lag when swiping between Home screens and the App Drawer. Overall, we experienced smooth performance when watching video or playing games like Temple Run, Fruit Ninja, or Modern Combat 3. The Razr HD scored 4,902 on the Quadrant benchmark, which is below the Galaxy S3’s 5,000+ score, but not by much.
The 8-megapixel camera on the rear of the Razr HD isn’t as impressive as the HTC One X or the iPhone 5. The Galaxy S3 is better as well, though not by as wide a margin. In good lighting, the shutter proved speedy. In darker scenarios it took a while for the camera to focus correctly, and the resulting shots are only okay. The flash on the back helps a little, but sometimes results in blown-out subjects.
The rear camera’s usefulness is hindered a bit by Motorola’s custom camera app. It’s a step up from the stock Android app, but does lack a few key settings options, like white balance. This means indoor shots may come out a bit orange and outdoor shots too blue. We do like that the app will suggest settings when it detects certain shooting conditions. For example, when trying to snap a photo with mixed sunlight and deep shadow, the app indicated that we should try the HDR (high dynamic range) option for a better outcome. It was right.
Like HTC and Samsung, Motorola now includes the ability to take pictures while shooting video. Other advanced features include panorama shots, scene mode, and filters. While there’s no dedicated hardware shutter button, users can use the volume toggle for this function or use it to zoom.
The front-facing 1.3MP camera does all right outside, but when taking pictures or facilitating video chat in low light, the results are very pixilated and grainy.
Call quality is above average for smartphones, which don’t usually wow us. Callers reported hearing us very clearly even with low to medium amounts of background noise. The earpiece delivered loud, clear audio as well. Verizon Wireless reception for cell calls and for 4G LTE is excellent in our testing area — New York City — thus data transfers were always speedy.
We haven’t been able to fully test the Razr HD’s 2,530mAh battery yet, but our initial hands-on shows that battery life is long, but perhaps not as long as Motorola claims. They rate usage time at 24 hours, but on our first two days the battery drained to under 20 percent in 6-8 hours. This was with very heavy usage and without employing any power saving measures. Standby time is impressive, with the phone losing less an 8 percent over 7 hours.
It looks like the Razr HD will be able to go a full day without needing a charge with medium to light usage or even heavy usage with tweaks to save juice. We’ll update this review with full battery test results.
The Droid Razr HD is a worthy addition to the Razr family and builds on all of the good aspects of last year’s Droid Razr while bringing a few extra goodies to the table. The compact, sleek design is as strong as it is good-looking, and though it has a large screen, it’s sized with regular sized hands in mind. Keeping a big screen phone from feeling too big is a challenge, and Motorola rose to it with aplomb. Combine that with good performance and battery life and you have a highly desirable smartphone.
- Solid, sleek and comfortable design
- Beautiful display
- Good performance
- Semi-rugged and durable
- Runs stock Android with only minor tweaks
- Camera isn’t impressive
- Doesn’t ship with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
- Requires special tool to access microSD slot