Motorola debuts cutting edge RAZR smart phone

The Droid RAZR by Motorola proves that thin does not have to mean flimsy.

By now, most of you have probably seen the RAZR commercials with either Mission Impossible-like spies trying to capture the device, or one in which it flies through the air cutting statues and parking meters in half. In reality, the Droid RAZR by Motorola isn’t a national security risk, but as phones go, it’s certainly one of the most cutting edge models that has come into our lab in over a year.

The first thing anyone will notice about the RAZR is its form factor, which is difficult to miss. It’s 5.15-inches tall, 2.71-inches wide and, get this, only .28-inches thick. If you stack up about 50 sheets of paper, you can hide the RAZR behind it. But this is no shrinking violet. While the RAZR can’t go through our official Military Spec rugged testing, it is more armored up than most phones. The back plate is covered by Kevlar fibers while the screen around front is protected by Gorilla Glass. So as far as purely civilian gear goes, this is a tough cookie to crack. You can probably drop it off a table or desk without the unit being damaged. At least it will survive better than a normal phone under similar circumstances.


The Droid RAZR by Motorola

Pros: Very responsive phone, light, thin, good data speed
Cons: Battery drains very fast
Performance: A+
Ease of Use: A
Features: A-
Value: B+
Price: $299 with two-year contract

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The next thing you will likely notice is the screen. This is a beautiful 4.3-inch display capable of reproducing brilliant colors in 960-by-540 resolution. We ran some video benchmarks and found that the RAZR was great with fine details, and could handle subtle differences in hue within a color chart without any problem. Video also looked really nice to the point that watching a YouTube clip on the RAZR is probably better than on most desktops. Everyone we showed it to was amazed with the picture quality.

So those are some nice features that present themselves before you’ve really had very much to do with the RAZR. Once it gets powered up, it really shines. The device’s heart is a 1.2 GHz dual core processor with 1G of dedicated RAM for system functions. That means that when you lightly flip your finger to scroll down a list or through your contacts, the RAZR always responds quickly with no noticeable delay. In fact, the interface almost became invisible when flipping. Users are likely to forget they are looking at an electronic simulation of data, and that does not happen often. Tactile feel has also been added to the interface. You will feel resistance in the form of the RAZR shaking if you try to push past the end of a menu. Touching the virtual keys on the keyboard also cause the device to move slightly, so you know you’ve hit the button squarely.

Android Gingerbread

The Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread operating system is elegant and functional. The main Droid homepage screen is divided into five panels, so there is plenty of room for all your apps. Certain panels seem to be grouped by default around themes. So panel two on our test unit was set up around the phone part of the RAZR, where we could see at a glance how much data we had used (352M of downloads in two days of testing), take a tour of the communications functions or examine our account. Panel three was set up around the Android Market, e-mail and Web browsing. Panel four had music and entertainment functions. Panels one and five were blank, ready to be loaded up with apps important to individual users.

At the bottom of the homepage screen were four apps that stayed put no matter where we looked. Those were for activating the phone functions, sending a text, using the camera or opening up an extended page of apps that were not out on the main screen. You can change what apps sit there all the time, though those four are great choices. Below them are built-in areas defined as navigation buttons. These did things like take you back to your previous screen or jumped you to the homepage.

Other helpful windows on the interface invited us to add our favorite contacts for people we call at the top of one of the panels or our favorite social media contacts at the top of another. The interface is well done and easy to customize. We can predict that no two RAZRs will be exactly alike given time. Users will have customized them to suit their individual needs, which is perfect for a personal phone.

D.C. network coverage

The RAZR exists on the Verizon Wireless network. Tests over time within the Washington, D.C., area have found that Verizon has one of the two top networks for that city, where GCN happens to be based. And the RAZR tests were no exception. Calls were clear and perfect every time. In fact, the only slight negative, and this is nothing against Verizon, is that the Gorilla glass on the cover tends to get a little sweaty with a lot of use when pressed up against your ear. So a headset is recommended if you are going to be talking for a while.

Another powerful feature of the RAZR is its ability to tap into Verizon’s 4G network. This is so much faster than a standard 3G network that it’s difficult to describe other than to say browsing or using an application like YouTube through the RAZR and 4G is akin to using your desktop computer that is connected via a wire. We had no trouble streaming video or even hosting video chats in HD using the 8-megapixel camera. The RAZR by default will try to detect any wireless networks in your area when you go online, and will offer to hook up to them instead of using the 4G network. While this will result in a slower experience, it’s also likely to be a free one, so it’s nice that the option is there. You can even create a hub to give access to the 4G network to eight other wireless devices.

Government uses

Looking at government use specifically, it was nice to find some pretty advanced security within the RAZR. For one, all e-mail, calendar and contacts as well as voice and video chat data can be easily encrypted. A PIN lock can also be set up to gain access to the phone. And if it’s ever lost or stolen, a remote wipe signal can scrub all the data using government-grade methods to make sure all information on the phone is permanently gone.

On the negative side, all that speed and power seems to have a detrimental affect on battery life. From a full charge, we talked on the phone for a little over three hours. Then we watched some YouTube videos and fooled around with some of the apps. After five hours and 43 minutes, we were given the “battery only has 15 percent charge left” warning. This was a fairly consistent number, which is much less than the advertised 12 hours of talk time. But it’s not really talk time that drains the battery so much. Using the 4G network to run apps and watch video seems to hit it harder than anything else. That’s still a fairly long amount of work/goofing-off time, but know that depending on what you do with the RAZR, your runtime will change, sometimes dramatically. And we could not find any combination of activities that put us close to the 12-hour mark.

In all, we were highly impressed with the RAZR. It’s a lightning-fast phone attached to a quick and reliable network. In a lot of ways, it was as powerful as a desktop computer, had a better display, and was certainly more portable. It retails for $299 with a two-year service agreement, which is in line with most others in its class. It just happens to offer more than most of them.

Verizon Wireless, www.verizonWireless.com

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