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Motorola RAZR review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £455
inc VAT

A stylish and powerful Android handset, which should stay better-looking for longer than the competition


Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread), 4.3in 960×540 display

Anyone unfamiliar with the Motorola RAZR brand probably wasn’t a mobile phone owner back in the heady phone boom at the start of the millennium. Selling around 130 million handsets, the RAZR was a phone phenomenon, the flip-phone design and super-sleek dimensions proving its main selling points. Now Motorola has ‘rebooted’ the brand with a new Android-powered handset – called simply the Motorola RAZR.

Having been impressed by it during our Hands on: Motorola RAZR preview, we were looking forward to using it day-to-day.

Motorola RAZR
The flip is gone and the shape is mirrored by Motorola’s latest Xoom tablets

Motorola has discarded the flip-phone design, which is fair enough in today’s touchscreen obsessed world. The front is dominated by a big 4.3in touchscreen, so there’s little room for fripperies, but the tapered corners (also seen on the new Motorola Xoom 2 tablets) certainly add a little swish to the design.

Turn it around and you can see that Motorola has kept the super-sleek part of the RAZR legacy. It measures just 7.1mm for the vast majority of its length – making it arguably the thinnest smartphone available. However, a small bulge at the top extends out to 10mm, incorporating the camera lens and speaker, which makes the thinnest claim open to debate.

Arguments aside, its the rear of the RAZR that’s the real show piece, with a carbon-fibre-esque back plate that’s actually constructed from Kevlar threads – the same material used in bulletproof jackets.

Motorola RAZR edge
The majority of the RAZR is slimmer than the Galaxy S2, but that bulge means it’s not a clear-cut winner

Motorola wouldn’t go as far as saying that the new RAZR is bulletproof, but it’s certainly far tougher than its slender dimensions would suggest. That rear plate is very hard to make a mark on, and the front is covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. Apparently there’s a steel core plate though the phone, and we certainly couldn’t get the phone to flex. The volume and power buttons on the right are easy to reach while holding the phone, plus there’s four touch-sensitive buttons below the screen – Menu, Home, Back and Search. We’re not usually a fan of touch sensitive buttons, but these worked flawlessly.

There’s no way inside the new RAZR, no rear fascia and no access to the battery. The ports for micro USB and HDMI, on top of the handset, are pleasingly bare. It’s almost a single seamless piece of technology, with just one small hinged door that provides access to the micro SIM and micro SDHC slots. The whole phone is coated in a water-repelling nanotech layer, which means liquids just roll off it like blobs of mercury – our survived a hefty splash of lager with no ill effects.

Motorola RAZR slot cover
Behind that little door are the micro SIM and micro SDHC slots

Kevlar fibres, nanotechnology and a steel core. The new RAZR seems to be have been designed for Jack Bauer or Morpheus from the Matrix. It discards Apple-like minimalism for a more high-tech, future military appearance. With a name like RAZR, we suppose it could only ever be a phone for men, and it undoubtedly leans that way.

As well as being sharp on the outside, the new RAZR is cutting edge on the inside too. It uses a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Texas Instruments with 1GB of RAM. This blasted through the Java-based SunSpider benchmark with a score of 1,870ms (lower is better), which compares favourably to the iPhone 4S with its score of 2,200ms.

The handset feels fast in day-to-day use too, with quick and smooth screen rotations and fast-loading apps. Compared to single-core phones we found it dealt capably with scrolling around our packed monthly schedule in Touch Calendar. There’s plenty of space for storing data, with 16GB of built-in storage, plus that micro SDHC slot if you need more.

The big 4.3in display uses Super AMOLED technology, giving it better contrast and colour vibrancy than the LCD screens on most handsets. On top of that it has a massive 960×540 resolution, that’s a quarter of the resolution of most TVs squeezed into a screen maybe a tenth of the size. However, these impressive figures don’t tell the whole story.

Motorola RAZR
The display is impressive, but the technology used isn’t quite up to that on the Galaxy S2

The technology used by the RAZR’s screen is the same as that in the Samsung Galaxy S, while the newer Samsung Galaxy S2 uses an improved Super AMOLED Plus panel. The older technology here has less sub-pixels per pixel, reducing resolution when it comes to colour accuracy and giving the screen a slightly grainy appearance – something that is fixed on the S2’s Super AMOLED Plus display, though this partially balanced by the S2’s lower 800×480 resolution.

All that said, it’s still an impressive screen, and one that outclasses those on most handsets. It could do with being a little brighter than the automatic brightness settings allow, so we had to override those, which can be annoying in the dark, where it then becomes blindingly bright. We’ve looked for an app to overcome this problem, we want auto brightness but with a plus/minus tweak, but haven’t found one yet.

Despite its small size, large screen and fast dual-core processor, the RAZR’s 1,780mAh battery put in an impressive stint. It lasted for just shy of ten hours in our constant H.264 video playback test. The Apple iPhone 4S sets the bar here with 12 hours of playback, but the RAZR is still the best Android phone we’ve seen in this respect.

Speaking of the operating system, the handset uses Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, with an update to Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ timetabled for the “first few months of next year”.

Motorola has made some features of Android 4.0 available here, most notably giving you access directly to the camera from the lock screen. The camera itself, with an eight-megapixel sensor, is excellent with well-managed exposures and crisp details – even when compared to capable rivals such as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S and iPhone 4S. It also, automatically tags photos with any available location information and displays it when you browse through them. It also shoots impressive-looking 1080p video. A front-mounted 1.3-megapioxel camera is fitted for video chat or self-portraits.

Motorola RAZR test image
A 100% crop of an 8-megapixel image taken with the Motorola RAZR – click to enlarge

Sony Xperia Arc test image
A 100% crop of an 8-megapixel image taken with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc – click to enlarge

Other additions to Android include some fancy animations to the home screens and app tray and a handful of useful apps – including the ingenious Swype keyboard, which lets you type without removing your finger from the screen.

Among the best of these is Smart Actions, which is an intelligent battery management system. Using this you can set up rules of when to turn certain features on-and-off based on where you are and what you’re doing. For instance it can disable GPS and Bluetooth when it detects your home wireless network. It can also do other useful things, such as sending text messages automatically when you reach certain locations – telling your partner you’ve got home, or you’ve popped to the supermarket, for example.

Motocast offers great file streaming, but you’ll need to leave your PC on to make full use of it

Motocast is another useful addition. It’s a file streaming service which lets you access files from any PC. You have to install the small server program on your PCs and then tell it what folders to sync. You can then browse these files from your phone and stream or download them as you please – as long as your PC is turned on of course and connected to the internet. This includes photos, videos, music and even office documents. Speaking of documents, the RAZR comes with Quick Office to view and edit Microsoft office documents.

The Motorola RAZR is a great phone, but it enters a market of cutthroat competition, with its main rival being the Samsung Galaxy S2. The S2 has the edge when it comes to its display, but we prefer the design and feel of the RAZR. With both selling for around the same price – free handset from £25-31 per month on a 24-month contract – there’s actually very little to choose between them. We’re going for the RAZR over the S2, mainly due to the more robust-feeling build quality and damage resistant features such as its water resistance. However, it’s a very close shave, and both are excellent handsets.


AwardBest Buy


Main display size4.3in
Native resolution960×540
CCD effective megapixels8-megapixel
Video recording formatMP4, H.264, H.263
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0, 202.11n
Internal memory16384MB
Memory card supportmicroSDHC
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 HSDPA 900, HSDPA 900 / 2100, HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100


Operating systemAndroid 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord/Excel/PowerPoint editors
Email clientPOP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format supportN/A
Video playback formatsN/A
FM Radiono
Web BrowserN/A
AccessoriesUSB Charger, headphones
Talk time12.5 hours
Standby time8 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price£455
Price on contract£31 per month contract

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