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Motorola RAZR i review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £342
inc VAT

A fast, highly-compact, and practical smartphone - a great pick if you don't want a super-sized phone


Android 4.04, 4.3in 960×540 display

The new Motorola RAZR i has two key elements. First, it packs a fairly-large screen into a fairly-compact handset, and second it’s the first big-brand handset to use an Intel chipset – and one with an all-time high 2.0GHz clock speed. Despite these impressive feats, it’s not a high-end, flagship handset and is instead priced to compete with upper mid-range handsets such as the HTC One S.


Smartphones have been getting steadily bigger over the last couple of years. The new iPhone has extended its screen upwards, while Samsung and HTC’s flagship models have both gone with super-sized screens. All of this is pushing at the boundaries of the human hand, so there’s been a lot of competition not just to provide the biggest screen but to do it in the smallest possible package. Based on those terms, the new Motorola RAZR i is definitely a winner.

Motorola RAZRi
It really does feel like a smaller phone than its 4.3in screen would suggest

The 4.3in screen isn’t up there with the Samsung Galaxy S III‘s 4.8in monster, but it’s still a sizeable display and one that puts in on a par with previous Motorola RAZR models and the excellent HTC One S. What’s impressive, though, is how Motorola have managed to squeeze this sizeable screen into such a small handset.

Motorola RAZR i
It’s considerably smaller than its RAZR predecessor

The bezels down the side of the display are about 3mm across, and at 123x61x8.3mm it compares very well to the HTC One S at 131x65x7.8 mm. That’s 8mm less long and 4mm less wide, for an already slender phone with an identically-sized display, and you can tell the difference both in your hand and in your pocket.

Motorola RAZRi
The slightly tapered shape makes it slide into your pocket easily, the exposed screws chime well with the RAZR brand’s distinctly macho styling

One key difference between this handset and the One S (or again previous RAZRs) is that the touch-sensitive buttons below the display have been dropped in favour of onscreen versions. These can limit the amount of onscreen space you have, but they slide out the way for watching videos or viewing pictures.

The display itself is Super AMOLED with a 960×540 resolution, the same specs as the One S and previous RAZRs. Despite this we saw definite differences between the RAZR i and the RAZR – subtle changes in colour reproduction, but it also looked marginally sharper. As an AMOLED pentile display, it doesn’t have a full RGB subpixel structure, which does make things look a little messy around high-contrast edges, in return though AMOLED provides fantastic contrast and power consumption advantages over LCD-based smartphones. All that said, we really like the display on the RAZR i, and for the price this is a good screen, though not a ground-breaking one.


The Intel processor inside the Motorola RAZR i runs at an extremely impressive-sounding 2.0GHz. A significant step up from the 1.6GHz from the first Intel handset we saw, the Orange San Diego. It’s not official, but an Intel representative at the launch told us that it was the same x86-based Intel Atom Z2460 chipset as on the Orange handset.

Unusually for a high-end smartphone, the RAZRi only has a single-core, though this is balanced somewhat by Intel’s long-established Hyper Threading technology, which effectively creates two virtual cores on one physical processor. More importantly, and surprisingly, given the proliferation of dual- and quad-core processors, is how well Android runs on only a single core.

We didn’t detect any slowdown in the installed Android 4.04 when navigating the menus and even switching between applications quickly. In fact it felt snappier than its immediate competition. Further benchmarking, using Quadrant, did show up the lack of multiple cores; though in the RAZR i’s defence, such raw number-crunching, multi-core performance is rarely key to a smartphone.

Motorola RAZRi
Not the fastest handset in Quadrant, but in web browsing it’s out of this world

High clock speeds often equate to poor power efficiency, but that wasn’t the case with the RAZR i. Its sizeable 2,000mAh battery coped admirably, producing an excellent battery test score of nine hours and fifteen minutes – that’s for continuous video playback at half brightness. It’s a slightly better score than the One S, though tellingly the S3 (with its quad cores and bigger screen) lasted longer.

We weren’t worried about the 3D performance of the RAZR i, as we’d been impressed by the San Diego previously. Tests showed that it wasn’t quite up there with the best chipsets – such as the Galaxy S3’s Xynos, or Nvidia Tegra 3 – but there’s not much in it. A bigger problem is not every app works on Intel’s architecture, we struggled to find even one that didn’t in our list of installed apps – though the x86 codec for our usual video playback software (MX Player) was broken when we tested it.


Another integral part of the Intel chipset is its image handling, with the eight-megapixel camera capable of a 10 frame burst in a single second – it’s great for capturing fast moving action.

Motorola RAZRi
This non-HDR shot has a rather flat and dull appearance – click to enlarge
Motorola RAZRi
HDR introduces some artefacts, and colours can look overcooked, but it’s a far more striking image overall – click to enlarge

In single shot mode there’s also a HDR function that looks to take two pictures in close succession, but at different exposures and then combines them almost instantly to good effect. It certainly helps bring out colours in dull scenes, as well as render scenes better that contain light and dark areas. It does however add quite a bit of noise, though this isn’t very noticeable once pics have been resized for Facebook and the like.

Motorola RAZRi
The interface works well and provides occasional hints

There’s a dedicated shutter button for the camera, and a quick tap will launch the camera app almost instantly, even if the handset is locked. Once you’ve finished snapping, you will need to unlock the handset from the lock screen before reviewing your snaps – for obvious security reasons.

Motorola RAZRi
A resized shot from the RAZR i’s camera, shows good general balance of exposures and colours – click to enlarge
Motorola RAZRi
But this pixel-to-pixel crop exposes a lack of fine detail – click to enlarge

Image quality is a bit up and down, exposures were well managed, and colours looked right, but there was a lack of fine detail compared to the best-of-the-best – such as the current HTC line up.


As with previous RAZR models, the new Motorola RAZR i comes with a range of extras to keep it from harm. The front of the screen is covered in Gorilla Glass to prevent scratches, the back of the phone has a kevlar finish for similar reasons.

Around the screen, Motorola tells us, is an aluminium frame that provides additional rigidity and allows for the thin bezel. Unfortunately, only time wil tell if that’s a weak point in the design. Finally, this handset has the usual RAZR splashproof coating, so water runs off like a proverbial duck’s back. It’s not waterproof, so you can spill your pint on it, but don’t spill it into your pint.

Motorola RAZRi
The Kevlar is back, and we love it

The practicality doesn’t end there though. Unlike the HTC One S, the RAZR i has a memory card slot under a flap on the side of the handset. This means you can expand the internal 8GB of memory (of which around 5GB is free for use) with up to a 32GB micro SD card – which costs as little as £13. It also comes with NFC, so you’re all set should the card-less payment revolution get rolling.


Android 4.0 is now the norm for new handset launches, which is a huge relief. Motorola has made a few alterations, and for a change we’re actually quite keen on the manufacturer’s meddling with Android.

The first clever idea is to only provide a single home screen when you first turn on the handset. Scroll left and you get a screen of commonly used settings, such as wireless connections, GPS, flight mode and others. Flick to the right and you can add an extra home screen, either blank or based on a template of widgets.

Motorola RAZRi
RAZR i lets you take full control of your home screens

It all means you only have the real estate you need, rather than endless blank screens. This approach also means Motorola hasn’t pushed its own services at you via a raft of branded widgets. On a similar note, Motorola will be providing the RAZR i with its bootloader unlocked, SIM-free or where networks allow it, so you’re free to tinker with the OS without having to crack the security first.

It’s not all good news though, as we did have some browser problems. Double-tapping on text on the BBC new site caused it to reflow to fit the screen in places, but others still ran off the edge. We doubt this is Motorola’s fault, but we reckon the blame is more likely to lie with the x86 version of Android. Either way, it needs to be fixed and quickly.


The Motorola RAZR i stands up well to similarly-priced handsets, such as the HTC One S, both SIM-free and on a £25 monthly contract. It’s incredibly fast at browsing the web, has a decent camera and is remarkably compact. It’s tough and practical, with both its micro SD card slot and dedicated camera button. Its Android installation has a few niggles, but these are easily outweighed by some great design decisions. It’s not the most exciting phone, but it’s a very good one.




Main display size4.3in
Native resolution960×540
CCD effective megapixels8-megapixel
Internal memory8192MB
Memory card supportmicro SD
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1900/2100
Wireless dataGPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA


Operating systemAndroid 4.04
Microsoft Office compatibilityN/A
FM Radiono

Buying Information

SIM-free price£342
Contract/prepay supplierN/A

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