Motorola’s mobile arm was recently bought out by Google, following an acquisition by the search giant just a few months ago. The amalgamation of the two companies does have the potential to result in some fascinating results but, in the meantime, Motorola isn’t giving up its own identity and has released an upgrade to last year’s Android powered Razr, in the form of the Razr Maxx.
Taking its name from Motorola’s much older clamshell handset which first emerged in 2005, last year’s Razr featured an incredibly slim design housing an improbably large bulge at the top end of the device. This iteration however has seen Motorola beef-up the Razr’s body to create the Razr Maxx, packing in one large, powerful component – a massive, 3,300 mAh battery – and ironing out that lump in the process.
- Dual-core, 1GHz processor
- 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display
- 16GB of internal storage
- 8 megapixel camera
- 1080p video recording at 30fps
- 8.99mm thick
- 145g weight
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich
- 3,300 mAh battery
- Smart Actions
- Evernote pre-installed
Design and Build
The large bulge that stuck out at one of the earlier Razr’s slim-line chassis made the handset feel top-heavy and off balance, something which the manufacturer has remedied with aplomb with the Razr Maxx. Whilst still managing to retain a svelte 8.99mm thick frame (thinner than an iPhone 4), the Razr Maxx carries its engorged power cell well, incorporating it in to the design so that it doesn’nt protrude from the rear and isn’t bulky or cumbersome in any way.
The large, flat backplate is constructed from Kevlar, making it incredibly tough and strong, and the body’s smooth, curved edges make it comfortable to hold, even if it doesn’t look particularly modern. A small panel on the side can flip up to reveal the SIM and microSD card slots which, while being a little fiddly, is a nice change from having to use a tool or remove the back of the phone to get to them as is the case with handsets such as the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S III.
A large pane of Gorilla Glass protects the front of the phone, encasing the display, and the overall weight of just 145g makes the Razr Maxx slightly lightweight but very sturdy nonetheless.
Compared to likes of the Galaxy S III, the Razr Maxx’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display isn’t particularly bright and vibrant. However, the resolution of 540×960 pixels provides a pixel density of 256 which means that although the visual performance isn’t stunning it is certainly clear and crisp.
Under the Hood
A dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor powers the Razr Maxx and is more than capable of handling the phone’s functions, especially when coupled with the ample 1GB of RAM. Navigating around the UI is smooth and fluid and active wallpapers that can be chosen as the homescreen’s background animate smoothly. Apps are quick to open and close and overall the Razr Maxx feels responsive and nippy. Also, storage is certainly not limited, with 16GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot that can support up to 32GB.
On to the Razr Maxx’s biggest selling point – that enormous battery. With many high-end handsets featuring power cells of around the 2000mAh mark the 3,300mAh battery on the Maxx is an incredible size and its performance matches. Motorola claim it can provide over 17 hours of talk time and while this is difficult to test, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable claim, with our device retaining more than 50% charge after 24 hours use. In an era when many smartphones can’t go a day without needing their batteries topped-up the Razr Maxx’s performance is remarkable.
Operating System and User Interface
Android Ice Cream Sandwich comes as standard on the Razr Maxx, with Motorola’s Motoblur user interface making an appearance laid over the top. The UI makes few changes to the standard Android interface, embellishing it with just a few touches such as the previously mentioned customised wallpapers.
Widgets have been made more accessible by placing them on extra screens which appear when scrolling through the app menu. The usual Android function of pressing and holding on the homescreen to bring up a widget menu has been removed and we found this new way of doing things was perhaps more convenient.
From the start, the lockscreen on the the Razr Maxx presents four options, allowing users to jump straight to the camera, phone and messages functions, as well as unlocking the phone in the usual fashion. The icons for each are arranged around the unlocking button, with the user simply having to slide their finger to the desired option to activate.
Motorola has also introduced an excellent feature called Smart Actions, which allows the user to customise the phone’s settings and set them to be triggered at certain times. Customisations can be grouped into ‘actions’ which will then be activated by ‘triggers’. For instance, a sleep action can be created for when the user goes to bed – this will silence the phone’s ringer and dim the screen, triggered by the phone’s internal clock reaching a time set by the user.
Smart Actions can be set to instruct the phone to read events on the calendar and divert calls if that contact would disrupt a meeting or conflict with an pre-set appointment. The feature is truly intuitive, combining several aspects of the device’s capabilities into one useful function, and is something that really could catch the imagination of consumers and rival manufacturers alike.
The Razr Maxx comes with Evernote pre-installed, an excellent productivity tool which comes in very handy. Evernote is also available as a widget in various sizes which can bring plenty of information to whichever homescreen it is stationed on.
Cloud storage solution Dropbox doesn’t come as standard as it does on several other currently available Android phones but the app is free from Google Play so there isn’t any trouble in getting it installed. The Razr Maxx also comes with the excellent Open Office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office and allows users to create and edit documents away from a computer.
Camera and Video
Although the low brightness of the Razr Maxx’s screen doesn’t make for the best outlet for displaying photos the camera itself is a very competent piece of equipment. Whilst the 8 megapixel lens is pretty much standard fare for similarly positioned handsets, there is the option to adjust several camera setting such as exposure and brightness. The phone’s ability to judge these automatically is excellent, as is the way in which is deals with light leakage on a final image.
Sadly, there aren’t any post-processing functions within the camera app itself or any such apps included with the handset. However, with the multitude of free effects and editing software available for Android (and most other mobile platforms), there are plenty of options open for customising captured images.
Video recording is also very good on the Razr Maxx, with the phone able to capture footage to varying degrees of quality up to 1080p. The light-handling capabilities that become apparent in still photos carry over to moving images too, and overall quality is very good, producing smooth footage without too much noise.
Connectivity and Multimedia
Motorola’s My Music centre is an excellent media player that performs very well. We feel that Android’s customisable interface comes into its own with music playback since a minimised version of the player can be added to a homescreen as a widget, and the simple and easy method of accessing the player’s controls this gives you is unmatched by any other mobile platform.
Web browsing is fast and efficient if not anything particularly outstanding. Again, everything shown onscreen suffers slightly from the dull appearance of the display but there are no problems with clarity and text and hyperlinks are easily read and clicked. Motorola has itself claimed that installing Ice Cream Sandwich on the Razr Maxx has improved web browsing speeds (compared to the performance offered by the Gingerbread software shipped with the original Razr) and we certainly noticed a difference. Any jerkiness has been removed and browsing is now fluid with pages loading quickly.
Performance and Verdict
What Motorola has done with the Razr Maxx is take an earlier, good quality handset and make some small changes that greatly enhance the device. Much talk about last year’s Razr model focussed on how slim the handset was, with much of the phone’s body being only 7.1mm thick.
The manufacturer has forfeited this slender form factor in order to pack an enormous power cell inside the more recent device and it is a sacrifice that was worth making, with the Razr Maxx’s battery longevity beating any other smartphone on the market.
Whilst the Razr Maxx performs well as a decent Android device and has some excellent features such as Smart Actions thrown in to the bargain, it’s the battery life which gives it a unique selling point. Whereas Samsung has been packing its latest handsets with high-tech, sophisticated functions such as S-Voice and such, Motorola has given the Razr Maxx a very simple, practical and incredibly useful feature for which the manufacturer should be commended.