Motorola Atrix 4G Review

by J.R. Nelson Reads (31,486)
Editor's Rating
9.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 9
    • Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Design
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 10
    • Value
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Fastest phone on earth
    • Unique webtop functionality
    • Future 4G capability
    • Solid gaming experiences
  • Cons

    • HSUPA disabled
    • No 4G yet available, for the most part
    • Webtop browser requires separate data plan

Quick Take

For the moment, the Motorola Atrix is king of the hill: long live the king.


AT&T’s Motorola Atrix 4G is an Android OS device chock full of cutting-edge elements, starting with an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor, a 960 x 540 qHD display, fingerprint scanner and unique webtop capability.

It is a vanguard in the next generation of smartphones. Packed with advanced technology, the Atrix promises tomorrow’s performance today — but can it live up to such a claim? Read our full review and find out.

BUILD & DESIGN

There’s no denying the basic appeal of the Motorola Atrix 4G. The body of the phone is a plastic shell with metal vacuum-deposited over top. It’s comfortable and solid in the hand.

The design isn’t the bravest or most innovative on the market — it’s a simple black slate. Popularized, perhaps, by the iPhone, the large, screen-centric form factor has become synonymous with high-end smartphones…

…which is a sticking point with the Atrix, by the way — at CES, NVIDIA and Motorola were big on referring to the Atrix as a superphone, not a smartphone. Granted, it’s a slick piece of kit, and the Tegra 2 SoC beating at the heart of the beast is pretty fast, but… no. Just, no.

Display
The front of the phone is taken up by the 4-inch, 960 x 540 resolution display. It’s a gorgeous screen, and one of the first Android phones to launch with a display approaching the resolution of the iPhone 4. In terms of pixel density, it’s not quite as high, but at the distance most people use a phone, the differences are negligible.

Manufacturer Model Screen size (in) Resolution Pixel density (ppi)
Apple iPhone 4 3.5 960 x 540 326
HTC EVO 4.3 800 x 480 217
Motorola Droid X 4.3 854 x 480 228
Atrix 4.0 960 x 540 275
Samsung Nexus S 4.0 800 x 480 235
Galaxy S

It’s a beautiful display, and the increased resolution is both noticeable and appreciated. Once you get used to using a higher-resolution screen, it’s hard to go back. The increased resolution is helpful when viewing web pages without having to zoom in as far, and text as well as vectorized graphics and icons look very sharp.

There’s a peculiar issue where some solid colors look weirdly pixelated on the display, but it’s something to which you quickly become attuned.

The screen is capacitive touch-enabled and can support up to two-finger multitouch.

Keyboard
Since this is a touchscreen-focused slate device, the keyboard is all software. Motorola includes two different keyboards on the Atrix; one is a multitouch-compatible traditional model, while the second is Swype.

Motorola Atrix 4G The stock keyboard works pretty well, with autocorrect options and two-finger support. Only one issue cropped up during our testing, which was the way Motorola handles punctuation marks (they appear in a menu once you hit the space bar after you type a word). It’s different, but not necessarily bad, and it’s something you can easily get used to with extended use.

Swype is the popular 3rd party keyboard developed by the inventor of T9 text entry. It works by swiping your finger across all of the letters in the word you’re trying to spell. It works very well, but selecting it disables the voice recognition functionality for the keyboard, which is one of Android’s very best strengths.

The voice issue brings up an infuriating problem with this phone.  As mentioned in our first look, Motorola switches out the built-in Android voice search for a competing alternative by Vlingo. The first time you go to use it, it requires agreeing to a completely separate, and somewhat unreasonable, ‘terms of service’ and completely disrupts the phone experience.

Thankfully, you can easily change it back by holding down the combination settings/numbers button on the keyboard and selecting the multitouch keyboard’s input settings.

Other Buttons and Controls
Four capacitive touch buttons sit flush below the display with the standard Android functions; each responds with a bit of haptic feedback when activated.

But, as is common with consumer smartphones these days, there’s very little in the way of physical buttons on the device.

There’s a volume rocker on the top right corner, and a combination power button/fingerprint scanner inset into the top rear of the phone. A 3.5mm headphone jack sits on top, and a small speaker is found on the bottom rear.

In my first look on the Atrix, I mentioned that while the fingerprint scanner is an interesting add-on, it doesn’t really add to the security of the phone since it requires you to enter a numerical passcode backup. Some of the forum members posted disagreement, mentioning that it’s an easy way to get more people to secure their mobile devices.

I wish I could agree.

After spending some more time with the phone, however, I found myself wishing that Motorola had just left it off entirely. The scanner is accurate, but only if you slowly and consistently wipe your finger across its surface. If the action is too fast or too slow or a partial swipe or your finger is dirty or….

I actually disabled the functionality entirely once the novelty wore off and annoyance set in. It’s also a bit of a pain thanks to its location; it’s set into the back of the phone to help with scanning, which means you can’t leave the phone flat on a surface and turn it on.  That’s probably a minor usage scenario, but it’s definitely a difference I’ve noticed between the Atrix and a competitor like the HTC EVO 4G.

 


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