For being as inexpensive as it is, the Motorola Droid RAZR M packs some fairly solid specifications, starting with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. The same processor at the same speed, in fact, as the U.S. version of the Samsung Galaxy S III, and it shows. Over four run-throughs of the Quadrant benchmark, the RAZR M scored an average of 5082, beating the HTC One X and putting the original Droid RAZR, and on a comparable footing with the Galaxy S III. That also means that it’s among the fastest devices currently
Out of the advertised 8 GB of memory, about 4.4 gigs are available to the user straight out of the box. This isn’t too bad for the price though, especially when you consider how cheap microSD cards have become. Drop another $20 on a 32 GB microSD card, and you have a powerhouse device with a ton of storage for not a ton of cash.
On the software side, the M runs Android 4.0.4, giving you all the little perks of ICS, such as built-in counters for how much data you’ve used. Motorola has made a few “secret sauce” type changes to the interface, of course, but that’s not all bad. The highlight is a “quick settings” menu: just flick one page to the left from your home screen, and you have a convenient screen where you can turn on or off the phone ringer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, cellular data, airplane mode, and even the screen lock. Since ICS did make the device settings menu a little harder to get at, this is a good thing.
Of course also in the software, Verizon’s tendency towards bloatware shows itself again: there are now even more unwanted apps pre-installed on your device. You now are forced to live with four different Amazon.com clients, three different app stores (Google, Amazon, and Verizon), and an online shopping mall called “Zappos” which is basically one big ad.
The RAZR M fields a fairly strong contingent of communication options. Of course, there’s the pre-requisite Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Plus it features NFC for tap-to-share and similar applications. Once again though, like most NFC-enabled phones, the RAZR isn’t supported by Google Wallet. Really, Google, the whole NFC mobile payments thing is enough of an uphill battle for you already without sabotaging it by limiting it to three or four phones.
Support for Verizon’s 4G network is the star of the show, though. With speeds in to 4 to 12 megabit range, it’s probably faster than your average Wi-Fi connection, and definitely more available. As if that weren’t enough, the M also packs in support for a full range of GSM/HSPA bands, meaning that it supports overseas roaming. And could probably even be used on AT&T, if someone unlocks it.
Unfortunately, not everything is quite flawless. In dealing with the M and its cellular radio, I did come across one issue. When I first set the RAZR up, I noticed that it was showing only one bar, while my personal phone (also on Verizon) was displaying three. Of course “bars” aren’t a real measurement: cell phone reception is properly measured in actual units called dBm. To do a fair test, I compared the RAZR M’s reception versus a Motorola Droid Bionic and Samsung Stratosphere, testing each in the same way. The results weren’t great for the RAZR — it consistently displayed less signal strength than the others, and it seems abnormally touchy about being held by the bottom of the device, which is where phones these days typically keep their antenna. Holding it by the bottom instead of the top could drop the signal strength by as much as 20 dBm; in contrast, the same grip used on the other phones only changed the reception by 7 or 8 dBm. I’m not sure why the M is so sensitive, but it might have something to do with the bottom of the phone being mostly metal instead of plastic. This same issue also causes the RAZR to sometimes “drop” a 4G connection, falling back to 3G even while other 4G devices have steady service. It’s not exactly a “death grip” issue, but it’s something that I would hope Motorola can address, and soon, since as it is a weak signal is one of the RAZR’s few major flaws.
For office-goers, the RAZR M packs a copy of Quickoffice Pro, as well as the standard Google productivity tools like contacts, email, and online sync options.
Here this Motorola smartphone is a bit better stocked, with both the standard Google apps for music, movies, and books, as well as an Amazon Kindle client, Audible, and Slacker. Mercifully gone are some of Verizon’s own upselling “additions” such as Verizon Video. Of course, that might be partly due to the upcoming launch of Redbox Instant.
Unfortunately, the RAZR M falls a little bit below the average of what to expect from an 8 MP smartphone camera these days. Pictures are a little fuzzier, and its performance in low light tends to drop a little faster than the already weak norm. I would say that the camera can be relied on to produce “Facebook quality” photos: they look good if you zoom out far enough, but trying to appreciate close-in detail is a lost cause. If you’re in the habit of using your phone for most of your picture taking needs, the RAZR M might tend to disappoint you.
Video recording, even though the M is capable of 1080P resolution, suffers pretty much the same sorts of issues.
With the device being completely sealed, you’ll never actually see it, but the RAZR M is powered by a 2000 mAh internal cell. That’s a bit more than is usual for 4G phones — most of them run around 1700 to 1800 mAh — but far below the RAZR MAXX’s 3300.
Even so, 2000 is a pretty good capacity choice for an LTE phone; it means that you can be pretty confident of getting through the day, even a fairly long one. If you intend to do a lot of heavy GPS or streaming, you might still want to opt for a device with larger battery or one that’s replaceable. But the average user should be able to see around 12 hours of talk time out of the RAZR M, which I think would meet anyone’s expectations of a day’s use, and could go two for relatively light users.