Priced at $300 with a two-year Verizon contract, and sporting a design nearly identical to last year's Motorola Droid RAZR, the new Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX could easily be mistaken for a marginal update. Don't be fooled -- with a massive 3300 mAh battery that claims to deliver 21 hours of talk time or 15 hours of video playback, it has the potential to be a game-changer for smartphones everywhere.
At first glance, the RAZR MAXX is almost identical to the Droid RAZR. It has the same semi-angular shape, the same layout, even the same top-mounted micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports. It's only when you flip it over that you can notice the one real physical change.
Whereas the Droid RAZR had a "hump" at the top of the device for the camera, similar to Motorola's Droid Bionic and Droid X line, the RAZR MAXX is smooth from top to bottom. This is to accommodate the larger battery that's the MAXX's major feature change. Yes, this does technically make the phone thicker, but at 0.35 inches, it's also far from "thick." In fact, it's still thinner than the iPhone 4S, and the same thickness as the Samsung Infuse 4G that seemed so impossibly thin when it came out.
Of course that extra battery also makes it a bit heavier, at 5.1 ounces versus the original RAZR's 4.4, but that's still a remarkably small penalty for a battery which is almost twice the size of the RAZR's, and at least 1400 mAh more than any other LTE phone.
Part of the weight and thickness savings, of course, is that the battery is non-removable. The LTE SIM and microSD card, usually tucked under the battery cover, are under a door on the side, and the battery itself is safely sealed away from the user. This of course means no battery swapping, as well as the fact that battery problems could effectively require you to return the phone. When the battery wears out, the phone is basically a paperweight. Of course, by the time that happens in four or five years, the RAZR will be so obsolete that it'll be worth roughly bus fare anyway. Such is the march of technology.
Overall, I very much like the design of the RAZR MAXX. It has a solid build quality, and it's very comfortable to use. It's hefty, yes, but still thin, provides a lot of power in a not very large package, and it's comfortable to work with.
At 960 x 540 (qHD), the RAZR MAXX's Super AMOLED display is identical to that of its predecessor, and one step down from the 1280 x 720 displays of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Spectrum. That shouldn't be taken as a slam though; for most people, the difference between 960 x 540, and 1280 x 720 isn't going to be as visible as you might think when you're talking about a display that's 4.3 inches. HD resolution is great, particularly for web browsing, but it's not really necessary or a mind-blowing upgrade the way going from a much lower resolution like 320 x 480.
Regardless of the exact resolution, the screen looks great, and provides all the perks you expect out of an AMOLED screen: excellent contrast, true blacks and greys, and well defined colors. Although some LCDs can equal it, AMOLED still is a guarantee of great viewabilty and quality, every bit the equal to a high-end LCD.
This is Part 1 of a multi-part review. Part 2 covers the Performance of the Droid RAZR MAXX, while Part 3 is the Conclusion.
Keeping the same 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM from its predecessor, fundamentally the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX performs to the same level as the original RAZR. Scoring an average of 2700 on Quadrant Standard benchmark, it outperforms most other currently available smartphones, although there's a new crop coming up that will probably overshadow it. Nevertheless, the RAZR MAXX definitely meets the level of "fast enough," giving people the ability not just to run all of their apps and games, but you can also be fairly sure it'll even play High Definition video content through HDMI without bogging down.
Likewise, the MAXX's software package is straightforward, but plenty suitable. While the RAZR MAXX runs on the "old" Android OS 2.3, it's been guaranteed by Motorola to see an update to Android OS 4.0 at some point, although we don't know exactly when. Until then, you've still got all the advantages of the current Android platform, and you can be fairly sure that there won't be any particularly killer apps for Android OS 4.0 before the MAXX gets its update. The MAXX also comes with Motorola's "MOTOBLUR" customizations, which -- while not exactly my favorite "secret sauce" version of Android -- aren't really all that annoying, all things considered.
I did encounter a few small software bugs while using the RAZR MAXX; most notably, there were times when the phone's display refused to switch back to portrait mode after using it in landscape, and I had to rotate it back and forth before it resumed working. But these turned out to be relatively minor, and never really impeded me from using the device for very long.
The MAXX covers the full range of useful wireless options: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G EVDO, and 4G LTE. Of course 4G on the RAZR MAXX isn't any less of a power-hog than it was on the original RAZR, but with the big whopping battery the smartphone carries, you're not as likely to notice it. So 4G feels a little more useful here, although to be honest I still don't see much that you can't do with 3G speeds. Particularly given that on 3G, you're going to get even more battery life. But if you want those blazing 10-15 megabit per second LTE speeds, the RAZR MAXX will certainly deliver, and it'll do so longer than any other device.
When you're not near an LTE network, or you need to conserve your data use, of course you've got Wi-Fi, which makes a nice backup. I just wish it were a little easier to turn it on or off when you want to access the cellular net.
One thing I noticed about the RAZR MAXX: It seemed to maintain much better signal reception than other Verizon devices I've used. In fact, it was rare to see it display anything other than full bars, even when other VZW phones were displaying 2 or 3 out of 4. Granted, bars don't necessarily relate to actual signal quality, but I'd feel just a tiny bit more confident taking this model out to the edge of Verizon coverage than I would another smartphone.
As usual, there's the standard warning to be careful with your data use. I managed to rack up well over 500 MB of usage in 10 days without even using streaming media, and most of that was on 3G.
The RAZR MAXX lags a little here, with only GoToMeeting and QuickOffice for the more professional user. Of course that does cover the most obvious need, the ability to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office files.
Naturally, there are the standard Android apps for keeping you organized. This includes a calendar and address book which sync with Google's online equivalents.
While I'm on the topic of basic software, I don't want to overlook the web browser, email app, as well as a collection of other utilities. In short, right out of the box this smartphone is ready to go, but you can add more apps from the Android Market.
The MAXX offers a few more options here, with Verizon including the usual clients for their paid services like Verizon Video, as well as things like Slacker, Kindle, Blockbuster, et al -- all free apps, of course, but then you wouldn't expect much more from Verizon. Still, the built-in music player, video player, YouTube app etc. supply the basics, and everything else can be gotten from the Android Market.
The Droid RAZR MAXX's camera is somewhat in the typical range for a high-end smartphone camera. Rated at 8 megapixels, it has plenty of raw capacity to take good photos, but that's always dependent on conditions. And as with most phone cameras, its weakness is light. The less bright the light, the worse you can expect the photo to turn out. Mitigating this somewhat is the RAZR MAXX's good quality LED "flash" of course. With the use of the LED, it can take quite good pictures at short-range -- three to four foot -- in poor lighting, but there's no guarantees that the camera has focused properly (see the first picture below for an example of this).
One thing I did notice in testing the MAXX was that its shutter speed seemed unusually quick. Or, at least, quicker than most phones I've tested, snapping photos almost instantly after the user presses the button.
Here it is: the RAZR MAXX's entire significant difference from its predecessor comes down to the battery, a whopping 3300 mAh cell. Compare that to the original RAZR at 1780 mAh, or the Galaxy Nexus at 1850, and you can see how much larger it really is than even most of the recent "large battery" LTE phones, let alone the weak 1300-1500 mAh batteries used on older phones.
So how much battery life can you really expect out of the RAZR MAXX? The long answer to that question is that it varies depending on signal strength, 3G versus 4G, streaming, screen brightness, etc. So any of my estimates here should be taken with a grain of salt, since they're necessarily vague.
But the short answer is "a hell of a lot."
Motorola advertises that the RAZR MAXX can hit 21.5 hours of talk time, 380 hours of standby, or 15 hours of video. Frankly, I have no reason to doubt any of those numbers whatsoever. I also have no hesitation saying that you can comfortably get 6-8 hours browsing the web with LTE... which doesn't sound like all that much until you realize that 4 or 5 hours is more like the norm. Switch to 3G only, and you could probably see 10 hours without much problem.
Even on a 4G network with heavy use, I doubt you're going to be able to drain the RAZR MAXX in a single day's use unless you're doing constant video streaming over LTE, in which case you'd better have a really good data plan or some equally unlikely usage like non-stop browsing with the screen at maximum. Putting less of a drain on it, we're talking days of use without a re-charge.
No matter how you slice it, the RAZR MAXX delivers, in no uncertain terms, on the promises offered by its massive battery.
This is Part 2 of a multi-part review. Part 1 covered the Biuld & Design of this smartphone, and Part 3 is the Conclusion.
The Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX is what the Droid RAZR should have been but wasn't -- a device that offers something more compelling to the user than an extra millimeter of thinness or an extra megapixel of camera resolution. Smartphone makers in general have been guilty of this, and Motorola has been one of the worst offenders, with a long string of new Droids that were at best minor upgrades of each other. With the RAZR MAXX though, they've delivered a smartphone that has the potential not just to be a true upgrade, but possibly even a game-changing device.
It offers what really should be the standard on any smartphone that wants to call itself high-end... not just the features to earn that name, but the power to back it up. Whether you've got the biggest screen, or the sharpest, or the fastest processor, doesn't matter one single whit if you don't have the battery power to turn it on. With 4G LTE, a dual-core processor, and super-sized screens, smartphones have been finding more and more ways to drain their batteries to the point where getting even a full day of use has become a fantasy for many users. The RAZR MAXX shows that a good device can pack in a battery worthy of it, without making too many compromises on size.
Is that worth the fairly spectacular $300 pricetag placed on the RAZR MAXX? That's hard to say, since there are a lot of excellent smartphones available on Verizon, which can offer if not such spectacular battery life, than enough for the average person. What I can say is that the RAZR MAXX makes a very strong case for why you should consider it equal to, and in some ways the superior of, the equivalent high-end phones like the Galaxy Nexus. That alone makes it very much worth looking at for any serious smartphone users.