- Great design
- Good build quality
- Big trackpad
- No multitouch trackpad
- Ridiculous carrier tethering
- Can’t install new webtop programs
Quick TakeMotorola has taken a few steps toward bringing us into the future of the notebook computer - we might not be there yet, but it’s close enough to taste.
Along with the introduction of the Motorola Atrix 4G came the debut of the Lapdock, a docking station that promises to turn your smartphone into a fully-featured laptop. The company is also offering the HD Multimedia Dock, which turns your Atrix 4G into a desktop computer.
Can your smartphone really be the only device you need? Read on and find out.
BUILD & DESIGN
First and foremost, it cannot be denied that Motorola knows how to build attractive hardware. A few years ago it built the RAZR, a super-slim phone whose popularity has yet to be matched by the iPhone; after an extended period of irrelevance, it came back to launch one of the best-selling Android smartphones, the Droid.
The Lapdock is no different, and as a design philosophy, is both more daring and more striking than its partner, the Atrix 4G. Compared to traditional laptops, the Motorola Lapdock is extremely thin — we’re talking closer to the Macbook Air in size, not the netbrick one might expect. In addition to being sleek, the device is well-built, too — the exterior of the Lapdock is clad in a matte charcoal grey metal. It’s cool to the touch and, since there is no actual processor inside of the docking station, it stays that way.
Since the Lapdock is so thin, there is insufficient room for the USB ports or the dock mechanism on the sides. Motorola stuck these onto the rear of the machine and covered it all in a black rubbery plastic. It feels a lot like the soft finish on the back of the HTC EVO 4G.
The docking station itself was a contentious design choice. Rather than bolting on a slide-in dock to the back of the display, Motorola chose to go with a flip-out bay that easily pops up. On the up side, it provides for a slimmer device overall, as putting the dock on the display would have required Motorola to add thicker supports. On the down side, it makes the Lapdock substantially longer than it might have been otherwise. It’s not really a good or bad decision, just different.
The phone slides into the dock easily, but take care — it’s very easy to scratch the side of the phone trying to slot the phone into the sculpted insert. Next to the swivelling dock area are two USB ports, suitable for connecting either USB flash drives, or an external mouse and keyboard when using the webtop application. There’s also an input for the AC adapter.
Opening the Lapdock presents you with a big keyboard as well as a huge trackpad. Two physical buttons sit below the trackpad, and an LED in the pad’s upper left corner shows its status — lit means the trackpad is turned on, off means that it isn’t. A quick double-tap switches it on and off. Astonishingly, despite the size and apparent quality, the trackpad is merely single touch. It’s 2011, and this was a terrible decision. Scrolling with a single-touch trackpad is difficult, a difficulty compounded by the fact that there isn’t an option to use the side of the trackpad as a scrolling mechanism. Still, at least it’s responsive.
On the surface, the keyboard is very good. The chiclet-style layout is generally easy to type on, and there is little flex. While the width of the keyboard is almost full-size, the height of the keyboard isn’t — it’s a little bit squished. This is apparent after typing for just a few minutes, and the decision is a little mind-boggling: given the leftover size of the device, there’s really no reason for it.
The screen is clear and bright. The 11.6-inch display is glossy (very glossy), with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Like most TN panels these days, viewing the screen head-on is a solid experience: the horizontal viewing angles are decent, though the vertical viewing angles are lacking.
HD Multimedia Dock
The HD Multimedia dock is built to the same high standards as the Lapdock and the Atrix 4G itself. It has a solid and weighty heft, with the same docking shape as the dock on the Lapdock. The HD Multimedia dock is pricier than the regular media dock, but as part of the upsell, users get a Bluetooth Keyboard and mouse desktop set.
The mouse and keyboard that ship with the dock are relatively cheap, but very serviceable devices. While the mouse could be successfully paired with a regular computer, the keyboard proved difficult since it’s engineered to be easy to pair to the phone. That’s not really a complaint, merely an observation. In fact, the only real downside is that the AC adapter used for the Multimedia Dock is different from the one used for the Lapdock.