At £400 SIM-free, the Motorola Razr HD isn’t a top-end phone. It sits at the top of the mid-range. In that position, it has to offer enough to tempt those drawn by leading-edge handsets but who are living on a budget, as well as those who want to spend just that bit extra in the mid-range to get a tad more functionality. It’s not an easy call by any means.
The Motorola Razr HD is a solid and tough phone. The Kevlar material that’s used to build it is certainly robust. I usually try to bend and twist phones in my hands to see how resilient the chassis is, and in this case I was barely able to twist it at all.
The Gorilla Glass will be no surprise – it is pretty much standard issue these days. But the splash guard coating that’s designed to help protect the phone from water is not universal. Note though, that unlike handsets which claim serious water resistance such as the Sony Xperia Z, the Razr HD’s ports are not protected by covers so water will get in if you drop your phone in a puddle (or the bath).
I’m quite drawn in by the physical design of this phone. Motorola has a style all its own, which it now runs across tablets and handsets, and this has two notable aspects. First, the long edges taper top and bottom to give a quirky but importantly non-blocky look to the phone.
Second, the backplate, which has a lovely soft, grip-friendly feel, has an attractive almost basket weave design that is instantly recognisable.
On the top edge there’s an unprotected headset slot, and on the right a volume rocker and the main power switch.
In general, the build is very good and standards are high. Motorola has even gone to the effort of putting tiny bobbles on either end of the volume rocker and making the on/off button rough to touch – so that you’re able to find these buttons easily by touch when the handset is stowed way.
But there’s one element I’m not delighted with. The front fascia curves slightly into the edges, and there is a slight lip of frame all the way round. Aesthetically I’d have much preferred a smooth edge all the way round, and I fear the join between front and edge of the phone just might become a bit of a dust trap.
In the hand the Razr HD feels about right. Its 145g make you aware you are holding a thing of substance, but at 8.4mm thick it feels like a handset that meets modern design standards. This is important as the screen, at 4.7in, makes this a big phone for the pocket – and it will be too large for some.
The screen has to justify its size, and it does that well. The resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels is about what I’d expect for a handset of this price, and the OLED is exceptionally bright and sharp – some people might actually find the colours a bit too vivid, and certainly the home screen is very ‘in your face’ but the colour depth does mean video is a treat to watch. Web pages, too, look fantastic and for the most part it is possible to read them without zooming. I was quite happy reading ebooks on the screen too.
Motorola is headlining the Razr HD as ‘the all day phone’ and supports that claim with a generously specified 2,530mAh battery. I certainly found it to be a good performer in battery life terms, and while my general pattern of use can see many phones with 20 to 30 per cent remaining at the end of the day I found the Razr HD closer to 30 to 40 per cent. I’d really like a longer term test of this phone to see if it could support me every day over a month that involved inevitable bouts of demanding GPS, video playback and gaming uses.
Motorola has taken the route of not allowing you to remove the backplate to get to the battery. Still, you can augment the built in memory. The microSIM and a microSD card both slot into the left edge of the chassis, and are protected by a single cover that you can remove by pushing an opened paper clip into a tiny release slot. Built in memory runs to 12GB of the 16GB of ROM that’s built in, and checking my review sample right out of the box it had 11.6GB free.
Thankfully, Motorola has done the right thing with its Android version and gone for 4.1 Jelly Bean right out of the box. There are other goodies here too, such as NFC and LTE support. An 8-megapixel, 1080p camera is on the back of the chassis, a 1.3-megapixel one on the front.
The 1.5GHz dual-core processor wasn’t troubled by anything I asked it to do, and the 1GB of RAM that supports it certainly helped it along.
A neat home screen widget gives you the time, weather and battery status in little circles that you can turn with a finger sweep to open a second set of functions on the reverse. Sweep the weather circle to add a new city, the clock circle to see a date/time/alarm screen and set an alarm, and the battery status circle to get to notifications. It’s a delightful little feature.
Meanwhile if you sweep right on the home screen you get to a very useful quick settings page that offers many options to fiddle with settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and even change ringtones.
Motorola has included its SmartActions app. This lets you get the phone to automatically do things if certain conditions are met. For example, you could have a setting to put the ringer on silent when the calendar says you are in a meeting, or to turn certain things off when the battery gets low, or to do certain actions when you plug in headphones or get to a particular location and so on. It’s potentially very useful, but if you don’t want it, it is easily ignored. Balancing this intelligent attitude towards widgets and services on offer is the fact that Motorola has not bloated Android with extra apps to befuddle the Android user like some handset makers do. Instead, the add-on route has been taken thoughtfully and with care. It is nice to see QuickOffice here, for example.
It’s always possible to find niggles. A higher resolution screen would have been nice, so would an even thinner chassis, but overall, battery life is superb, the screen is great, the treatment of Android sensible, and the array of add-ons impressive.
Motorola, now owned by Google, might not have the word of mouth popularity that Samsung and HTC have, but it does seem to be getting its act together nicely and the Razr HD is a very thoughtfully put together phone, both inside and out. It deserves success.
Manufacturer and model
Motorola Razr HD
1.5 GHz dual-core
4.7in, 1,280 x 720 pixels
131.9 x 67.9 x 8.4mm