A little history before we get to my promised Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx review…
About two years ago I started my foray into the smartphone world with the HTC Droid Incredible. Though initially hesitant, I was quickly won over by internet access that moved with me, great integration with the Google products I already used and loved(search, mail, talk, voice, calendar, docs) that I was already using, GPS navigation, app market, streaming media, etc. Some of the complaints I had about the Incredible: miserable battery life, a display that was not-quite-right and sluggish response to input. Enter the Droid RAZR Maxx.
I like to give myself an extra buffer before gadget obsolescence sets in, so I tend to buy consumer electronics near the high end. In this case I had my next smartphone purchase narrowed down to either the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx, or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. As the urge to upgrade slowly increased, I found myself weighing the best-in-class battery life of the RAZR Maxx vs. the stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwhich(ICS) and larger display of the Galaxy Nexus. I was barely considering the iPhone 4S, but I’ll list the specs just for comparison’s sake(thanks to anandtech.com for some of the specifications listed!).
|Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX||Samsung Galaxy Nexus||Apple iPhone 4S
|Battery||Internal 12.54 Whr||Removable 6.85 Whr||Internal 5.3 Whr
|Operating System||Android 2.3.5||Android 4.0||iOS 5
|Storage||16 GB + 16 GB microSD preinstalled||32 GB||16GB, 32GB, or 64GB
|Screen||4.3" 960 x 540 SAMOLED||4.65" 1280x720 SAMOLED||3.5" 960 x 640 LED backlit LCD
|Cameras||8 MP, 1080p video, 1.3 MP front-facing||5 MP, 1080p video, 1.3 MP front-facing||8 MP, 1080p video, VGA front-facing
|Height||130.7 mm||135.5 mm||115.2 mm
|Width||68.9 mm||67.94 mm||58.6 mm
|Depth||8.99 mm||9.47 mm||9.3 mm
|Weight||145 g||150 g||140 g
|CPU||1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4430||1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4460||Apple A5 @ ~800 MHz Dual Core Cortex-A9
|GPU||PowerVR SGX 540||PowerVR SGX 540||PowerVR SGX 543MP2
|RAM||1 GB LPDDR2||1 GB LPDDR2||512 MB LPDDR2
|Price(w/ 2-year Contract)||$199||$199||$199($299 for 32 GB)
What impacted my decision to buy the RAZR Maxx in the first place?
The first 5 items in that table were the deciding factors: battery life, operating system, storage, screen and cameras. If my battery is dead the rest of the features don’t matter! The whole point(for me) of a mobile device is, just that: mobility. I don’t want to be tied to a charger and this factor ended up sealing the deal. With almost twice the watt-hours of the Nexus and iPhone 4S, I could not resist the RAZR Maxx. In practical use, I only need to charge the Razr MAXX once every TWO days! This compared to my Incredible, that was often completely useless after a day of very light use.
Ice Cream Sandwhich did cause me to second-guess the RAZR, but because I had done my homework I knew that Motorola was planning on rolling out ICS to the RAZR as early as March – a wait well worth twice the battery life for me. At this point, I am invested in Android and “Siri” isn’t enough to draw me into the iOS mobile world and away from tight integration with my Google account.
Next, we have storage and the RAZR definitely wins this one for me with the ability to both upgrade my storage via microSD, but also to quickly transfer data between devices. My recent purchase of the excellent NZXT Switch 810 case(review in the works) which has a built in SD card reader made this even more attractive. I definitely take issue with the fact that so many companies are charging so much for devices that are identical except for storage. When I can buy a 32 GB micro SD card for $30, I find it ridiculous that someone wants to charge me $100 to move from 16 GB installed to 32 GB installed(I’m looking at you Verizon and Apple!)
I love screen size and pixel density as much as the next technophile, but the iPhone’s 326 Pixels Per Inch(PPI), the Galaxy Nexus’ 316 PPI vs the 256 PPI of the RAZR just wasn’t enough to outweigh the other factors in the RAZR’s favor. Would I have loved the Nexus’ 720×1280 screen on my RAZR? Definitely. It’s still strange to see those numbers when the PPI of my 50″ HDTV is a mere 44. sigh.
Lastly, the ubiquitous smart phone camera. My Incredible had an 8 MP camera and I simply didn’t want to downgrade – period. As a father of two boys, my smart phone camera is sometimes all that stands between me and memories of their childhood slipping away faster and faster. This was the death knell for the Galaxy Nexus. All of the phones I considered had 1080p video recording and front-facing cameras and thus didn’t factor into my decision.
I went bought the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX around Valentine’s Day and I’m happy with my purchase. At this point I’m going to assume that you are aware of the general advantages and features of smartphone ownership and launch straight into the Pros and Cons of the the RAZR.
What are you going to like about it?
If you’ve used a smartphone before, you’re going to love the battery life on the RAZR Maxx. I would classify my average smartphone usage as light-to-medium: social media, e-mail, texting, occasional phone calls, streaming media and some light gaming are my typical uses. That said, the RAZR Maxx can easily last me a full 48 hours between charges – I was lucky to get 12 on my HTC Incredible. Keep a charger in your car and on your nightstand and you’ll be good-to-go.
The form-factor has got to be just about as close-to-perfect as one can get: slim, adequate screen size, and light. I have no problems slipping the RAZR into(or out of) my pocket when I’m on the go and rarely notice that it’s there. The “kevlar” backing of the Razr has an excellent texture that really helps the device feel at-home in your palm with just enough friction to keep it from feeling slippery.
Speed! Gone are the stutters and agonizing wait times that prior smartphones suffered with even when surfing the web. The RAZR delivers a smooth, responsive experience that really makes other devices I’ve used feel sluggish(to say the least).
Signal reception is noticeably improved from my Incredible: both 3G/4G and WiFi. The display is bright and very crisp even when outdoors in direct sunlight. As with all Android devices, seamless integration with my Google account really helps to make setup a breeze. I really appreciate not having to sync multiple accounts or transfer my data when upgrading my hardware.
What are you going to hate about it?
Fortunately this list is pretty small, but I do have a couple things that stick in my mind as negatives.
First, there was a small snag during initial setup: I did not have a 3G data connection until after I synced the phone with my Google account. This would have been a big deal, had I not performed the setup at home where I had a WiFi connection available. 3G immediately activated following the sync. My wife has noticed on one occasion that her 3G connection “disappeared” until she rebooted the device. Otherwise, connectivity has been wonderful on both WiFi and 3G/4G.
Second, the fact that there is both a RAZR and a RAZR Maxx(with different thickness/weight) means that accessories offered for the RAZR are not going to fit “just right”. Case in point, is the Car Navigation dock: the RAZR Maxx fits, but looks and feel like one big bump in the road would cause it to come crashing out of the cradle. This is really more of an accessory/support issue than with the actual device, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Is the Droid RAZR Maxx for you?
The RAZR Maxx is really designed for power users looking to take advantage of all of technology offered by mobile computing: streaming media, graphically-intensive applications, etc. There is a never-ending stream of new devices due out in the market, but if you want the best that there is right now then the Droid RAZR MAXX is for you. This is the category that I fit into and I am thrilled with my purchase: it is everything that I have come to expect from a smartphone with a measure of power and polish that I, frankly, had not expected when I walked into the Verizon Wireless store.
Maybe you’re considering your first smartphone purchase and you’re not sure if you should go with an older, cheaper phone(The Bionic is Free with a 2-year contract, for example)? My advice to you: take the plunge! New android models are showing up in stores monthly and what is the top-of-the-line today will quickly become run-of-the-mill. Do yourself a favor and start at the top of the chain to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your device before you get the urge to upgrade again.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve had your phone for 6-months to a year, are fairly satisfied with its performance, but are contemplating the upgrade “just because”. To you, my advice is to wait – that’s right, just wait. You’re not going to get a meaningful boost over the Bionic, or similar hardware and new Android phones come up every few months(or more frequently!) Android 4.0(ICS) is going to start shipping on more devices in the upcoming months and if you can get better hardware with ICS stock you’ll be thanking me.
Score – Excellent! 9.8 out of 10
The Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX get a 9.8 out of 10 from me. The performance(especially battery life) is much better than I anticipated, the build quality is excellent and with Ice Cream Sandwhich around the corner it’s a no-brainer purchase if you’re looking for the best smartphone on offer.