Name: Motorola Atrix 4G
Price: $200 w/ Two-year contract
The Back Story: You've heard the talk, you've seen the commercials, and you've probably already peeped a couple of reviews, so by now you should have a good sense of what the Motorola Atrix 4G is all about. If not, here's a quick play-by-play.
Announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show alongside its tablet sibling, the Xoom, the Atrix 4G was touted as the fastest smartphone ever created. And if you were to look at its specs on paper, it rightly seemed to be: 1 Ghz dual-core processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and 16 GB of onboard storage. It looked to be a beast.
However, the bigger story regarding the Atrix was that it also boasted the distinction of being the first smartphone that could be used as a laptop. When plugged into its accessory laptop dock, users could, in theory, use the phone a full laptop. It all sounded too good to be true. So is it? We carried an Atrix around for a little over a week, here's what we found.
• It's fast as hell: Seriously. Motorola's claim of having the fastest smartphone in the world is up for debate, but what's not is the fact that the Atrix flies. Any activity went along without a hiccup. Web pages loaded without a hiccup, games chugged along smoothly, apps closed and opened quickly. Considering the 1 GHz dual-core chip inside paired with the 1GB of RAM, that's not too surprising.
• Slim, but solid: We expected a phone with a dual-core processor stuffed inside to be a bit pudgy, at least in its first iteration. But, no. The Atrix is a hair thicker than the iPhone 4. The case is made out of plastic that leaves it feeling a bit cheap in your hand, especially when compared with the iPhone, or even some Droid models, but unlike a lot of other plastic smartphones, the Atrix has a good heft to it, which makes up for the tinpot tactile experience.
• Good battery life: The other surprise came with the discovery that the Atrix could last me a full work day (10-7) without charging. And it also stayed with me as I hit some after work events and took pictures, tweeted, sent e-mails and text messages, and even—gasp!—talked on the phone.
• Bright, clear screen: The capacitive touchscreen found on the Atrix is what Motrola likes to call its qHD display. Covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass, the 960x540 resolution screen worked great. It was very responsive to our touches—not sure if that has to do with the specs or the screen—and it displayed videos beautifully.
• Dope desktop HD dock: If you store a lot of videos on your phone, the $130 HD dock is a must-have. Plugging into the HDMI port, it allows you to easily view and control all the videos you have on your phone through Motorola's Entertainment Center software. The interface is easy to use and nicely designed. Save for the buggy remote control, we found it to be a great way to kick back and watch a movie on your TV.
• HD video recording: The 5-megapixel still camera isn't spectacular, but it gets the job done. We more so enjoyed the 720p HD video recording. There's also a front-facing VGA camera that we didn't really get a chance to use.
NOPE:• Dock doesn't provide a true laptop experience: The idea of using your phone as a laptop is, in a word, awesome. We give props to Motorola for thinking that far into the future when phones are indeed powerful enough to be used as a standalone computer. Sadly, we're not there yet.
When the Atrix is plugged into the dock, your phone begins to charge (which is cool), and it takes you to Motorola's Webtop software suite. There you get a scaled down, linux-based operating system that gives you a really cool look at your phone's screen, and allows you to browse the Net through Firefox (why it's not Chrome, we have no idea).
We found the Webtop environment to be slow and unresponsive at times. Browsing websites through Firefox proved to much, much slower than doing the same on the Atrix.
There are no productivity apps available in Webtop, so if you wanted to, say, jot down some notes when you're on the go, you'd have to log in to Google Docs to do so, and do that is such a arduous process, you would be better off undocking the Atrix and typing your notes on the phone.
• Price: In order to get the full Atrix 4G experience—laptop dock, HD dock, keyboard and mouse controller—one would need to drop close to $1,000. You'd be better off getting an Atrix and a Xoom and a calling it a day.
Final Say: By and large, the Atrix 4G is one of the best, if not the best, smartphones on the market. Its a sleekly designed handset that has dual-core power we believe hasn't even been fully tapped yet. We feel safe in saying that buyers will be happy with this phone for a long while.
As for all the accessories? We say skip 'em. Instead of laying down $500 for a laptop dock that doesn't really act as a laptop, put that money towards a tablet or a netback. Instead of copping the HD dock, just get an HDMI cable. We like where Motorola's mind is, we just wish the execution was better.