Motorola Droid Razr Review: Thin and Fast, but Short on Battery Life
By Ginny Mies
At a Glance
Thin, sturdy design
Verizon LTE is ridiculously speedy
Dual-core processor keeps phone running smoothly
Dismal battery life
The thin and elegant Motorola Droid Razr is smoking when it comes to data speeds and performance, but the short battery life is a disappointment.
It’s baaaack: Motorola has resurrected the Razr brand with the Droid Razr ($300 with a new two-year contract with Verizon; price as of 11/7/11). With its 4.3-inch display, LTE connectivity, and dual-core processor, the Droid Razr is a far cry from the original flip-style Motorola Razr. What it does have in common with the original Razr, however, is a superthin, tough design. It is an almost perfect phone, but the overall experience is marred by its short battery life.
(Editor’s Note: This review has now been updated to include formal battery test results)
Tough, Thin Design
Many years ago, I owned a hot pink Motorola Razr phone. I loved it–maybe a little too much–because I put that thing through a lot. I dropped it, got it wet, carelessly threw it into my bag, and somehow, it still held up despite my torture.
Motorola has carried over that toughness to the Droid Razr, but without compromising its looks (or thickness). The front of the phone is all Corning Gorilla Glass with a diamond-cut Motorola nameplate. When I met with Motorola product managers back when the original Razr launched, they informed me that its design had been inspired by elements found in high-end watches.
The soft-touch back is made out of Kevlar, a material found in high-end speedboats, bulletproof jackets, and bicycle tires. According to Motorola, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel. Using Kevlar on a phone seems a bit, well, weird, but I was surprised with how delicate it felt and how attractive it looked. It feels solid, but not bulky–it measures 5.5-by-2.71-by-0.28 inches thick. For comparison, the iPhone 4S is 0.37 inches thick, while the Galaxy Nexus is 0.35 inches thick. The Droid Razr weighs a manageable 4.48 ounces.
The solid feel comes from the Droid Razr’s stainless steel core. It also has splashguard technology, which will protect it if you happen to get caught in the rain or spill something on your phone.
Super AMOLED Display
We’ve knocked other Motorola smartphones, such as the Photon (Sprint) and the Droid Bionic (Verizon) in the past for its PenTile displays. The Droid Razr, however, ships with a 4.3-inch qHD (Quarter High Definition), 960-by-540-pixel Super AMOLED display. According the Motorola, the Super AMOLED technology should solve some of the battery issues associated with LTE phones. This technology has lower current consumption, which helps to conserve battery life.
The Droid Razr’s display has excellent viewing angles and visibility outdoors, two trademarks of Super AMOLED technology. Blacks are very deep and whites are bright, but colors look a bit oversaturated (another trademark of Super AMOLED display technology.
I did a side-by-side comparison of the Droid Razr against the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S has a slightly higher resolution at 960-by-640, with a pixel density of 330 pixels per inch (I could not find any pixel density information for the Razr). While I appreciated the extra screen real estate on the Razr, the iPhone 4S’s 3.5-inch display looked sharper, with better color accuracy.
The Droid Razr runs Android 2.3.5. It isn’t a pure version of Android, but it isn’t Motorola’s busy (and often annoying) custom overlay/service, MotoBlur. It does retain some of the MotoBlur widgets. The interface is almost identical to that of the Droid Bionic, but with a few tweaks. The widgets are resizable, and you can scroll through them; in the calendar widget, for example, you can scroll through a whole day’s worth of events rather than viewing one event at a time.
Like the Bionic, you get the ZumoCast app/service, though here it has been renamed MotoCast. MotoCast lets you access remote files on your PC without having to upload or sync your files. You can access everything from PowerPoint files to your iTunes playlists on your Razr. Even though the Razr has plenty of capacity (1GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, and a preinstalled 16GB MicroSD card), I find it nice to be able to access videos, documents, photos, and other media files without having to download them to the device or upload them to a cloud service.
Motorola is determined to solve the LTE battery life situation. Smart Actions, a new app, lets you set reminders to notify you when you should recharge your phone (for example, when you go to bed). If you forget to plug your phone in, you can set a Smart Action called “Nighttime Battery Saver,” which adjusts your phone’s network and screen settings to make your battery last longer the next day.
Smart Actions aren’t just about saving battery life. You can create different profiles (Work, Home, Workout, and so on) and set rules for each scenario. If you don’t want your phone to ring out loud when you’re at work, you can set a rule called Quiet Location so your phone automatically goes into silent mode during work hours. Overall, Smart Actions is an easy-to-use, clever app. Although you’ll have to spend a bit of time setting up the rules for each profile, once that’s done, Smart Actions will make all the adjustments for you.
The Razr has an 8-megapixel camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 1080p video capture. The camera’s user interface is much cleaner than those on previous Motorola smartphones.
Motorola claims that the camera has almost zero shutter lag. This is pretty much true; images are processed a split-second after you take them. Unfortunately, the touch-to-focus feature takes a bit of time to process, and I ended up with a few blurry photos during my tests. This is an issue if you’re trying to capture fast-moving subjects like kids or dogs.
Overall, my photos looked good, but not perfect. All of them seemed to have a bit of a dark cast to them–even photos taken in natural light. Details weren’t as sharp as I would have liked, either. The flash tends to blow out colors and details quite a bit, so use it only when absolutely needed.
In our subjective lab tests of video quality, Motorola phones have always done quite well. The Razr is no exception, producing smooth videos captured at 1080p resolution.
Performance: Fast, But Battery Life Is Sad
We already know Verizon’s 4G LTE network is superfast when you have connectivity. Luckily, we have good coverage in San Francisco (where PCWorld is located), and the Droid Razr got some pretty fast speeds. Using the FCC-approved Ookla app in various parts of the city, I found that the Droid Razr achieved an average of 1.98 MBps for download speeds and 3.01 MBps for upload speeds.
The 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor was similarly impressive. I ran the Vellamo mobile benchmarking app for Android (an app made by Qualcomm) on the Droid Razr and was surprised by the results. The Droid Razr got a score of 1040, putting it above the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Evo 3D. Apps launched quickly and ran smoothly. Scrolling through apps and menus was fluid, and no apps crashed during my hands-on time.
In our formal battery tests, the Droid Razr got 6 hours and 49 minutes of battery life. This is actually quite good compared to other phones we’ve tested. It is important to note, however that our battery tests are conducted with the phones connected to our Wi-Fi network. In my hands-on use, while I was connected to Verizon’s 4G network, I felt like the battery life drained rapidly. Games like Minecraft killed the battery, and when I streamed a video clip longer than 5 minutes, I noticed significant loss. I also noticed that it took quite a long time to recharge the Razr.
Call quality was very good over Verizon’s network in San Francisco. I got coverage almost everywhere I went and never experienced any dropped calls. My friends and family sounded loud and clear, with no static or distortion. They reported similarly pleasurable experiences on their end.
Like the Droid Bionic and the Photon, the Droid Razr is compatible with a slew of accessories, such as the LapDock 500 Pro, a laptop-like portal for the phone. The LapDock 500 Pro has a 14-inch display and a front-facing camera. When you connect to the Webtop dock, you can access the full Firefox browser as well as lots of specially made productivity apps. Other accessories include an HD Station, a vehicle navigation dock, and a standard dock.
The Droid Razr is Motorola’s best Android phone to date. The TI OMAP 1.2GHz processor paired with Verizon’s blazing LTE speeds makes for an incredibly powerful phone. Its unique design, reminiscent of the original Razr, is also a success, and the Super AMOLED display is a step up from the PenTile displays of other Motorola phones. Battery life is a big issue, though, as it is for almost all dual-core LTE phones. In our battery life lab tests of other Android phones, almost every phone we tested did poorly. One exception was the Samsung Galaxy S II, however. If you’re trying to decide between the Droid Razr and the imminent Galaxy Nexus, battery life might be a deciding factor. We don’t yet have a Galaxy Nexus in-house, but if its battery life is on a par with the Galaxy S II, it might be the winner in the great Android arms race.