Motorola Atrix 4G Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In
By Melanie Pinola
The Motorola Atrix 4G has been piquing a lot of interest as an Android smartphone that can transform – via a docking accessory – into a laptop. When docked, the device would have an 11.6-inch display, 8 hours of battery life, and a weight of just 2.4 pounds. But can the Motorola Atrix 4G, priced at $500 from AT&T for both the phone and dock, actually replace your PC?
Here’s a roundup of reviews for the Atrix smartphone and laptop combo device, including our own hands-on review:
The Atrix as a Smartphone
My PCWorld colleague Mark Sullivan notes in his review that “the Atrix itself is a strong addition to AT&T’s growing line up of Android phones.” He likes the power of the Atrix’s dual-core processor, as well as the smartphone’s clear display, rounded and svelte design, and faster-than-3G connection speeds.
Over at SlashGear, Vincent Nguyen also applauds the Atrix’s performance, calling it “one of the fastest Android handsets we’ve used to-date, blazing through webpage rendering and pinch-zooming, loading apps with barely any delay, sending Google Maps whipping across the screen and helping squeeze out some of the frustrating pauses that still leave some Android users looking enviously at the iPhone 4.”
Engadget‘s Joshua Topolsky likes the “sleek and rugged” design of the Atrix, as well as its impressive battery life, browsing performance, high resolution screen, and camera quality, saying “nothing is dinky about the Atrix 4G.” As for downers, he notes experiencing a handful of dropped calls (less than the number typically seen with the iPhone 4 on AT&T, however). The amount of bloatware on the Atrix and Motorola/AT&T’s lock down of the device to prevent flashing it with a custom ROM are also big disappointments for him.
Moving on to CNET, Bonnie Cha calls the Atrix “one of AT&T’s best smartphones to date,” highlighting the Atrix’s high-end features like HD video capture and playback., Design-wise, Cha thinks the Atrix is solid but, especially compared to Motorola’s Droid X and Cliq 2, “just lacks some of the finer details like a soft-touch finish on back.” She does note a big improvement with Motorola’s custom Motoblur user interface, however, saying it’s been enhanced to be much more useful.
Although most of the reviews were extremely positive when talking about the Atrix as a smartphone on its own, the main draw of the Atrix is its docking capability.
The Atrix as a Laptop
Although Sullivan says of the Atrix “Frankly, it’s a phone I would buy,” he’s disappointed with the docking experience. The Webtop interface is “awkward and unwieldy” and the keyboard “not very solidly built.” Moreover, AT&T’s HSPA+ cellular connection can’t keep up with the large screen’s graphics demands, he writes.
Nguyen confirms the “noticeable sluggishness” of the Atrix when docked, saying “the actual user experience is a mixed bag.” Design-wise, though, the SlashGear reviewer thinks the hardware is solid and the display “bright and reasonably clear.”
Topolsky continues his Engadget review with favorable marks for the laptop dock’s handsome design and solid build, but also notes a “quite frustrating” user experience, including the single touch trackpad and stiff buttons. In sum, he doesn’t see the value in the dock: “We wanted to love this dock, but at the price Motorola is asking and for the small amount of utility it actually provides, it seems clear to us that your money would be better spent on a tablet or decent netbook.”
Steve Kovach of Business Insider puts it bluntly: “the laptop dock feels like a waste. We can’t think of a single practical use for it.” Kovach does give some credit to the Atrix with dock for its thin and light form factor and the dock’s speakerphone capability, but his main reaction is that “The laptop dock feels like a $500 gimmick designed to prove that the Atrix phone is powerful enough to run a computer.”
Laptop‘s Brian Oliver Bennett had a more favorable experience, comparing using the docked Atrix to a netbook rather than a full-featured laptop: “While not as powerful as an Intel Core notebook, the Atrix 4G does provide the multitasking benefits of a netbook. […]We did notice lag from time to time, though–there’s a little delay when opening Firefox, and words would take a second longer to register in Google Docs, for example–but it wasn’t enough to hamper productivity.” The keys on the dock, he notes, are on the small side, but he was able to type relatively fast on it, albeit with more mistakes than on comparable 11-inch notebooks.
Finally, Cha had the most positive experience of these reviewers of the Atrix as a laptop, noting that the unique laptop dock is one of the main reasons CNET gave the Atrix the Best of CES Award in the cell phones and smartphones category. She “absolutely loved” the added functionality of the laptop dock, calling it “an intelligent and well-executed way to expand the capabilities of the smartphone. The integration was seamless, and it was wonderful to be able to type messages with a full keyboard and get the full browsing experience.” She concurs with other reviewers, though, in saying the big cost of the dock “will certainly be a turn off for many.”