The Motorola Razr Maxx is a marathon runner of a phone, with a whopping 3,300mAh battery lodged beneath its 4.3-inch display. Lots of big screen phones quickly tire the more you poke and prod the pixels, but the Maxx pledges to keep on going even after your eyes have crusted over with sleep.
Phone addicts will instantly recognise the look of the Maxx -- that's because the hardware is essentially last year's Razr with a bigger battery and chunkier body.
At the time of writing, pay monthly prices had not been announced, but judging by its specs, expect the Maxx to be pushing towards the higher end of the Android spectrum.
Should I buy the Motorola Razr Maxx?
This phone is the perfect pocket rocket for people who can't stop using their handsets and are always running out of battery.
As many a savvy CNET UK reader has pointed out, a stylishly thin slab of glass and metal with no juice left in the tank is just that -- a stylishly thin slab of glass and metal. The Razr Maxx doesn't have waifish supermodel looks but it has an awful lot of juice in its tank. So if battery life is your priority, you may well go mad about Maxx.
However, it's not all gravy. The Maxx drags its feet at times and its software interface has some clumsy edges. It also runs the Gingerbread operating system, rather than the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. Indeed, Moto recently slated ICS as bad for some phones. Those seeking a super-slick software experience -- or a speedy, sexy phone -- should look elsewhere.
But it's horses for courses. Speed freaks and aesthetes may be willing to trade a little battery life for a faster, prettier blower, but plenty of mobile users will prefer a phone they can be sure remains pokable and proddable at the end of a hard day (or even two, in the Maxx's case).
Alternative phones to consider at this SIM-free price include the perennially popular Samsung Galaxy S2 (now running ICS following an update), the blisteringly quick and slick HTC One S and -- if you're not joined at the hip to Google's OS -- the super-sexy and app-packed Apple iPhone 4.
As noted in the intro, the 'Maxx' in Razr Maxx is shorthand for 'maximum power'. Motorola has blessed this phone with a seriously beefy 3,300mAh battery (which, incidentally, can't be removed). Indeed, it claims this is the biggest battery in any commercial smart phone -- likening it to power tool battery packs. Phwoar!
Putting its mouth where its money is, Moto reckons you can yak away for a throat-croaking 17.6 hours on the Maxx before needing a plug socket to juice it up (you'll need to locate some Strepsils long before that). Standby time is a whopping 607 hours or some 25 days. Crivens!
If you're wondering how many films you can cram in before the Maxx croaks its last, Moto says the phone is good for 16+ hours of video playback. I tested this claim by loading up one of the longest videos on YouTube -- albeit, not an HD video -- and leaving the phone playing it back over Wi-Fi. I started this battery test at 6pm on a Thursday evening. When I got in to the office at 9am on Friday morning the phone was still going -- now displaying a 'battery at 5% or less' warning.
The Maxx continued to play the video until 10.30am when it finally powered off. So it managed a stonking 16.5 hours of video playback. That's a whole lot of episodes of Community.
If you're after a phone with extreme stamina, the Maxx is a very serious contender -- some may say the only one. Alternatively, you could of course grab yourself an equally fully featured smart phone that has a removeable battery and buy a spare or two to carry around.
Android creator Google now owns Motorola so you'd be forgiven for thinking Moto's hardware would come packing the very latest version of Android, right? Wrong. The Razr Maxx runs Gingerbread out of the box -- although it will apparently get an ICS update before July. Fingers crossed, Droid fans.
Since the Maxx is already knocking on the door of this update, why not stick ICS on there from the get go? It's certainly disappointing that the Maxx comes with the same Android version and Moto skin as its older sibling, the Razr. Hopefully this snafu won't last (too) long.
Motorola's Android skin delivers the familiar Android experience of multiple home screens (five in this case) to fill with apps and widgets, plus an apps view that can be sliced to show all apps, apps you've downloaded or recently used.
As Android skins go, this software lacks a certain visual finesse and polish. It's not as slick as HTC Sense 4.0, that's for sure. If you're the sort of person who gets offended by ugly fonts and clumsy-looking widgets, which insist on pointlessly pulsing with light every time you swipe, then the Razr Maxx will give you a migraine.
Continuing the clumsy theme, the Maxx's interface can be laborious to use. For example, icons can't be dragged together to create a folder -- you have to long-press the home screen, select 'folders' then select the type of folder you want to add. Likewise, changing the apps on the launcher bar means scrolling through a long list to find the app or function you want to add. Only three apps slots are customisable on this launch bar too.
And then there is the apps view. Here, to switch between 'all apps', 'recent' and 'downloaded', you have to tap once to dive into a menu, and again to select the data slice you want. Why Moto hasn't put these three options as tabs along the top of the menu -- thereby jettisoning that first pointless tap -- goodness only knows.
Instead of finessing its skin, Motorola has spent time and effort developing some extra functions in an attempt to add some of its own special sauce to Android.
First is Smart Actions -- a system that lets you set up rules that trigger custom actions. For instance, you can enable a low battery saver Smart Action that helps extend the life of the battery by dimming the screen, turning off GPS and suspending background updates -- or whatever functions you choose to select.
You can get seriously granular about these rules and actions, such as making your ringtone change the more calls you miss -- perhaps opting for increasingly irritating ringtones so they act as an audio cue to yourself that you really should pick up the phone. Or getting the Maxx to change its wallpaper to a photo that says 'I love my job' when you're at work.
If you're the sort of person who likes micro-fine control over all aspects of your digital existence, you'll love how much tweakability these Smart Actions give you. It really is heaven for control freaks.
Motorola has also added its MotoCast system to the Maxx. This allows you to link the phone with content you've stored on a laptop or PC/Mac so you can wirelessly view music, videos, documents and photos stored on your computer via the phone -- without having to sideload or download it first.
MotoCast can also be used to auto-upload photos taken with the phone to your PC -- a handy way to back-up your gallery. However, if you're worried about draining your mobile data allowance, you may want to avoid turning this on.
To get Moto Cast up and running you have to download and install the app on your computer and create an account. You then select the computer folders that you want to share with the phone. These then become accessible on the phone by tapping on the 'My files' app and selecting MotoCast computers, then drilling down into your folders and files.
While Moto Cast does work -- and is a pretty neat concept -- it's not without drawbacks. Most obviously, the computer you're accessing has to be on for you to get to the content -- so if you turn off your home PC or Mac when you head out to work, there's no chance of vicariously enjoying your movie selection during lunch break.
The Moto Cast interface is also rather spit and sawdust. Don't expect an uber-polished environment. For example, I couldn't find an obvious way to remove a Moto Cast account beyond factory resetting the device, although you can 'force stop' and 'clear data' in Moto Cast via the 'manage applications' menu. But neither option is exactly what I was after (and their functions would not be immediately obvious to less tech-savvy types).
I also noticed the phone gets rather warm during Moto Casting -- so I suspect it's probably a battery drain. Just as well the Maxx is blessed with a big one then.
Elsewhere on the software side, Motorola has added a handy Swype keyboard input method so you can drag your finger around the screen to quickly rattle out words, rather than tapping on individual letters.
And on the lock screen you get a toggle to switch the ringtone on or off, and two unlock options -- standard unlock or unlock and dive straight into the camera.
Processor and performance
The Razr Maxx has a dual-core 1.2GHz chip that puts it among the slower high-end handset chipsets. The phone can certainly feel laggy. If you're after a real Android powerhouse there are much quicker devices around. For example, HTC's One S has a 1.5GHz dual-core chip and was blisteringly fast when I tested it. Quad-core phones -- such as the HTC One X -- are also pushing into the market now, catering for graphically intense and multi-tasking use.
That said, the Maxx is not a terribly awful slouch and, with 1GB of RAM, it will serve its master with average speed and power requirements loyally enough.
Be warned though -- there's a fair amount of stuttering when web browsing, and full desktop versions of websites can take time to load and render. The gallery view is also noticeably juddery rather than silky smooth.
Still, apps don't take too long to load or download and browsing around the menus is fairly fast. The camera is also snappy when taking a photo (at under half a second).
In benchmark tests the Maxx put in a solid if not especially stellar performance. On Antutu's benchmark, it managed 5,893, while Quadrant's test yielded 2,447. On the Vellamo web browsing benchmark test, it scored 995. And on GL Benchmark's Standard Egypt test, the Maxx ran at 30 frames per second -- half the rate the HTC One S achieved.
In short, it's a perfectly servicable phone for most lightweight mobile uses. But if you have especially high power needs -- such as playing loads of graphically intense 3D games -- I'd recommend bagging a beefier device.
Screen, design and build quality
The Razr Maxx has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced qHD touchscreen display. As with other screens of this type, colours are bright and very vibrant, with an over-saturated appearance that you'll either love or hate. Blacks are nice and deep and it's certainly a great screen for watching video.
Resolution isn't bad -- at 540x960 pixels -- but be aware that the pixel per inch count is not as pin-sharp as some other displays around at this price. The screen on the Maxx is 256 pixels per inch, versus a whopping 342ppi on the Sony Xperia S, 312ppi on the HTC One X and 330ppi on the iPhone 4. HTC's One S offers the same pixel density as the Maxx.
Design wise, the Maxx is a chunkier version of last year's skeletally thin Motorola Razr. Physically, both phones are point-for-point identical except where the Razr has a distinctive bulge around its camera parts, the Razr Maxx has a much less pronounced swelling because it's thicker. Indeed, it's almost the same thickness all the way down.
At 8.99mm, the Maxx is still pleasingly slender in the hand and there's no risk of it feeling fragile. It's quite wide (68.9mm) so people with smaller hands may find it off-puttingly broad.
Overall, the Maxx is not a serious stunner in the looks department -- at least to my eye. It has, at best, a bland and businessy appearance, with shiny, gunmetal grey trim and Motorola's trademark Kevlar woven-look matte back.
There's far too much going on for the phone to win any minimalist design awards. The mix of materials covering the Maxx's surfaces includes Corning Gorilla Glass, rubberised plastic, shiny plastic/metal, grooved plastic/metal and matte Kevlar, while I count at least five different shades of grey, plus silver and black highlights. And then there are all the different sloping lines, bands and curves. It's a real visual hodgepodge.
On the plus side, the Maxx has been slathered with a nanotech water-repellent coating -- both outside and in -- so you shouldn't have to worry about taking it out in the rain or answering calls when you've got out of the bath.
Build quality seems solid, thanks to that toughened glass and not-too-rakish frame. Putting some twisting pressure on the phone does cause it to creak a little though. And the plastic door covering the microSD card and micro-SIM slot feels a tad cheap.
On the back of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera, plus a single LED flash. This lens is sited very close to the top edge of the phone so more than a handful of my test shots ended up being photobombed by fingers. You need to be aware where your digits are as you're snapping away.
Indoors, photo results were disappointing, with shots often appearing hazy and lacking crisp detail, while colours were lacklustre and dull. Lens flare can also be a problem. Even slightly low levels of light resulted in noise-speckled shots.
Outdoors in good strong light, the lens performed better. While it's not in the league of very high-quality cameraphone snappers -- such as the Sony Xperia S, the HTC One X, the iPhone 4S or even the iPhone 4 -- it can produce nice enough shots and will happily double as a basic point and shoot.
There's no dedicated camera button so you'll have to make do tapping the virtual shutter.
The Maxx can capture full 1080p HD video. And again, provided light levels are reasonably strong, you can get decent results.
There's also a front-facing camera for video calling.
Audio, storage and ports
On-board storage is 16GB, plus you can add a further 32GB via the microSD card slot.
The Maxx is not short of ports. As well as the aforementioned microSD and micro-SIM slots, which are tucked away behind a plastic door on the left side, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro-USB port for charging and funnelling media back and forth, and an HDMI port so you can plug the phone into a big(ger) screen. The latter three ports are all sited on the top edge.
The Razr Maxx's rear speaker sits near the top of the device. I found it had a tendency to distort at louder volumes so if you like pumping it up, prepare yourself for crackle -- or choose another phone.
Call quality was adequately clear and I didn't have any problems with dropped calls or other connectivity issues during testing.
My CNET UK colleague Andy Hoyle liked the original Motorola Razr when he reviewed it last year -- awarding it four stars. Since then, the smart phone market has continued its headlong drive for more speed and power, meaning the chip in the Maxx feels a bit last year, as does its Gingerbread-flavoured OS.
It's a shame Moto didn't load the Maxx with ICS and pair its super-powered battery with a slightly more powerful engine. But the focus here is all on the battery. If that's your priority, then the Razr Maxx is the marathon-running phone you've been waiting for. If you also value speed and style in a blower, there are slicker devices in the Android and iOS camps vying for your cash.
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