Don't let the Razr name fool you; this isn't a rehash of Motorola's popular clamshell device of the same name. It's a proper smart phone packing a high-definition 4.3-inch screen, a dual-core processor and a meaty 1GB of RAM.
It may not be running the latest version of Android, but if you're after a super-slim phone with a greedy slice of power, the Motorola Razr is worth checking out.
Should I buy the Motorola Razr?
The Motorola Razr provides a great combination of powerful components wrapped up in a deliciously slim body. If your sole reason for buying a phone is to turn heads at the smart phone parties (which everyone goes to these days), then the Razr is worth checking out.
It comes with a 4.3-inch screen that's bright, with bold colours and great definition. It's great for browsing the web, watching videos on YouTube or just checking out photos of Ryan Gosling. The touchscreen is very responsive too, which really helps for clicking on small links on web pages.
Sadly, the Razr doesn't come with the latest version of Android -- Ice Cream Sandwich -- which is designed to run happily on both phones and tablets. We're already seeing the first wave of top-end smart phones coming out with this software so your shiny new Razr will immediately be a step behind the rest.
Although Android updates are sometimes applied to existing handsets, it's unlikely to happen with the Razr any time soon as Motorola has heavily customised the Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread software that currently sits on it. Moto isn't going to want to go through all that hassle again in a hurry, so don't ICS before 2012.
The Android experience you get though is smooth, with the usual multiple home screens on offer for you to fill up with all the apps and live widgets you could want. As Motorola has tweaked the basic software so much, there'll be a few new tricks to learn, even for those already familiar with Android. But it does offer some attractive benefits in the form of extensive social network integration, dictation options for writing texts and a handy grid for displaying your favourite contacts for quick access.
The Razr packs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM. That is certainly above average for a smart phone, but isn't the sort of grunt you'd get from the HTC Sensation XE's 1.5GHz dual-core chip.
Performance was very nippy though and we found no delay when swiping between home screens and opening apps, even when running demanding tasks in the background.
Although it's certainly packing some heat, it's not offering much of an improvement in performance -- or indeed size -- over the Samsung Galaxy S2, which can be yours for free on cheaper contracts than the Razr. We've also heard recently that the S2 is due to get Ice Cream Sandwich updates, which will bring it into line with the top smart phone players again.
With the S2 offering such similar specs for a lower price -- and with an expected software update -- it's difficult to advise opting for the Razr. However, it's still a swish bit of kit so read through our full review to see whether it's right for you.
Design and build quality
The first thing you're likely to notice about the Motorola Razr is how thin it is. It measures a super-slender 7.1mm in thickness. That knocks a couple of millimetres off the similarly slim Samsung Galaxy S2.
Don't assume it'll slide unquestioningly into those skinny jeans though; there's a hump. Literally. A bulge at the top of the phone houses the camera unit, flash and loudspeaker. We understand why Motorola needed to make a part of the phone thicker, but it looks as though it's grown up with bad posture.
Having said that, the hump does act as a finger rest and helps make a large phone a little easier to keep hold of if you're walking along the street in a hurry.
The Razr may look skinny and liable to snap in the face of stern words, but build quality feels pretty solid. There were no signs of flex or nasty creaking when we poked and bent it. Motorola tells us it's woven with Kevlar fibre. That looks good on paper but it doesn't add much -- it's not going to stop a bullet.
At only 127g, the Razr is very light. So light, in fact, that it's often easy to forget that it's in your pocket, especially as it isn't embarrassingly bulging out of your jeans. Make sure you keep an eye on it -- it's all too easy for a phone like this to fall out of your pocket as you sit down on the bus or in a taxi. It doesn't have the physical presence to indicate to you that there's something missing from your trousers.
If this phone came out in 2010, we'd have gawped open-mouthed at the 4.3-inch screen. Nowadays, that size isn't extraordinary, especially in the face of goliaths like the HTC Titan, which packs a 4.7-inch screen. In fact, it's really only Apple that is still chugging along with a 3.5-inch screen on its iPhone 4S.
The Razr's Super AMOLED screen has a resolution of 540x960 pixels, which is supremely sharp. At 256 pixels per inch, it's not quite matching the iPhone 4S's 640x960 pixels -- which is more impressive as it's on a much smaller screen, equating to 330ppi -- but it's pretty close. Most people won't notice -- or care about -- the difference.
The screen is extremely bright; it's easy to use the phone in direct sunlight. It does a great job with colours, offering deep black levels. So if you often watch high-definition YouTube videos on the go, the Razr will hold up well. The clarity of the screen means that web pages and small text appear crisp and sharp so you can read comfortably for fairly long periods of time.
When Google bought Motorola's mobile division earlier this year, we assumed we'd see new Motorola blowers pre-packed with the latest, shiniest version of Android from the word go. Instead, the Razr runs the older Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread operating system.
Gingerbread is the version of Android designed for mobile phones, rather than the latest tablet-specific Honeycomb software. It's sadly a little behind the times though as Ice Cream Sandwich is beginning to roll out on new high-end devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Gingerbread has always worked well on phones so we aren't expecting to see anything wrong as such -- we just can't help but feel that this top-end phone is already a little behind the times.
The Gingerbread experience on the Razr isn't one that will be familiar to those of you who've used Gingerbread phones before. Motorola has clearly spent a lot of time tweaking everything it can to make it stand a good distance apart from the vanilla line-up of cheaper phones.
The interface Motorola has concocted is a pleasant one, so don't be worrying that you'll be doing battle with clunky, awkward software. However, it does mean that if you're well versed with Android Gingerbread that there will be a few new things for you to learn.
It's possible that Motorola and Google will push out an update for the Razr, bringing it up to speed with the latest versions of Android. Updates can be slow to get emerge -- even on high-end devices -- as they're sometimes hampered by Google, the phone manufacturer itself or even your network carrier. It would be quite a task for Motorola to totally re-skin Ice Cream Sandwich for the Razr, making all the same changes we've seen on its Gingerbread skin, but we live in hope.
As is common with Android, the Razr offers you multiple home screens -- in this case, five of them -- to fill with app icons. Rather than the screens being simply pages of apps, like you'd find on iOS, you can also have various widgets that show live information.
For example, the Razr comes pre-loaded with a social networking widget that, once you've signed in to your various accounts, shows friends' status updates from sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These live widgets are particularly handy for quickly seeing what's going on with your mates without having to load up various apps.
There's a whole bunch of widgets you can get from the Android app store that will show live information pulled from weather services, news outlets or more personal ones; for example, a widget can be set to cycle through your favourite photos from your camera roll. Widgets can be re-sized too to take up either a small corner of the screen or dominate half a page.
Pressing and holding your finger on a widget 'unlocks' it from the home screen it's on, allowing you to move it around or re-size it. You can group widgets and apps on one page or wherever you find them most convenient. It may seem a little overwhelming -- especially if you're new to Android -- but spend some time with your phone when you first get it and you'll learn the tricks easily enough. From then on you can personalise to your heart's content.
Motorola has crafted a handy drop-down grid that allows you to put in your favourite contacts. Now you don't need to navigate through your whole contacts book in order to send a quick text to your best mate about why you found the latest episode of X Factor so hateful. They probably know anyway.
If you're one of those socialite types, you'll be happy to hear that Motorola has sewn social networks into most areas of the Razr. When viewing a picture in your gallery, for example, tap an icon that looks like two arrows -- we guess that indicates sharing -- and you'll be given the option of uploading that image to a variety of social networks. The same icon is found in various other locations; the one next to the URL bar on websites allows you to tell the whole world what you're reading online. Just be careful what exactly you're telling people.
Android has a handy notification centre that you pull down from the top of the screen with a swipe. It contains notifications about text messages, missed calls and alerts from your apps and social networks. It's handy to see what you've missed all in one place -- especially for text messages -- as the Razr only weakly buzzed when we received a text; it didn't light up either.At the bottom of the phone are four touch-sensitive buttons for navigational tasks when you're elbow-deep in the phone. Pressing the home button when you're on the home screen shows a handy zoomed-out view of all the home screens so you can easily pick one to view without having to flick between them all.
Whichever home screen you're on, there are always four main app icons shown at the bottom of the screen. It's best to pop in your most used apps such as messaging and camera to grant instant access whenever you need them. As standard, the phone icon isn't in this bar but is instead hidden among all the other apps; this was slightly confusing when we came to actually wanting to make a call.
Tap the Apps button and you're taken to a screen showing your installed apps. There's quite a lot of stuff that comes pre-installed on the Razr, including gems like Angry Birds and the Amazon Kindle app. It also has Quick Office, which is handy for typing out a document on the go. Alternatively, treat yourself to some spreadsheet fun on your lunch break.
As an Android phone, Google has installed a few of its own apps such as Maps, Places, Latitude and even Navigation, which is a particularly handy app for giving turn-by-turn directions whilst driving.
Keyboard and voice control
Typing using the on-screen keyboard is fairly comfortable although it will take some getting used to if you're more familiar with the keyboard on the iPhone. This is mostly down to the different ways that punctuation and numbers are dealt with while typing. The space bar is much smaller than we'd like, which can prove awkward if you're typing out a long message, especially when you hold the phone in portrait mode.
Thankfully though, the Razr has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, Swype functionality has been built into the OS, which allows you to draw your finger across the keyboard rather than jabbing at individual letters. We found this method works incredibly well and it rarely picked the wrong words. We quickly got used to it and were able to write long texts faster than we could using normal typing.
When you hold it in portrait mode, Swype becomes even easier; you can hold the phone relatively comfortably in one hand and drag your thumb across the letters.
If you'd rather give your thumbs a break, you can press a little microphone icon on the keyboard and dictate your text. We've seen speech-to-text on many devices and it hasn't always worked well but the Razr managed to do a pretty good job of it. When we spoke clearly at the phone, it understood our words almost perfectly.
You have to give commands for any formatting (such as full stops and commas), but it's still a helpful extra if your hands are busy with an Xbox 360 controller and a beer. It does have a habit of starring out any naughty language you might decide to use. It clearly knows what these words are but tries hard to teach you a lesson about good manners. Thanks, Mum. If you're vexed enough to want to offload some foul curses, then you'll have to type them by hand or make up ones the phone doesn't know.
You can use your beautiful voice anywhere you would normally type too, including emails, text messages and in the URL and search bars in the browser. It's not a voice control system like Siri on the iPhone 4S, but apps such as Vlingo offer similar functionality -- although neither Siri nor Vlingo are exactly the game-changing technologies we'd hoped they would be.
Browsing on the Razr is made enjoyable partly by the large, clear screen and partly from the power under the hood. We ran the Sunspider Java benchmark test, which gives an indication of how well a phone can render web pages. We were given a score of 2,045; that slightly undercuts the iPhone 4S's score of 2,181 (a lower number is better).
We found browsing to be swift, with web pages rendered quickly and accurately. The Super AMOLED screen allows pictures to be shown at their bright and colourful best. Whatever you're looking at will be a treat for the eyeballs.
The box where you type a website URL also functions as the search box -- something familiar to those of you who use Google's Chrome web browser. As there isn't a dedicated search box, it seems much less cluttered and allows you to see what you're typing a little easier. Of course, you can hit the microphone icon and say your search term aloud -- just don't search for anything embarrassing while waiting for the bus.
The web browser on the Razr supports Flash for playing embedded video -- something that isn't offered on the iPhone. Previously, we'd have said that this was a significant bonus for Android smart phones as any video found on web pages -- including CNET UK's wonderful videos section -- can be played using the Flash player.
However, Adobe recently announced that it would be dropping Flash support for mobile devices to focus instead on using HTML 5 for web video. That is exactly what Apple has been demanding for a long time. It's going to be a while before all the kinks get ironed out though so you can happily lord it over the iPhoners with your web-based video capabilities for now.
Processor and battery performance
The Razr is packing meaty specs under its slim hood. You get a 1.2GHz dual-core processor with a swish 1GB RAM.
Any smart phone worth its salt nowadays comes with a dual-core processor to help tackle demanding 3D games, so we threw some tests in its face to see what power it's really holding.
On the Quadrant benchmark test, the Razr managed to edge out the score of the HTC Sensation XE with Beats Audio, which packs a 1.5GHz dual-core processor but a lesser 768MB of RAM. It didn't, however, manage to beat the Samsung Galaxy S2.
In general use, the Razr felt very fast indeed. Home screen transitions were handled very smoothly and apps opened quickly, even with demanding processes running. Of course, once you load it up to the brim with apps and live widgets you'll find it slowing down as it has more to cope with, but it certainly gets off on a good footing.
Batteries are always an area of irritation on smart phones. High-performance processors suck the juice down faster than the CNET UK team at the Ribena factory. Generally, if you can survive a whole day with average use, you've done well.
We ran a constant loop of high-definition video on the Razr and timed how long it took for the battery to die, which was 7 hours 30 minutes. We're pleased with that. If you use the phone sensibly -- sending a few texts and emails, a bit of music and video perhaps -- you'll be able to get through a whole day.
If you make use of a lot of web browsing on wireless networks and spend a while on the phone to your mum, you'll find that the battery will run out quickly. As it can't be replaced, there's no option for you to carry a spare.
On the back of the Razr you'll find an 8-megapixel camera, coupled with an LED flash. It'll also capture your video at a 1080p resolution. On paper, this snapper is on a par with the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 in terms of resolution.
We headed out into the wilds of West London to see what results you might expect from the camera.
We found the photos to be hit and miss. On some of our shots, we achieved a nice, even exposure with nicely balanced colours. The above photo shows an even tone with the sky being accurately exposed.
However, on other shots, the camera was unable to take an accurate reading of the scene. This resulted in blown-out highlights from the sky as the camera focused on exposing for the darker trees. We were disappointed with the metering (reading of the light) of the Razr's camera as the over-exposure resulted in the rich, warm colours of the autumnal trees being lost. This left us with a rather cold photo.
The Razr has various scene modes such as sport, landscape and portrait to help you get the best out of each situation. We switched to the macro mode for the close-up shot below. The camera was able to focus quickly and accurately, producing a photo with pleasing sharpness and definition. It still didn't provide the warmth of colour that was present in the scene. This wasn't helped by a total lack of white balance settings on the camera's interface.
Using the camera indoors, we were again given sharp results, but the images were darker and with a more orange hue than was actually there. Again, this would have been helped by manual white balance settings.
With the flash on, the scene was lit very well, with no glare to speak of from the objects we had placed. It lacked a lot of colour depth, but the overall quality and clarity of the image was maintained, which was good to see. It would certainly do the trick for shots of your friends in a dingy bar.
Results with video were much the same. The overall quality was good with even small details in the leaves being maintained. Sadly, colours were very cold and the clip we shot really didn't do the scene justice.
Movement wasn't dealt with particularly well, resulting in a slightly jumpy picture throughout quick pans. If you're wanting a camera for some sports video, the Razr probably won't do the trick. There's an in-camera anti-shake mode that lends a steadying hand for most scenes, but when you're walking at night (as we were in this video), the lower frame rate -- required to let enough light into the sensor -- resulted in a very bumpy video.
The camera does a fair job overall and if you just want a few snaps of your cat doing something adorable or your drunk friends doing something less adorable, it will suit you fine. On the other hand, if a great camera on your phone is top of your priorities, the Razr might not cut the mustard.
The Motorola Razr packs impressive specs inside a super-slim body that's bound to appeal to the fashionistas who want the latest tech in their skinny jeans. Sadly, it's not running the latest version of Android and it's unlikely that an update will be along before 2012.
While it may be packing powerful components, it's not giving you a boost in performance over the Samsung Galaxy S2. As you can get the latter handset for free on cheaper contracts, it's difficult to recommend the Razr over Samsung's offering.