• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Many of us have a smartphone and you no doubt have a computer - you may even have two. Do you find it frustrating that you have to cart all of them about - or indeed that you have stuff on your handset that you really want on your computer? It's a common complaint of technology users, and Motorola has tried to address it by releasing a smartphone that can be converted into something that seems like a computer - think a Transformers-style transformation! The Atrix offers plenty of power with its dual-core chip, plus a separately available set of accessories, to turn it into a laptop or media centre.  

First impressions

On first glance, the Atrix looks just like another handset - it has a black plastic body, rounded edges, a 4in touch-screen, and the specs you'd expect from a superphone - dual-core 1 GHz processor, 1GB RAM and a five-megapixel snapper with HD recording. On the front is a small VGA lens for making video calls, while on the left side is a HDMI port so you can view your content on a TV screen, plus microUSB for file transfer and charging. It's reasonably easy to hold - it measures 117.8x63.5x 11mm - and is just off being heavy, weighing in at 135g.

We must give a special mention to the power button, which sits on the back cover and also acts as a fingerprint sensor - great if you're concerned about the security of your phone - and you can use this to biometrically unlock your handset. It works well and also unlocks the phone quicker than any other method we've seen. There's the added security level of a back up PIN.

Motorola hasn't wasted lots of time on design - apart from the houndstooth-check pattern on the reverse; the Atrix is purely functional design-wise. What is most important is its ability to do all kinds of stuff - if you have the relevant accessories, that is.

The Atrix runs Android Gingerbread, although Motorola has pimped it up with its own Motorblur skin, which makes the device very streamlined. Wallpaper and icons all look pretty sharp on the 540x960 screen, and the widgets remind us of those on Windows Phone 7, with their clean straight lines. It is possible to increase the size of the widgets (not possible on other Android handsets) so you can see more information. However, even though the touch screen is really responsive, it's quite a clunky process. Once achieved, the widgets look good and lack the pixelation we experienced with the first few Motoblur devices.

Back to basics

Switch on the phone for the first time and you'll be asked to add your Facebook, email and Twitter details. They will be automatically synced with your phone contacts - it's frustrating that you can't choose to view only the contacts that have phone numbers though. This means you end up with a vast list of contacts - many of which only have email addresses.

Happily, using the text and dialler apps you can simply type the name of your chosen contact and the number details are automatically filled in, so you don't need to worry about it too much.

The Atrix has a number of widgets preloaded, which is great for first-time smartphone owners. You can see the latest developments on your Facebook and Twitter accounts in either a single or two separate boxes using the social networking widgets, plus you can add a widget that will show what you last wrote - tap on it to share more.

The Motorola Phone Portal allows you to manage and back up photos, messages, contacts and other phone details such as missed calls - this can be accessed via Wi-Fi or USB.

So, these are all pretty standard functions, so let's get onto its USP - the accessories (which are sold in a separate set). Using many of the accessories resulted in a number of software freezes, which saw pop-up windows refuse to shut down and the touch-display failing to respond. We either had to turn off the display - or shut down the whole device - to get it working again.

Laptop or not?

The Atrix can be plugged into a number of accessories but the most intriguing is the Lapdock - this is a Moto product that is actually a plastic replica of a real laptop - it has a battery and HDMI and microUSB plugs that fit into the handset. Attach it and you pretty much have a laptop at your disposal. Once done, the Webtop app automatically fires up on the handset and shows the dock's screen. This appears as a basic browser, with shortcuts for contacts book, dialler, messaging inbox (for social network and email messages) and the entertainment centre.

It is also possible to browse files on the device, but you'll find the file manager is actually an unadulterated list of all the files on the handsets.  Lots of these either can't - or shouldn't be - used, which will be disconcerting to anyone not used to poking around into the depths of their virtual archives. It's a common issue with Android devices - the tech savvy have lots of opportunities for tweaking and twiddling, but the average user can be befuddled.

When using the laptop accessory it's easy to forget you're actually using a phone - so it is particularly annoying when it suffers from a noticeable amount of lag in some programs. 

For example, the preloaded QuickOffice should be available to use with the lapdock for working on spreadsheets or documents, but it's really slow to get going. There is no cursor, so it's hard to see where you are - and there's about two seconds of lag between input and action, which makes the typing experience rather frustrating. Plus, the touchpad is a bit too big and means we kept swiping accidentally and sending our invisible cursor off into the middle of the text.

If you can get to grips with it, though, it's a really useful tool for typing texts and email replies - they pop up as notifications, which can be navigated to. If an incoming call arrives, it s possible to take it using the mic and speakerphone on the dock.

Films and internet

Surfing the net proved a smooth experience on the handset and lapdock - the browser's desktop-like features showed up well on the 11.6in display. Take the phone out of the lapdock and it can ‘remember' what programs you were using, so you can keep browsing on the handset.

The included video player is able to play most common file types, including DivX/Xvid, which is used for most of the compressed video online. It is also possible to playback in high-def, although we found we were unable to view much of the 720p content we downloaded, as it was in MKV format, which the player doesn't support. On the laptop dock, video appeared pretty smooth but we found the colours to be disappointing and less vibrant than we knew they should be, because of the display's 1366×768 pixel resolution.

Thanks to the presence of an HDMI port, it is possible to connect the Atrix up to a monitor or HDTV to see your content in a larger, more vibrant form. It is possible to shoot still images and record HD movies using the five-megapixel snapper, though we found both were somewhat overexposed. However, the phone is more than adequate for most spontaneous Facebook-friendly pictures you want to take. The camera also sports a dual flash, so low-light images come out okay.

The verdict

Motorola's Atrix proves itself a powerful smartphone, but will be outbeaten by the superphones due out later in the summer. Its USP is the ability to use it as a laptop, but while this is a great idea, it is disappointing in its execution. If you just consider it as a phone, it still comes up short because of those software freezes. And it just can't deliver when it comes to acting as a computer. This is a good idea, and eventually a phone that achieves the phone/computer double-whammy will no doubt appear at some stage, but for now, we'd suggest you simply use a Bluetooth keyboard with your existing phone.

Specifications

Specifications

Type of phone:

N/A

Style:

N/A

Size:

117.8x63.5x11mm

Weight:

135g

Display:

N/A colours

Resolution:

N/A

Camera:

Five megapixels

Special Camera features:

LED flash, auto focus

Video recording:

Yes

Video playback:

Yes

Video calling:

Yes

Video streaming:

Yes

Music formats played:

WAV, eAAC+, MP3, WMA

3.5mm jack port:

Yes

Handsfree speakerphone:

Yes

Voice Control:

Yes

Voice Dialling:

Yes

Call records:

N/A

Phonebook:

Unlimited

Ringtones customization:

N/A

Display description:

540x960 pixels

Website:

www.motorola.com

SAR:

N/A

Portfolio:

N/A

Standard color:

N/A

Launch Status:

Available

Ringtones:

N/A

Radio:

No

Operating system:

Android

Connectivity:

TV out, MicroUSB, A2DP, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Announced date:

January 2011

What's in the Box:

N/A

RAM:

1GB

International launch date:

April 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:

N/A

CPU:

1GHz

FM Radio Description:

N/A

Internal memory:

16GB

Memory Card Slot:

microSD

Messaging:

MMS, SMS, IM, Email

Internet Browser:

HTML

E-mail client:

IMAP4, Push email, Attachments, SMTP, POP3

GPS:

A-GPS

Java:

Yes

Games:

Yes

Data speed:

GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA

Frequency:

Quad-band

Talktime:

540 minutes

Standby:

350 hours

Display size:

Four inches

Keypad:

N/A

Audio recording:

Yes

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