Nov 16 AT 1:55 PM Anthony Domanico 27 Comments

The Motorola DROID RAZR was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public last week. The DROID RAZR picked up where the original RAZR left off, attempting to bring a 4.3″ superphone in an incredibly thin package. Though they managed to keep the phone slim and sleek, the RAZR also offers solid protection, with Gorilla Glass protecting the main display, and Kevlar coating protecting the RAZR’s backside.

Only 3 days after launch, the RAZR received its first dose of competition when Verizon released the powerful HTC Rezound with Beats Audio. The competition is not letting up either, with the Android flagship Galaxy Nexus set to launch on Big Red in the next few weeks. Does the DROID RAZR do enough to set itself apart from these devices? Read on for our full review.

1. Battery Life

Battery life has been the Achilles heel of all of Verizon’s 4G LTE smartphones to date. We have yet to find a device that can get us through the work day without needing to be plugged into an outlet somewhere along the way. Without adjusting any settings on the device, the DROID RAZR looked to fall in line with this trend, netting me about 6-8 hours of moderate use before needing to scramble for my power cord.

With the RAZR, Motorola (and/or Verizon) decided to combat this trend with an easy to use tool called Smart Actions. Smart Actions is an application that allows you to either build your own or select from a list of pre-set rules that control the settings of your device. You can set your phone to vibrate via location, turn your ringer off after a certain time at night, launch the news in the morning, and most importantly, set your device in battery saver or battery extender modes to maximize your battery life.

For purposes of testing battery life, I have the battery extender and low battery saver functions active. The low battery saver dims my display to 25%, turns GPS off, and disables background sync when my battery is at less than 20% and is not currently charging. The battery extender simply turns off GPS and background sync when the display is off, the phone is not charging, and the device is not moving around.

So what have these two settings done for my battery life? I’ve been using the RAZR like I normally do in a day, and I still have 30% battery after 14 hours of use. With only a few tweaks, I was able to double my battery life and in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with my normal usage.

As a result, the DROID RAZR is the first 4G LTE smartphone to receive a positive rating in the battery life category.

2. Performance

The DROID RAZR is running a 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4430 processor and the RAZR was easily able to handle any task I threw at it quickly and with ease. Applications and games ran smoothly, video playback was excellent, and lagging was nowhere to be found.

Though there will certainly be (and indeed, already are) phones out there that have faster and arguably better processing power, the DROID RAZR does not disappoint in the performance department.

3. Call Quality

First and foremost, the RAZR is a phone. In an era where many individuals use their cell phones as home phone replacements, it’s important that these devices make proper phone calls. (You’ll be happy to know that I was able to make and receive calls without a hitch)

While testing the RAZR, I looked at both call quality and speakerphone quality, and found both to be very good. On the call quality end, I was able to hear people on the other end of the line loud and clear, and they reported being able to hear me as well. No static, no hiccups, everything just worked.

The speakerphone was about as good as we’ve seen from other Android devices. The voices were a little tinny or muffled some of the time, but overall the device performed well and calls made via speakerphone were clear most of the time.

4. Display

Though there have been other sites that have dinged the RAZR in this category because of how poor text looks when zoomed in on a single letter, we note that the display on the RAZR is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vivid, making viewing websites, running applications, reading books, and viewing video content an enjoyable experience.

Never was this more apparent than when placing my Photon 4G next to the DROID RAZR. The RAZR’s 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED Advanced display put my Photon to shame, and anyone who tells you the display on the RAZR is subpar should be on the next train to the looney bin.

I can’t say this enough; if you purchase the DROID RAZR, you will not be disappointed in the display, as it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen in a long time.

5. Build Quality

The RAZR is the thinnest LTE device on the market to date, and is easily one of the thinnest devices period. In order to protect this level of thinness on most of the device, the RAZR has the same lip we’ve come to expect from the DROID X series. The camera, microUSB and microHDMI ports are at the top of the device, pushing the power button to the right side along with the volume rocker.

Though the RAZR is thin, the phone feels solid in the hand. Oh, and it is toting Kevlar backing. Motorola really didn’t scrimp on the build quality for the RAZR, and for that we give it a plus one for this section.

6. Software - Motorola's Don't call me BLUR UI

I know what you’re thinking – no, I’m not giving up on my “don’t call me BLUR” moniker. It just sounds cooler than Motorola’s Gingerbread UI overlay. I’m sure by now you’re sick of hearing about GingerBLUR, so we’ll keep this section short, sweet, and to the point.

Motorola has come a long way from the MOTOBLUR days, and the Gingerbread version of Motorola’s oft-criticized overlay really tones down the things that caused BLUR to fail so hard in the past. If the thought of BLUR gives you the shudders, you may want to reconsider. Perhaps it’s done more than its fair share of growing on me, but I’d happily call GingerBLUR one of my favorite UI overlays (though I still want Motorola to go stock Android.

7. Camera Quality

Most people out there want their cameras to reliably replaces the need for a standard point and shoot camera. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet, and the DROID RAZR particularly fails to impress except when under ideal lighting conditions. When taking pictures indoors, the resulting images turned out grainy and a little distorted, even when the flash was engaged. Outdoor photos and videos in normal sunlight turned out much better.

You can check out a few sample photos from the RAZR’s camera in the gallery below, as well as the following sample video. If you do pick up the DROID RAZR, you’ll probably want to hang on to that point and shoot. Overall, we’ve dinged the RAZR another half point for camera quality.

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8. 4G LTE

We’ve not tried to hide the fact that Verizon has the biggest, fastest, wide-reaching, and all around best 4G network by far. Even with more and more devices on Verizon’s network, I still manage to experience data speeds around 12-20 mbps down, 3-10 mbps up. Simply put, Verizon’s LTE network provides many of its users with faster internet connections than they have in their own home.

The best part of Verizon’s LTE network is that it penetrates buildings better than any other carrier’s 4G network. I regularly have 3-4 bars of Verizon 4G in areas where I revert to 3G or Edge on Sprint/T-Mobile. AT&T has an LTE network as well, though it’s only live in a handful of markets at this point in time.

9. Non-Removable Battery

Though Motorola included the Smart Actions application as a means to boost the RAZR’s battery life, they removed the ability to remove the backplate and change out the battery. If your battery goes bad, or you want to get an extended battery, you’re simply out of luck.

Honestly, this move baffles me. Every single Android device I’ve used has required me to pull the battery to reset the device when it was acting up (as most smartphones tend to do from time to time). Pulling the battery was a simple and effective solution that always fixed whatever ailment was plaguing the device, and the device always ran smoother after a hard reset.

You can still do a hard reset by holding down the Power and Volume down buttons, and hopefully that will work 90-100% of the time, but not allowing users to pull their battery (or have a second battery/extended battery) is simply a puzzling move on Motorola’s part, and several users will likely be turned off by this. As a result, we’ve docked the RAZR another half point in this category.

10. NFC (or lack thereof)

Google is doing some wonderful things in Ice Cream Sandwich, specifically when it comes to NFC. The fact that the DROID RAZR does not include an NFC chip prevents it from doing things like using your cell phone to pay for things at multiple stores via Google Wallet, payments between Android devices, or unlock your house if you left your keys inside. The lack of NFC gives the RAZR a ding in this category.

Final Thoughts

Motorola Droid RAZR7.5 / 10

I wanted to like the RAZR more than I actually ended up liking the RAZR. The RAZR is a solid device, and performs very well in most areas that matter, but fails to impress in one of the most important areas – camera quality.

With the HTC Rezound already out, and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus coming soon, the RAZR finds itself facing pretty massive competition, and has only its sleek, thin body and battery extending Smart Actions application as its primary differentiating factors. We should have our review of the HTC Rezound up in the next week or so, and will get some hands-on time with the Galaxy Nexus after that. If these phones perform as well as we expect them too, the RAZR just might be left behind when it comes to sales.

The DROID RAZR is currently available for Verizon Wireless for $299.99 with new 2 year contract.

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Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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