DROID RAZR HD and DROID RAZR MAXX HD review: Being unplugged never felt so good


It was a year ago when the RAZR was resurrected from the dead as the DROID RAZR, the thinnest smartphone in the world. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of months later, Motorola shocked the world again with the DROID RAZR MAXX that sported an unprecedented 3300mAh battery in an 8.99mm body, a feat that no other manufacturer has been able to match. Even with these accomplishments, the press never really embraced Motorola. It has now been a year and it’s time for the next generation, which means a bigger and better display, as well as more power. The DROID RAZR HD (priced at $199) and the DROID RAZR MAXX HD (priced at $299) are all of those things, but are these phones too late to the party and will they enjoy the same success as the originals? This is my full review on both phones, but you can also check out my initial hands on for each one (RAZR HD and RAZR MAXX HD).

Note: I may not always refer to these as DROIDs (too much redundancy), but they are indeed the DROID models, which are identical to the versions sold on other carriers.

Design

Motorola has always been about quality. There are times when they may have had some quirky designs, but they always had a great build. Both the DROID RAZR HD and DROID RAZR MAXX HD is no exception. In fact, they might be the finest phones Motorola has every made. It all starts with the Kevlar coating that has been synonymous with Motorola phones since the DROID RAZR. There are some that feel it’s ugly, but there are some that appreciate that it’s something you won’t find on other phones. I think Motorola has refined their Kevlar finish as it isn’t as slippery as in the past and it now has more of a grip-like texture. Then there is the aluminum band that you will find around the edges that really dress it up. The fit and finish is absolutely superb and this is by far the best quality Android phone since the HTC One X.

Both phones are identical except for thickness. The DROID RAZR HD comes in at 8.4mm and the RAZR MAXX HD comes in at 9.3mm. The obvious reason for the difference is the MAXX sports the bigger battery. With this difference, it’s still hard to tell which phone is which. I found myself going to the settings and “about phone” to make sure I was looking at the right one.

So for both phones, you will find the microphone jack at the top right. Along the right side top, you will find the power button and below that, the volume rocker. The left side sports the slot for the LTE SIM card and microSD card, of which you will need the tool provided by Motorola to open. Also on the left side, you will find the microUSB and microHDMI ports towards the bottom. As far as colors go, the RAZR HD comes in either black or white and the RAZR MAXX HD comes in just black.

Since both phones get a bigger display than last year’s model (4.7-inches vs. 4.3-inches) you would think they are much bigger. Actually the width is a tad smaller and the length is a tad larger. There’s virtually no difference. This year’s models come in at 131.9mm long x 67.9mm wide, while last year’s models come in at 130.7mm long x 68.9mm wide. As far as thickness goes, the DROID RAZR HD is now 8.4mm thick as opposed to 7.1mm thick for the DROID RAZR. The reason for this is this year’s model has a much bigger battery (2530mAh vs 1780mAh). The MAXX is also a little thicker even though the battery is the same. It’s now 9.3mm vs last year’s 8.99mm.

Now one thing that is very cool with both of these phones is the notification light. It’s the largest and most noticeable of any phone I’ve used. It is just below the Motorola logo at the top of the phone and it’s a narrow band about the same length. I never cared or used notification lights until now. Nice touch Moto.

I have read some complaints about how uncomfortable these phones are in the hand. Sure they are on the bigger side, but I don’t have any complaints. They are a little heavier than most phones, but to me that’s a good thing because they feel solid. Don’t forget that both phones sport a bigger battery than just about every device out there. You won’t find too many curves on these phones, but I still think they are sexy. Some may consider them brick-like, but nowhere near as brick-like as the AT&T version of the LG Optimus G. I have to honestly say that every time I pick either phone up, I continue to be impressed by the quality, and I find myself examining the details.

 

the MAXX is to the right in the next two pictures

 

Hardware

Both the DROID RAZR HD and RAZR MAXX HD have mostly identical specs. The only differences you will find is the storage size and battery. For storage, the RAZR HD has 16GB and the RAZR MAXX HD as 32GB. The RAZR MAXX HD gets the bigger 3300mAh battery, while the RAZR HD gets 2530mAh. The rest of the specs for both phones include a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED 720p HD display, a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera, microSD for expanded storage, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, and WiFi.

Performance

Since both phones are identical you would expect identical performance, which is what I found. Everything was smooth with no issues. The fact that there is very little on top of stock Android really helps. I seriously can’t wait to see the buttery smoothness of Jelly Bean running on these bad boys. Now you guys already know that I don’t buy into benchmarks all that much. They make great press, but they are meaningless in the real world. Still, I always run the AnTuTu benchmark which came in at 6933 for the RAZR HD and 6971 for the MAXX. This is right up there with similar phones:

The display is where many find fault with Motorola. If you look deep enough, you are going to find issues. There definitely is an over saturation of colors as whites appear more pinkish, but I think the average consumer isn’t going to find any fault. As far as I’m concerned, nothing comes close the HTC One X, so everything else is just how nit picky you want to be.

As you would expect, sound quality for both the internal and external speaker is superb. This is one area where Motorola never fails to impress.

Battery

Motorola has been leading the way when it comes to battery life. It all started with the DROID RAZR MAXX, but even the DROID RAZR M impressed me as well. Motorola decided to sport the DROID RAZR HD with a much bigger battery than the original DROID RAZR (2530mAh vs. 1780mAh) and left the same 3300mAh battery for the MAXX HD. As you know by now, I test batteries by running continuous video while the display is turned up to about 2/3′s with GPS, WiFI (not connected), and Bluetooth (not connected)  turned on. I also make sure 4G LTE is connected if it’s in my area.  Earlier in the year, I was able to get about 10 hours out of the RAZR MAXX, but with the RAZR MAXX HD, I was able to achieve about 13 1/2 hours. That’s a big difference which I attribute to the efficiency of the Snapdragon S4. As to the RAZR HD, I was able to get just about 10 hours, which matches the original RAZR MAXX. What does this tell you other than Motorola is kicking major butt when it comes to battery life? You should get about 36 hours out of the RAZR MAXX HD with average use and about 24 hours out of the RAZR HD. It truly is stunning and Motorola doesn’t get enough recognition for this. There is no better feeling in the world than not having to worry about charging your phone constantly. The only issue is if Motorola made the RAZR HD too good. One has to wonder if you really need to spend the extra $100 for the MAXX, but more on that later.

Software

We have said it in previous Motorola reviews that Motorola has the best UI skin in the business. What makes it the best is that it’s barely a skin. Hardcore Android fans want the stock experience and Motorola delivers that with the addition of some minor stuff. The launcher is identical to stock except Motorola gives you a third option other than Apps and Widgets. You get a favorites section to keep those favorite apps you want to find quickly.

Motorola also makes it easy to decide how many home pages you want. When you first turn on the phone you will have one home screen, but you can easily add more home screens as either blank or predefined templates (media or home office). You can even change the order of your pages at anytime. My only gripe is the main home page doesn’t reside in the middle. Instead it’s always all the way to the left, which makes navigation cumbersome. I understand why they did it because normally there is always an odd number of home screens (3, 5, or 7) so it’s easy to make the home page in the middle. Since this skin allows you to have an even number of pages, it would complicate things, so Motorola decided to just make the left most page the main home page. Another nice touch is that if you swipe to the left of the main home page, you will get a quick list of settings.

You also get Motorola Smart Actions which is the best task type app for the average consumer. Sure, you can do more with Tasker, but Smart Actions is made for the beginner. There are so many settings that you can configure, and the best part of it is you will get suggestions in the notification area. With Smart Actions you can easily set your phone up to automatically silence your phone when you go to bed or when you’re in a meeting, set up triggers when you battery reaches a certain level, and so much more. You can create your own custom triggers or use Motorola’s suggestions. My one complaint is that it doesn’t work with NFC tags, but I am hopeful this will change when the Jelly Bean update arrives.

Camera

If there was one Achilles heel for Motorola it’s the camera. They never seem to get this one right. It has improved over the years, but it’s still far behind the likes of Samsung and HTC. The colors just aren’t as precise and it doesn’t respond as well in lower light. It’s also hard to get a good shot when there is movement. My son is almost 4 years old, and rarely stands still, so you can imagine my frustration. On the plus side, I do think the camera UI is polished and easy to use. One very interesting feature is the ability to set the volume rocker to capture photos, and you can use either the volume up or down. I’ve included some sample photos below to make your own judgement on quality.

 

This next one is HDR

The following two are movement shots

 

Closing

Both the DROID RAZR HD and RAZR MAXX HD are solid phones. The build quality is exceptional as well as the overall user experience, but one has to wonder if  Motorola is a little late to the party. With Samsung, HTC, and LG offering phones with quad-core processors, it appears Motorola is playing catch up. Now one can argue the need for a quad-core, and let’s face it, the DROID brand is marketed to those that aren’t really concerned with those aspects. With the DROID branding, I am sure both of these phones will enjoy some success due to the Verizon marketing machine. The only negative is the camera and if that’s important to you, you might have to look elsewhere. If it’s not, I would highly recommend either of these phones due to the solid build and great user experience. Assuming you’re ready to grab one, the next question is which one? The RAZR MAXX  HD’s battery life is amazing, but the RAZR HD isn’t far behind and it still beats just about every phone known to man. I would put my money on the RAZR HD for $100 less. It’s still going to get you approximately 24 hours with average use. Sure the MAXX is unbelievable at approximately 36 hours, but do you really need that? The MAXX also offers additional storage, but with the microUSB port, it minimizes that. In the end, both phones are the finest Motorola has ever made so you really can’t go wrong.

 

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • Anynomus1

    I hope this is what I get on Christmas! The box is around 5-6″ tall and equal around so it’s a square. Is this the size of the box?