Motorola DROID RAZR M review: small but large and cheap but powerful

Recently Motorola unveiled three new members of the RAZR family. The DROID RAZR HD and the DROID RAZR HD MAXX are nice editions, but it’s rare that the highlight of an event such as this would be the budget phone. The DROID RAZR M is much smaller than the original RAZR, but packs the same 4.3-inch display since it’s edge to edge. That’s not even the best part. The best part of it is that it’s priced at $99 on contract. Can the DROID RAZR M compete with the big boys? Hit the break to find out and you can also check out our initial hands on review.

Design

I always expect a nice build from Motorola, and the DROID RAZR M doesn’t disappoint. You won’t find anything cutting edge here, as it’s a simple basic design, but it’s very solid. The display is Corning Gorilla Glass and most of the back is Dupont Kevlar fiber. Just like past RAZR phones, it has a nanocoating that acts as a water-repellent. You also won’t find a lot of plastic like other phones as the frame is made of aluminum. It’s shocking at how great the build is for $99.

As I mentioned, the display is edge to edge, which means that Motorola was able to pack a 4.3-inch display into a small body. Phones continue to get bigger and bigger, but there’s still a lot of people who prefer something a little smaller. The DROID RAZR M will satisfy everyone in that category and might even convince a few fans of bigger displays to go a tad smaller.

Let’s talk size. The DROID RAZR M is 4.82-inches by 2.04-inches and 8.4mm thick. Here are the sizes of some past and current phones with either the same size or smaller display.

  • DROID X – 4.3-inch display – 5.02-inches x 2.58-inches x 9.9mm
  • DROID Incredible 4G LTE – 4.0-inch display – 4.82-inches x 2.04-inches x 11.7mm
  • DROID RAZR – 4.3-inch display – 5.15-inches x 2.72-inches x 7.1mm
  • DROID RAZR MAXX – 4.3-inch display – 5.15-inches x 2.72-inches x 8.99mm
  • HTC Rezound – 4.3-inch display – 5.08-inches x 2.58-inches x 13.7mm
  • HTC Rhyme – 3.7-inch display – 4.69-inches x 2.39-inches x 11mm
  • HTC One S – 4.3-inch display – 5.15-inches x 2.56-inches x 7.8mm
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (i9300) – 4.3-inch display – 4.93-inches x 2.60-inches x 8.5mm
  • iPhone 5 – 4.0-inch display – 4.87-inches x 2.30-inches x 7.6mm
  • iPhone 4S – 3.5-inch display – 4.5-inches x 2.31-inches x 9.3mm

As you can see, Motorola is on the cutting edge (no pun intended) with the DROID RAZR M and it’s edge to edge display. Even the HTC Rhyme and the iPhone 4s, which sport half-inch smaller displays can’t compete. The iPhone 5, which has a 4-inch display, is also bigger. Although it’s thinner, I would rather have the larger screen with a little extra thickness.

As far as ports and buttons go, the right side top has the power button followed by the volume rocker just below that. The left side sports the LTE SIM slot and the microSD slot (both below a pop out cover) as well as the microUSB port towards the bottom. The top has the microphone jack.

As far as colors, it’s available in both black and white.

I can’t stress enough how solid of a phone the DROID RAZR M is, especially at this price point. Motorola seems to be the king at getting a lot of stuff into a small area. Last year it was the 33oomAh battery and this year it’s the 4.3-inch display.

 

Hardware

The DROID RAZR M features a 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540) display, a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, microSD for up to 32GB of additional storage, 8MP rear camera, VGA front-facing camera, NFC, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0

Performance

The DROID RAZR M performs as well as some of the best phones thanks to the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. Since Motorola’s UI is closer to stock Android than any other phone other than a Nexus, it’s pretty smooth. I can’t even imagine what Jelly Bean is going to do for this phone. You guys already know that I’m not a fan of benchmarks, but I did run the obligatory AnTuTu, which came in at 6751. That’s right up there with the AT&T HTC One X, which scored 6772 and the T-Mobile HTC One S, which scored 6993. It blew away the DROID Incredible 4G LTE and the DROID RAZR MAXX, which came in at 5996 and 6006 respectively.

You will find complaints about the display on most of the other tech blogs. It’s a qHD (960 x 540), but it’s PenTile. I know as soon as readers see PenTile they go screaming, but seriously folks, this is not the DROID Bionic. The display is very nice and I personally think the color is better than my everyday Galaxy Nexus. I know a lot reviewers claim to see all kinds of pixelations, and I don’t say they”re wrong, but I just don’t have the eyes for that. Unless you are an abolute connoisseur of displays, you won’t have any complaints.

Battery

Although the DROID RAZR M is small, it packs a 2000mAh battery. That’s right up there with all the high end phones currently available, other than the DROID RAZR MAXX. I ran my usual video rundown test in which I turn up the display to 2/3′s, and I was able to get 8 hours and 50 minutes. That’s while connected to 4G LTE the entire time with GPS enabled. In comparing it to other phones, the AT&T HTC One X was only able to get 7 hours, and it wasn’t even connected to 4G LTE. The DROID Incredible 4G LTE was closer as it turned off at 7 hours and 45 minutes while connected to LTE. Last but not least it destroyed the Atrix HD, which only came in at 4 hours and 45 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised and happy with this performance.

Software

So far I really haven’t give you any negatives, but here’s one to get things started – Ice Cream Sandwich is onboard. I know that’s not a disaster, but it’s a little disappointing based on Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside’s comments at the event saying that updates are important. I thought they were going to make a splash and tell us Jelly Bean was onboard, but they only promised that the update would happen by year’s end. All in all, Motorola’s version of Ice Cream Sandwich is by far the best as compared to other manufacturers. It’s the closest thing to stock. The only change I see is the elimination of the live icons we saw in the Atrix HD. I’m not sure why they were so short-lived, but I can’t say that I’m missing them.

You still get the gorgeous ring widget that gives you the time, weather, battery, and data usage at a quick glance. Just like past Motorola phones, Smart Actions is included, which lets you customize all your settings depending on your needs. If there is one disappointment, it’s the fact that for whatever reason, they didn’t incorporate NFC tags into it. I suspect we might get that feature in the Jelly Bean update.

As far as home screens go, you will only start with one out of the box, and you can manually add to that one at time up to seven. Motorola makes it easy for novice users, by giving the ability to add predefined template themes such as Amazon, Media, and Mobile Office. If you’re already familiar and comfortable with Android, you can simply add blank pages and fill them up with whatever your heart desires.

As far as bloatware, Verizon just inked a deal with Amazon so you will see a healthy dose of Amazon apps which include Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, and the Appstore. Unfortunately you can’t hide or uninstall any of them. Other bloatware include Audible, Color, Emergency Alerts, Facebook, IMDB, My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, Quickoffice, Slacker Radio, Viewdini, VZ Navigator, and Zappos. Again, you can’t hide or uninstall these apps, which is something new for Motorola as in the past, they allowed you to either hide or uninstall most of the bloatware.

Camera

If there is one complaint I’ve had with Motorola phones, it’s the camera. For whatever reason, Motorola has always lacked in this area. Samsung and HTC continue to lead in this department, and unfortunately the DROID RAZR M doesn’t change anything. If you’re taking still images outdoors, things will be okay with the 8MP lens, but when you get into lower light situations as well as anything that involves movement, things go down hill. Movement is especially a concern because of the slower shutter speed. In my example photos below, the last one depicts my son kissing my wife. I got lucky on the timing. He was actually supposed to be looking at me, but he turned his head and the shutter was so slow it took the picture right when he was kissing her. Unfortunately the result wasn’t so good.

The front-facing camera is a little disappointing based on the fact that it’s VGA, but I would never stay away from this phone based on that. This is a $99 phone and every spec can’t be high end. If there is one area that is acceptable to cut back on, it’s the front-facing camera. It’s rarely used and if you do use it, it will get the job done.

Closing

I think Motorola and Verizon Wireless might have a hit on their hands. Generally when you walk into a Verizon store and you see a smartphone for $99, it’s at least 9 months old. That’s not the case with the DROID RAZR M, and it features specs that are comparable with the big boys. The only real negative on the specs is the rear camera and the front-facing camera. The front-facing camera is a non issue to me since it’s rarely used, but if you rate the quality of the main camera as high on your list, you might have to consider something else like the DROID INCREDIBLE 4G LTE. Still, if you consider the battery life, the processor, and the build quality, you won’t find a better deal.

Earlier in the year, Motorola gave us a phone with a battery that was light years ahead of anything else and this year they did the same with the edge to edge display. I’ve spoken to many people who don’t like the bigger phones that are available nowadays, and Motorola answered with something truly innovative. Up to this point nobody else has. If you’re a Verizon customer and you want something compact, but substantial, than the DROID RAZR M is for you. It will be the best $99 you ever spent.

 

 

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • MarvinB7

    Great review! It deserves a comment. It is a bummer about the camera. I’m a pro photographer and it is truly disappointing that such a great phone will not double as a point and shoot. Phones are phones. Cameras are cameras.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcnabb63.cristian.delapaz Cristian De La Paz

    I really want to know of the back camera glass is know to break please reply Cuz I just recently had a problem with that