Motorola’s Atrix HD smartphone has a nice price at $100 on contract, but its killer feature is the 4.5-inch touchscreen, which offers an iPhone-rivaling level of clarity. Photo by Peter McCollough/Wired
A little less than two years ago, Apple’s iPhone 4 made its debut with a display of unrivaled clarity. The Retina display’s pixel density of 326 pixels per inch gave it a sharpness that no Android phone could match.
Just this past May, the HTC One X made its U.S. debut, complete with a beautiful display packing 316 pixels per inch. Finally, Retina-like quality could be had on an Android phone. But, like the iPhone 4S (which has the same screen as the now $100 iPhone 4), the One X is a premium product that wears a premium $200 price tag.
With the arrival of the Morotola Atrix HD, which is available for $100 on-contract from AT&T, Android fans now have a modestly priced handset with a sharp, iPhone-like display.
It was only a matter of time before such high-quality displays started trickling down to $100 Android handsets, but I wouldn’t have guessed it would happen this soon. With the arrival of the Morotola Atrix HD, which is available for $100 on-contract from AT&T, Android fans now have a modestly priced handset with a sharp, iPhone-like display.
The 4.5-inch screen really is a stunner. At a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and with a density of 331 pixels per inch, text looks crisp and images are rich with detail. Colors, while a bit bright and over-saturated compared to the One X and iPhone, are beautiful. Pixel artifacts like stair-stepping are indiscernible. Motorola calls the Gorilla Glass-topped LCD panel on the Atrix HD a “ColorBoost” display. If this is the future of Motorola’s display technology, it’s going to be a pretty one.
If you drop $100 on the Atrix HD, you can feel confident that you won’t tire of this display. But there’s more to the phone than the screen — the rest of the device delivers plenty of high-end features at a mid-range price.
The Atrix HD is essentially an evolution of Motorola’s Verizon-exclusive Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx handsets. At 0.33-inches, the Atrix HD is thicker than the Razr, but thinner than the Razr Maxx. Like the Razr line, the Atrix HD has a Kevlar back panel and contains a chassis made of a mix of metal and plastic that feels tough and looks good.
Inside you get a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor — a bump up from the Razr and Razr Maxx’s 1.2GHz dual-core Texas Instruments CPUs — and 1GB of RAM. This combination doesn’t disappoint. The Atrix HD is fast and responsive, easily handling games, apps, video playback and everything else I threw at it.
Photo by Peter McCollough/Wired
One surprise here is Motorola’s implementation of Ice Cream Sandwich. HTC’s own version of Android 4.0, called Sense, was my favorite variation of Google’s mobile OS aside from stock Android as seen on Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus.
At least, that was the case before I got the Atrix HD in my hands. Motorola is currently offering the closest experience to stock Android that you can find in a manufacturer’s skin. This is a major win for Google, for Motorola and for consumers. It’s unlikely that Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility had any influence on this decision, as Google has said many times that it intends to let Motorola chart its own course. But still, kudos.
The lockscreen is unique, with the ability to open the handset directly into the camera, the phone, the text messaging app, or to your primary homescreen. Motorola also adds a few widgets to the Atrix’s homescreen. These can be easily removed, but they’re actually helpful. For example, a cluster of three circles presents the time and date in one orb, local weather in another, and data usage in a third. Swipe your finger across any of the circles and the presented information changes: the digital clock becomes an analog clock, the weather toggles between different cities, and you can switch between seeing remaining battery life or remaining storage. Customizable and relevant information, presented clearly with a simple UI — this is how widgets should behave.