The Razr line has fast become the new flagship for Motorola, and with good reason. Last year's Razr was a strong smartphone contender, with an impressive battery life and slick screen. Now, exclusively for Telstra's 4G LTE network, the Razr lineup has been refreshed again, with bumped up hardware and edge-to-edge displays that earn that HD moniker.
The Razr HD shares the Kevlar backing and AMOLED screen of its predecessor, but of course the resolution has been bumped up to a modern 1280 x 720 resolution. The phone itself has also gotten a bit thinner.
It also bears many similarities to its Razr siblings, Motorola's Razr M and the US-only Droid Razr Maxx HD. All three phones run a 1.5Ghz processor with 1GB of RAM. The Razr HD is in the middle of the M and the Maxx HD for storage and battery life, but it's no mid-range device. Motorola has also promised an Android 4.1: Jelly Bean upgrade for all three handsets.
And speaking of Droids, with so much talk about Star Wars in the news lately, we can't help but mention that Motorola actually pays royalties to Lucasfilm to use the name Droid. George Lucas is nothing if not an excellent businessman.
So is the Razr HD worthy of name? It's certainly no bumbling C3PO, it's as handsome and helpful as R2D2, but is it a stone cold robotic killer like IG-88? Can it assassinate the competition from phones like the iPhone 5, Galaxy S3 and Nokia Lumia 920? Let's find out.
As the name would suggest, the Razr HD is a sharp instrument. Thanks to a thin body, it looks the part of a premium device in either black or white. Picking it up you'll notice it's a little on the heavy side, weighing in at 146 grams.
Holding the phone, the Kevlar backing is pleasant to the touch. The feeling is somewhere between very soft plastic and firm rubber. It's a lot like the rubberised rear chassis of the HTC Windows Phone 8X.
The pattern is unique, sort of a mix between herringbone and hounds tooth. It's extremely smooth but grippy enough as not to be slippery. An edge-to-edge screen and tight, thin bezel give the Razr HD a seamless design. At 131.9 x 67.9 x 8.4 mm, it's tall and thin in a way that resembles the Galaxy S3.
The display is 4.7-inches long, a little bigger than the 4.3-inches of visual real estate on the Razr M. It's a big screen, those with smaller hands will find it takes a little shifting around to reach from top to bottom.
The Razr HD has three capacitive Android buttons: back, home and recent applications.
Motorola slapped its name at the top of the device, directly above a notification light that flashes when you've got a missed called, email or text message.
On the right side you'll find the phone's only physical buttons. The lock button is towards the top, it has a ridgey-ness that feels a bit like a nail file, but not harsh. The volume rocker is below it, in the middle of the right side. It has little metal beads at both ends that make it easy to find with your thumb.
Located on the left side is a pair of ports, micro-USB for charging and data connections, and HDMI for connecting the Razr HD to a television or monitor. Just above the ports is the phone's micro-SD and micro SIM tray. Like on a late model iPhone, it pops open when you insert a paperclip or SIM tool (included) in the small hole.
A solo external speaker is found on the back, to the right of the camera lens. Laying the phone flat on its back will not completely muffle audio, but it does reduce sound quality.
Motorola claims a "splash resistant" coating on the Razr HD. The phone can't be submerged in water, but it's implied that it will stand up to rain or an errant glass of water. We did not put this to the test, though, and consumers should know that the one-year warranty against defects does not cover liquid damage.
The Razr HD is a bit bigger than the Razr M, getting more battery life, storage space and a larger, higher resolution screen in exchange for its heftier form factor and weight.
The Razr HD's microSD slot gives it a storage advantage over fixed capacity devices like the iPhone, and the HD already has great battery life with a 2530 mAh cell, as we'll get into later. Consumers who want something easier to carry (and afford) will likely find the Razr HD to be a balanced offering.
Size-wise, the Razr HD is in the middle of svelte smartphones like the iPhone 5 and brick-like devices such as the Optimus G. It's sleek but not terribly thin, and also rather hefty. You won't forget that it's in your pocket, but it's certainly not in cumbersome phablet territory like the recent Galaxy Note 2.
Overall, the Razr HD achieves a premium feel. The big edge-to-edge display gives it a smooth, simple face that's a pleasure to touch. The Kevlar backing is resilient and grippy, and the only other phones that feel like it are HTC's Windows Phone 8S and 8X.
Users with small hands that want something they can nimbly navigate might prefer a Razr M or iPhone 5, but for those that want a bigger handset with serious battery life, the Razr HD is a solid choice.
The Razr HD's screen is its most significant gain over its predecessor, the original Razr. By going edge-to-edge, Motorola has bumped up the screen size from 4.3-inches to 4.7 without making the handset any longer. To keep up with its neighbours, the resolution has been increased from 960 x 540 to 1280 x 720, earning that HD moniker.
It's a Super AMOLED multitouch display with 312ppi. It does wonderful things with colours, making bright hues come off super-saturated and beautiful. Dark tones are equally strong, with blacks that are deep and dead of night dark. We've said before that the Razr HD is distinctive, these high contrasts are yet another way Motorola's new device stands out from the competition (though whether it's actually "better" is debatable).
Gorilla Glass keeps the display safe from nicks. Walking around town, we let it hang out in our pocket amongst keys and change, and it emerged with nary a scratch. Best of all, since the display is edge-to-edge with only a thin aluminum bezel, it gives the whole face a smooth, premium feel.
Using the Razr HD outside in sunlight is generally no problem. On your average sunny day the screen is almost as visible as it would be in even indoor lighting. Of course, seriously intense sunlight will wash out the display, but no more so than other devices.
When it comes to choosing the best screen, a lot of it comes down to personal preference, not ppi. In our mind, the HTC One X+ is still king in this category. While the amped-up contrasts of the Razr HD are glorious, they're also over the top. The One X+ offers more true to life colour representation, also on a 4.7-inch display.
When comparing the iPhone 5's retina display, screen size is a big issue. Apple's phone has a 4-inch screen, while the Razr HD is 4.7-inches. People who play many games or spend a lot of time watching videos on their phone will likely appreciate the additional visual real estate. Still, there is something to be said for a shorter screen. Those who value ease of use above all will find an iPhone 5, or Razr M, easier to manipulate with just one hand.
Finally, the Optimus G might be the best phone we've seen for reading text on the web or in e-books. It displays text that's slightly sharper, on a screen equal in size to that of the Razr HD.
Also, the Optimus G and Samsung Galaxy S3 both have nifty face recognition technology that keeps the screen from dimming while you read it. The Razr HD lacks this feature, and while we never struggled with the dim timer, face recognition makes the Optimus G and Galaxy S3 superior reading devices.
To summarise, the Razr HD has a big, durable edge-to-edge screen that stands among the best displays available. The high contrast colour it conveys adds to the distinctiveness of this Motorola handset. It's a massive improvement over the original Razr, but doesn't really outshine any current phones in its price range.
Obviously, it's a better screen than what you'll find on the more compact and affordable Razr M, but that's offset out by an overall smaller form factor and lower price.
Again, it comes down to personal preference. We personally liked the high contrast shades it offered. The pre-loaded backgrounds do a fantastic job of showing off just intense colours can be on this phone. They're striking to look at, especially against the simple black or white body of the phone and it's minimalist face.
Motorola has already upgraded the Razr HD to Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. As with the Razr M, Motorola has laid a few nice tweaks over the Android OS.
The Razr HD has the standard of seven home screens to deck out with icons and widgets. Generally, the Razr HD's 1.5GHz dual-core and 1GB of RAM are enough to keep the OS running smoothly. You can flick across the seven home screens easily, and apps open in a snap.
Back, home and recent applications are the three capacitive Android buttons that run the show. They respond with a blue glow and haptic feedback when touched.
Touching the home button brings you back to the primary home screen. From there, pressing it again will bring up the Manage Pages screen, which lets you add, delete or rearrange home screens. This is one screen that started to chug a bit with just a couple applications running.
Generally it takes real multitasking to give the Razr HD hiccups. We cooked up a combination of widget-laden home screens, multiple browser tabs and a game running in the background that produced some stuttering when opening and closing apps or adding home screens. Overall, though, performance was very strong.
The Razr HD's Geekbench scores were around 1430, which is just shy of the iPhone 5. Considering that the iPhone 5 has a 1.2GHz dual core, which is less than the 1.5GHz on the Razr HD, it's just an OK score. Guess that Apple engineering is good for something.
From a practical standpoint, the Razr HD is peppy and responsive. It starts up in a little over 30 seconds, and needs just a few more seconds to get all its widgets up and running. It would take a quad-core device like the Optimus G or Galaxy S3 to provide much better performance.
Getting into Motorola's interface tweaks, one its most intuitive choices was adding a Quick Settings menu. Found to the left of the primary home screen, it makes toggling WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode or changing your ringtone just a swipe away. Once inside, the full settings menu is just a touch away.
Other manufacturers, like LG with the Optimus G, crowd these options in the notification center. Motorola made a great choice putting this Quick Settings menu to the left. Not only does it make the menu highly accessible, it makes the leftmost home screen the primary page, which feels like a logical choice.
The default dock icons are Phone, People, Messaging and Camera. These icons can be removed or swapped out, but you are limited to just four. We're not sure what the reason for this limitation was, other than possibly reducing visual clutter. However, Android's native support for folders has been extended to the dock, meaning you can stack multiple icons into groupings.
This strikes us a strange choice. The dock is designed for frequent apps that you always want at your fingertips. We don't want to be pressing twice to open a folder and select an app. And while we rarely put more than four icons on our dock, it's a little odd to deny people the choice.
Also, folders on the home screen seemed to require a more dead center tap to open than regular icons. Nothing else we would touch had trouble registering, though.
We did like the way Motorola's UI displayed folders. The primary app is in front, and you can see the edges of the other icons peeking out from behind it, like they're all lined up and waiting. Label a folder and the name appears below it.
By default, Motorola's handsome Circles widget is on the primary home screen. We're big fans this tri-cluster of disc-shaped widgets, which display weather, the time, missed calls, incoming text messages and your battery level, and serve as portals to useful menus.
Touching any of them will send you into the respective app to set up alarms, time zones or get a more detailed forecast. Swiping vertically will flip them over, allowing you to toggle between an analog or digital clock, the temperature for regions you've chosen and other information. They're efficient, fun to flip and add another distinctive element to the Razr HD's style.
Again, Circles look great and convey information well, but we found ourselves wishing we could separate the three circles. It's not a big issue, just something the customization-happy Android fan in our hearts thought of. Maybe next time Motorola?
The lock screen is a typical Android style. It displays the date, time and notification icons. To wake the phone, you slide a key icon, and can also jump directly into the Phone, Camera and Text apps. It's clean, simple and private, since it doesn't display incoming messages, just an icon alerting you to their presence. We do wish it were as customisable other lock screens, where you can choose which apps are at the ready.
To wrap up, the Razr HD's interface continues the phone's trend of style and efficiency. Circle widgets and the Quick Settings menu are slick, accessible ways of getting at settings and information
Motorola's tweaks are all thoughtful and unobtrusive. While they seem to have chosen visual simplicity in some places rather than further customisation, it has made for some great looking design.
Performance-wise, the Razr HD is everything you should expect from a dual-core, 1GB of RAM device. It navigates Android very well, and it takes a sizeable workload to slow it down.
Calling and Contacts
With all the different apps and features on a smartphone, you could almost forget that makes regular old phone calls. Motorola hasn't forgotten though, and neither has Telstra. The Razr HD offers excellent call quality and voice fidelity.
The new Razrs, the Razr M, and our current subject, the Razr HD, are exclusive to Telstra in Australia. The company has a reputation for strong signals and reliable coverage, which proved to be well deserved in our tests.
Using the phone on Telstra's network throughout the Sydney region, we never had any interference or static on the line. We never suffered a single dropped call.
The handset speaker was plenty loud, making it no trouble to hear a call. The speakerphone was equally powerful, and voices only suffered slight distortion when the volume was maxed out, a level that's really quite loud. It projected well enough that a group gathered around a table of a large to medium size would have no trouble conference calling.
Our only complaint about the speakerphone has to do with the rear speaker grill. Since it's placed on the back of the handset, laying the device flat muffles sound, albeit only somewhat. The slightly bubbled design of the rear means it does not lay completely flat, but there is a noticeable drop in quality.
As far as dialing the phone goes, the keys are an attractive blue on black. Your most recent contact dialed is displayed at the top, for fast redialing. You can jump to a week's worth of call history by touching Recent at the top, or see contacts designated as Favorites, displayed as smart looking picture tiles.
There's also a microphone icon that activates the Android voice command function. It's accurate enough that when it presents you with three contacts it thinks you've mentioned, your actual choice is always among them. Still, that means you have to make a touch selection, so voice isn't good enough to make the Razr HD a hands-free device. It's also a little slow on the draw, asking us to "say a command" before accepting input. Apple's Siri is still the winner here.
Multitasking is complemented by the notification center, which displays your current call in the dropdown menu. From there you can jump right back into your call with a single touch. It shows elapsed call length, and even a little red phone icon so you can hang up without returning to the dialer.
The People app, found on the dock by default, does a pretty good job of managing your contacts. It stays close to standard Android methods, but does a nice job of managing contacts from multiple sources.
Contacts can imported from a number of mail clients, including Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook. Facebook imports are also supported.
Once imported, contacts can be sorted into groups. Family, friends and coworkers are the default groups, but you can make an unlimited number of custom groups.
Contacts can also be marked as Favorites, which makes them easily accessible from the Phone application.
Messaging and Email
Texting is still an insanely popular way to communicate, the world over. It's convenient and inexpensive, and requires a minimal amount of that dreaded human contact to get information across.
Text messages are managed by the Messaging app, a green speech icon with a smiley face. It makes its home on the dock by default.
As is typical Android fashion, the Razr HD displays messages in the back-and-forth style of an instant message conversation, using profile pictures when available.
There are two stock email clients on the Razr HD, the first being the basic Android Email app. While it can handle everything from Exchange to Yahoo to your average POP3/IMAP account, it says right at the top, "for Gmail accounts, use Gmail app." It's a bit strange since it will still accept Gmail addresses, and some users may want to keep all their communication in one program.
The second email app is, of course, Gmail. It has a different look but behaves in the exact same way as the stock Email app. Both apps can be switched between Push and Manual email checking.
Both apps also have convenient widgets that give you a preview of your inbox, allowing you to scroll through email, jump into your entire inbox or a specific message, or start composing a new message with a single touch, right from the home screen.
The Razr HD has three keyboards: the stock Motorola keyboard, Swype and Chinese character input. The Motorola board is the default, with a design of white letters on gray keys, a period to the right of the keyboard and a microphone for speech composition the left.
The top row of keys have number functions, which can be accessed with a long press. It's convenient for a digit or so, but for typing out a phone number you'll want to switch to the number keys.
The size of the Razr HD's screen gives you plenty of room to type in either portrait or landscape mode. Haptic feedback gives it a satisfying oomph that some would say the iPhone 5 lacks. Predictive text was decent, coming to the rescue on longer words, and there's enough clearance between its suggestions and the top row of keys that you won't often hit it by mistake. It wasn't too clever when it came to learning our favourite words, though.
We had only one major complaint about the Motorola keyboard: the lack of a .com button. .com also doesn't come up in predictive text, which seems silly given how often you type it.
The Swype keyboard is a nice option to have onboard, but it's not our personal preference. Some worlds, mainly those with a lot of the same letters in close proximity, can give it trouble. Still, we'd rather have it than not.
As we've mentioned, both of Motorola's new handsets, the Razr M, and this Razr HD are exclusive to Telstra in Australia. This gives them the major benefit of being on Telstra's 4G LTE network, which is the biggest in the country.
Testing the phone throughout Sydney using the SpeedTest.net app, we experienced data connections that were generally quite fast. Speeds went between 10 to 25Mbps, usually averaging around 16Mbps.
While a home WiFi connection can reliably outpace this, these are some very good data speeds to be getting on the go.
To our most pleasant surprise, the default browser on the Razr HD is Google's own Chrome. Chrome users should be delighted to find that, upon logging in, all their search suggestions, browsing data and bookmarks have followed them onto their mobile device.
The search bar found on the home screen also has access to your search history. It's so seamless that a search you just made on your PC will show up as a suggestion on the Razr HD without missing a beat.
Chrome's tabbed browsing allows for great multitasking, letting you open lots pages at once. This is one place where the phone's hardware came off as fully capable. You can move between a dozen tabs without having to reload the pages. With this many sites open at once, page previews can become fuzzy, but once you make your selection they come into focus.
Whether on Telstra's network or WiFi, browsing is fast. Even when our service had only a two bars (which wasn't often) pages opened quickly. Of course, since this is an Android phone, there are lots of other browsers available, such as Mozilla Firefox.
To our tastes, a mobile phone will never dethrone a tablet, laptop or good old fashioned TV for watching videos, but on the go or lying in bed, you could do a lot worse than watching a YouTube clip or Netflix stream on the Razr HD's 1280 x 960 AMOLED screen.
The rear speaker is plenty loud, and like in speakerphone mode, sounds don't distort unless you dial the volume up all the way. Once again, the solo speaker's position on the rear is not perfect. Since it's low on the body we never covered it completely when holding the phone, but just having our hand cupped over it could distort the sound a little. Luckily the Razr HD's thin build makes it easy to hold in one hand, which helps avoid the problem.
The headphone jack is in the typical top right position. Whatever you plug in to listen with should stay out of your way pretty easily.
Thanks to 16GB of internal memory, and the possibility of an additional 32GB by microSD expansion, there's plenty of room for movies purchased from Amazon or the Google Play Store.
The Razr HD does a have an HDMI video out, which is an interesting option, but the necessary cable must be purchased separately. Most users will probably have other means of watching a movie file on their TV or monitor before having an HDMI to mini HDMI cable around.
As we mentioned, Google Play is available on the Razr HD, just like on any Android device. Not only are there enough games, apps, books, videos and music available to make it competitive with Apple's App Store and iTunes, it can seriously ease the transition from your old Android device to your new one.
From the options drop down menu in the upper right, you can jump into My Apps to see software currently associated with your Google Play account. Each app you already own has to be selected for download individually, which is a bit of a pain, but otherwise it makes it easy to migrate to a new Android phone.
Battery Life and Connectivity
Battery life can be a difficult balance to maintain for a high-end smartphone. While a quad-core processor can give awesome performance, it tends to suck power cells dry. The same goes for 4G LTE service and a big screen. Manufacturers do have the option of allowing for removable batteries so users can swap in a back up cell, but that tends to make phones larger, and has consumer footing the bill for an additional battery.
Luckily, battery life is one place where the Razr HD really shines. Its dual-core processor walks the line between peppy performance and energy conservation.
The Razr HD has a 2530 mAh battery. While it's not removable, it gets its handsome sealed design from this choice. We know a lot of users lament a lack of removable battery, but we think Motorola made the right decision, since we never had trouble making it through the day on a single charge.
Throughout all our normal, day-to-day testing, we never managed to drain the battery, even with frequent 4G use, plenty of photo snapping and gaming. On a day of average usage, making phone calls, writing emails, text messages and surfing the web, the phone would generally end up with a battery percentage in the high 60's.
Officially, Motorola rates the Razr HD for 7 hours of YouTube streaming, and 6 hours of 4G LTE. We'd say the phone definitely lives up to these numbers, give or a take a little depending on how many programs you have running in the background.
This stalwart battery life is becoming something of a signature for the Razr line. The original Razr from last year had just a 1780 mAh cell, so the move up to 2530 mAh is a substantial adjustment.
In addition to hefty batteries, the new handsets have Motorola's Smartaction software, which can automatically implement charge-saving settings. WiFi, Bluetooth, push notifications and other data services can be set to automatically turn off when your phone drops to a certain level of charge.
Just to try it out, we drained the battery down to 5% and let Smartaction do its thing. The phone lasted for over an hour in standby.
We gave the Razr HD the TechRadar battery test, where we maximise screen brightness, turn on WiFi, GPS and push notifications for Twitter and email, then play a video file for ninety minutes. At the end of it, the Razr HD still had 83 percent battery remaining. That's right with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3, which scored 82 and 83 percent, respectively. That's stellar battery performance. We likely have a 4G LTE and a bigger, richer screen to blame for that. A fair trade-off, we'd say.
Bottom line, battery life is a real strength of the Razr HD. We're glad that it is, since it more than makes up for the lack of removable battery.
As most Android phones, there are several clients available for moving files to an from your Razr HD, whether you're on a PC or a Mac.
The standard Android File Transfer software works just fine. You manipulate files just as you would with a Finder window. You can also transfer to the phone's SD card, and have your computer read from that, or vice versa.
There are also plenty of options for wirelessly uploading pcitures and videos you taken. Google Drive, Picasa, Flickr and Dropbox support are all built in, or you can easily upload to the social network of your choice.
Camera and Video
The Razr HD sports an 8-megapixel camera, backed up by an LED flash. Just like its display, the Razr HD's camera tends to blow out colours with high contrasts. While it's not exactly to true to life, we liked the ultra saturated look makes already strong colours truly eye popping.
The front facing camera is 1.3-megapixels. It boasts image quality that makes it perfectly capable for Skype chatting and the occasional self-shot.
Despite this flair for saturation, the camera underperforms overall. Images are often blurry or grainy, and manual exposure adjustment is usually a must, either by using a slider or choosing a point of focus on the screen.
On the software side, there are all the typical options, including panorama, multi-shot, timer and HDR, which optimises shots with difficult lighting.
While HDR can significantly improve a picture, it slows down the speedy shutter time considerably. We really liked how the camera would suggest HDR in certain lighting situations, where it thought it would help out.
Even with all the software perks, it's rare to get a shot out of the 8-megapixel lens that would be mistaken for anything but a mobile phone picture. Also, the camera's snappy shutter speed is undercut by the need for manual light adjustment and the occasional shift into HDR. Basically, it's good enough for a plate shot or party snap, but don't capture anyone's high school graduation with the Razr HD's camera.
The Razr HD is a stylish and capable piece of hardware. It looks great in black or white, and feels nice thanks to its Kevlar backing and edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass. We have only the slightest reservations about it, simply because smartphones have become so very competitive at this price point.
First off, the design. The Razr HD is much better looking than its predecessor, the Razr. That edge-to-edge screen gives it a bold, simple face and capitalises on the sizeable real estate of the device. It's also pretty thin for a device with a 4.7-inch screen and a big battery.
The 1.5GHz dual-core proves that not every phone needs four cores to be a premium device. The Razr HD doesn't perform as well as the quad-core packing Galaxy S3, Optimus G or HTC One X+, but it's perfectly capable of running Android and a flurry of apps. It takes hefty multitasking to bring about minor stuttering.
The version of the OS it runs is close to vanilla, but the few tweaks Motorola has implemented are actually quite nice. The Quick Settings menu and Circles widgets were two of our favourites.
Being exclusive to Telstra's 4G LTE network doesn't hurt these new Razrs either. While Telstra's service is by no means cheap, it was blazing fast and reliable. While using the phone in Sydney, we rarely ended up with less than four bars or on 3G service.
The battery is great too. Motorola's claims of 7 hours of YouTube streaming, and 6 hours of 4G LTE came through, thanks to a big 2530 mAh battery and energy sipping dual-core processor.
Finally, we liked the Razr HD's big, sharp screen. The high contrast colours are eye catching, and the extra visual real estate is great for gaming and watching videos.
The camera is nothing special. It takes pretty average to subpar pictures in anything but perfect outdoor light.
There's a decent amount of Telstra bloatware consumers can surely do without it, all of which cannot be uninstalled. It can be hidden though, which is half a step in the right direction.
The Razr HD is a very good phone. The screen and overall design is very handsome. Its dual-core processor is capable, and it only sips battery power. It's a long lasting, reliable device that still has more than enough power to get the job done.
Being exclusive to Telstra is no handicap either, since the company's 4G LTE service is expanding and fast.
There's nothing wrong with the device, except for a mediocre camera. It's just that competition is so stiff. At this price you could have one of our other favourite phones, the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3.
The choice essentially comes down to personal preference. While we prefer the aluminum and Kevlar construction of the Razr HD to the more plastic feeling construction of the Galaxy S3 and Optimus G, there is something to be said for quad-core power. And while many weren't crazy about what iOS 6 brought to the table (and took away. We're looking at you, Apple maps), it can't be denied that the iPhone 5 is one of the best phones out there.
Ultimately, it's a very fine phone, but struggles to stand out amongst the competition. Remember how we mentioned that Motorola pays George Lucas to use the name Droid? To put our verdict in Star Wars terms, the Razr HD is far more of a helpful R2-D2 than fussy C-3PO, but it's not quite capable of assassinating the competition like IG-88.