Motorola Atrix HD Review: A $100 Android Phone That Doesn't Suck

The original Motorola Atrix was a big star of CES 2011. Despite the fact that it morphed into the world's worst laptop, the phone itself actually held its own. Now, the Atrix is back. The gimmicks are gone, and what's left is a solid, affordable phone with a sharp HD screen and a speedy OS. Is the new Atrix about to make a splash again?

What Is It?

A $100, 4.5-inch, 720x1280 phone running Android 4.0 (ICS) on AT&T's speedy LTE network.

Who's it For?

Business users, as Motorola pitches it—but, really, anyone who wants a solid Android phone.

Design

It's plasticky and blocky, but with that cool Kevlar back that debuted with the RAZR. The buttonless navigation is more like an Android tablet than a comparable HTC or Samsung phone.

Using It

Performance is surprisingly zippy throughout and the camera has virtually no shutter lag. Motorola's new MotoBLUR skin sticks close to stock Android—and Gizmodo's comparison of the major Android skins proved that that's that's a good thing.

The Best Part

Moto's displays have been lackluster for years. No more. The "ColorBoost" screen on the Atrix HD is fantastic—extremely bright and very colorful. It's about as good as the displays on HTC's One X or the EVO 4G LTE (which are the best out there). It's easily better than the Galaxy S III and the iPhone 4S.

Tragic Flaw

The camera. It's not sharp, it's noisy as hell in low light, and it has the remarkable ability to make a bright day at the beach look sad and gloomy. See?

This Is Weird...

Not to be shallow, but it's kind of ugly. The all-black version is not as bad as the black and white model. But it's ugly on the inside, too—the widgets and apps that Moto adds look like they came off a feature phone from the early 2000's. Meh.

Test Notes

  • This thing flies, usually. It quickly flips through menus and runs apps, and, objectively, it crushes almost everything in benchmarks.
  • There are definitely issues with the touchscreen missing touches. Makes typing and other tasks way more laborious.
  • Next thing you know, it'll suddenly slow down and take up to 5 seconds to launch an app.
  • The battery could usually—but not always—make it through the day without a recharge.
  • The tint of the screen is kinda blue. Not as blue as Samsung's AMOLED displays, but bluer than HTC's latest.
  • The kevlar back panel helps to make it splash-proof, but it also means the battery isn't removable.
  • No NFC on this phone, which is a bummer.
  • Mucho included bloatware from AT&T.
  • The power and volume buttons are prominent. (Good!) But they are very loose and wiggly. (Bad.)
  • No dedicated camera button is also bad.
  • With a micro HDMI port, you can play HD games on your TV without so much as a hitch. That's some beefy processing.
  • Solid LTE data speeds from AT&T in NYC and Los Angeles, ranging between 6Mbps and 20Mbps (up and down). Though reception on AT&T is still, well, reception on AT&T.
  • Memory is expandable.
  • The default keyboard isn't bad (though we still prefer SwiftKey).
  • It's got a pretty loud speaker.

Should You Buy It?

Yeah, it's a good, solid phone—for $100! The only things that separate this phone from HTC's and Samsung's flashship devices is a pretty crappy camera, lack of NFC, and less-than-sublime design. That may be a deal-breaker for some. If those things don't matter to you so much, then at this price, it's a steal.

Motorola Atrix HD Specs

• Network: AT&T
• OS: Android 4.0
• CPU: 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor
• Screen: 4.5-inch 720x1280 pixel ColorBoost LCD
• RAM: 1GB
• Storage: 8GB or 64GB + up to 32GB microSD
• Camera: 8MP rear / 1.3MP front
• Battery: 1780 mAh Li-Ion
• Price: $100 with a 2-year contract
Giz Rank: 3.5 stars