During the NCAA Tournament, it was hard to avoid commercials for the Motorola Atrix, the first 4G offering from AT&T. Always one to try a new toy, I reached out to the company and was able to spend a couple weeks putting the handset — and its various accessories — through a thorough test run.
In all honesty, I’m totally and completely torn on the Atrix. On the surface, the phone is a sleek and stylish offering. It’s laptop accessory sounds like a great add-on, and probably would be in the right circumstance, but still has a long way to go before becoming practical. Lastly, it’s home entertainment center compatibility is a nice touch, but one which at least for now seems unnecessary.
Reviewing all three components as a single entity is difficult. Each has its own purpose and for the time being, each has its own pluses and minutes. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll break down the three individually.
Let’s start with the handset. Like I said, it’s a pretty cool-looking phone. Lightweight and with an attractive (and comfortable) form factor. The handset is mostly plastic but it feels much , much sturdier. Nothing about it seems even remotely flimsy. It feels good in your hand, it feels almost unnoticeable in the pocket. Not bad from that point of view.
The Android operating system is getting better every day. As an open-source platform, it’s a perpetual work in progress but still, it’s a spectacular OS. I’m a big believer in the theory that iOS is for anybody, Android is for people who can think for themselves. With that in mind, its disappointing that the Atrix ships with a number of unnecessary, preinstalled programs. Most of them can be removed, but it’s still There’s no need to get into a Android vs. iOS breakdown, so we’ll move on to what makes the OS tick.
Under the hood: The Atrix is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and comes complete with a gig of RAM and 16 gigs of storage. (You can expand that to 32GB with a microSD card). It’s a powerful, fast phone.
Display: A 960×540 capacitive touchscreen comes covered with Gorilla Glass from Corning. It’s sturdy. I fell asleep on the couch, phone and car keys on my pocket, and not so much as a scratch.
Connectivity: It’s all in there; 801.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth and AT&T’s version of 4G.
Camera: The main camera, located on the back, is five megapixels but unless you’re recording a major life event, it more than adequately replaces your point-and-shoot. The front camera is fairly weak, but it’s not intended for capturing precious moments, anyway. I did like the 720p video capability quite a bit.
Battery: Battery life wasn’t as much of a concern as I had heard. With a fully-charged battery, I ran YouTube for about 2 hours and 20 minutes before the warning message first popped up. Not too bad — slightly better than most Android handsets I’ve sampled.
The HD dock
A nice touch, especially with the optional Motorola (or any USB/wireless) keyboard option which turns it in to a quasi-desktop computer. In short, the dock is a way to enjoy your media library anywhere and to that extent, it is effective.
The dock has three USB ports and an HDMI output on the back, along with connections for your stereo system. For $129, it’s pricey, but it might serve a purpose for those with a significant amount of digital media.
More than anything, this was the component that excited me the most. Unfortunately, it left me the most underwhelmed.
The Webtop OS environment is a hybrid version of Ubuntu. I was completely unimpressed with the software – it was slow and buggy and wondered why Google’s Chrome browser wasn’t included in the package.
The software does do the basic tasks you’d need from an ultra-portable machine but as designed, it’s somewhat difficult to navigate.
From a physical standpoint, the laptop is attractive with a full-sized keyboard, similar to that of a MacBook and a very large (almost too big) trackpad. Sadly, the trackpad is limited in its usefulness and doesn’t include scrolling of any kind. The buttons are large but somewhat difficult to use.
Ultimately, the laptop is not by any means a bad addition. But at $500, it’s a bit pricey. There is plenty of room for improvement. Hopefully, Motorola and AT&T find a way to address the issues soon because the laptop could be an absolutely wonderful addition to your gadget collection.
The concept is solid: an integrated phone/entertainment/productivity product – though the execution leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, the problems facing the Atrix can be solved easily, with basic software updates, and won’t require further investment from the consumer end. Take the additional accessories out of the equation, though, and the Atrix is a powerful handset, possibly one of the finest Android options I’ve tried. At $99 (with the usual two-year contract), the price is right.