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Review: DROID RAZR M


Now that Motorola and Google are “one”, we’ve been mighty excited to see what Google’s meddling would produce. Thus far, however, not much has materialized - at least, not much that die-hard Android purists were hoping to see. The Apple-like hardware/software optimization and integration that many hoped Google would bring to Motorola hasn’t happened. Hell, even quicker and more widespread updates for Motorola hardware hasn’t evolved. The biggest change we’ve seen thus far is a much more hands off approach to Android skinning from Motorola.

The latest RAZR devices from Motorola sport one of the most “pure” Android builds on the market now. A few feature additions like Motorola’s “Smart Actions” (triggers that in turn can enable/disable actions) are present, and genius. But those have been around for a while now.

Despite the lack of any new, obvious Google touches or features from Motorola, is the DROID RAZR M the mid-range fighter Verizon and Motorola have hyped it up to be?

Hardware

Let’s make one thing clear: the RAZR M is a beautiful device. The hardware feels and looks high end even though the price (and specs) suggest otherwise. The use of some metals in the body give it added weight over cheap, crappy plastic and go a long way into making the M feel like a premium device. At the same time, the added weight never leaves us thinking the M is bloated or too heavy.

The buttons along the right side such as the volume up/down have decent travel and a nice healthy *click* feel that are easy to find with the aide of eyes or not.

Overall, we’re really impressed with Motorola’s RAZR M. It’s not as “Google-ified” as we’d have hoped but it’s still much better put together, nicer looking and more premium feeling than most of Motorola’s recent devices over the last 12-18 months, and it is certainly much higher end feeling than 75% of competing Android phones, mid-range or not.

Display

With each new device that hits the market, more and more emphasis is placed on the display. It makes sense, really. The display is the part of the phone you interact with every time you touch your phone. And on the RAZR M, it’s a bittersweet affair. Quite simply, the resolution and AMOLED tech wouldn’t normally necessitate its own section. But give us just a second…

In terms of size, we’re looking at a 4-inch 4.3-inch AMOLED display with 540 x 960 resolution. The PenTile tech will draw irks from display enthusiasts as will the resolution. But remember; this is a mid-range device. So while the performance of the display may leave many yearning for more, there’s still plenty to love, namely the size and lack of bezel.

Motorola nor Google market the RAZR M as a “bezel-less” device. But it’s definitely close with the edge-to-edge display. A couple of millimeters on each side makes this seemingly “small” 4.3-inch display feel fairly large tucked within the phone’s meager case.

In the end, the display is a solid 7/10 for us. It’s not as bad as past AMOLEDs (with PenTile arrangement) and its resolution isn’t the greatest either. But the overall presentation is top notch. Colors are vivid if a bit too saturated and sharpness is decent considering the tech behind the M’s display.

Camera & Video

While many aspects of the RAZR M feel not so mid-range, the camera on the M brings things back to reality. It’s just…average. In the right circumstances the pictures produced by the M’s rear-facing 8-megapixel are pretty good when light is plentiful. Colors can be a tad washed out here and there. Darker environments are what the RAZR M really has trouble with. Most pictures taken in darker scenarios ended up with plenty of noise and less than accurate colors.

Aside from image quality, the additional shooting modes such as burst, HDR and Panoramic mode do add some utility for those looking to spice up their mobile shooting a bit.

Software

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is the software shipped by Motorola. And that’s sad. One would think that a shoe-in with Google would ensure something a bit more up to date such as 4.1 Jelly Bean. But alas, it isn’t meant to be. At least not yet. We’re hoping that as nice as the M is Motorola (and Google) give users the highly beneficial Jelly Bean upgrade at some point in the future.

Outside of the standard ICS featureset there isn’t a whole lot to talk about in regards to the M. Motorola’s fantastic Smart Actions are present as is one other gem - a sliding settings panel when swiping your finger from left-to-right on the first homescreen. Doing said action will reveal a panel with some toggles for common items like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc. It’s a more elegant solution to settings toggles instead of cramming them in the Notification drawer which has become the go-to default for dumping such things. Because, let’s be honest, Notification drawers are for notifications, toggles and settings.

A spot where Motorola could have shined by being one of the (very) few manufacturers to provide the latest Android OS to a mid-range was sadly dropped by the way side. As we said above, we really hope that Motorola pushes Jelly Bean down to the M sooner or latter.

Battery Life

Sadly, Motorola is still stupidly making unnecessarily thin phones at the expense of battery life while following up several flagship devices with bigger “MAXX” versions that feature larger batteries. That said, the M isn’t bad in the battery life department. The smaller display and not clocked-to-the-hills processor means the stress put on the battery isn’t as great as your normal flagship device.

In daily usage with a few dozen emails being replied to, a couple hundred tweets, a few dozen texts and other miscellaneous usage (no streaming of any type) we were able to go a solid 14-16 hours. For an Android device on LTE this is actually quite good and definitely one of the better showings we’ve experienced. Still, we can’t help but feel cheated that Motorola keeps doing this two-step dance, offering a super thin phone and sacrificing battery life and a still-thin phone with awesome battery life. Motorola, please. Just move all devices to MAXX spec now. Seriously. It is a huge marketing point over the competition.

The Verdict

If we had to compare it to another device on Big Red, we’d look no further than the HTC Incredible 4G, another similarly sized mid-range device with a 4-inch display. While it too is aimed at the mid-range section of the market, we feel Motorola’s attempts with the M are far more impressive and worth shelling out for than HTC’s with the Incredible 4G.

The display might not be the greatest thing on the market nor is its performance class leading. But the overal fit-n-finish, edge-to-edge display which makes it feel bigger and decent battery life combined with a near-stock Android OS make the RAZR M one of the best buys at $99 for Verizon customers.

After using the DROID M for a solid week we’re left (more than ever) wanting an Android manufacturer to design and manufacturer a 4-inch, high-end Android device that features a 720p LCD display, high-end dual or quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and plenty of other high-end specs. For lovers of that size and form factor, though, the DROID M is where it’s at for now.

We originally, incorrectly listed the RAZR M screen size at 4″. It is 4.3″. We’ve updated the review accordingly.

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 8/10

   
  • Gorgon

    Correction, display is 4.3″ qHD, not 4″.

    • http://www.gadgetsteria.com The Gadgeteur

      My mistake. Fixed.