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Preview: Moto RAZR2 Series

Article Comments  53  

Jul 27, 2007, 10:39 AM   by Eric Lin

Our exclusive side by side comparison of all the new RAZR2 models - the CDMA V9m, the HSDPA V9 and the GSM V8, with video tour.

Why Compare? 

Although each model of the RAZR2 looks similar on the outside, (more similar, in fact, than the previous RAZR family,) once you look beneath the surface, each is actually quite different from its brothers. Because the differences might be imperceptible upon first glance, we thought the most helpful way to introduce you to the new RAZR family was to give you a side by side comparison, this way you can see exactly what's the same and what's different; what's new and what's old.

In this Phone Scoop exclusive we present the GSM V8, the HSDPA V9 and the CDMA V9m side by side. The V8 reviewed here is final hardware and almost final software, while the V9 models are not quite as far along. Therefore we can't comment on the things like battery life or software stability accurately. However, anything we have reported here, we have confirmed will show up in the final product.

Hardware

Body 

It's been a while since I held a first generation RAZR in my hand, but I remember two initial impressions other than marveling at how remarkably thin it was - "Wow, this is wide" and "Ouch, these sides are sharp." Over time we have all become accustomed to, if not comfortable with, the RAZR. It's size, shape and metallic form has been copied and revised to the Nth degree, by others as well as by Motorola itself.

It's no surprise (Just look at the name!) that the RAZR2 evokes the RAZR's design. Motorola has reversed their thinking since they launched the KRZR. They have given up all the humanized design aspects that came with the KRZR - the narrower shape, the cushioned feel of the keypad - and reverted to the original RAZR's design philosophy. The RAZR2, however, is still as long as the KRZR.

Even though the RAZR2 is thinner than the original, it still occupies the same volume since the phone is longer. But the first thing the RAZR2 makes you say is not "Whoa, this is thin" - thin is de rigeur these days - it's "Whoa, this is big." In fact, the RAZR 2 doesn't look that much smaller than the iPhone when they're side by side. (I swear that will be the only mention of that other phone in this entire preview.)

But the RAZR2 does carry over the KRZR's softer rounded edges, at least on the bottom half of the body where it counts. There is the KRZR's soft touch coating on the back, but not on the sides at all, so you never feel it while it's in your hand. Still, the RAZR2 is rather comfortable to hold, especially when compared to the original. The edges on the top could easily be sharpened into blades that would finally match the phone's namesake, but you never hold the phone from there.

On the left side are volume keys and a smart key while on the right is another larger key that activates voice dialing or the camera depending on the model.

The new hinge is so spring-loaded it's almost too aggressive. The RAZR2 will just fly open with the gentlest flick of your fingertip under the lid. This is great when opening the phone, but scarier when closing it. As the RAZR2 slams shut you can literally feel the metal body vibrate like a spring in your hand. Despite that, the phone does not feel like it will break when slamming shut - the materials and build are sturdy and high quality.

With a casual glance at all three RAZR2 models, you would think they were the same size, but this is not the case. The GSM V8 and the CDMA V9m are about the same weight and thickness, but the HSDPA V9 is both thicker and heavier than the other two. All three models feel heavy in the hand, so if you just pick one up, you wouldn't notice. But when you get to handle all three, the extra weight of the V9 really stands out.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Keypad 

The keypads of the V8 and V9m are the same shape but with a slightly different layout. Each has 4 straight rows of keys but no vertical dividers between the numbers in each row. Because the phone is so wide, the horizontal lines dividing the rows make them look much narrower than they actually are. Each row is tall enough that you can hit a key without hitting the number above or below it.

The problem comes when hitting numbers within a row. The numbers, and the invisible buttons beneath them, are at the far edges of the phone and down the center, while the text label fall to the left or right of the number. Instead of vertical dividers, the RAZR2 just has a massive amount of empty space between the keys. If you don't press on the number itself, you have no idea whether you're pressing the intended digit or the next number over. This doesn't affect accuracy between the first a second digit of each row since there is so much space between the two, but because the letters bring the second and third digits so close together, there is more of a problem there.

The V9 solves this problem by ever so gently curving each row of keys, so the middle key is slightly lower than the other two.

Motorola consistently has some of the best signal strength and sound quality in phones we test and the RAZR2 is no exception. The sound is loud and clear - better than the Z6 we recently previewed but not quite as loud as the Q9h.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Video Tour 

You can also see what the RAZR2 looks like and how it fits in the hand in this video tour. You can watch it here:



or visit YouTube for more viewing and sharing options.

Software

Look Familiar? 

Each RAZR2 runs different software, but you've seen all of it before. The V8 runs the new Linux Java OS, which we just ran through its paces in the ROKR Z6 review. The V9 runs Motorola's classic "Synergy" OS in a format almost identical to the RAZR V3xx. The V9m will run whatever existing OS each CDMA carrier has used on previous Motos.

None of these interfaces are new, and they have been compared hundreds of times (many of those times by us). What is new is how the external screen has been integrated into each of these experiences. For the first time, every RAZR has a QVGA screen on the outside of the flip, with a touch-sensitive area at the bottom of the screen. By placing the touch sensitive area over the screen instead of on buttons, Motorola can now re-label the external keys depending on the task at hand.

V9m 

The V9m has the most complete external interface. A quick press of any of the phone's side keys (including the volume buttons) brings up 3 icons at the bottom of screen to activate the camera, the music player or the voice navigation software. To activate any of these, you touch the icon on the screen and the phone will vibrate. But you have to continue to press on the icon until the phone beeps.

Even though the vibration is used to acknowledge a key press in every over aspect of this interface, that is not the case for launching applications. Motorola claims this is to protect against accidental launches, but we still wonder why Motorola made the phone vibrate long before the launch occurs. In fact, because the vibration usually signals a button has been pressed, we just assumed this feature was broken since by removing our finger after vibration but before the beep, none of the applications would launch.

Because the camera is just above the external screen, the external interface is used for self portraits (or including yourself in group portraits). It features simplified controls, where you just touch the word "take" to take a picture. Although there is no indication of it anywhere, you can also use the volume keys to adjust the digital zoom level of the camera as well. Snapping a picture automatically saves it and returns you to the viewfinder. To do anything else, including exit out of the viewfinder, you have to open the phone.

Opening the V9m, the camera interface is also horizontal but features more labels and more status readouts. Although the labels are in the same place on the screen as the external interface, there is no touch sensitive portion of the screen, so you need to use the keypad. This difference is a bit confusing the first few times. You keep looking for separate keys on the outside or touch keys on the inside.

Launching the music player immediately starts the first song in your playlist. The music player is the same as on the MAXX Ve, so it does not remember where you left off playing if you've exited the player, and you cannot do any tasks in the background, so you have to exit the player to do anything other than answer a phone call. The touch keys change to the traditional play/pause, previous and next track keys. And the external display shows album art for the current song as well as a playlist, so that you can see what's coming up to skip to it (or skip it). Skipping between tracks takes longer from the external interface than the internal one. There is a pause and a rotating icon to indicate that a new track is loading, but on the internal screen new art loads immediately and the next song starts playing much faster. Again the only way to exit the player is to open the phone and quit.

Launching the voice navigation application displays a list of commands you can say, which allow you to do a wide variety of tasks in addition to dialing numbers. The touch controls are not used in this application at all. The screen is big enough to display all the commands at once, so you don't even need to scroll.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

V9 

The V9 doesn't use the touch controls to nearly the extent that the V9m does. To start, you must first unlock the external keys by pressing and holding the left side key for a few seconds. Then you can start the music player by tapping the left key again, or start the camera by holding the right side key for a good 4 seconds.

Even though you're pressing physical keys to control the phone this way, they have so little feedback that Motorola thoughtfully included vibration to let you know you've pressed them as well. Unfortunately, just as with the V9m, you have to press long after the vibrations (in this case MUCH longer) to either unlock the phone or start the camera. (Which means because of button pressing and holding twice over, it takes almost 10 seconds to launch the camera on the V9 without opening it. The moral of the story is open the phone, launch the camera, then close it.)

Although the camera can be started and operated from the outside, it does not use the touch controls at all. Instead you use the side keys, using the volume keys for zoom again, and the large right side key to snap the shutter. There are no interface features at all, simply the entire display used as a full screen viewinder. Inside, the camera uses a standard looking interface that lets you know you need to use the keys and not a non-existent touchscreen.

The music player, however, is far more feature complete on the V9 than the V9m. Using the volume keys and the small side key below them, you navigate through the player much like you would a stand-alone player, choosing how you would like your music sorted and then picking a song. The touch controls consistently act as play/pause, forward and back and can be used to control playback even as you're looking for more music to play. In addition to more ways to navigate your music from the outside, you can also do anything inside while your music is playing in the background. Switching to the next or previous songs is instantaneous whether using the external keys or the internal interface. Also, the V9 is only one of the three that displays songs in track order if that information is in the ID3 tag.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

V8 

The V8 makes more use of the external screen, but less use of the touch controls. The only thing accessible from the outside of the V8 when it's in standby mode is the camera. Holding the left key below the volume keys will launch the camera in in about 2 seconds. This is about as fast as on the V9m and much faster than on the V9. Otherwise the camera on the V8 works the same as the the V9, except that the left key is used to snap pictures instead of the right.

You cannot access the music player or voice dialing without opening the V8 first. However the V8 can be used to read and respond to text messages right from the external screen, using a combination of the volume keys and left side button, much the same way the music player on the V9 works. Oddly, this does not work for missed calls as well. Finally being able to read incoming texts from the external screen is a joy. Unfortunately the interface to do so was designed to look like a touch screen interface, confusing many users who we let try the phone.

Unfortunately that same sort of advanced navigation is not available when using the music player from the outside screen. Once you open the V8 and start music playing, the external screen is activated when you close the phone. The screen displays the current track information including album art if it is available. The touch sensitive area becomes play / pause, forward and back buttons. There is no track list or any way to see what's coming next other than to jump to the next track, nor is there any way to access any more information. Switching tracks is faster than on the V9m, and takes the exact same amount of time whether using the phone closed or open.

Despite its skimpy musical features, the V8 is a better music device than the ROKR Z6. It has the same music player, but much nicer external music controls. In fact it's almost surprising that this RAZR didn't get the ROKR moniker instead.

The V8 camera works the same as the V9, except the left side key acts as the shutter button instead of the right.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Final Thoughts 

The RAZR2 is still just a RAZR. Yes, it has a slightly sexier body and a new external display with fancy touch sensitive areas, but little else has changed.

Unfortunately, the touch sensitive screen is under-used, even on the V9m. For the most part it is little more than slightly fancier music controls and the V9m simply adds on a launcher.

Even though they don't use the touch keys, features from the V8 and V9 are the most interesting aspect of these new RAZRs. The way the V8 can deal with texts right from the external display and the way the V9 lets you navigate your music should have been put into every model. And then, if Motorola wanted to get really fancy, they should have been designed to take advantage of the touch screen.

It will be interesting to see whether any of these features make one RAZR2 more popular than another, or if they are enough to make the new RAZR2 popular at all.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
Sprint V9M - August 19th launch date.. sender02 Jul 28, 2007, 9:43 AM
RAZR2 Impressions VerizonRepLogan Aug 13, 2007, 1:08 PM
I'm sorry... muchdrama Jul 27, 2007, 6:58 PM
well thats kinda retarded chonchy777 Jul 27, 2007, 6:34 PM
Wow The King of Kingz Aug 6, 2007, 12:03 AM
huh The King of Kingz Aug 2, 2007, 6:32 PM
Anyone know the release dates? Soon 2B ATT Jul 27, 2007, 11:25 AM
Sprint or what? CSIdude42 Jul 27, 2007, 8:06 PM
I'm Actually Impressed Djanifer9512 Jul 27, 2007, 1:30 PM
Phonescoops Review? Cokeman Jul 28, 2007, 1:55 AM
V9M - Music Player, Task Manager? sender02 Jul 27, 2007, 7:19 PM
How typical of Motorola... mmcnier Jul 27, 2007, 11:37 AM
reading messages and checking missed calls ??? OCCfan Jul 27, 2007, 6:27 PM
AT&T and V9 SteveHRocks Jul 27, 2007, 11:30 AM
they didn't show software on internal screen! SyXbiT Jul 27, 2007, 12:48 PM
 
 
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