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Hands-On: Motorola Atrix 4G

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Jan 5, 2011, 9:44 PM   by Philip Berne

We go hands-on with "the world's most powerful smartphone," the Motorola Atrix 4G. The Atrix 4G packs killer hardware specs and Motorola's Motoblur interface on top of Android 2.2. Can it live up to the Moto hype machine?

Motorola Atrix 4G 

Motorola claims that the Motorola Atrix 4G is the world's most powerful smartphone, and for the duration of CES, that might be the truth (though the phone has yet to go on sale). The hardware specs are simply through the roof. The phone packs a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor running at GHz. A full Gigabyte of RAM backs up the system.


The display is a large 4-inch touchscreen, running at qHD resolution. That's a quarter Full HD (1920 by 1080), for a resolution of 960 by 540 pixels. That comes up 120 line short of the resolution on Apple's iPhone 4, which has a 960 by 640 pixel display, and because the Motorola Atrix 4G screen is a bit larger, it doesn't pack the pixel density of Apple's so-called resolution display. Still, the screen looks great, especially running Motorola's detailed and image-rich Motoblur interface design.

The phone is not too large, but it feels solid and dense in the hand. Under the cover you'll find a whopping 1930 mAh battery, which might be the largest battery I've ever seen on a smartphone. That makes sense considering the dual-core processor, and I'll be curious to see how long the phone lasts under intensive real-world use.

The Motorola Atrix 4G is running Motorola's Motoblur on top of Android 2.2, though an Android 2.3 upgrade is expected in the future. There is some question as to whether Android 2.2 takes full advantage of the two cores in the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset.

Motorola reps were unwilling to talk about the dual-core performance specifically, or even answer questions about whether the phone would see a performance boost with an upgrade to Android 2.3, which takes better advantage of dual-core chips. The phone never seemed sluggish, especially running the more intensive tasks associated with the docking accessories Motorola is pushing.

In fact, Motorola spent very little time discussing the Atrix 4G itself, and seemed more keen to show off the laptop dock and HD dock for this phone. The laptop dock looks very much like an 11-inch Macbook Air. It's very thin and light with a full keyboard and trackpad, as well as an 11-inch display. The Atrix 4G docks in a port behind the screen, and acts as the CPU and system powering the laptop.

The laptop hardware is very slick. It's incredibly thin and light, but still feels like a real laptop. The keyboard was flat but responsive, and the screen looked pretty good.

The phone also charges in the laptop dock, which uses its own battery to last 8 hours between charges. Thus, when you're done using the laptop, you have a fully charged phone, instead of two drained devices.

Motorola is also offering an HD dock to connect the phone to an HD monitor or television. In both the laptop and HD dock, the phone runs a separate interface app to drive what you see on screen. The Web-top app constantly runs in the background on the Atrix 4G, so when you plug the phone into a dock, the interface pops up quickly. Still, Moto reps say Android's own system management keeps this software hibernating when not in use, so it shouldn't impact performance when the phone is not docked.

The Web-top interface app also hides a fascinating surprise. The phone can run a "full desktop" version of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser. Motorola showed off the browser, running on the laptop screen or a computer monitor, with multiple windows open and active at once. The browser easily handled Flash 10.1 content, far beyond the simple streaming videos you'll find on other Flash-enabled phones. We were able to navigate the Venetian Hotel and Casino Web homepage, a flash-rich site, almost as smoothly as if it were running on a basic desktop or laptop.

With a few windows open and running Flash, Motorola demonstrated a game of Angry Birds running simultaneously. Performance took an obvious hit, but with just a little patience the game was playable. With no other windows open, performance on the game was perfect.

In the HD dock, you can control the action on screen with peripheral controllers. You can use a mouse and keyboard, or a separate media remote control. So, you can play Angry Birds with a mouse for true pig-slaughtering precision. If you don't have any accessories to control the action, you can use the phone itself as a multi-touch trackpad, complete with common multi-touch gestures like two-finger scrolling. You can also use a keyboard on the Atrix 4G's display for typing in the Web-top browser on the connected big screen.

Motorola has been unwilling to talk pricing for the Atrix 4G or the related docking accessories, except to say that it would be competitive. That's a strange answer, since the hardware specs and unique capabilities put the phone out of the range of most competition, at least for now.

At first glance, the phone seems like a winner. I'm more skeptical about the laptop dock and HD dock, and I think pricing will be a primary concern. The phone on its own is superfast, but the best use of its power seems to be driving the Web-top interface and Firefox browser. If the accessories that take advantage of this key feature are priced out of range, it might feel like that power is being squandered.

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Jan 6, 2011, 10:42 AM

hello Sexy ' Phone ' how are you doing ! can i get ur number!

haha i want one of these so bad !!!
Me too!! 🤤

Jan 5, 2011, 11:20 PM

totally cool except for...

It is an interesting concept, and totally cool except for....

android 2.2? Seriously 2.2?? When 2.3 has already been out for at least a month or more. And with Moto's proven track record of updates (or should I say delayed updates or lack there of) why would you invest the kind of coin it would take to purchase this set up when it is releasing with an already out of date OS on a company whose updates are slow or "remain on android 1.5"?

And seriously, I am not having a computer experience from my phone with BLUR on it. I'd rather use windows vista than blur.
Good, dont buy it. Now I can buy two for myself.
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