Motorola Atrix 4G review: Motorola Atrix 4G

Aside from 720p HD video recording, the Atrix's 5-megapixel camera also offers a dual-LED flash, autofocus, and digital zoom. Editing options in the camera app are rather limited compared with competing products. You can select from one of five picture resolutions and a variety of scene modes and effects, but there are no white-balance controls, ISO settings, or the like. The options are pretty much the same in camcorder mode.


The Atrix's 5-megapixel camera consistently produced clear images, but they were a tad grainy. Colors also could be richer.

Picture quality was decent. Images came out mostly sharp, but there was some graininess and colors could have been brighter. Video quality was above par. Clips recorded at 720p looked sharp, even with action scenes, and there wasn't any cloudiness or weird hues ruining the picture.

The Atrix offers 16GB of onboard memory with the option of expandable memory; the expansion slot supports up to 32GB cards, so that should be plenty of storage for your photos, videos, and music. The smartphone's media player is compatible with multiple audio and video formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, AAC+ Enhanced, AMR NB, 1080P MPEG4 (with the exception noted above), H.264, WMV, and Xvid/DivX at 30 frames per second.

Since the Atrix features an HDMI port, you can use the included cable to connect your device to your TV; what's cool is that the smartphone turns into a remote control, which you can use to peruse the phone's multimedia gallery. The attractive and easy-to-use interface is an added bonus.

In addition to the 5-megapixel camera, there is a front-facing VGA camera, which you can use to take self-portraits and make video calls. The Atrix doesn't come preloaded with a video chat client, but you can visit the Android Market and download an app of your choice, such as Fring or Qik. Whether you can make video calls over the cellular network or Wi-Fi is dependent on the app, but AT&T does not put a restriction on either method.

For regular voice calls, the Motorola Atrix 4G offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, (802.11b/g/n), and assisted GPS are also onboard, as well as 4G over AT&T's HSPA+ network. The Atrix can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices. To use this feature, you need to pay an additional $20 per month on top of the Data Pro plan, so $45 per month total for 4GB of data.

With Android 2.2, the smartphone supports such features as those outlined in our Froyo article here and Google's various services, including Google Maps Navigation. The Atrix can also sync up with multiple e-mail and social networking accounts, and offers a unified inbox and shared calendars.

The handset ships with a few preloaded apps: Quickoffice, Vlingo's voice recognition program, and the Blockbuster Video mobile app, to name a few. Of course, you've also got your obligatory AT&T services--AT&T Navigator, AT&T FamilyMap, and AT&T U-Verse Live TV--on there, but for once, you can actually uninstall any of these apps if you wish. No change of heart on third-party applications, as that feature is disabled on the Atrix. Unfortunately, AT&T does not allow you to sideload third-party applications that aren't in the Android Market.

Laptop dock
The dual-core processor is certainly a big part of the Motorola Atrix 4G's story, but it's not the complete story. As we said before, one of the reasons why we gave the handset our Best of CES Award in the cell phones and smartphones category is because of its unique laptop dock.


The laptop dock is a smart and cool way to extend the capabilities of the smartphone, but it comes at a cost.

With this accessory, you can dock the smartphone to a laptop shell to continue using it but with a full keyboard and 11.5-inch screen. A window will appear onscreen to show you a mirrored view of your phone's home screen, where you can interact with it just as you would if you were holding it in your hand. You can make and receive calls using the dock's speakers or a Bluetooth headset, send text messages and e-mail, download apps from the Web-based Android Market, and more.

Also, the combination of the smartphone's dual-core processor and the Webtop app developed by Motorola allows you to have PC-like functionality, including a full Firefox 3.6 browser and Adobe Flash Player, with just this 2.4-pound dock and your smartphone. There's also an integrated Citrix application that gives account holders access to their virtual desktops.

The laptop dock is beautifully designed. It's lightweight while still feeling solid. The screen is brilliant and crisp, and the keyboard is very reminiscent of the MacBook Air. It also features two USB ports in the back. The battery is rated for 8 hours of battery life, and it will charge the phone while it's connected to the dock. You can get online by connecting via Wi-Fi or AT&T's tethering plan.

We had a quick go with the laptop dock and absolutely loved this added functionality. It's an intelligent and well-executed way to expand the capabilities of the smartphone, and we applaud Motorola for it. The integration was seamless, and it was wonderful to be able to type messages with a full keyboard and get the full browsing experience. However, this privilege comes at a big cost.

As we mentioned, there are two purchasing options. One is a bundle package that includes the Atrix 4G and the laptop dock for $499.99 with a two-year contract, Data Pro data plan, and tethering add-on, and after a $100 mail-in rebate. If you'd rather go the Wi-Fi route and not deal with the tethering add-on, you can buy the dock alone for $499.99. Either way, it's a large chunk of change that will certainly be a turnoff for many.

As we said at the beginning, we'll be handing the Atrix and the laptop dock over to CNET's laptops and Netbooks editor, Scott Stein, so he can give it a full rundown and see if it's worth the money. Check back soon for his review.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Motorola Atrix 4G in New York using AT&T service, and call quality was fair. The audio on our side of the conversation was mostly clear with good volume, but there was some slight background hissing. Voices occasionally sounded garbled as well. Friends had positive things to say about the sound quality. Most said all was clear on their end, but a couple of callers mentioned some muffled sounds, though nothing bad enough to disrupt the conversation.

Motorola Atrix 4G call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was largely similar to regular voice calls: clear but with a faint background hiss. There was enough volume to have a conversation in a louder environment. We successfully paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and were able to make calls and listen to music through them.

As we experienced on the HTC Inspire 4G, we didn't get the most impressive speeds from AT&T's HSPA+ network. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app to measure and record network speeds, we averaged download speeds of around 1.40Mbps and upload speeds of 0.18Mbps. The speeds, particularly for uploads, were less than impressive, but there's a reason for that. AT&T admitted recently that the HSUPA radio on the Atrix was not enabled at launch. The carrier has promised to provide an update in April to turn it on, so we will retest the device then. For now, with existing speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 30 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 11 seconds and 10 seconds, respectively.

The Motorola Atrix 4G ships with a 1,930mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 9 hours and up to 10.4 hours of standby time. In our battery drain tests, our final results got us between 7 and 10 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. The duration was dependent on the strength of the 4G signal we were getting, as a stronger signal meant that more battery being depleted. This is typical of most smartphones today, but the Atrix has one of the biggest batteries, if not the biggest, we've seen in a smartphone. That said, we should note that we were using the device heavily to try to test as many features as we could. Here are our official CNET Labs tested results. More smartphone testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours) Audio battery life (in hours) Boot time (in seconds) Web page load time (in seconds)
Motorola Atrix 4G 7
12.3 48 6

According to FCC radiation tests, the Atrix 4G has a digital SAR rating of 1.47W/kg.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Motorola Atrix 4G and Laptop Dock Bundle (AT&T)

Part Number: 3002747 Released: Mar 6, 2011
    Low Price: $149.00 See all prices

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Release date Mar 6, 2011
    • Talk Time Up to 540 min
    • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
    • Combined with With digital player / digital camera / FM radio
    • Service Provider AT&T
    • Weight 4.8 oz
    • Diagonal Size 4 in
    • Sensor Resolution 5 megapixels
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