Motorola Droid Razr HD (Verizon) review:

Motorola's sharpest Razr yet

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Motorola Droid Razr HD - black (Verizon)

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars 3 user reviews

The Good The Motorola Droid Razr HD offers fast performance, a big eye-popping screen, and luxurious design. It also has great call quality and satisfying 4G speeds.

The Bad The Droid Razr HD’s Achilles' heel is a camera that produces subpar images. The phone is loaded with Verizon bloatware, too.

The Bottom Line Motorola’s lovely new Droid Razr HD is fast and thin, but its weak camera should make mobile shutterbugs wary.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0

Motorola's $199.99 Droid Razr HD takes all the great features of the original Droid Razr and kicks them up a notch. Featuring a 1.5-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and yes, a massive 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display, this is the best Razr yet. Even better, the Razr HD packs everything neatly into a chassis a third of an inch thick. Now throw in Android 4.0, Motorola’s enhanced UI, plus Verizon 4G LTE data, and you’ve got one of the hottest handsets of the holiday season. That said, it faces stiff competition from the Samsung Galaxy S3, Apple iPhone 5, and Motorola's own Droid Razr Maxx HD. What also makes the Razr HD tougher to sell is its camera, which lacks killer image quality compared with other high-end handsets.

Measuring 5.2 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide and a mere 0.33 inch thick, the Motorola Droid Razr HD is very pocketable despite its large 4.7-inch display. It’s a hair thinner, in fact, than the Samsung Galaxy S3 (5.4 x 2.8 x 0.34 inches) but slightly thicker than its predecessor the original Droid Razr (5.1 x 2.7 x 0.28 inches).

The 5.1-ounce Droid Razr HD is also heavier than both the Galaxy S3 (4.7 ounces) and Droid Razr (4.5 ounces) but only slightly so. That’s no doubt due to Motorola’s use of more premium materials in the Razr HD’s chassis. A thin silver strip circles the phone’s edges, lending the device a touch of luxury similar to the HTC Evo 4G LTE, iPhones, and pricey BlackBerry handsets.

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The Droid Razr HD is just a third of an inch thick. Josh Miller/CNET

I also like how the Razr HD’s only physical buttons, a trim volume rocker and power key placed on the right side, are crafted from metal as well. Unfortunately though, there’s no dedicated shutter button for firing up the camera in a flash. The phone’s left side does contain micro ports for HDMI and USB along with slots for microSD and LTE SIM cards.

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Despite its big screen, the Droid Razr HD still slides into pockets. Josh Miller/CNET

A standard 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top, which is where it should be. I can’t abide headphone ports placed on a phone’s bottom edge. Above the screen are the Droid Razr HD’s 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as a wide notification light, which I’m personally a sucker for. On back is the phone’s main 8-megapixel imaging device, backed up by an LED flash. Razr fans will be glad to find Motorola’s distinctive Kevlar fiber coating that protects against scratches and abrasions here, too. I also like the coating's soft-touch feel that repels fingerprints and grease.

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A Kevlar fiber coating protects against scratches. Josh Miller/CNET

One of the biggest draws of the Motorola Droid Razr HD is its expansive 4.7-inch 720p (1,280x720-pixel) screen. It’s much sharper than the first Droid Razr’s display, which has a qHD resolution (960 x 540) but produces the same vivid colors because both devices use AMOLED screen technology. Viewing angles are nice and wide, too, something that I appreciate since I often watch movies or other content while doing household chores. I typically place the phone on a nearby shelf at odd angles and steal glances at it as I walk around the room.

For banging out messages, the Droid Razr HD uses Motorola’s virtual keyboard, which offers four rows of large, well-spaced keys and an arrangement identical to that of the stock Android layout. Thanks to the big screen, I found typing on the device to be both fast and accurate. You can also switch over to the Swype keyboard, which lets you drag your finger through letters to form words and sentences quickly and even with one hand.

Software and UI
If you’re expecting the Motorola Droid Razr HD to ship with Google’s latest OS, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, right out of the box, you’re in for a disappointment. The Razr HD runs the next best thing, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), which offers a modern look and plenty of enhancements over Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Motorola claims, however, that the phone will be upgradable to Jelly Bean in the future.

One of Android 4.0's improvements is visible right from the lock screen that showcases the time and date in clean lettering on the upper left. ICS brings with it the capability to display icons for various phone functions on the lock screen that users can jump directly to. Just like with other Motorola handsets such as the Droid Razr M, the Razr HD lets you drag a pulsating key icon over to the camera, phone, or text symbols to fire up these applications. Additionally a sliding button that toggles phone volume sits in the lock screen’s top-right corner.

The Razr HD also features Motorola’s interface layered over Android, essentially the remnants of the maligned Motoblur of old. I’m happy to say it's not intrusive and even provides a few handy perks over basic Android. The phone offers two home screens to start with, but you can have a total of seven to fill with widgets and application shortcuts. The primary home screen occupies the leftmost pane and scrolls from left to right. An interesting and useful tool is the Quick Settings screen that appears when you swipe left from the main home screen. There you have access to often-used functions such as ringtone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane mode.

If you've seen the Motorola Droid Razr M, Motorola Atrix HD, or Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE, you'll recognize the Circles widget taking center stage on the home screen. It's one of the slickest home-screen user interface gadgets since HTC's legendary Sense weather clock. It features three interactive discs that display analog and digital clocks, weather, and battery level.

Instead of physical buttons, there are three virtual Android keys running along the bottom edge of the screen, with icons representing back, home, and recent applications. Above this are four shortcuts to launch the same functions found on the Droid Razr HD's lock screen, though you can switch them for others if you'd like.

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