Motorola Razr Maxx review: Motorola Razr Maxx

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good

Average User Rating

4 stars 114 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Very long battery life; slot for microSD card.

The Bad Gingerbread not Ice Cream Sandwich OS at launch; Slightly sluggish; Bland design.

The Bottom Line If having a superpowered battery is your priority then the Motorola Razr Maxx is the marathon-running phone you've been waiting for. But if you also value speed and style in a phone, there are slicker devices in the Android and iOS camps vying for your cash.

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The Motorola Razr Maxx is a marathon runner of a phone, with a whopping 3,300mAh battery lodged beneath its 4.3-inch display. Lots of big screen phones quickly tire the more you poke and prod the pixels, but the Maxx pledges to keep on going even after your eyes have crusted over with sleep.

Phone addicts will instantly recognise the look of the Maxx -- that's because the hardware is essentially last year's Razr with a bigger battery and chunkier body.

The Maxx is currently up for grabs SIM-free on Expansys for a pretty substantial £480, or around £420 on Amazon or Clove.

At the time of writing, pay monthly prices had not been announced, but judging by its specs, expect the Maxx to be pushing towards the higher end of the Android spectrum.

Should I buy the Motorola Razr Maxx?

This phone is the perfect pocket rocket for people who can't stop using their handsets and are always running out of battery.

Motorola Razr Maxx
Think you've seen this blower before? From the front the Razr Maxx looks exactly the same as the Razr.

As many a savvy CNET UK reader has pointed out, a stylishly thin slab of glass and metal with no juice left in the tank is just that -- a stylishly thin slab of glass and metal. The Razr Maxx doesn't have waifish supermodel looks but it has an awful lot of juice in its tank. So if battery life is your priority, you may well go mad about Maxx.

However, it's not all gravy. The Maxx drags its feet at times and its software interface has some clumsy edges. It also runs the Gingerbread operating system, rather than the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich . Indeed, Moto recently slated ICS as bad for some phones . Those seeking a super-slick software experience -- or a speedy, sexy phone -- should look elsewhere.

But it's horses for courses. Speed freaks and aesthetes may be willing to trade a little battery life for a faster, prettier blower, but plenty of mobile users will prefer a phone they can be sure remains pokable and proddable at the end of a hard day (or even two, in the Maxx's case).

Alternative phones to consider at this SIM-free price include the perennially popular Samsung Galaxy S2 (now running ICS following an update), the blisteringly quick and slick HTC One S and -- if you're not joined at the hip to Google's OS -- the super-sexy and app-packed Apple iPhone 4 .

Battery

As noted in the intro, the 'Maxx' in Razr Maxx is shorthand for 'maximum power'. Motorola has blessed this phone with a seriously beefy 3,300mAh battery (which, incidentally, can't be removed). Indeed, it claims this is the biggest battery in any commercial smart phone -- likening it to power tool battery packs. Phwoar!

Motorola Razr Maxx
Under this bland grey exterior lurks a real brute of a battery, making it more akin to a power tool than a typical mobile phone

Putting its mouth where its money is, Moto reckons you can yak away for a throat-croaking 17.6 hours on the Maxx before needing a plug socket to juice it up (you'll need to locate some Strepsils long before that). Standby time is a whopping 607 hours or some 25 days. Crivens!

If you're wondering how many films you can cram in before the Maxx croaks its last, Moto says the phone is good for 16+ hours of video playback. I tested this claim by loading up one of the longest videos on YouTube -- albeit, not an HD video -- and leaving the phone playing it back over Wi-Fi. I started this battery test at 6pm on a Thursday evening. When I got in to the office at 9am on Friday morning the phone was still going -- now displaying a 'battery at 5% or less' warning.

The Maxx continued to play the video until 10.30am when it finally powered off. So it managed a stonking 16.5 hours of video playback. That's a whole lot of episodes of Community.

If you're after a phone with extreme stamina, the Maxx is a very serious contender -- some may say the only one. Alternatively, you could of course grab yourself an equally fully featured smart phone that has a removeable battery and buy a spare or two to carry around.

Software

Android creator Google now owns Motorola so you'd be forgiven for thinking Moto's hardware would come packing the very latest version of Android, right? Wrong. The Razr Maxx runs Gingerbread out of the box -- although it will apparently get an ICS update before July. Fingers crossed, Droid fans.

Since the Maxx is already knocking on the door of this update, why not stick ICS on there from the get go? It's certainly disappointing that the Maxx comes with the same Android version and Moto skin as its older sibling, the Razr. Hopefully this snafu won't last (too) long.

Motorola Razr Maxx
As Android skins go, Moto's offering is a lurid, clanging affair, which assaults the eye rather than caresses it.

Motorola's Android skin delivers the familiar Android experience of multiple home screens (five in this case) to fill with apps and widgets, plus an apps view that can be sliced to show all apps, apps you've downloaded or recently used.

As Android skins go, this software lacks a certain visual finesse and polish. It's not as slick as HTC Sense 4.0 , that's for sure. If you're the sort of person who gets offended by ugly fonts and clumsy-looking widgets, which insist on pointlessly pulsing with light every time you swipe, then the Razr Maxx will give you a migraine.

Continuing the clumsy theme, the Maxx's interface can be laborious to use. For example, icons can't be dragged together to create a folder -- you have to long-press the home screen, select 'folders' then select the type of folder you want to add. Likewise, changing the apps on the launcher bar means scrolling through a long list to find the app or function you want to add. Only three apps slots are customisable on this launch bar too.

Motorola Razr Maxx
Moto's interface is not as slick and polished as HTC's Sense 4.0 software -- it's big on tedious text menus.

And then there is the apps view. Here, to switch between 'all apps', 'recent' and 'downloaded', you have to tap once to dive into a menu, and again to select the data slice you want. Why Moto hasn't put these three options as tabs along the top of the menu -- thereby jettisoning that first pointless tap -- goodness only knows.

Instead of finessing its skin, Motorola has spent time and effort developing some extra functions in an attempt to add some of its own special sauce to Android.

First is Smart Actions -- a system that lets you set up rules that trigger custom actions. For instance, you can enable a low battery saver Smart Action that helps extend the life of the battery by dimming the screen, turning off GPS and suspending background updates -- or whatever functions you choose to select.

You can get seriously granular about these rules and actions, such as making your ringtone change the more calls you miss -- perhaps opting for increasingly irritating ringtones so they act as an audio cue to yourself that you really should pick up the phone. Or getting the Maxx to change its wallpaper to a photo that says 'I love my job' when you're at work.

If you're the sort of person who likes micro-fine control over all aspects of your digital existence, you'll love how much tweakability these Smart Actions give you. It really is heaven for control freaks.

Motorola Razr Maxx
The Maxx lets you create rules that trigger so-called 'Smart Actions' such as this one, which alters the phone's ringtone and wallpaper when at work.

Motorola has also added its MotoCast system to the Maxx. This allows you to link the phone with content you've stored on a laptop or PC/Mac so you can wirelessly view music, videos, documents and photos stored on your computer via the phone -- without having to sideload or download it first.

MotoCast can also be used to auto-upload photos taken with the phone to your PC -- a handy way to back-up your gallery. However, if you're worried about draining your mobile data allowance, you may want to avoid turning this on.

To get Moto Cast up and running you have to download and install the app on your computer and create an account. You then select the computer folders that you want to share with the phone. These then become accessible on the phone by tapping on the 'My files' app and selecting MotoCast computers, then drilling down into your folders and files.

While Moto Cast does work -- and is a pretty neat concept -- it's not without drawbacks. Most obviously, the computer you're accessing has to be on for you to get to the content -- so if you turn off your home PC or Mac when you head out to work, there's no chance of vicariously enjoying your movie selection during lunch break.

The Moto Cast interface is also rather spit and sawdust. Don't expect an uber-polished environment. For example, I couldn't find an obvious way to remove a Moto Cast account beyond factory resetting the device, although you can 'force stop' and 'clear data' in Moto Cast via the 'manage applications' menu. But neither option is exactly what I was after (and their functions would not be immediately obvious to less tech-savvy types).

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Where to Buy

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (Verizon Wireless)

Part Number: DROIDRAZRMAXX
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Talk Time Up to 1290 min
  • Technology CDMA2000 1X
  • Combined with With digital camera / digital player / FM radio
  • Service Provider Verizon Wireless
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