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Motorola Droid Razr M (Verizon) review:

Motorola Droid Razr M (Verizon)

Motorola Droid Razr M
Create folders to save space on the home screen. Sarah Tew/CNET

Onboard the Droid Razr M is the wide range of Google services and software including Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, and Google+, along with the Google Play store for music, books, and movies. Useful third-party applications preloaded include the Kindle app, Quickoffice for viewing common MS Office files, and Facebook.

Sadly there's a decent amount of bloatware on the phone, including Verizon's curated app store, NFL Mobile, VZ Navigator, and the Viewdini entertainment search app. There's Amazon's own Appstore, too, plus a smattering of questionable software including Color video for sharing and Zappos to shop for shoes.

Motorola adds its Smartactions application, too, which is designed to automate phone functions to improve usability and performance. With it you can have the phone shut down its data connection at night to conserve battery life or, say, automatically connect to Wi-Fi when its GPS sensor realizes you've arrived home. It's a nice idea but honestly I'd rather control my smartphone settings myself, thank you very much.

Like the Atrix HD's, the Motorola Droid Razr M's 8-megapixel camera at first seems like a winner. It has plenty of scene settings, special filters, and shooting modes such as Panorama, Multishot, HDR, and Timer. You can even adjust the exposure manually. The phone takes more than a second, sometimes two, to cycle through shots, which makes nabbing fast-paced action tough.

Motorola Droid Razr M
The camera app features lots of scene options and shooting modes. Sarah Tew/CNET

Image quality was also an issue, with still-life images being dark with muted colors. Indoors shots under low light proved challenging for the Droid Razr M as well, and I noticed color noise and grainy details in my test shots inside. Outside camera performance picked up a bit, and colors were more vibrant in strong sunlight. That said, details could have been clearer and features more crisp.

Motorola Droid Razr M
Still-life shots were dark and colors bland. Brian Bennett/CNET
Motorola Droid Razr M
Shooting fast-moving subjects under low light was tricky. Brian Bennett/CNET
Motorola Droid Razr M
Colors outside improved, especially in bright sunlight. Brian Bennett/CNET
Motorola Droid Razr M
The HDR mode added more detail to shadows but created halo effects. Brian Bennett/CNET
Motorola Droid Razr M
Street scenes in bright sun were acceptable. Brian Bennett/CNET

Motorola chose wisely to equip the Droid Razr M with its robust 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. Joined by 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, the phone turned in a high Linpack score of 182.2 MFLOPs (multithread). That's almost as fast as superphones such as the HTC One X, HTC Evo 4G LTE, and Samsung Galaxy S3 score.

Connecting to Verizon's swift 4G LTE network, the Razr M also notched impressively quick data speeds. I clocked download throughput at an average of 18Mbps, with uploads often exceeding a blistering 16Mbps. As I expected, call quality was rock-solid on Verizon's CDMA network. Callers described my voice as clear and easy to hear with no distortion. They did detect a slight background hiss, so they knew I was speaking to them from a mobile line. On my end, callers came through loud and clear through the earpiece, and the speakerphone has enough volume to fill a medium-size conference room.

Motorola Droid Razr M call quality sampleListen now:
Motorola Droid Razr M
The 4G LTE data speeds were very fast. Brian Bennett/CNET

When Motorola announced the Droid Razr M, Droid Razr HD, and Droid Razr Maxx HD at its New York press event, company reps were sure to emphasize that these new phones are built to provide ample battery life. Still, for such a small device, I was surprised by the Droid Razr M's stamina. It lasted 8 hours and 41 minutes during anecdotal tests, which consisted of playing a 720p video file continuously. While it's no match for the runtime of the Droid Razr Maxx (15 hours and 16 minutes), the Droid Razr M should make it through a standard workday without any issues. That's a good thing, since the 2,000mAh battery isn't removable. Motorola says the Droid Razr M will offer 20 hours of "mixed usage," whatever that means.

I haven't been this excited about a compact Android smartphone for quite some time. The $99 Motorola Droid Razr M is not only fast, thanks to its premium processor, but it has generous battery life to match. Throw in this phone's gorgeous 4.3-inch AMOLED display, sleek styling, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, and you're looking at one of the best deals to hit Verizon in ages. If you plan to take lots of photos on the go, though, this device isn't for you. Sadly, though the Droid Razr M's camera boasts lots of features and settings, it's a slow shooter with lackluster image quality. For shoppers looking for a phone that takes excellent pictures, I suggest springing for the more expensive $199.99 Samsung Galaxy S3. Motorola's upcoming Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD, due out by the end of the year, will offer bigger, sharper screens and larger batteries but at likely higher sticker prices. Still, the Droid Razr M's unique blend of high-class looks, premium features and performance, and low cost of entry are hard to pass up.

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