The Motorola designers behind the Atrix certainly don't seem to be the flamboyant bunch behind Motorola's golden oldies, like the actually golden. The Atrix, like the before it, is a straight-up-and-down glossy black touchscreen slate. Its stiff plastic battery cover has an attractive herringbone-like design, but this doesn't do enough to give the handset the premium feel we think it deserves.
Its 4-inch LCD sports a silky smooth-looking qHD pixel resolution (540x960), which helps make text and images look fantastic. It also makes text and icons look tiny, and there's no way to magnify the standard elements on the home screens or in the app drawer. Keen-eyed youngsters should be fine with this, but those with reading glasses might struggle. This higher resolution also plays havoc with Android Market apps that are designed for the lower but far more prevalent WVGA resolution (480x800), leaving an ugly black band around the edge of quite a few tools and games that we installed during this review.
A fingerprint scanner on the Atrix is a stroke of genius.
On the back of the Atrix you'll find its 5-megapixel camera lens with dual-LED flash, a large external speaker towards the bottom and a fingerprint-scanner-cum-power-button on the top. Aimed at business users, this unique feature can be used to replace a PIN code on the handset, and it works surprisingly well.
While the phone's physical design is cautious yet stylish, the user interface is drab. Motorola's team has redesigned most of the icons of the core experience, and each looks like a boring shortcut link that you'd find on an old Windows PC. But worse than the appearance of these shortcuts is the system they exist within. Motorola Android phones are not stock Android OS with a Motorola layer, but, rather, a unique system called MotoBlur. At its core, MotoBlur aggregates your various account information onto a central Motorola server. You log in once with Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, etc, and MotoBlur stores all of this info and connects your device to the various services.
We've used MotoBlur before, having created an account back when we reviewed the, and have never liked how all-pervasive it is. There is no opt-out for MotoBlur, you cannot set up a new Atrix handset without an account and it blocks some of the key functionality from the dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps. For example, MotoBlur flat out refused to connect to Facebook during this review, so we downloaded Facebook for Android to sync our contact images with our address book, only to find that MotoBlur controlled images and preferred to leave them blank. It's one thing to offer us a service and to let us choose whether it suits our purpose; it's another to force one down our throats.
Plug in, play
Pushing past the phone's aesthetics, users will discover a handset that offers more connectivity options than we've ever seen before. Beyond Telstra Next G network compatibility, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, the Atrix also offers HDMI-out — but unlike other phones with this port, the Atrix delivers a unique big-screen experience.
If you connect the Atrix to a TV using the included HDMI cable, the phone will launch its HD Multimedia Centre — a full HD app connecting to your image and video gallery and your music collection. This experience is slick and works flawlessly. Connecting the Atrix to either its Laptop Dock or the Standard Dock, the phone will launch an app called WebTop, which simulates a basic PC-like interface. For more on WebTop, check out our full.
If connecting cables or plugging in docks seems like too much fuss, you can also connect to your phone using any PC browser after launching the pre-installed Phone Portal app on the Atrix. Using Phone Portal, you can read and send text messages, edit your contacts and view the photos saved on your phone's memory.
Following on from the decent camera in the Defy, the 5-megapixel camera in the Atrix is also better than average. A combination of a fast auto-focus and a swift shutter produce more in-focus photos than otherwise, and the camera's colour reproduction is good without being needlessly over-saturated. It also has an effective macro shooting mode for capturing close-ups. Interestingly, the Atrix includes an option in the camera settings to turn off the capture sound effect; however, un-checking this box doesn't silence the shutter (or do anything at all). Sorry to get your hopes up ... perverts.