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Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD for Verizon review: Unstoppable battery, premium design

At $299.99, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD wears a steep price tag but plays and works all day, plus it looks like a million bucks.

Brian Bennett

Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

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10 min read

Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the Motorola Droid Razr HD, since the two devices are almost identical.

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD (Verizon)

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD for Verizon

The Good

The <b>Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD (Verizon)</b> offers fast performance, a big eye-popping screen, and luxurious design. It also has great call quality, lots of storage, 4G data speeds, and unbeatable battery life.

The Bad

The Droid Razr Maxx HD's major weakness is a camera that produces subpar images. The phone is filled with Verizon bloatware as well.

The Bottom Line

Motorola's fast, stylish Droid Razr Maxx HD offers outstanding battery life, but its camera captures unimpressive images.

It's clear Motorola swung for the fences with its new $299.99 Droid Razr Maxx HD. Sitting at the top of the company's 2012 lineup, it's the most impressive Android handset I've ever used, and it had better be considering its sky-high sticker price. If you're willing to spend the big bucks, though, you get a lot to like, such as swift dual-core processing, a 4G LTE data connection, and a gorgeous 4.7-inch HD AMOLED screen, and then there's that battery. As it's equipped with the same legendary 3,300mAh high-capacity battery that propelled the Droid Razr Maxx to greatness, saying the Razr Maxx HD has staying power is a laughable understatement. All this plus an elegant and durable design might just help you forget that the phone's camera is woefully behind the curve.

Behold the mighty Droid Razr Maxx HD (pictures)

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Measuring 5.2 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide and just 0.37 inch thick, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD is almost as svelte and pocket-friendly as its sibling the Droid Razr HD (5.2 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.33 inch), impressive considering its large 4.7-inch display and high-capacity battery (3,300mAh). That said, the Razr Maxx HD is substantially thicker than both the Samsung Galaxy S3 (5.4 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.34 inch) and the original Droid Razr (5.1 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.28 inch). The phone is close in size to its predecessor, the Droid Razr Maxx (5.14 inches by 2.75 inches by 0.35 inch).

Running around the edges is a silver strip that adds an extra touch of class. Sarah Tew/CNET

The 5.5-ounce Droid Razr Maxx HD is a hefty beast, however, heavier than the Galaxy S3 (4.7 ounces), Droid Razr HD (5.1 ounces), Droid Razr (4.5 ounces), and Droid Razr Maxx (5.1 ounces). I'm sure the extra weight comes from Motorola's use of more premium materials in the Razr Maxx HD's chassis. Just like on the Droid Razr HD, a thin silver strip circles the phone's edges, giving the device an expensive feel similar to the HTC Evo 4G LTE, iPhones, and pricey BlackBerry handsets. I also appreciate the solidity and sense of durability those additional ounces bring. I prefer this to cheap plastic construction any day of the week.

The Razr Maxx HD's only physical buttons are a trim volume rocker and power key placed on the right side, chiseled from metal as well. There's no dedicated shutter button for launching the camera with one touch. On the left side are ports for HDMI and Micro-USB along with slots for microSD and LTE SIM cards.

A standard 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top, which is where it should be. I have a low tolerance for headphone ports placed on a phone's bottom edge, sorry, iPhone 5. Above the screen are the Droid Razr Maxx HD's 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as a wide notification light, which I love. Hey, I've been a fan of flashing phone lights since my first digital StarTAC. On back is the phone's main 8-megapixel camera, backed up by an LED flash. Razr loyalists will be glad to find Motorola's distinctive Kevlar fiber coating protecting against scratches and abrasions here, too. I also like the coating's soft-touch feel, and it repels fingerprints and grease.

The back is covered by protective Kevlar fiber. Sarah Tew/CNET

A huge improvement Motorola has made to its new Razrs is the enhanced displays. The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD features a vast 4.7-inch 720p (1,280x720-pixel-resolution) screen that's much sharper than the displays used by the first Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx. Those devices had qHD resolution (960x540) screens with a lower pixel count. Details of enemy tanks and warplanes were very crisp in the HQ YouTube trailer for "Red Dawn," entertaining enough to help me suspend my disbelief in such a ridiculous plot.

Additionally, the Razr Maxx HD's display produces vivid colors because it uses AMOLED screen technology. That certainly made the explosions, gunfire, and Emma Stone's red dress in the "Gangster Squad" trailer pop. Viewing angles are nice and wide as well, 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.

On the screen, colors popped and details were sharp. Sarah Tew/CNET

To draft text messages, the Droid Razr Maxx HD uses Motorola's virtual keyboard, which offers four rows of large, well-spaced keys and an arrangement identical to the stock Android layout. Thanks to the big screen, typing on the device tends 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.

The Razr Maxx HD's keyboard is basic. Sarah Tew/CNET

Software and UI
At $299.99, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD costs a pretty penny, which is why I'm disappointed that the device ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and not Google's latest operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Still, Ice Cream Sandwich offers a modern look and plenty of enhancements over Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Motorola also says that the phone will be upgradable to Jelly Bean in the future.

One of the latest Android benefits is visible right from the lock screen, which showcases the time and date in clean lettering on the upper left. The phone can display icons for various phone functions on the lock screen that users can jump directly to. Just like other Motorola handsets such as the Droid Razr M and the Razr HD, the Razr Maxx 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 Circles widget is placed on the home screen. Brian Bennett/CNET

Motorola has grafted its custom interface over Android as well, essentially the remnants of the reviled Motoblur UI of years past. Thankfully 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 ringtones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane mode.

Adjust settings on the handy Quick Settings screen. Brian Bennett/CNET

If you've gotten your hands on the Motorola Droid Razr M, Motorola Atrix HD, or Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE, you'll find the same Circles widget placed prominently on the home screen. It's one of the slickest home-screen UI 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 Maxx HD's lock screen, though you can replace them with others if you'd like.

Features and apps
Another capability Android 4.0 brings to the table is its native support for folders. Just drag app shortcuts on top of one another to create custom folders and help beat back home-screen clutter. It's one of the first things I do with a new phone, and since the Razr Maxx HD has access to more than 700,000 apps via the Google Play store, organizing your home screens is always recommended.

Squarely in the Android smartphone wheelhouse, the Droid Razr Maxx HD taps into all the familiar Google services and software, including Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, and Google+, along with the Google Play stores for music, books, and movies. Just like the Droid Razr HD, the device comes with Google Chrome as the default browser, making it the second mobile phone I've seen which does. The handset is loaded with useful third-party applications, too, such as the Kindle app, Quickoffice for viewing common MS Office files, and Facebook.

Sadly, the Droid Razr Maxx HD suffers from the same condition as the Razr M and Razr HD, meaning it's clogged with lots of Verizon bloatware. This includes Verizon's curated app store, NFL Mobile, VZ Navigator, Verizon Tones for ringtones, and Verizon Video, none of which can be uninstalled. This is a huge insult to customers, especially advanced Android users who like to tweak their handsets for maximum efficiency. That's because many of these apps aren't lightweight and take up valuable storage space. Verizon Video, for example, is a whopping 8.24MB in size and its $10-per-month, $3-per-day pricing (on top of your standard bill) is outrageous.

Motorola did confirm to CNET that Verizon is the ultimate pusher of this unwanted software. I say to folks behind this nonsense, do you really expect strong-arm tactics such as these to be effective? I seriously doubt they will be, and bloatware is the reason why many customers in the know root their handsets.

Also onboard is Motorola's Smartactions application, 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 automatically connect to Wi-Fi when its GPS sensor decides you've arrived home. Frankly, it's a feature I'd rather do without since I should be the master of my device, not some clunky collection of algorithms.

On a positive note, the Droid Razr Maxx HD comes with a whopping 32GB of ROM, of which 26GB are user-accessible. That's a lot more than the Droid Razr HD's 16GB allotment.

Since it's equipped with an 8-megapixel sensor and LED flash combined with a modern Snapdragon S4 processor, I was hopeful the Droid Razr Maxx HD might address the primary weakness of Motorola smartphones: image quality. Unfortunately, while the device snaps pictures quickly, in under a second, and launches its camera app in 1.9 seconds, the images I captured were not inspiring. In fact, just like the Razr M and Razr HD, the Rar Maxx HD produced images with inaccurate white balance and lots of color noise in low-light shots. For instance, my still-life images were dark and had an unnatural yellowish tinge. Moving outdoors, things improved, with hues becoming more normal if oversaturated.

Colors and white balance were off in still-life shots. Brian Bennett/CNET

Indoor shots were grainy. Brian Bennett/CNET

Outdoors the HDR mode perked up details, but things were still dark. Brian Bennett/CNET

The camera has many settings and shooting modes. Brian Bennett/CNET

The Razr Maxx HD's camera app has lots of settings and shooting modes to choose from, such as HDR, multishot, panorama, and timer. You can also use five filter effects, ranging from black-and-white to aqua.

I think Motorola's decision to use Qualcomm's 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processors in its 2012 Razrs was a smart move. They're much faster and more efficient than the chips in the old Razr line. Mirroring my experience with the Razr M and Razr HD, the Razr Maxx HD felt fast and responsive, whether opening applications or zooming through menus. This impression was confirmed by benchmark testing, with the Droid Razr Maxx HD notching a high Linpack (multithread) score of 207 MFLOPs. That narrowly beats the Droid Razr HD (198.4 MFLOPs) and squeaks by the Droid Razr M (182.2 MFLOPs) on the same test. Boot time, though, was consistently slower than the Razr HD's, with the Razr Maxx HD taking 40 seconds to power up, a full 7 seconds longer.

Performance: Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD
Average LTE download speeds 16.2 Mpbs
Average LTE upload speed 12.5 Mbps
App download 646KB in 2.8 seconds
CNET mobile site load 5.8 seconds
CNET desktop site load 6.4 seconds
Boot time 40 seconds
Camera boot time 1.9 seconds

On Verizon's CDMA network in New York, call quality was just as solid on the Droid Razr Maxx HD as it was on the Razr M and Razr HD. Callers reported that my voice came through loud and clear with no background static or obvious distortion. They couldn't immediately tell I was calling from a mobile phone, either. On my end, voices were crisp and rich through the earpiece and volume was high. Audio was even better using the Droid Razr Maxx HD's speakerphone, which gets loud enough to fill a medium-size conference room.

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD call quality sample Listen now:

Tested on Verizon's 4G LTE network in New York, the phone turned in a very swift average download speed of 16.2Mbps. Uploads were fast as well, with a measured average speed of 12.5Mbps.

4G LTE speeds were swift. Brian Bennett/CNET

The real reason to buy the Razr Maxx HD is its massive 3,300mAh battery, which is unfortunately not user-removable. Of course you'll likely not care since Motorola claims the Maxx HD will provide 32 hours of performance. Specifically, you'll be able to stream YouTube video for up to 13 hours, or enjoy GPS navigation for 8 hours. Indeed I can vouch for the Maxx HD's impressive stamina. On the CNET Labs Video playback battery drain test, the phone lasted for 893 minutes (14 hours and 53 minutes). That's much longer than the Samsung Galaxy S3 (530 minutes) and Maxx HD (577 minutes). That said, the first Droid Razr Maxx lasted for a longer 916 minutes (15 hours and 16 minutes) on the same test which is likely due to the Maxx HD's bigger screen and faster processor.

Paying $299.99 for a smartphone, no matter how good, is a serious undertaking. Motorola's pricey Droid Razr Maxx HD, however, provides a lot of handset for the money. Its fast processor pushes the phone's Android OS with speed and agility. Paired with a connection to Verizon's 4G LTE data, this phone really flies. The Maxx HD's 4.7-inch screen and construction are top-notch as well. The camera, which takes lackluster pictures, is no doubt a hard pill to swallow, especially for people who use their handset as their primary image capturer. If that's the case for you, then I suggest the $199 Samsung Galaxy S3 since it takes much better photos and costs less. Apple disciples can nab the 16GB iPhone 5 for $199 and call it a day. The $99.99 Motorola Droid Razr M, a pint-sized Android powerhouse, is the way to go for Verizon bargain hunters. For someone like me though who owns a real camera for when the photography urge strikes, I'd run, not walk, to the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, since its combination of speed, longevity, and killer design is awe-inspiring.

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD (Verizon)

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD for Verizon

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8
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