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Motorola Razr M review: Motorola Razr M

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In so many respects, being small or smaller isn't considered a great thing in our society. We live in a time of upsizing, plastic surgery and SUVs. Bigger is better, biggest reigns supreme. And then you have the Razr M, a perfect example of where smaller means a better fit and better performance.

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8.5

Motorola Razr M

The Good

Small footprint doesn't mean low powered. Great AMOLED screen. 4G. Splash resistant.

The Bad

No HDMI, like Razr HD. Camera image quality could be better. 8GB storage might not be enough for some.

The Bottom Line

If you want a screen that is a little bigger than the iPhone 5's, but you don't want a handset that requires a briefcase to transport it about, the Razr M could be that 'just right' sized Android phone you've been looking for -- with 4G to boot.

Design

On paper, the size difference between the Razr M and the Razr HD may seem insignificant, but in the hand, the HD does feel much larger. It is both taller and wider, which is obviously necessary to accommodate its larger screen. The Razr M makes better use of the size available, with a thinner vertical bezel, which Motorola is calling it's "edge-to-edge" display.

The Razr HD and Razr M, side by side.
(Credit: CBSi)

This screen is 4.3-inches diagonally, or the same size as the screen in last year's Razr revival. It is even smaller than last year's Razr, though, and feels great to hold as a result. The screen itself is a beauty, with a Super AMOLED panel delivering a rich, colourful image. It's qHD resolution screen (540x960 pixels) may not sound like it is up to scratch next to the displays in the larger phones, but on this slightly smaller screen, we think it is sharper and crisp enough for any smartphone use, including games and movies.

It has a boxier shape than other Android phones from Samsung and HTC, but we quite like this more business-like appearance. Like the Razr HD, the M has the same epaulette design across its "kevlar strong" battery cover, which is really attractive, even if you won't be looking at that side of the phone very often.

Yes, it looks like a little bit like the scales on a blue-tongued lizard, but in person, this design is quite attractive.
(Credit: Motorola)

One of the key differences between the Razr M and HD, besides the size, is that the M lacks an HDMI out port on the handset. This is a feature that has been common to many Motorola phones over the last couple of years, and it may be enough to have some users turn to the larger HD version.

Overall, it is a more thoughtful design than last year's Razr, and while thicker, we'd argue that it feels better to hold on to. The power button is positioned where your index finger would sit when you hold the phone in your left hand, which is a nice touch. Also, Motorola has made this handset splash resistant, so it should survive a quick drop in shallow water.

Connectivity

With 4G phones flooding in to the Australian market, the Razr M faces stiff competition in this space from the iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G and its own bigger brother. 4G performance was great for us in Sydney's CBD, with peak download speeds hitting about 65Mbps on the Telstra network.

In addition to 4G, the Razr M also supports dual-channel Wi-Fi, which is wireless performance that is available in only a small number of phones at this time. NFC is also available for sharing and pairing with compatible devices.

User experience and performance

As you might expect, the Razr M shares its user experience with the Razr HD, and as such, our opinion of this UI design remains the same. We like that Motorola is shifting towards a closer visual relationship with Google's stock Android design. Motorola's own designs for the Android user experience have never hit the mark with us, or many of its users, so dialling back to "pure Android" is probably a smart move.

This isn't stock Android though, and there are a number of Motorola designed tweaks that shine through as being genuinely impressive and useful. The new full-screen Quick Settings page that sits to the left of the default home screen is a great example. This screen gives the user access to seven of the most important phone settings, plus a shortcut to the full system settings screen. If you've used Android before and felt that important settings were too well hidden away, then you will appreciate what Motorola has added here.

Swipe to the left from the default home screen to reveal this useful list of settings.
(Screenshot by Joe Hanlon/CBSi)

There are a couple of other noteworthy additions to Android in the Razr M that you won't find elsewhere. Smart Actions is an app that lets you create automatic actions based on pre-defined triggers. For example, you might set a time of day as a trigger, like midnight, then have the phone switch all sounds to silent. Or you could define a geographic trigger, like your home address, and trigger hardware features, like switching Wi-Fi on. For users willing to put in the effort, Smart Actions could play an integral part in preserving your data allowance and battery life.

Speaking of which, battery life was surprisingly better on the Razr M than it was in our experience with the Razr HD. While 4G connectivity had the Razr HD pushing empty after only 12 hours, the Razr M managed much better, comfortably making through a busy day. The smaller, lower-resolution screen no doubt plays a big role in this increase in battery performance. We also noticed that battery life was far better when the phone as connected to a Wi-Fi access point.

Camera

Motorola includes a decent 8-megapixel camera in the Razr M, but if you're looking for the best of the best, you're not going to find it here. With a shortcut on the phone's lock screen, the camera is very easy to use, and though its representation of light and colour is pretty good, the final images have a digital feel. That is, some of the edges of objects seem rough and faintly pixellated, and although you'll struggle to see these blemishes on the phone's screen, you will once you transfer them to a computer with a much larger display.

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

Impressively, this shot was taken at 100 per cent digital zoom, and it looks quite good.
(Credit: CBSi)

Overall

With a smart design, some nice touches across the UI and decent battery life, the Razr M is not only better than the Razr HD, but is a better option than many other smartphones available right now. If you want a screen that is a little bigger than the iPhone 5's, but you don't want a handset that requires a briefcase to transport it about, the Razr M could be the "just right" sized Android phone that you've been looking for — with 4G to boot.