Take a look at any phone from Motorola's RAZR line-up, from the original V3 to the garishly golden D&G model, and you'll see the basic design of the MAXX. More than two years since the RAZR form factor first appeared, Motorola is still clinging to the now iconic look, with just a few tweaks to the surfaces and specs.
The MAXX sees the addition of three touch-sensitive music keys beneath the external display that light up when pressed. The materialising keys are eerily similar to the song navigation keys that appear on the glassy black surface of the clamshell LG U830. Let's not cry copycat though -- LG's buttons are red while the MAXX's are electric blue. (If you take a look at Samsung's A701, you'll also see the same external button line-up, this time rendered in white.)
At 53mm by 104.5mm by 15.5mm and weighing 105g, the MAXX is thinner and lighter than Motorola's 3G V3x, but a few millimetres thicker than the original V3. The internal display is bright and built for Web browsing, with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels.
There's just one port on the MAXX: a mini USB jack that accepts an AC charger, USB cable or headset. Simplicity can be a virtue, but the single socket doesn't allow for multitasking while you're powering up. The microSD slot is also not accessible without opening the back cover -- it's hidden underneath the battery.
In comparing Moto's recent models with the phones released by the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson, we can't help but observe that Motorola seems to be doing a bit of laurel-resting. While the original RAZR represented a smoking-hot shake-up of the mobile market, it was released over two years ago. It's fine to bask in the glow that a hugely successful product brings, but if Motorola is going to keep releasing phones that are near-identical in design, we'd like to at least see an interface overhaul -- those menu graphics are beginning to look pretty dated.
As with the Samsung A701, many of the MAXX's noteworthy features come from the Telstra Next G network rather than the phone itself. Due to the higher downloads speeds possible on HSDPA, video has been given star billing, with Telstra offering news services and Foxtel on Next G handsets.
The music player can handle a variety of formats including MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC files, but you'll need to shell out for a microSD card if you want to build up a formidable playlist: the internal memory is 50MB.
A 2-megapixel camera above the external display and a VGA version on the inside of the clamshell hinge round out the photo- and video-capture facilities.
There is also support for the A2DP Bluetooth profile, meaning the phone is compatible with wireless stereo headphones.
Our MAXX suffered from a few inexplicable quirks -- occasionally it took the questionable initiative to turn itself off after being left alone for a few hours, and required a reboot. It also froze a couple of times during Web browsing.
The blue music navigation buttons that materialise on the phone's external surface look very smart, but can be a little slow to respond to touch. Because they are sections of the glossy shell, rather than actual buttons, it can be difficult to tell whether your touches have registered, meaning you may occasionally skip through more tracks than intended.
Given the music keys' sensitivity, you will also want to ensure that you lock the phone from accidental touches when listening to your tunes. This can be done by scrolling through the music menu using the up/down button on the left.
The MAXX handles multiple tasks well; if you are listening to a song while browsing the Web, and encounter online audio or video, the song will stop, then resume after you've had your Internet multimedia fix.
With the higher download speeds of HSDPA, cruising around the Web is a much smoother experience than you'll get via WAP. The Opera 8 browser is fine, but lacks the funky extra features (such as mini snapshots of full Web pages) found in Nokia's series 60 browser. Due to the text entry method, filling in forms online also takes longer than it would on a Sony Ericsson or Nokia phone.
We found the PC software (Motorola Phone Tools) easy to use for transferring multimedia to and from the phone and syncing information with Outlook.
If you're a fan of the RAZR form factor, and want to get a piece of the fast-mobile-downloads action, the MAXX will serve you better than the chunkier V3x. It did prove a little unstable during our testing though, and a quick survey of online opinions suggests we weren't alone in experiencing a performance issue or two. If you're more interested in the offerings of Telstra's Next G network, we'd suggest taking a look at the very similar-looking (but slightly less jazzy) Samsung A701.