Motorola Atrix 2 Review: Did Motorola get it right this time?

Atrixs2

The Motorola Atrix 2 is finally here and we’ve been anxious to put it through its paces. Well, that’s what we’ve done in this review and we’re going to lay it all out on the table for you. The successor to the first Atrix  has undergone quite a makeover but still keeps most of the features users liked from the original. With that, let’s jump right in.

 

The Good
  • Motorola chose the simple route when designing this handset and it paid off
  • With a nice in-hand feel, this all plastic handset still feels as solid as can be
  • Coming in at $99 (and cheaper elsewhere) the Atrix 2 is an affordable handset that still retains some high-end specs.
The Bad
  • The camera software looks like it was made two years ago and lacks many features we're used to seeing in other handsets today.
  • While it's comes miles from its first iteration, MotoBlur still doesn't offer anything compelling enough to make it a joy to use.
  • The Thrill 4G and HTC Vivid both offer more compelling features for the same price.

Hardware

I'm just going to get this out of the way: I don't like Motorola phones. Or Motorola's software. That said, I really like the hardware on the Atrix 2. This is one of the first times I've ever picked up a Motorola phone and haven't had something negative to say immediately.

Motorola bumped virtually everything up with the Atrix 2. The display is now a 4.3 inch panel and Moto was nice enough to get rid of the Pentile Matrix in favor of a standard qHD display. The beautiful screen is also covered by Gorilla Glass, which should appeal to the accident prone. The VGA front-facing camera, earpiece, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, and notification LED are line the top neatly, with Motorola's logo right below.

The bottom of the handset looks like every other Android handset for the most part: four capacitive buttons for menu, home, back, and search line the bottom, with AT&T's logo tucked snugly below.

The display is framed in a dark chrome looking material that adds a subtle contrast that's pretty easy on the eyes. This frame continues only about halfway of the left and right sides and the battery cover takes it from there. The right side of the Atrix 2 houses the rather shallow volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter button, with the left side housing the charging and micro-HDMI ports. The bottom of the device is clean, leaving only a tab for removing the battery cover (with the microphone hiding within it) and the top of the handset gives you the 3.5mm headphone jack, noise cancelling microphone, and power/lock button.

The back side of the handset is covered in a textured soft-touch backing, which feels nice in the hand without feeling cheap. As one would expect, the 8 megapixel camera with LED flash is found here, along with  the Motorola logo and speaker grill.

While you can turn it off and this has only been an annoyance with some of the worst phones we've seen before, the haptic feedback on the device is a bit much for our tastes. While this is a solid handset, the haptic feedback seems to go through the entire device, giving it a somewhat cheap feeling. Luckily, you can disable it but for those who are fans of haptic feedback, you're going to have to get used to the feeling. It seems like the phone itself is being electrocuted.

While some may be sad to see it go, we're happy to see that Motorola decided to leave the fingerprint reader off of the Atrix 2. It was a nice feature to see on a handset but we don't miss it in the least bit.

Internally, the Atrix 2 packs a punch. Featuring a 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and many other bells and whistles, the Atrix 2 benefits from great specs, all while keeping its pricing down.

 

Design

Unlike the original Atrix, the Atrix 2 has a design you'll be happy to have in your hand. Motorola has designed a rather sleek phone that gets attention without over designing it, as it does with most of its handsets. Some may call the design of the Atrix 2 boring but at this point the most dramatic thing Motorola could do was make a normal looking phone.

The Atrix 2 isn't overly masculine like its Droid handsets and can appeal to women just as easily. If I wasn't already dead-set on another phone and was willing to go to AT&T, I would have no shame with having this phone in my pocket.

The Atrix 2 isn't overly curvy but smooth throughout. The metallic frame provides a nice contrast without overwhelming the overall look, and looks especially nice when viewing the profile of the phone. The battery cover has a nice textured soft-touch backing that provides sufficient grip and it has a nice in-hand feel.

Finally, Motorola chose to go with a more minimalist design with the Atrix 2 and I'm happy to say that it was executed very well. Good job, Moto.

Build Quality

Motorola is known for making some pretty solid handsets as a whole and that shows within the Atrix 2. Even though it's primarily made of plastics, the handset feels solid as can be, which is something that should be noted.

When we first got our hands on the handset at CTIA in San Diego, I was very surprised with how the phone feels in the hand. No huge bumps protruding from the top but slightly rounded edges that allow for a snug fit in the palm. If this handset was built with more metal, I'd say it would be close to the build quality of some top-notch HTC handsets and that's saying a lot.

To add to the solid feel, the battery cover wraps around the sides of the handset and along the bottom. It's not just a simple sliding plate that could fall off like the original Droid X. It's just what you'd expect for a battery cover that had thought put into. Once removed, the battery cover itself reveals itself to be much more flimsy than it feels when attach to the phone but it should easily be able to take a beating.

 

Software

I consider it a personal hobby to tell the world just how much I hate Motoblur but you won't be hearing much of that this time around. No, Motoblur as a whole isn't much better but it's come miles from where it started. Motorola has toned town some of the color choices and has actually added some nifty features and animations to the software in the latest version of its custom UI that are almost easy easy on the eyes.

The latest version of Motoblur attempts to emulate many Android 3.0 Honeycomb features and some of these attempts succeed in some nice eye candy. If you want to move a widget, you simply hold down on it and you'll see the outlines of the screens to the left and right highlight on the current panel, signifying that you can easily move it to another screen. Widgets also have a wobbly effect when you move them around, which is pretty neat but hardly useful. Another thing I enjoy about Motoblur is that Motorola was one of the first to implement resizable widgets. More content (if available) will be displayed on a widget when it's made bigger, and less when it's been scaled smaller. It's a nice touch you don't see a lot.

Tapping the home screen will reveal all of your panels in a Honeycomb-like, thumbnail view and you can easily jump from one to another from here. Unfortunately, you can only see this screen when you're on the main home screen, so jumping from the panel farthest from the right to the farther from the left isn't possible, as there's no pinch gesture to reveal all panels.

I could go on and on about what MotoBlur does and doesn't offer but this is the same version you'll find on the Bionic, and other newer handset coming out from Moto.

 

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The web browser on the Atrix 2 is your standard affair, with only minimal tweaks done throughout. Some of these tweaks include a dedicated option to share the current page you're viewing next to the address bar. Other than that, there's very few differences, besides the color scheme used within the bookmarks page.

There were a few annoyances within the browser I found. Like I said before, you can disable haptic feedback all together, but if you don't, you may be surprised when you zoom in or out to a page's zoom limit. This will result in a haptic jolt, which was a bit surprising the first few times it happened. As if the user needed some sort of reassurance that they could no longer zoom any closer into a page, Motorola stupidly decided to throw this in.

The only other thing that was somewhat unfortunate to see was that the browser stutters quite a bit when zooming in and out. This is best highlighted when on a page with many flash elements in it and the hardware should be able to handle it like butter. This is a bit of a disappointment, as many devices like the Galaxy S II can handle Flash perfectly.

Multimedia

The Atrix 2 shares some of the expected multimedia features found in handsets today. The DLNA compatible handset will allow you to share media from your handset to a DLNA supported TV. This also works the other way around, and you can use a media server like TVersity or PS3 Media server to stream content on your home network to your phone. The handset also has a movie and music store pre installed if you want to download more content directly to your phone.

 

Camera

The Atrix 2's camera software is a bit of a let down. It's not that it's not capable but that it's not necessarily something that is nice to use. After seeing what Samsung has done with the camera software in the Galaxy S II, the Atrix 2's camera software looks like it's a product of Android 1.6 Donut.

The software is fairly straight forward, leaving only the essentials on screen. A thumbnail of the last photo taken is found at the top left of the screen, with the current location right next to it if you have the geotag option checked in the settings. Lining the left side is the scroll bar, which takes a bit of getting used to. There's quite a bit of a delay between the time you move the bar and the time the camera recognizes exactly how much you have zoomed in, but it works decently for the most part.

Below the zoom bar is a small tab, reminiscent of the pull up bar for the Android app launcher pre-Eclair. Tapping or dragging the bar will reveal more camera options for flash, brightness, scenes, modes, and other settings. It's not necessarily unintuitive but it's certainly not pretty and it seems as if the quick settings bar was thrown together at the last minute.

In the center is a fixed focus square, that sadly doesn't support touch to focus. To the right is where you'll find the shutter button for taking a picture (you can always use the dedicated camera button)option for changing to the front-facing camera, and an option to change to video recording.

Overall, the camera is capable of taking some decent shots but don't get worried about how the subject looks in the viewfinder. In a well lit room, the camera barely picked up the subject I was shooting but viewing the picture in the gallery yielded a more satisfactory result, as the entire picture was much brighter. Still, there were a couple of WTF moments with the camera, as even with decent lighting, some pictures came out rather dark.

The gallery itself was surprisingly not as responsive as we thought it would be. Zooming into pictures was very stuttery and given the CPU on the handset, this should be a non-issue.

Call Quality And Battery Life

Call quality wasn't an issue whatsoever with the Atrix 2, and in the little time that I did use the handset as a phone, I was more than satisfied. Calls were loud and clear and no white noise nor interference were found on either side.

Battery life wasn't anything to sing praises about, as it has its good days and its bad days. As one who never lowers settings, I was rather impressed to see that the Atrix 2 held up a full day (just barely) without recharging. Given the job, I'm always near a place I can charge a phone but the Atrix 2 wasn't in dire need at all times.

The Atrix 2 doesn't ship with the best battery life we've seen before but it's still far better than just about any Verizon LTE handset we've ever handled and should get your through a day with medium use.

The Final Take

Simply put, the Motorola Atrix 2 is a solid handset across the board at an even more solid price. There were some hiccups along the way and the spec boost isn't as dramatic as we would like to see but for only $100, it's hard to throw around serious complaints. If you want to sweeten the deal, Amazon Wireless is offering the Atrix 2 for a mere $49.99 on a new two-year contract.

The Atrix 2 can't really compete with the likes of the HTC Vivid or Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket but it finds itself in a nice middle ground. The TI OMAP CPU seemed to under perform in some places but only on rare occasions. MotoBlur still isn't anything to write home about and there are other custom UIs on Android phones that are much easier on the eyes but Motorola has refined it's skin significantly.

I really couldn't peg a specific person who would benefit from having this particular handset over another. If you want a decently-specced smartphone and don't care about every bell and whistle under the sun, the Atrix 2 would suit you well. Power users may be a little underwhelmed by the handset internally but as someone who usually has an extreme distaste from virtually anything Motorola, I'm very impressed with the Atrix 2 as a whole.

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  • marvin nubwaxer

    notification LED are line the?   no proofreader?  “are line”?

  • http://www.motoask.com Motorola Atrix

    Looks pretty slick to me… Decent battery life…. No
    Pentile(not that it matters)… I think this is a solid choice for ATT
    users. Especially at $100

  • http://twitter.com/pwikgrimm Pamela Wik-Grimm

    Have had my Atrix 2 for a couple of weeks and really like the phone.
    Unfortunately, the reason I bought it was that I could get a lapdock to
    extend it. Was really excited! Motorola has COMPLETELY screwed me over
    on my order with no resolution in sight after almost three weeks. I
    really caution anyone about buying this from Motorola. Try a different
    product from a different provider.

  • Chadcjenkins

    I have had my Atrix 2 as soon as it came out. I loved all the options at first coming from the IPhone. I am sad to say that I hate this phone and will return to the IPhone and never come back. The problems that I have had with the phone shutting off in the middle of a conversation, not getting emails for hours/days later. Dont get me started on the internet and how SLOW this phone is. I use my old IPhone on wifi if I want to look anything up.  The best thing I can say is that I like the screen size but really whats the point if the phone is a piece of crap!!!
    Very Frustrated

  • Bobt63

    I regret replacing my Iphone 3GS with this POS. I too will NEVER get another Android phone. As soon as I can I will be going back to the iPhone because it is such a better experience. 

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