You know the scene. It's Friday. You're hard at work, but then your mind drifts to drinks later that night. Your friends will call you to meet up, and you go back to the work at hand. But when the end of the workday comes near, you check your messages -- there aren't any because your phone is out of battery. To make matters worse, you left the charger at home. Crap.
You can find smartphones with bright screens, sharper cameras and faster data. But what about battery life? It seems it gets shorter with each more-powerful model. Nobody loves to run home to charge a dead phone.
Enter the Razr HD. It's a bigger version of the previous Droid Razr, with a beefier battery to last 40 percent longer. But there's a trade-off: the large size isn't for the faint of hand.
The midnight-black body is big -- tall and wide to be more exact at just 8-millimeters. That's not as thin as rival devices, but it helps to ease the hefty five ounce frame. Don't you try to one-hand it. I reached for the wrong key, and it' slipped out of your hand. Luckily, the front is made from a slab of Gorilla Glass, while the back is protected with Kevlar. It won't stop a bullet, but it'll take a ding or two. Just like its big brother, the Maxx HD, I found the weave to be a bit ugly. It's not awful, but compared to more elegant devices like the iPhone and One X+, it's a step down in looks. It won't turn any heads.
To be extra safe, Motorola coated it in water-repellant nano-coating, so if you drop it in a puddle, it won't skip a beat. Just don't go swimming with it -- water-repelling doesn't mean waterproof.
Big screens on skinny bodies are all the rage, and the Razr HD is no different. A large 4.7-inch display dominates the front, up from the 4.3-inch Droid Razr. The stunning 1,280-by-768 resolution produces sharp and vibrant images, but the PenTile matrix layout makes pixels a smidge fuzzier than top-tier LCD displays. It's especially noticeable around text, so it feels dull compared to other devices.
The color saturation, meanwhile, is decent and true to life at a wide viewing range, but depending on the angle, a bluish hue appears over the whites. You won't notice unless you hold it next to high-end devices like the iPhone, Galaxy S3 and X+, but it's definitely a step down in the top. It's a very mediocre display -- the same on the Maxx HD, and a year ago, it'd be fantastic. But competition moved to bright and sharper displays. Motorola just didn't keep up.
Motorola was never strong in cameras, and 8-megapixel lens is no different. Photos are clear on the small screen, but when you view them on a PC, you'll see a bit of noise creep in. You can set alerts to tell you when you need more light, and you can quickly switch to HDR mode, which brightens photos, but casts a yellow tint that makes them look flat. Outdoors, it's not better: colors are oversaturated. And if you take 1080p video, the problem worsens.
The only highlight is the fast shutter -- you can snap pictures in under a second. You can use software to touch up photos with a lukewarm hue, but editing tools are pretty bare-bones. Meanwhile, a front-facing 1.3-megapixel lens lets you video chat and take self-portraits. If you buy an HDMI cable, you can connect it to a high-definition TV to view photos and videos.
The Razr HD ships with ICS, but Jelly Bean will roll out shortly. For the most part, everything is standard and speedy, but Motorola did add its interface, changing the homescreen to a circular layout -- it shows clocks, weather and battery level. It's better than Motoblur on old models, and less obtrusive with widgets that give you a convenient view. By swiping left, you can bring up a quick settings menu, which lets you switch on and off features like Wi-Fi, GPS and data.
You can also set SmartActions, or "instructions" for your phone, which automate and improve performance. If you go to sleep at 10 p.m., for example, the phone can turn off data. When you walk into the office in the morning, it can connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you walk through the doors. You can even turn down the display brightness to save power when the battery runs low. I found it very flexible and useful, and one of the better surprises.
You'll get Google goodies -- like Gmail, Maps, YouTube and all the apps you can find on Google Play -- but also bloatware from Verizon. Do you really need NFL Mobile, VZ Navigator and Verizon Tones? Unfortunately, you can't remove any of them, and they take up valuable space from the already-little 12-gigabytes of memory. Luckily, if you need more, you can buy a microSD card. I did find a handful of useful apps, like Kindle for e-books and Quickoffice to viewing Microsoft Office files. But expect to clean out your files periodically. You can use NFC to transfer them by bumping phones.
That big size has one advantage -- a serious 2,530 mAh battery. I got around 12 hours of talk time and over two days of standby -- slightly less than its beefier Razr Maxx HD. You'll never have to run home to charge the phone, unless you're out for days. But in a market of half-day devices, it's one of the longest-lasting devices out there.
Verizon's 4G LTE service clocked in at speeds of around 15-megabits per second. The 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip, meanwhile, is plenty fast -- as fast as the S3. I didn't experience stalling or lag. And call quality was crystal clear.
If you love fast phones, fast 4G and fast processors, the Razr HD has all of those high-end features, and that rare quality of a long-lasting battery. The trade-off is, of course, the size and mediocre display and batter. But, hey, you can't have everything, right? If you don't mind the heft, it's a unique Android phone.
If you can take a bigger device, give the Razr Maxx HD a look -- it'll give you faster performance and more juice. But if you want less of both, the iPhone, S3 and X+ are your best bets. They trade power for a better display and camera and while they'll last for eight or so hours, expect to leave a charger at the office or in the car -- especially if you use 4G LTE. ♦
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