Amid the release of several $200 smartphones on the AT&T network such as the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Atrix HD is a less expensive and equally enticing offering from Motorola.
The new 4.0.4 Android-based phone runs on a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor. Colors on its 4.5-inch display with ColorBoost are sharper, even if a little oversaturated at times. It's usable also in outdoor sunlight -- but not quite as vibrant as Nokia's ClearBlack display. It offers 720 x 1280 pixels of resolution.
Although the phone does boast 8 gigabytes of storage, you really get only about 5 GB to play with because of the abundance of preloaded apps.
The saving grace is that the phone is expandable to 32 GB via micro SD card. Still, forcing a user to have apps, however useful, that eat up 3 GB of a paltry 8 GB is hardly a kind thing to do.
The Atrix has a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera and a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera that shoots still photos and 1080p HD video.
I like some of the shooting functionality of the rear camera, including panorama and multi-shot modes. With panorama, you can hit the shutter button, pan and then hit stop. Voila: You've got a seamless image ready to share. And for capturing action, multi-shot gives you a series of shots with single-click access.
In terms of physical design, details on the phone make it a smidge less attractive than some of its competitors. The margin of black around the active display is a bit inexplicable and unnecessary. It's also perplexing that the manufacturer decided to slim down the phone so the housing for the camera and speaker appears as a bulge at the top.
That bulge makes the phone less "grippy" even with the soft faux carbon fiber weave on the back. It was annoying how often the phone slipped out of my hands. (Other reviewers haven't mentioned this issue, so it might just be my hands, longing for a phone with curves.)
Although the phone seems sturdy overall, it feels like the slot that houses the micro SIM and micro SD card could be compromised by a good yank. But that should affect the user only the one or two times she has to open that slot to insert or remove the card.
I do like that the Atrix HD should withstand a bout with water that would undo most other smartphones wicked-witch style. Motorola has included a water-repelling nanocoating. So splashes should be fine, but probably not full dips in a pool, washing machine or toilet.
Battery life does leave something to be desired. Our review found it couldn't quite last a day on a full charge with limited use.
The phone's user interface is Ice Cream Sandwich with very few sprinkles. With some nice animation details, the Atrix HD includes three flickable circles that give details at a glance for time, weather and storage/battery life.
When it comes to most smartphones these days, the question of whether to get it boils down, in my book, to three issues: Does it do what you want, does it last as long as you need, and does it feel good in your hand?
Even with the design and battery flaws, for $99.99 (with a two-year contract), the Atrix HD -- and the cash I'd save by not buying a more expensive phone with the same features -- would feel just fine to me.
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