Android Central

The Motorola Droid RAZR HD is coming to Verizon soon, but we’ve got our hands on the Canadian version to put through the paces. This is the first major iteration on the reborn RAZR from last year. Updates such as the RAZR i, the RAZR MAXX and the RAZR m have kept the brand fresh, but the Droid RAZR HD kicks things up a notch with a larger, higher-resolution display. At first blush, the Droid RAZR HD feels exceptionally well-built, but it comes at the cost of a non-removable battery and a rather steep pricetag (at least if you're buying in the U.S.). Is it worth the trade-off?

Let's give this one the ol' Canadian what-for.


The Good

Feels downright solid in the hand. Even the non-MAXXy version has a battery that just won't quit. Motorola's software additions to the core Android experience continue to be smart and useful. 

The Bad

Even with all of the battery life in the world, some users will want to be able to pop in a back-up, and they'll be out of luck here. $199 on contract is a fair bit to ask, as premium as it may feel. Google owns Motorola, but they're still shipping phones without the latest OS. 

Conclusion

If you’ve got the money for it, the Motorola RAZR HD is a top-notch Android handset that with a strong build and solid battery life.  

Inside this review

More info

Motorola DROID RAZR HD hands-on video

Motorola DROID RAZR HD hardware review

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It’s hard to overstate just how well-built the RAZR HD feels. Everything is just super-tight and dense. The real metal banding around the outside feels downright executive, and you get the distinct impression that the Kevlar weave on the back will weather the test of time. The sharp notches on the power key are an especially nice touch, since they ensure your finger easily catches on when fiddling for it blindly. The icing on the cake is the water-resistant nano-coating to protect against everyday spills.

The Motorola RAZR HD boasts a 2530 mAh battery, which is most definitely enough to handle the demands of LTE data and the the large, high-resolution display. If you’re looking for more juice and are willing to drop another hundred bucks, there’s the MAXX variant available. I streamed music for about 8 hours, half on Wi-Fi, half over LTE, and still had a little under 40% battery life left. This was in a Rogers coverage area with only about 2 to 3 bars of LTE at any given time, which I imagine would have been an additional strain. Later on the same day, I was able to hotspot in another location for about a half hour, and still have a smidge of battery life left before hitting the sack. Motorola lists 16 hours of usage time, which lines up with my experience. 

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The microSIM card and SD card slot are tucked away in an embedded tray that requires a pin or the included tool to gain access. Most folks aren’t regularly swapping SIMs or memory cards often around often, but for the times you need to do so quickly, it could pose a hassle. On the whole, I'd say it's worth keeping secure and tucked away. 

As for looks, there’s not much ground-breaking here. The Motorola RAZR HD still has the ever-so-slightly angled corners on either side, and maintains a largely unadorned front face. There’s a long notification LED just below the Motorola logo at the top, but it’s tricky setting up notifications to actually use it without a third-party app. The front glass bezels oh-so-subtly just before it reaches the razor-sharp edge.

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The biggest departure in style is that this phone isn’t nearly as focused on thinness as the name might imply. Personally, I don’t mind. I'm glad to see a high-end device that stops trying to play the “thinnest phone EVAR” card, and is instead providing a nice balance of battery life and performance, chubbiness be damned. Besides, are we really considering 8.4 mm an unbearable thickness?

There are a variety of video output options, including DLNA, Wi-Fi direct, and a dedicated micro-HDMI port. There should be very few roadblocks to getting any of the video content on the phone to the big screen.  The Motorola RAZR HD’s own 4.7-inch 1280 x  720 Super AMOLED display performs admirably in sharpness, contrast, viewing angles, and brightness. In daylight, it’s not ideal, and pretty much impossible to see at a lower brightness setting, but otherwise the quality has been acceptable.

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With a screen this big, watching a full-length movie isn’t entirely out of the question, especially when there’s a battery strong enough to keep it going for a couple of hours. Motorola is making a lot of noise about how slim the borders are around the outside of the display, but honestly, it isn’t so dramatic as to warrant the “edge-to-edge” verbiage Verizon has been using. The only time you really notice is when you compare the RAZR HD to something like the Galaxy Nexus (which has a nearly identical physical footprint) but the display is 0.05 inches bigger on the RAZR HD.

The external speaker isn’t particularly good, so make sure you have a pair of quality headphones or a nice stereo Bluetooth speaker if you want to share audio from your phone. The Motorola RAZR HD comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which could very easily be enough for light users, though anyone willing to shell out for a premium smartphone are likely going to make use of the microSD memory card slot to store music locally. The DROID RAZR MAXX HD comes with 32 GB, just in case you needed more than just battery life as an excuse to upgrade. 

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Motorola DROID RAZR HD software review

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You’ll recognize many of the software customizations to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich on the RAZR HD from Motorola’s other recent devices. The lock screen has room for quick-launch icons, though they’re not customizable, which limits their utility. Motorola’s slick Circles widget is here again, displaying weather, time, battery life, missed calls, text messages, and voicemail. One customization I hadn’t noticed before that was tucked away in the accessibility menu was the ability to set an application to open when double-tapping the home button. Pretty handy, that.

The home screen doesn’t rotate for landscape orientation, which highlights the distinct lack of Jelly Bean on the DROID RAZR HD. Although the 4.1 update is on the way and arriving before the holidays, it just plain looks bad when Google's own company can't release a phone with the latest Android software. The Photon Q had a mini-widget system that allowed users to jump right to specific functions before launching into the app, though it’s absent on the RAZR HD.

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This overall home screen layout is a nice shift in the usual Android paradigm that the middle home screen is where everything starts. Swiping to the left of the main home screen pulls up a wide variety of power toggles, which is a lot more convenient to view in a full screen than trying to cram in with the notification menu. A display brightness slider would have been a nice inclusion, mind you.

Swiping to the right of the last page gives the option to create a new page. You can just insert a blank page, but there are also templates available to get started quickly. Unfortunately, there are only three templates to start; a wider selection would have really helped users personalize their experience right out of the gate. Finally, the app grid offers a dedicated tab for favorite apps. That seems a bit redundant since your favorite apps are probably already on one of several home screens, rather than tucked away in grid view.

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SmartActions are also still here. They allow users to set up specific actions to automatically take place when certain triggers are met. There are some pre-made SmartActions that are included, such as a driver mode or battery saver mode, but the really cool stuff is when you start building your own. With a bit of work, these can really make a phone that reacts to circumstances in exactly the way you want it to. SmartActions is an excellent system, and a fine example of how manufacturer additions to Android can add a ton of value.

Unfortunately, carrier preloads aren't the same story. Rogers dumps about 9 apps onto the RAZR HD. Some, like visual voicemail and account management, are helpful, but most, like the Games and Anyplace Live TV section, are just opportunities for them to up-sell. At least the bootloader for the RAZR HD will be unlockable, so you can pry those preloads out with a bit of work. 

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There's an excellent Guide Me app included which gives users a wide variety of interactive tutorials, ranging from the most basic functions, such as swiping between screens and moving home screen icons, to more advanced functions, such as ignoring incoming calls but replying with a canned text message. 

The stock keyboard included with the Motorola RAZR HD does a fine job of handling day-to-day messaging. The keys are long and slim with a decent amount of space between each one, plus there's voice input which tends to be reliable enough. The Rogers version of the RAZR HD had Swype installed as an alternative, if you’re looking for a gesture-based keyboard instead.

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In terms of performance, the dual-core 1.5 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM are more than enough to handle everything you have to throw at it, even though it's no improvement in horsepower compared to previous Motorola devices. I played high-end 3D games without any issue, browsed the web with plenty of tabs open, plus the LTE kept the data flowing nicely. There’s the usual spread of connectivity included, such as NFC, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi (with Direct file transfer and DLNA media sharing). Call quality was perfectly acceptable for everyday use. 

Camera tests

The quality of the pictures taken with the 8 megapixel camera were decent, but again, not a huge leap from previous high-end Android hardware. It didn’t fare particularly well in low light, and the HDR shooting mode provided mixed results. The timelapse and slow-mo shooting modes are both cool, but are only really useful in the right situations. I found the colors a little faded, and pictures had a habit of being grainy even if the day was merely overcast. Even in situations where the flash is needed, as in the portrait below, I wasn't that happy with the results. 

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The shot-to-shot time was alright, but barring the rapid-fire mode, nothing you could call instantaneous. Many of the usual functions are there, including touch to focus, flash, and exposure control. There are a few helpful shooting modes, such as panorama and timer. Scene modes are limited to auto, portrait, landscape, night portrait, and sunset. There are also a handful of artistic effects available. if you’re into that kind of thing. The camera can handle 1080p video recording with additional options for wind noise cancelation, timelapse, or shooting at 60 frames per second for slow-mo playback. As you can see in the sample below, the colors are about as washed out as they are in the stills. 

The bottom line

The excellent build quality, strong battery life, large, sharp display, and smart software customizations all contribute to the RAZR HD being a solid flagship device. Of course, it’s an uphill battle against the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the upcoming Galaxy Note 2, but the Motorola RAZR HD is at least worth a gander if you're in the market for a new phone, even with the slightly above-average pricetag.

The Motorola DROID RAZR HD will be available on October 18 for $199 on a two-year contract with Verizon, while the RAZR MAXX HD will cost $299. Rogers currently has the RAZR HD available for $99 on a three-year commitment. 

 
There are 44 comments

Basis says:

I have to ask - if I were to import this here to the States and popped in an at&t sim, would it work on 4G LTE? Does at&t and Rogers share the same LTE bands? I know they share the same 3G bands

Taknarosh says:

Theoretically it should, but there have been hurdles in the past a phone was difficult to unlock, or even with the right supported bands there were software locks.

But in all likelihood, it will be usable on AT&T once unlocked.

Rogers/Bell/TELUS/AT&T all share the same HSPA and LTE bands.

Basis says:

If that's the case, then this very well may be my next phone unless I can find me a MAXX version released in Canada or if the alleged rumor of Motorola releasing their "Occam Nexus" prove to be true.

Channan says:

Man how I would love a RAZR MAXX HD Nexus in an LG Nexus' body.

ranova says:

yes, I quickly google'd the LTE bands this phone supports: 700/1700/2100 or Band 4 and Band 17

ATT uses band 4 and band 17 (LTE 700 / 1700).

Sources:
http://www.motorola.ca/consumers/MOTOROLA-RAZR-HD-LTE/m-Razr-HD-By-Motor...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks

Loony2nz#AC says:

Nice phone. But, it's hard to justify the price point when you can get the GS3 for the same price. And when you think about it, since the S3 has been on the market longer, you can get some decent accessories for it. Not so much with the RAZR HD.

I' on a VZW GNex. Love it. But, if Moto releases a DEV version of the RAZR HD or RAZR HD MAXX, that could sway my upgrade benjamins (I would still need to buy full price to keep unlimited data).

Basis says:

Aside from the superior camera and extra RAM, there isn't all that much that the GS3 has over the Razr HD. Yes, Moto should have released this months ago, but with the HD you're getting a better battery, better build quality and better radios. The former two of those will prevent the need to buy some of the most common accessories (extended battery, especially with the Maxx, and a case). Besides,this is a Motorola phone. Next to Apple, they are the king of accessories.

ArgonNJ#CB says:

I can tell you one thing the GS3 will have over the Razr, Jelly Bean update. I'll bet the GS3 has JB a full 3 to 4 months before the RAZR does. Also the GS3 is available on all networks in the US, not just the draconian Verizon.

steevereeno says:

3 to 4 months before the Razr? Moto previously announced that both the HD and Maxx HD will see a JB update before the end of the year...we're running out of months quickly. I'll take your bet.

JayND says:

Ironic you say that, because the Verizon version to my knowledge does NOT have jellybean yet, and it probably won't for some time if the Galaxy Nexus is any indication. Same goes for sprint.
That's not something to gloss over.

Ohleo says:

Not the same phone but the Razr m JB has already been leaked and is currently running successfully on it. So, we will see.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

Lets see about that. Motorola have a better track record updating their devices. Fascinate everybody lol?

You can't be serious with this comment. The Samsung Galaxy S3 '' PIMP SLAPS this device silly. Yes superior camera, without question. And yes 2gb of ram is monsterious and for gaming Samsung makes Motorola useless. Let's talk about other better things on the Galaxy S3. Better noise cancelation than the Razr Maxx Hd, better video quality when taking a video, 64gb sdxc card space galore on the Galaxy S3, let's also talk about the real truth here better software hands down as well as just overall better features. Please Motorola Razr Maxx Hd can't touch any Samsung Galaxy S3 0n it's worst day. Even if you might get longer battery life.

Rob White says:

Monsterious?

Ummm ok. New languages from Richard these days. More importantly, to actually say the mess that is Touchwiz is better than Motos near stock Blur treatment isn't even laughable. It's just sad to think that.

But the next new hotness will come soon & you'll forget Samsung like you did HTC.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

Motorola packs the best features about a phone build quality, call quality and better radios :) Samsung just have a better camera and the ram period. if we going to talk about ram and display, the htc one x and the lg optimus put the plastic galaxy s 3 to shame. Samsung devices do not look professional like most of motorola devices. You need to learn about technology. you are clueless :)

Sam K says:

The only other advantages that the Galaxy S3 has over the Razr HD are the removeable battery, barometer and a higher resolution front facing camera (1.9mp vs 1.3mp in the Razr HD). It also has a physical home button and menu/back capacitive buttons but I wouldn't consider them an advantage. Samsung's always have great cameras so it will be interesting to see how the picture and video quality compare to the Razr HD.

The Razr HD has other advantages over the Galaxy S3. The water resistant nano coating, kevlar backing (vs cheap plastic rear cover on the Galaxy S3) and micro HDMI port.

I've been trying to decide what's more important to me. The Galaxy S3 with 2gb of RAM or the Razr Maxx HD with the large battery, water resistant coating and micro HDMI port. Considering they both have the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, I'm wondering if the 2gb RAM in the Galaxy S3 gives a noticeable improvement in performance. If not then I'll definitely get the Razr Maxx HD.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

I have always said that we do not need 2 g of ram as of now unless you play a lot of games, but the nexus 7 do not have 2 g of ram and it is a beast because of the software and quad core. Samsung put the 2 g of ram to justify their horrible radios and build quality lol :)

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

people are focusing so much on the ram and the good camera on the gs3, but the droid razr hd and the razr hd maxxx will put the gs3 to shame because it has better build quality, radios, software, bigger battery and more importantly call quality :)

JonDroid1 says:

I'd like to know, does this screen has the same butt-ugly yellow tint to it found in it's predecessors? Some of the YouTub videos I've seen show a clean white or at least close to it experience.

Spaniard85 says:

I'd guess it doesn't. That discoloration is usually caused by a Pentile sub-pixel layout, which I don't believe this phone has but past Motos have.

JayND says:

yellow? always looked green-blueish green to me

Shawheim says:

i just want to know why they didnt try to match the words to the video.

That can happen when uploading to YouTube and when YouTube recompresses the video for various resolutions.

Scott

Jack33 says:

I think I'll keep my Razr Maxx until my upgrade in 4/2014 and the price of Razr Maxx HD comes down to manageable level ($199-$150). Apart from a slightly bigger screen and a bit higher resolution, I don't see myself dying to get one of these. As for the increased battery life, Razr Maxx lasting me a full day of moderate/heavy use is good enough.

rbess1965 says:

When news of the HD’s broke I started considering a trade up for the better screen but after seeing it live, I'd have to say now that I definitely will not need to. If I didn't already have a Razr Maxx and was looking for a solid new device with a great battery, the Maxx HD would be top of my list. The issue for me now is that I didn't see anything about the new devices that would make me really want to spend the money for an upgrade and definitely not worth losing my unlimited data plan over. Looks like I'll be sporting my Maxx for years to come. Glad I ended up with it though, I would have hated being stuck with the Samsung Charge I had before it or even a Samsung Nexus (no offense guys:). The Razr Maxx is still a great device and when the price of it drops because of the HD’s, it’s a steal for anyone that is freaking tired of searching for a charger every day. Go for it!

Now I must admit that a Moto Nexus device named after Occam’s Razor sounds very enticing. Motorola’s solid build, reliable radios sporting a pure Google OS? Now that might be worthy of my money!

ArgonNJ#CB says:

Yeah the Occam sounds interesting but knowing Motorola, they'll probably make it a Verizon exclusive or something retarded like that.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

I am agreeing with you, but these new devices look nicer with less bezel and a better build quality. The software it is better so it is the display. I bought the razr before the maxx came out. I am considering getting the Droid razr maxx hd :) The best device of the year pound per pound.

turb0wned says:

Motorola doesn't learn how to make a good camera huh.... Only thing this phone has going for it is the battery..

ArgonNJ#CB says:

And the cellular radio. Motos have the best radios.

JayND says:

well Samsung still hasn't learned to make a decently built device either, every OEM has their weakness /shrug

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

Cameras are for FB people, i will take radios, build quality and call quality over cameras :)

ArgonNJ#CB says:

Yawn. Shipping with ICS and available only on Verizon. I have no interest in this.

rbess1965 says:

This stuff changes so fast. There is just too much new tech coming out to ignore and jump on one of these right now.

FooFighter7 says:

So much new tech? Is that a joke? All of these "new" phones are just a slightly better camera, a slightly better processor, and a slightly better battery. I see nothing "new".

JHBThree says:

This review has far too many factual errors. Actually rather disappointed that this was even published as is.

1) $199 is not 'too steep' a price for a flagship device on a 2 year contract. It is the norm.

2) Verizon has never advertised the RAZR HD as having an edge to edge display. That is the RAZR M.

3) The smartphone version of Jelly Bean does not allow for homescreen rotation. This was posted on Android central.

4) The processor may not have much of a clock bump compared to the previous RAZR, but to claim it has 'no improvement of horsepower' is just flat out false. The S4 that it has is far faster and more efficient than the OMAP in the previous RAZR.

Also, there are 'dangling assertions' that are given early on in the article that aren't followed up on. (like the notification light issue) Unfortunately I think this is just a shoddily written review. Very disappointed.

illest813 says:

How would you compare the Camera to the G-Nex? Espec in Low light settings (imagine taking pics at a bar)

I am thinking of upgrading really solely for the battery. But I don't want to downgrade in any sense. Battery and camera are my 2 most used things, as well as the OS updates in general. If this doesn't get jelly bean soon... thats a big downgrade.

Thanks.

Cory S says:

Thanks for this, I was writing up this same list.

DirkBelig says:

Thanks for stating what leaped out at me, too - that $200 is somehow unreasonably pricey when just about every top shelf phone comes in at the same price point. I paid $200 for my Palm Pre and $200 for me OG EVO and if I wasn't holding out for a sale, would pay $200 for a GS3.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

I do agree this review did not give this devices its merit.

willinthe985 says:

I imported the xt910 razr and loved it. Unfortunetly it was stolen. Might get this one (especially is the bootloader is unlockable) after seeing what the new nexus looks like when it's released.

But will it be better than the upcoming nexus 4 ? ( as seen here http://esponential.com/2012/10/13/the-lg-nexus-the-complete-roundup/ )

SeeK says:

Dude, the Nexus 4 is an LG. I wouldn't touch it with a stick.

AnGeLFaCe77 says:

Good one lol, but LG was good before with its voyager and the envy. The nexus 4 seem proper, i just can not leave motorola and its perfect radios, build quality and call quality.

xKrNMBoYx says:

Damn that is a thin phone. Looks like its the same thickness or thinner than the iPhone 5.