Among the three new RAZR2s, the V9 model from AT&T stands out for its superb voice quality (especially in noisy environments) and speedy surfing using a full HTML browser. We also like that you can do just about anything while listening to music. It's not perfect, but the V9 is the best clamshell the carrier offers.
The V9 is close to the same size as the V9m for Sprint and Verizon Wireless but just a tad thicker (0.52 inches versus 0.46) and a little heavier (4.4 ounces versus 4.13). It also sports a shiny Mahogany finish and the same slick but sturdy design as the other models, complete with vacuum-metalized finish, chemically hardened glass, and a chrome hinge. But that's not what you notice first when you pick up the Motorola RAZR2 V9; it's the gorgeous two-inch external display. Like the V9m's screen, it sports 320 x 240-pixel resolution but more colors (262,000 versus 65,000).
The large external screen lets users open and scroll through their music libraries, as well as launch the camera for taking self-portraits. The display is also used for picture caller ID. Using the buttons on the left side of the phone, we were able to scroll through playlists, songs, and albums and alter the volume, as well as fast-forward, skip, play, and pause tracks with the haptic controls. Motorola wisely lets you lock the external keys to prevent accidental presses.
Flipping open the phone reveals an equally gorgeous and even larger (2.2-inch) internal display with the same resolution and colors. Besides the standard cell phone buttons, the RAZR2 V9 features a dedicated Opera browser key for quickly accessing the Web, and another that takes you directly to Cellular Video, which contains tons of clips from Comedy Central, ESPN, HBO Mobile, and other media outlets. The D-pad is smaller than the ones found on the Sprint and Verizon V9m, but we still found it easy to use.
The Daily Show segments loaded in just under 15 seconds on AT&T's high-speed HSDPA network, and for the most part featured decent video and sound. Although video quality on this model wasn't nearly as crisp as on Sprint's version of the RAZR2 V9m, AT&T's offering lets you pause playback and watch clips in full-screen mode (features that Sprint's V9m lacks). Verizon's V9m also offers full-screen viewing and the ability to pause playback, but the video quality wasn't as good.
When we accessed YouTube Mobile, it performed like a champ in both normal and full-screen modes. Unlike Sprint's V9m, however, you can't watch video on the external display when the flip is closed. Diversion-seekers can also tune into XM Radio Mobile ($8.99 per month) or MobiRadio ($8.99 per month), as well as access MySpace Mobile ($2.99), although MySpace wasn't yet available during our testing. Oddly, this multimedia dynamo lacks AT&T's new Video Share feature.
With the plethora of features crammed into cell phones these days, it's easy to forget what a mobile is first and foremost designed to do: make calls. AT&T's version of the RAZR2 V9 features CrystalTalk, which utilizes noise-canceling technology to improve voice quality. Even on a loud, bustling midtown Manhattan street, friends and colleagues reported exceptional call quality with only a hint of background noise. The V9 bested both the Sprint and Verizon Wireless V9m in this test.
Multitaskers will love the RAZR2 V9's ability to play their favorite tunes while surfing the Web, sending instant messages, and even using the two-megapixel camera--something you can't do with the Sprint and Verizon versions. You can sideload songs by synching the phone with Windows Media Player or using a microSD Card. Unlike other AT&T handsets, this one doesn't support over-the-air music downloads via eMusic. We say skip the proprietary USB/audio jack for listening, and use a stereo Bluetooth headset instead.
Surfing the Web on the RAZR V9 is a joy, thanks to the included Opera Web browser, which loaded HTML Web pages quickly. When we visited CNN.com, text loaded within 6 seconds, with photos loading about 15 seconds later. Page formatting wasn't perfect, but sites were relatively easy to navigate. Assuming you'll be in coverage areas with HSDPA data, the RAZR2 V9 is rated at 3 hours and 25 minutes of talk time. That's not very long, but it's on par with other 3G phones on AT&T's network.
Although the Motorola RAZR2 V9 is pricey, its excellent voice quality, smooth Web-surfing, loads of multimedia content, and beautiful design make it one of best mobiles that Motorola has ever produced and one of the best with AT&T, period.
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