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Motorola's $99 Atrix HD for AT&T Steals Samsung's Galaxy S III Thunder

The worst kept secret in smartphones is now official, and on paper it gives the Samsung Galaxy S III a serious run for its money. Coming to AT&T July 15th for $99, the Motorola Atrix HD delivers a 4.5-inch HD display with ColorBoost technology, the same fast 1.5-GHz processor as the $199 Samsung and 4G LTE data. All of this Android Ice Cream Sandwich goodness comes wrapped in a Kevlar infused design that's tougher than the plastic Galaxy S III and is just as thin with a .33-inch profile.

The Atrix HD is one smartphone we wouldn't be afraid to take to the beach, thanks to a splash guard coating that protects the outer shell and electrical boards inside. Meanwhile, scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass will keep the screen from picking up scratches. The Atrix HD is heavier than the latest Galaxy (4.9 ounces vs. 4.7 ounces), but we suspect most buyers won't mind the extra bit of heft. Get more details below.

The Galaxy S III does have the edge in terms of display size (4.8 inches vs. 4.5 inches), but Motorola says that the Atrix HD's ColorBoost screen is brighter and more vibrant. It also delivers more pixels per inch than the Samsung (330 vs. 306 ppi). We're just not keen on the extra space beneath the screen. Do we really need that much real estate dedicated to the AT&T logo?

For those who were hoping that Motorola would bring the Droid RAZR Maxx's huge 3,300 mAh battery to AT&T, brace yourself for disappointment. The Atrix HD packs a lower-capacity 1780 mAh battery. However, Motorola's SmartActions software can help automate some power-saving features to squeeze out more juice.

Other key features of the Atrix HD include an 8-MP camera with "zero shutter lag" a front-facing HD camera for video chats and a mirror mode for when you connect this phone to a TV (HDMI cable sold separately). Motorola doesn't say anything about a burst mode, which is one of the things we love about the S III and HTC One X.

So what about software? The Atrix HD sports Motorola's new Circle Widge on the home screen, which gives you “at-a-glance” access to the time, notifications, weather, settings, battery meter and data usage info. We look forward to checking out this addition, though in our recent Android Skin Shootout Samsung beat out Motorola and HTC. 

While the Atrix HD lacks the S III's rich array of innovations--such as Smart Stay for keeping the screen on with your eyes and S Beam for sharing photos and videos with a tap--Motorola's $99 smartphone looks like a pretty awesome deal. Stay tuned for a full review. In the meantime, check out this teaser video from AT&T.

Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.