Surprisingly compact for large display; Bright and colorful AMOLED screen; Strong battery life; Blazing LTE downloads; Fantastic sound
Not an HD display; Camera could be better
The affordable and compact Droid RAZR M for Verizon offers fast performance, long battery life and a bright and colorful display, making it a top pick.
It may not be a ground-breaking super-phone with a giant screen like the Samsung Galaxy S III or the HTC One X, but the compact 4.3-inch Motorola Droid RAZR M for Verizon Wireless packs plenty of punch and fits comfortably in any pocket or hand. For the wallet-friendly price of just $99, the RAZR M offers a gorgeous AMOLED screen, speedy dual-core CPU, blazing fast LTE downloads and strong battery life. This is easily one of the best phones under $100 on any carrier.
DesignHTC Rezound (6 ounces, 0.54 inches) and the LG Lucid (5 ounces, 0.45 inches thick). With edge-to-edge class, the glossy screen has almost no bezel, resulting in a mere 4.8-inch height and 2.4-inch width, better than the 5 x 2.6-inch Rezound and about on par with the Lucid's 4.69 x 2.45-inch frame.
In addition to the large, edge-to-edge display, the front surface of the front of the RAZR M is adorned with a chrome-and-black Motorola logo at the top and a Verizon logo at the bottom, along with a few millimeters of extra space below the screen. On other Android phones such as the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III, the area below the screen contains capacitive navigation buttons for back, home and task switching.
The back of the RAZR M is adorned with a soft-touch Kevlar finish that has a pleasant gray-and-black diagonal pattern. Above the Kevlar area sits a glossy black plastic patch holding the 8-MP camera and its LED flash.
At 469 lux on our light meter, the Droid RAZR M's screen is significantly brighter than the 296-lux smartphone category average, the 213-lux Samsung Galaxy S III and the 340-lux Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The 610-lux LG Lucid was brighter, though not as colorful.
Though Motorola doesn't tout its audio prowess or include any branded audio software, we found the RAZR M's rear-facing speaker surprisingly excellent. When we played both the bass-heavy Forget Me Nots and the guitar-centric "Wasted Years," audio was loud and accurate, without a hint of tin or distortion. Of course, the music sounded better when we plugged in a set of headphones. We particularly appreciated the "audio effects" control panel, which allows you to tweak the graphic equalizer or change between different sound profiles.
User Interface and Operating System
The Motorola Droid RAZR M runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, with a few added features. Those who have not used Ice Cream Sandwich before will appreciate the operating system's snappy performance and attractive widgets and icons, but especially the Recent Apps button. This menu shows a list of open tasks overlayed on top of the screen and lets you either switch apps or close an app simply by swiping it away.
Motorola includes its own lock screen that lets you swipe to one of four shortcuts: Phone, Camera, Text and Unlock. Plus, you can engage silent mode in the top right corner.
Unlike standard Ice Cream Sandwich phones that can come with as many as seven home screens, the Droid RAZR M has only one by default, reducing the amount of confusion and clutter. Swiping to the right reveals a menu that lets you add additional home screens while swiping to the left launches a quick settings menu with options for Wi-Fi Bluetooth, GPS and Airplane mode, among others. We wish that screen brightness appeared on this menu, but you can access display and all other settings by tapping through to the main settings menu.
Swiping down from the top of the screen reveals a list of current notifications, which you can swipe away or tap on for more information, along with a button that takes you to settings. The bottom of the home screen contains helpful shortcuts to the phone dialer, people (contacts), the apps menu, sms messaging and camera. You can change any of these shortcuts, except the app menu button, by dragging it away or dragging another app onto the bar.
We preferred typing on the stock Ice Cream Sandwich keyboard, which has large, easy-to-target keys that provided one of the most accurate virtual-keyboard experiences we've had on a phone this size. We particularly appreciated the tactile feedback and the large letter pop-ups that confirm you've hit the correct key.
Navigating through the UI was smooth and seamless, without any lag or hesitation. When we played the jetskiing game "Riptide GP" at maximum image quality, images were sharp and motion completely smooth, even with complex effects turned on like reflections on water. However, the game did not show the water splash effect that we've seen on several Tegra 3-based Android devices.
On Quadrant, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall system prowess, the Droid RAZR M scored a solid 4,495, far above the 2,768 smartphone category average and the 2,495 provided by the LG Lucid. However, the Samsung Galaxy S III scored a higher 4,731. The RAZR M provided a strong score of 7,335 on the graphics-centric An3DBench test, better than 7,119 category average and the Galaxy S III (6,994), but about on par with the LG Lucid (7,396).
Email and Messaging
We particularly appreciated the mail app's optional gesture controls, which let us mark messages as read in our inbox by swiping in from the right or delete messages by swiping in from the left.
As always, users have the option of checking their Gmail in a dedicated Gmail app, but you can add your Gmail account to Motorola's email client instead and take advantage of its attractive looks and gesture support.
In addition to a standard SMS app, Motorola also preloads Google Talk and Google Plus messenger for instant messages. With a 0.3-megapixel camera for video chats, you can conduct live video chats via Talk, Google+ or third-party apps like Skype or ooVoo, should you install them.
4G Speeds and Web Surfing
Riding on Verizon's speedy 4G LTE network, the Droid RAZR M returned blazing fast upload and download speeds on our tests. Using Speedtest.net in two different midtown Manhattan locations, we averaged 25.2 Mbps down and 18.4 Mbps up, which is faster than most cable connections.
Even better, the Droid RAZR M comes with Google Chrome as its default browser, which promises faster page load speeds and more features than the stock Android browser that most of its competitors come with. With just three bars of 4G, Chrome downloaded the mobile versions of ESPN and the nytimes.com in an average of 5 and 3.5 seconds, respectively, while loading the desktop version of Laptopmag.com in a speedy 10.5 seconds.
The Smart Actions app comes with a number of helpful preloaded tasks such as Nighttime Battery Saver, which turns off background sync while you're sleeping, and Meeting Rule, which silences the phone during calendar events. There's also Drive Smart, which puts the RAZR M into vehicle mode when you pair it with a certain Bluetooth device. We even created a custom action that would download all our background data whenever we were on Wi-Fi.
Apps and Software
In addition to its Smart Actions and custom email app, Motorola includes its own Voice Commands app, which allows you to launch programs or initiate calls, emails or SMS messages using voice. When we tested it, the service was a bit slow to process our requests and sometimes misread what we were saying (when we said "Kenneth," it thought we said "camera").
Motorola's voice commands should not be confused with Google's built-in support for Voice Actions, which let you surf the Web and get information, because Voice Commands work offline and only access information that's already on your phone like your contact list or your list of installed apps.
Verizon also bundles some of its services, such as VZ Navigator, a Voicemail app and the Verizon app store. The sweet NFL Mobile app is also on board. An app called Viewdini allows you to search for shows or movies and then shows you what services (examples Netflix, Hulu, etc.) have them available for online viewing.
However, an image of a city scape we snapped using HDR (High Dynamic range mode, pictured below) really popped; the buildings appeared to float above the blue sky behind them.
When we captured video of a city street using the 1080p video recording function, images were sharp and motion smooth, but as with the photos, the colors weren't particularly vibrant. The front-facing 0.3-MP webcam took detailed images of our face, even showing the individual hairs in our beard.
When we called several friends, the Droid RAZR M provided solid, but not exceptional, voice quality. Our friends' voices sounded loud and clear but not overly rich, though they reported that our voice was free from distortion. The speakerphone was also loud and accurate.
With its sealed-in 2,000 mAH battery, the Droid RAZR M lasted a strong 6 hours and 56 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery test, which involves continuous surfing over 4G. That time is an hour longer than the category average (5:53), nearly 2 hours longer than the LG Lucid (5:04) and more than 3 hours longer than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (3:40). However, the Samsung Galaxy S III lasted a nearly identical 6 hours and 55 minutes.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.0|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Front Camera Resolution||0.3MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||4.8 x 2.4 x .32 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|