Motorola takes battery to the Maxx
The Motorola Razr Maxx is slim, powerful and is touted as having the longest-lasting battery of all current smartphones. Combined with an attractive price, this makes it one of the most well-rounded smartphones SEAN BACHER has used.
When Motorola re-launched the Android version of its Razr, it was a huge hit. At the time it was the thinnest smartphone in the world and, despite the slim form factor, Motorola did not cut back on specifications, making it a good competitor in the high-end smartphone market.
That was a year ago, and a lot has changed since then. For example, Samsung has released the Galaxy S3, which is now the smartphone benchmark. HTC’s One X is a worthy competitor at the high end. Sony’s new Experia is a slightly lower-cost option with high specs. Nokia has brought out a line of Windows smartphones which haven’t set the market alight, but point the way to a stronger future for the brand.
Many vendors are also releasing entry-level smartphones to cater for the lower end of the market. And then there is Apple. Rumours are flying in anticipation of what we can expect from the Cupertino giant’s next iPhone; all will be revealed next month.
But none of them address a burning issue: battery life.
Last month, Motorola launched the Razr Maxx, a high-end Android phone designed to address this core smartphone problem: battery life, or lack there of.
We put the Motorola Razr Maxx through the Gadget Ten Question User Test.
1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)
As with the original Motorola Razr, the Maxx uses a unibody design, meaning that there are no removable parts. A micro SIM is slotted into the left-hand side of the phone, alongside a slot for a mini SD card. Both slots are protected by a flap, which is not the easiest to remove.
At the top is a mini USB input which doubles as a charger and next to it a mini HDMI output. The Power button and a Volume rocker are on the right-hand side. Once again Motorola has left out a dedicated camera button, which would have saved a lot of time when taking snaps or videos while on the move.
Overall, the unibody design makes the phone feel very rigid and robust. But the same cannot be said for the flimsy SIM card protector.
2. Slippability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)
When Motorola announced the Razr over a year ago it measured 7.1mm thin, making it the thinnest phone in the world. In addition, it sported a Kevlar back and Corning Gorilla Glass to protect it from scratches and bumps.
The Razr Maxx has the same Kevlar back and Corning Gorilla Glass, but the phone is thicker – coming in at 9mm. This can be expected though, as the Maxx uses a Li-Ion 3 300mAh battery compared to the 1 780mAh battery found in the original Razr – almost double the size.
That said, the Motorola Maxx is still thinner than the iPhone 4S (9.3mm) and is only slightly thicker than the Samsung Galaxy S3 (8.6mm). The phone still fits comfortably into a pocket but, due to its 130mm length and 69mm width, it won’t go unnoticed.
The phone’s dimensions do make it easy to use with one hand. Your thumb will easily be able to tap even the furthest region of the phone and you won’t end up with cramped joints after using it for a while.
The slight increase in the phone’s thickness is a small price to pay for a major increase in battery life and therefore cannot count against the Razr Maxx.
3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)
The Razr Maxx uses the same dual core 1.2GHz processor that the Razr uses. Also, nothing has changed in terms of memory, with 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM.
This means that Angry Birds Space performed well, without any jolts or freezing. Lane Splitter, which makes use of the phone’s accelerometers to guide a motorbike through traffic, also worked very well.
Flipping through the five home screens on Android 2.3.6 or Gingerbread operating system was also fluid, despite the number of open apps running in the background and widgets updating on the fly.
Motorola has said that it is offering Razr Maxx users an option to update to the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, but during my tests I received no notifications that I was due for an OS upgrade.
Overall the phone did not disappoint at all. It was always responsive, with no delays and switching between open apps was fluid and seamless.
4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)
According to Motorola, the Razr Maxx’s 3 300mAh battery will last up to 607 hours in standby mode and will let you talk for over 17 hours. Although I did not fully put these claims to the test, I did use the Maxx to the max. For starters I slipped in a 32GB microSD card and recorded two hours of video, after which the battery showed no signs of needing a charge. I then replayed the two hours of video and checked the battery again. Although the charge indicator had dropped slightly, it still showed that I had 80% of battery charge.
I then started using the phone like an everyday smartphone – that is, using it to check Twitter, Facebook, e-mails, browsing the Internet and making as many calls as I could. A day later I was down to 50%
That 50% lasted an additional two days before I had to plug the phone in. Based on these tests, the Maxx will easily last up to five days on one charge. This is absolutely marvellous, considering my BlackBerry just makes it through a day.
The battery life of the Maxx is phenomenal, and it is about time that other phone manufactures follow Motorola’s lead and pay more attention to battery life.
5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)
Once again nothing has changed in terms of screen and camera resolution – which is not a bad thing. The Motorola Razr Maxx offers maximum resolution of 540X960 pixels, with a 256 ppi pixel density. Graphics are sharp and crisp and, although the screen is is not as clear as the Retina display offered on the iPhone 4S, it is very difficult to notice the difference.
The Razr Maxx comes pre-installed with the same set of applications found on the Razr. The MotoLounge app allows you to customise the device by downloading new wallpapers, games and applications, each specifically designed to work on the Razr Maxxx. The MotoCast application allows the phone to connect to any Wi-Fi enabled computer and stream video and music from that computer. It’s a great application as there is now no need to connect the phone physically to a computer as you would have to do with other handsets.
The Razr Maxx also makes use of Smart Actions, which work in conjunction with your location and a set of instructions that the phone performs when in that location. For instance, I set up Home Mode Smart Action, and when the Razr detected that I had arrived home it automatically switched the phone over to Airplane mode and located and logged on to my local wireless network.
Each of the pre-installed smart actions is fully customisable. However, new ones can be created from scratch to suit numerous situations.
The Razr Maxx makes use of rather large bezels around the sides of the screen. This gives the impression that the 4.3” screen is smaller than it actually is. I would like to have seen the screen stretched to the end of the phone, giving an additional 10mm of screen space. This is where the phone falls short of the high-end devices from Samsung and HTC.
However, a great high-definition screen combined with great applications mean the Razr Maxx gets decent marks here.
6. Talk to me (quality of audio)
Voices are easily heard without any distortion. The rear mono speaker offers a decent sound for watching videos or listening to MP3s.
Other audio options include a 3.5mm headphone jack and Bluetooth connectivity for pairing to a car’s entertainment system or to wireless headset.
7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)
A combined, dedicated e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and RSS app is installed on the phone. It works well, allowing you to perform the basics. But, if you want more control over your individual social networking feeds, a variety of more powerful apps is available from the Google Play Store.
8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)
The hardware buttons are well placed and easily identifiable when operating the phone in the dark or when not looking. Below the screen are the standard Menu, Home, Back and Search soft or virtual buttons that illuminate when the phone is active. These buttons offer haptic feedback – meaning the phone vibrates when the buttons are pushed - so you don't have to check to make sure you have pushed the desired button.
The virtual keyboard that pops up when text needs to be entered is well laid-out, with the keys being big enough to allow you to confidently tap away without accidentally pushing the wrong letter or number. There is no haptic feedback here though, but the Razr Maxx offers a form of predictive text input. Overall, it was quite accurate, and it continues to learn new words the more you use it.
The buttons are well laid out and the screen offers a decently sized virtual keyboard, but the lack of a dedicated physical Camera button was a bit of a disappointment. Even the Motorola Defy Mini entry-level phone has one.
9. The new new (innovations, unique features)
The Motorola Razr Maxx offers a battery life second-to-none. The iPhone 4S with a talk time of 8 hours and the Samsung Galaxy S3 with a talk time of 11.6 hours are no match for the mighty Razr Maxx’s talk time of over 17 hours. In fact, there is no smartphone on the market at the moment that will match the Razr Maxx’s battery, and this means the phone scores high here. While this is addressed under battery life, it is such a significant step forward, that it must give the Maxx full-marks for unique features.
10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)
At the time of launch the Motorola Razr Maxx carried a cash price of R6 500. It is a high-end smartphone, with unrivalled battery life and yet it costs less than many other smartphones in its class. It is undoubtedly a top-of-the-range smartphone that is value for money.
Total score: 80%
Using a smartphone for days on end without having to worry about finding the next charging point is a step in the right direction. In addition, the Razr Maxx is powerful, has a high-quality screen and is well priced.
The Razr Maxx is one of the few smartphones that I have tested that is so well-rounded. Other manufactures need to take some lessons from Motorola, as a smartphone that does everything except make coffee doesn't count for much if its battery doesn't last that long.
* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher