Motorola Atrix review

Motorola has come out fighting recently. Its Xoom was the first tablet to market with Android 3, and now the Atrix wants to turn the idea of mobile computing on its head. Motorola calls it “the world’s most powerful smartphone”, and with good reason.

This is because as well as being a potent Android smartphone – which we’ll get to later – the Atrix also wants to be your laptop and a replacement for your media-centre PC. That’s quite an ambition, requiring a series of ingenious accessories.

Is it a laptop?

Motorola Atrix

The Motorola Lapdock is useless on its own, but plug the Atrix into the cradle at the rear, open the lid and, hey presto, it becomes a working netbook, complete with 11.6in 1,366 x 768 screen, Qwerty keyboard and a large touchpad and buttons. A pair of internal batteries powers the screen (and tops up your phone’s battery, too), and it has stereo speakers, two USB 2 ports, and a series of tiny LEDs indicating the remaining charge on the front.

It’s nicely made, clad mostly in brushed aluminium, and it’s just 16mm thick and weighs 1.09kg. But if you were hoping for something to replace your netbook, this isn’t it. The problem isn’t battery life – we played our test podcast video on loop and the Lapdock lasted 6hrs 50mins. No, it’s the software.

When the two are connected, the Lapdock eschew the Atrix’s Android UI for an environment called WebTop, which looks like a dumbed-down version of Mac OS X. Practically speaking, all WebTop adds to the phone’s capabilities is a full desktop version of the Firefox browser. You can still access the phone’s functions and apps directly using the provided mobile viewer, but operating Android with a touchpad feels awkward in the extreme.

Motorola Atrix

It’s also slow and unresponsive. The SunSpider test in the WebTop browser took just over six seconds, two seconds slower than in the handset’s native Chrome-based Android browser. Load up a few tabs and you can really feel things slow to a crawl, with sites heavy on the JavaScript, such as Zoho Writer, almost unusable in WebTop mode.

Businesses may be interested to discover that Firefox comes preloaded with the Citrix Connector plugin, allowing access to Citrix’s server-driven virtual desktop infrastructure, but this, too, felt sluggish in use. That’s disappointing, as there’s plenty of raw power: we managed to stream high-quality (non-HD) Flash video via BBC iPlayer and YouTube perfectly smoothly.

While the keyboard is reasonably comfortable, the trackpad is so large we constantly found ourselves brushing against it with our thumbs, sending the cursor hopping mad. You can turn it off, but doing so every time you start typing becomes tiresome.

But the real killer for the Lapdock is the price: charging £300 for something that runs so sluggishly from its master phone, and doesn’t even function at all without it, is patently ridiculous – even more so when you look at current netbook prices.

Details

Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £35.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.orange.co.uk

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 9hrs
Standby, quoted 16 days, 17hrs

Physical

Dimensions 64 x 11.5 x 118mm (WDH)
Weight 0g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1,000MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.0in
Resolution 540 x 960
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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