- Review Date: 10/19/2012
- Bottom line: The Verizon Wireless Motorola Droid Razr HD represents a happy medium between the smaller Razr M and the more-expensive Razr Maxx HD.
- Pros: Solid build quality. Fast processor and data speeds. Fantastic battery life.
- Cons: Underwhelming camera. Doesn't run Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Difficult-to-access microSD slot.
Do you like the Droid Razr M, but think it can use a little more screen? Then you're in luck, because that's precisely what you get with the Motorola Droid Razr HD, a high-def update to last year's popular Droid Razr. The Razr HD ups the ante with a 4.7-inch, 720p display, and a large battery that's good for more than 14 hours of talk time. At $199.99 (with contract), it costs $100 more than the budget-priced Razr M, but it's still $100 less than the Razr Maxx HD, which offers more storage and an even bigger battery. Motorola may be making it tough to pick a phone, but at least you're guaranteed a quality handset no matter which you choose.
Size and Design
Just a year after Motorola surprised the industry with the shockingly thin Razr, slimmer smartphone profiles have become the norm. So the Razr HD's 5.19 by 2.67 by 0.33-inch (HWD) size isn't quite revelatory, though it's still a thin, attractive handset. And at 5.15 ounces, the weight feels just right for its size. The phone is made using the same Kevlar material as the original Droid Razrs, which gives it an expensive, luxurious feel. Compared with the plastic Samsung Galaxy S III, the Razr HD feels much more solid. And it's protected by a water-repellant nanocoating, which doesn't make it waterproof, but a little more durable than the average smartphone.
The phone comes in white or black, and the angular corners of the original Razr have been smoothed out for a sleek new look. Those colors only appear around the display; the back of each phone is the same gray and black patterned Kevlar, with an aluminum band running around the middle. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack up top, a Power button and volume rocker on the right, and a charging and micro HDMI port on the left, along with a hidden microSD card slot.
Design aside, keep in mind that this is still a very large phone. I have average size hands, and when I hold the Razr HD in one hand I can't reach high enough to drag the notifications bar down with my thumb. So if you have small hands or tiny pockets, you may want look at the 4.3-inch Razr M, which is significantly smaller and easier to hold.
True to its name, the Razr HD is packing a 4.7-inch 1280-by-720 HD Super AMOLED display. It gets very bright and colors look super saturated, but I'm not a fan of the PenTile pixel layout, which, despite the 312 pixels per inch, causes text and images to look a bit fuzzy upon close inspection. Function keys are displayed onscreen, and the large display means there's plenty of room for a big software keyboard that's very comfortable to type on.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The Razr HD works on Verizon's 3G and LTE networks, and can roam across the globe on GSM. It also integrates 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi on the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. Verizon's 4G LTE network is very fast, and received top honors in our Fastest Mobile Networks tests earlier this year. The Razr HD has good reception, and averaged 6Mbps down and a surprising 12Mbps up in our speed tests, which are some of the better numbers we've seen on Verizon recently.
Call quality is good. In my tests, voices sounded rich, though a little bit muddy, in the phone's earpiece. I do wish the volume level went just a little bit higher; it was difficult to hear everything outside on a busy city street. Transmissions sound clear, with good noise cancellation. Calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and Motorola's voice command system worked well over Bluetooth. The speakerphone also sounds fine, but isn't loud enough to use outdoors.
The nonremovable 2,530mAh battery lasted for an impressive 14 hours and 48 minutes of talk time. If you need a phone that lasts even longer, the Razr Maxx HD's 3300mAh battery should be good for nearly an entire day of continuous talk time.
Processor, Android, and Apps
Powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, the Razr HD is built around the same processor you'll find in the Razr M and the Razr Maxx HD. It's starting to become somewhat standard among the upper echelon of smartphones, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. The Razr HD turned in similar benchmarks to the Galaxy S III, which is powered by the same chip. It's powerful enough for any apps or games you throw at it, and should keep things moving at a steady clip for some time to come. Keep in mind that gaming frame rates are actually higher on the Razr M, because its lower-resolution display means it's pushing fewer pixels.
The Razr HD ships running Android 4.0.4 "Ice Cream Sandwich," which is nearly a year old at this point. That's kind of crazy considering Google now owns Motorola, and Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" brings a host of improvements over ICS. An update is planned before the end of the year, but it should be there to begin with.
As it stands, Motorola has applied the same customizations to Android here that we've seen on its other recent phones, including the Razr M. You start off with just one customizable home screen, and when you swipe it you're given the option to add a completely blank home screen or to choose a template (either media or mobile office). You get up to seven customizable home screens, as well as a Quick Settings screen all the way to the left.
The primary home screen comes loaded with links to the fast Chrome browser and Google Play Store, as well as Motorola's helpful Circle widget, which displays the time, the date, the weather, and battery life. Unfortunately, there's also a good deal of bloatware, including a number of Verizon-branded apps and some games, none of which can be deleted.
You also get Motorola's SmartActions app, which I really like. It lets you to follow a set of rules that make it easier to accomplish a particular task. You can create your own rules, or follow some of the templates Motorola has already made for you. The Low Battery Saver rule, for instance, prolongs your battery life by turning down screen brightness and shutting down power-draining features like GPS and background syncing. The Drive Smart rule switches the phone to vehicle mode and reads incoming messages aloud when you're behind the wheel.
And there's access to the Google Play store, where you'll be able to run any of the 500,000+ apps or games smoothly, thanks to the Razr HD's beefy processor.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The Razr HD comes with 11.62GB of free internal storage. There's a microSD card slot on the left side of the phone, and you need to use the included tool (or an unfurled paperclip) to open it. The SIM card also comes out each time you do this, which is inconvenient. The phone was able to read my 32GB SanDisk card, but not my 64GB card.
I was able to play AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA music files, but not FLAC. Music sounded fine over Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones, but there was a good amount of static in the background while using a wired pair. All of our video test files played back fine at resolutions up to 1080p.
The 8-megapixel camera underwhelms. It features autofocus and an LED flash, and snaps photos in an average of half a second. You get a lot of controls onscreen, including the ability to take panoramas or a burst of six shots at once.
Photos taken in optimal lighting look okay, with a good amount of detail. But some images captured indoors showed a mysterious pink cast, while others taken outside looked like they were composed from 50 shades of blue. You can also record 1080p video that plays back at 30 frames per second, though again I noticed that colors were off depending on the lighting. There's also the requisite 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat. So while most of the shots I took would look fine on Facebook or Twitter, if you're looking for a phone that doubles as a solid camera you're better off with the Galaxy S III or the Apple iPhone 5.
The micro HDMI port on the left side of the phone makes it easy to view pictures and video on bigger screens. Just plug it into your HDTV and you can mirror everything on your phone's screen, from browsing the Web, to Netflix and YouTube, to gaming.
The Motorola Droid Razr HD doesn't break any new ground, but it's a solid update to the original. The Razr M comes in at a more manageable size, while the Razr Maxx HD gets you a bigger battery and more storage, but all three phones have the same specs otherwise. If you're looking for a greater all-around multimedia package, the Samsung Galaxy S III has a better camera and call quality, along with a ton of additional advanced features. The Apple iPhone 5 also has a better camera, along with Apple's smooth iOS 6 operating system and an unbeatable app ecosystem.