Motorola Droid Razr Maxx $299
4th Jul 2012 | 18:00
The Motorola Droid Razr fattens up, gains battery superpowers
Introduction and design
The Motorola Razr Maxx has been out in the US for a while, known as the Droid Razr Maxx, but the rest of the world is now treated to the smartphone.
You get everything the Motorola Razr offers, except the super-thin chassis, as the Razr Maxx has gained love handles to accommodate a huge 3,300 mAh battery.
The Motorola Razr Maxx is available in the UK for around £430 SIM-free and is available free on contracts starting at around £25-£30 per month.
In the US you can nab a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx 4G today for $650 SIM-free, or around $200 on a two year contract.
However, you can't stuff a battery, which is almost twice the size of the 1,780mAh one found in the original Motorola Razr, into the same, slender 7.1mm handset.
See how good the beefed up battery is in our power test video:
This has seen the Motorola Razr Maxx expand to 9mm in depth and add a little more weight. The original Razr weighs 127 grams, so at 145 grams, the Motorola Razr Maxx is slightly bulked up, but hardly fat.
In fact the flatter back and more even weight distribution actually makes it easier to hold than its predecessor, which we found to be slightly top-heavy.
The rest of the internal specs are identical to the Razr, so you get a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB RAM, 8MP rear camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording, front facing 1.3MP camera and Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system. However, an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is on the way and rolling out now across Europe.
We appreciate the new balance, but we wish Motorola had taken time to redesign the Razr without such a huge bezel, which adds unnecessary width and length when held in the hand.
We mentioned in our Razr review that the deep bezel made the phone's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display appear smaller than it really was, and the Motorola Razr Maxx does nothing to rectify this.
There's still the fiddly micro SIM and microSD card slots hidden behind a panel on the left-hand side of the smartphone, and while not impossible to manipulate, we would have liked this to be easier to use.
On top you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with mini USB and micro HDMI slots, enabling you to hook the Motorola Razr Maxx up to a number of peripherals.
The only physical buttons on the Motorola Razr Maxx are located on the right-hand side. There's a lock key towards the top of the handset, which we found was easy to hit, but the volume rocker key located towards the centre of the handset is slightly more tricky to find.
As with the Razr, you can't remove the battery from the Motorola Razr Maxx, which may put some people off who like to have that option, just in case they need to do a hard reset or wish to buy an additional battery for backup.
However, we can't really complain about the Motorola Razr Maxx's Kevlar-clad body. It feels almost as good as its super-thin Maxx-less cousin, and that's saying something.
Sadly the Motorola Razr Maxx ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is a disappointment now Ice Cream Sandwich is readily available and appearing on a number of handsets.
It's not all bad news though, since the Motorola Razr Maxx will receive an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich soon, with the roll out starting right now - we'll be updating the review to represent it.
As with most Android manufacturers these days Motorola has stuck its own custom overlay onto the Razr Maxx, in an attempt to enhance the user experience.
The 1.2GHz dual-core processor means you're able to slide through home screens and jump between apps without slow down, with the Motorola Razr Maxx easily coping with multiple applications.
There's a simple yet effective 3D animation as you slide between home screens and the wallpaper scrolls sideways as you move through the screen, which is a nice touch.
You only get five home screens to play with on the Motorola Razr Maxx (the Samsung Galaxy S3 offers up seven), which can quickly fill up if you're widget-hungry – and with the extra juice from the super sized battery there's nothing stopping you going all out with even the most demanding widgets.
Motorola has added an extra bit of customisation in here though, as you're able to resize most (but not all) widgets to try to cram as many as possible onto each screen – perfect it you're a fan of Tetris.
A quick slide up from the base on any home screen will provide you with an overview of all of them, and holding down on a space will pop up a menu enabling you to add widgets, apps, folders and shortcuts.
Pull down from the top of the screen and you'll be met with the customary Android notification bar. There are no handy toggles to switch off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and so on, but widget equivalents can be quickly added to a home screen.
If you're always forgetting to lock your phone when you put it in your pocket, then the Motorola Razr Maxx could be the handset for you. In the settings menu there's an "in-pocket detection" option that will automatically lock the smartphone when you slide it into your pocket - although it wasn't always perfect in working out when it was shoved in jeans.
Although Motorola has tweaked some aspects of Android, the overlay is relatively minimal in its presence,enabling simple and easy navigation around the handset, which will feel familiar to anyone who has used Android before.
Contacts and calling
Contacts can be accessed on the Motorola Razr Maxx via the Phone and Contacts, which are technically the same app, with each icon taking you to a different tab within the application – Dialler and Contacts respectively.
The setup once inside the app is a pretty stock Android offering, with the usual array of fields to add every tiny detail about each of your nearest and dearest.
You can sync contacts with your Google account along with a range of social media networks including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
We found account syncing fiddly, with the system seemingly making it difficult to properly join contacts to several accounts. It certainly isn't the slick interface you find with the HTC Sense software, and you may wish to ignore this option all together.
If you only really contact the same handful of people regularly there is a handy Favourite Contacts widget that you can stick on a home screen to display your best buds in a lovely tile format, complete with a satifying pull-down to ping open an animation to view all your BFFs (best friends forever, in case you were wondering).
There's no deep social media integration present though, so don't expect to see the latest status updates and photo albums pulled through to each person's contact profile.
The dialler is what you would expect from an Android smartphone, simple, easy and functional.
There's smart dialling present, making it quicker to find a contact or number, and the Motorola Razr Maxx will also show you your most recent call, just in case you need to quickly call someone back after forgetting to remind them to pick up some milk.
Call quality was, well, fine. We didn't experience any issues with feedback or the 'chirrup' we reported in our Motorola Razr review.
The typical in-call options are all present and correct including speaker, keypad and mute, and if you've managed to link your contacts to their social media profiles you'll also get a lovely picture of them on the screen.
All the expected messaging options are available on the Motorola Razr Maxx, from texts and emails to social networking and instant messaging.
Let's kick off with SMS, which can be accessed with the aptly named Text app. Don't let the name fool you though, this is really just the standard Android Messagaing app with a different icon and a few minor colour and style tweaks.
That said, it's very easy to use and we don't see why a manufacturer would need to change this function too much. The keyboard, however, is not quite as good.
It does the job, but we found it to be cramped and a delay that was slightly too long for our liking when holding down a key to get the alternative character selected.
The keyboard does grow on you, as your fingers adapt to the tight layout, which is improved if you turn the Motorola Razr Maxx landscape – although you do sacrifice the ability to see the message you're replying to in this mode.
Swype is also available on the Motorola Razr Maxx if you want a completely different input method, but we'd still download an alternative keyboard from Google Play – SwiftKey X is our favourite at the moment.
The standard Gmail and Email apps are pre-loaded on the Motorola Razr Maxx, enabling you to set up a multitude of accounts.
For those of you who like to have everything in one place, the Motorola Razr Maxx offers you its Messaging app, which will pull all your texts and emails into one centralised feed for easy consumption.
There's also a universal inbox widget linked to the Messaging app, so you can see your latest mails and texts on the home screen.
While we're on the subject of unified inboxes, the Motorola Razr Maxx also offers up a social networking hub, enabling you to collate your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other accounts all in one place.
As with the messaging app, there's a handy home screen widget for this too, so you won't need to trawl the app list for the icon.
Direct messages sent within social networks will also pop up in your universal inbox, providing you with some seriously deep, if not slightly confusing, integration.
In terms of web browsing, Motorola has sensibly stuck with the stock Android browser on the Razr Maxx.
It's a highly capable browser, and thanks to the 1.2 dual-core processor, web pages load swiftly, with trusty TechRadar.com appearing in less than five seconds.
The Motorola Razr Maxx provides both 3G browsing as well as Wi-Fi b/g/n – enabling you to get online pretty much anywhere, and at suitable speed.
The large, bright 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display perfectly aids web surfing, with text and images appearing crisp and clear.
Zoom in and the text will automatically reflow to fit the level you're at, making reading articles a breeze with no need to scroll sideways.
Fortunately it seems that the erratic browsing tendencies we experienced with the original Razr have been ironed out on the Motorola Razr Maxx, as we didn't experience any difficulties during our tests.
Bookmarks are displayed in the now familiar thumbnailed layout, which is easy to edit, add to and delete from.
However, it's not all good news, since Motorola has insisted on keeping five locked bookmarks – which is irritating to say the least, especially if you have no intention of ever visiting those sites.
Of course you can always download an alternative browser from Google Play if you wish, and once the Ice Cream Sandwich update rolls out to the Motorola Razr Maxx, you'll also have the choice of the Google Chrome browser. Phew!
For those of you who still love a bit of flash, you're in luck, as the Motorola Razr Maxx joins the fleet of other Android devices that support the format, even though it's set to fade away as HTML 5 comes to the fore.
The Motorola Razr Maxx offers up a decent camera in the shape of an 8MP rear snapper, as well as a front-facing 1.3MP offering.
The rear facing camera is the main focus here, with the smaller front camera really only there for video calls and vanity checks.
There's a single LED flash located next to the lens on the rear of the phone, and thanks to the positioning at the top of the device, there's no chance of obscuring the camera when held in portrait orientation.
However, we did find our hand creeping into the corner of shots when held in landscape, which was slightly annoying as we had to change our grip to something much less natural.
Also annoyingly the app does not rotate the menus in the camera when you're holding the Motorola Razr Maxx in portrait, which is frustrating when trying to read menus sideways – something that other handsets provide without a second thought.
If you are an impulse snapper then the Motorola Razr Maxx has got you covered, with the option to open the camera app straight from the lock screen.
That said, there is a second or so delay as the camera app loads, which is then extended once the shutter is pressed, while autofocus sorts itself out.
The autofocus delay can be overcome by either a) pausing before pressing the shutter to let the auto-focus settle or b) turning off autofocus from the settings menu.
Autofocus and tap-to-focus are both present, but as mentioned it can take a little while to setting, especially is the target is moving, which can cause frustration and missed opportunities.
As with most smartphones these days, there are a number of options and settings within the camera app itself. There are seven effects, seven scenes and four modes to select from, as well as an exposure control and image quality toggle (8MP or 6MP widescreen).
You can toggle between the front and rear cameras easily from within the app – although you lose pretty much all your setting options when using the front-facing camera.
Video recording on the Motorola Rarz Maxx is also accessed via the camera app, where there is a toggle switch to swap between the two modes.
As with the camera app, the top corner placement of the lens may cause your thumb to creep into shot when holding the Motorola Razr Maxx landscape, and the menus still refuse to rotate to portrait for straight-up shooting.
But there is some good news – the Motorola Razr Maxx is able to record Full HD 1080p video and will enable you to zoom, re-focus (centrally only – you can't select a part of the screen to focus on) and mute/unmute the microphone while videoing.
The LED light can be turned on for filming in darker locations, but you will need to make sure you do this before pressing the red button, since you can't toggle it while recording.
The same seven effects are present here as they are in the camera app, and you also have the option of five audio scenes – Stereo, Wind Reduction, Concert, Balanced and Front-Facing.
There's also image stabilisation, exposure and video quality toggles to help you improve (or reduce) the quality of your video.
The Motorola Razr Maxx enables you to shoot video in Full HD (1080p), 720p, DVD, VGA and QVGA (320 x 240).
You can record video from the front-facing 1.3MP camera as well, but quality is significantly reduced and we don't see why you would ever need to do this.
As you can see from the video clip, the Motorola Razr Maxx does a decent job, with good colour reproduction and motion handling. There are times where the image does blur, but you can't knock it too much.
With its 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen and huge battery life, the Motorola Razr Maxx is here to deliver media direct to your retinas.
Motorola have packed 16GB of storage inside, but if that is not enough you can boost the capabilities with a microSD card of up to 32GB in size, giving you a potential storage capacity of 48GB.
There is a built-in music player app, which you can use to stream and sync tunes from your computer using the MotoCast software, as well as supporting DNLA streaming. The Motorola Razr Maxx supports the main audio file types; MP3, ACC+, WAV and WMA.
There is also internet radio available through the music app, which has a pre-loaded list of various stations, categorised by genre, so you can find something to suit your tastes.
If you love your music, you can stick a widget on a home screen which enables you to play and pause without opening the app.
Sound quality is acceptable, but we'd advise you to stay away from budget buds as they will not do your music any justice, but if you have a decent set of headphones the playback makes for easy listening.
The Motorola Razr Maxx also has a speaker if you want to blast your tunes at other people on the bus, but as with most mobile phone speakers sound quality suffers if the volume is cranked too high.
The extra large, 3,300mAh battery inside the Motorola Razr Maxx means that extended periods of listening are of no concern, as it can easily cope with hours of continuous play back and still have juice left over.
The music player is perfectly functional and simple to use, but it's not going to blow you away with amazing design or next-gen features.
In terms of video, playback is excellent, with the screen doing the Motorola Razr Maxx proud, its large display making it a delight to watch for an extended period of time.
The extended battery life on the Motorola Razr Maxx also plays into the hands of video playback, with full length movies no longer a worry for those of you who are power-conscious.
However, there is no dedicated video app on the device. The only way to access videos is going via the gallery app and weeding through your photos.
This is a little laborious and a real pain if you have a lot of photos and video stored on your device. We'd advise a trip to Google Play to download a video player, such as Google Videos.
The video player itself, like the music player, is functional, but don't expect anything special. There's no pop-up-play magic of the Samsung Galaxy S3 at work here, just the basic controls required for playback.
Controlling playback is simple, with the toolbar popping up enabling you to play/pause and scrub through the video to a required point.
There are a variety of sharing options available to you, from uploading to YouTube or Facebook to sending via Bluetooth, email or MMS. These options are easily accessible from the gallery app, when you have selected a video.
The Motorola Razr Maxx supports a range of video formats including MP4, H.263, H.264, AVI and MMV.
The My Gallery app is the destination you need to head to for all your imaging needs on the Motorola Razr Maxx.
As well as displaying all the photos (and videos) taken using the Motorola Razr Maxx's cameras and housed on your SD card, the app also pulls in yours and your mate's albums from the likes of Facebook.
The photo stream on the main screen of the My Gallery app shows the latest photos uploaded to your connected social networks and it all syncs with Motorola's MotoCast cloud storage system.
The Motorola Razr Maxx also offers a crude photo editor, which enables you to rotate, crop, enhance, flip and add various effects to your snaps - great for quickly jazzing up the odd snap, but it won't suffice for more serious photographers.
The app is easy to use and the nippy dual-core means you can effortlessly breeze through hundreds of photos.
MotoCast is Motorola's free streaming (MotoCast Wireless) and syncing (MotoCast USB) solution, allowing you to wirelessly stream media from your computer and sync your phone content to your PC.
You'll need to download the MotoCast software on your PC, however the Motorola Razr Maxx comes with three pre-installed apps linked to the service; My Gallery, My Files and My Music.
This provides a relatively easy way to get your music, videos and files onto the smartphone. We tend to find these software packages a bit hit and miss, Samsung's Kies is a prime example, and MotoCast is no different.
There's no cloud-based storage option here, with all the content stored on either your computer or phone, which may not be to everyone's liking and is not as useful as the likes of Apple's iCloud.
Battery life and connectivity
Battery life is what the Motorola Razr Maxx is all about, it's the only reason for its existence and thus it does a damn good job at keeping you going for longer between chargers.
The Motorola Razr Maxx comes with a huge 3,300mAh battery hidden under that fancy Kevlar back – however it cannot be removed, so there is no battery swapping or hard reset options here.
On the side of the box, Motorola claims this super-sized battery will offer up 17.6 hours of talk time, and although this is a best case scenario figure, it's impressive, with most high-end smartphones unable to break into double figures.
So the question on everyone's lips is, does it actually make a difference? The answer: yes.
When bed time rolls around we automatically plug in our phone as it limps its way onto the bedside table, but not the Motorola Razr Maxx.
With moderate useage, including web browsing on Wi-Fi and 3G, video playback, social network, emails and gaming the battery easily walked a whole day, and it then went and walked the second day, too.
To put the Motorola Razr Maxx through its paces we ran our 90-minute battery test video at full brightness and applied all accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Email and so on) and set them all to regularly update over Wi-Fi.
The result? Well the Motorola Razr Maxx blew the competition out of the water. After 90 minutes the Motorola Razr Maxx's battery had been reduced to just 90%.
Obviously if you hammer the Motorola Razr Maxx for a full day the battery won't last you into the next, but it should still see you to bed and turn off the light.
And for the US users that are wondering about this phone as an LTE fiend, it's much better than most of the competition, really boosting up the power for a phone that can finally match up to the rigours of 4G connectivity.
The Motorola Razr Maxx offers up a decent range of connectivity options to make sure you're never lost for a way to link it up to the myriad of other devices you doubtlessly own.
The standards are all present and correct with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS and micro USB (located at the top of the handset) all featuring.
If you like to use your phone as a mobile hotspot, the Motorola Razr Maxx can help you out here as well, with a tethering and mobile hotspot function in the settings menu – there's also a handy shortcut icon in the app list, so you can get set up in no time at all.
Motorola has also been kind enough to hook us up with a micro HDMI port alongside the USB offering on the top of the Motorola Razr Maxx, making it easy for you to link up the handset to an HD TV or monitor – perfect for watching videos or showing off your holiday snaps.
Sadly there's no HDMI cable provided in the box, so that's an extra expense right there. And while you're in the shop, pick yourself up a microSD card too, since the Motorola Razr Maxx has a handy port on the left-hand side for cards up to 32GB in size.
Even with the bigger body on the Razr Maxx, Motorola was unable to squeeze NFC into the handset, so don't go trying to pay for your Big Mac with this phone.
Maps and apps
As is custom with every Android device, the Motorola Razr Maxx comes with the excellent Google Maps pre-installed.
This complete mapping solution provides a wealth of useful information on top of the regularly updated maps.
The Motorola Razr Maxx comes with A-GPS, which aids a fast location lock when the maps app is fired up, and we found the handset was able to track our movements very well.
Alongside Google Maps you are also treated to Google's free Navigation app, which provides turn by turn driving directions.
It's a great feature, especially when you consider you're getting it for free and easily takes the place of a traditional sat nav – just remember to invest in a car dock.
We're pleased to see that Motorola has kept away from adding too much unnecessary bloatware to the Razr Maxx, instead providing users with a relatively clean slate when they take the handset out of the box.
That said, we were disappointed to see in this social media day and age that the Facebook and Twitter apps where not pre-installed, however a quick trip to Google Play sorted that out.
Motorola has chosen to pre-load the Amazon Kindle app, which is great for the avid readers, plus there's the popular Evernote app if you like making lists.
Flash is also present and correct, so you can jump online and browse fancy websites right from the word go - just make sure Flash is enabled in the settings, since sometimes it's not on by default.
Motorola has made printing from a mobile easier by including its MotoPrint application on the Razr Maxx. This app enables you to print wirelessly to a Wi-Fi-enabled printer or via a PC if your printer is a little less well connected.
A word of warning, though, compatibility is limited to certain documents and printer models, so be sure to check yours before proceeding.
We touched on the MotoCast-enabled applications in the media section, with My Gallery, My Music and My Files appearing on the Motorola Razr Maxx.
It's always nice to see a file manager, and My Files is a good way to browse files on your phone, and is especially useful if you're dealing with a large amount of content.
QuickOffice enables you to view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents. Editing options are limited, as you would expect from a mobile app, but it works well and is useful to check documents and make the odd amendment here and there.
A nice inclusion from Motorola is its Smart Actions app. We didn't take notice of this when we first got the phone, but after some time using it, a notification popped up in the notification bar from the Smart Actions app.
What the app does is suggest various settings for your device, depending on where you are. Cleverly, it knows where you are, so when you get to work it will, for example, set your phone to vibrate with no tones. When you get home, the smart actions app will automatically switch on your ringtones and turn on your Wi-Fi.
There are 10 example set ups in the app to get you started, but you can tweak these to your heart's content and add your own. It's a great little feature, which is easy to use and surprisingly clever.
Hands on gallery
The battery life is excellent. The Motorola Razr Maxx exists for one purpose - to offer users a top-end smartphone that will last more than a day - and it manages it with ease.
OK, so you won't be getting a week out of it like you did a Nokia 3310, but in today's world where top-end phones limp to the charger at the end of the day, the Motorola Razr Maxx offers a refreshing change.
The Super AMOLED display is also a great feature, which enables excellent video playback and gaming. And thanks to the battery, you can do both of these for longer.
The dual-core processor makes Android Gingerbread flow smoothly, and we're fans of Motorola's smart actions app.
The styling certainly won't suit everyone, and the wasted real estate around the screen makes the Motorola Razr Maxx look like a bigger and more cumbersome phone than it actually is.
And thanks to that stonking battery, the handset has lost the wafer-thin appeal of the original Motorola Razr – making it aesthetically less desirable.
We've become used to seeing top phones offer up seven home screens, so we're puzzled about why Motorola has stuck with just five - especially on a phone with a large display that begs to be filled with widgets.
The Motorola Razr Maxx enters the market at the same times as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, which both overshadow Motorola's effort - perhaps a spec boost could have been included alongside that bigger battery.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 is now on par with the Motorola Razr Maxx when it comes to pricing, but offers a better, 5 star, experience.
The Motorola Razr Maxx does beat these next-generation handsets when it comes to battery life – its possibly only saving grace when faced with the stiff competition.
If you're not too bothered about styling, slicker interfaces and extra features and just want a phone that will see you through a few days, then the Motorola Razr Maxx is probably the one for you.