Motorola’s collaboration with chip-maker Intel has begun with the firm introducing the RAZR i, a high-spec handset which aims to focus its power on delivering performance that few other devices can match.
Intel is a huge name synonymous with computer processors and has been so for many years. Motorola is another firm that has a long lineage in mobile technology, being able to boast that is was once the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile devices. A combination of the two companies’ expertise promises to deliver very good things, but will the RAZR i live up to this potential?
- 2GHz, single-core Intel processor
- 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced display
- 5GB internal storage
- 8 megapixel camera
- 1080p HD video recording
- 8.3mm thick
- 126g weight
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich
Design and Build
One of the main points Motorola has been drawing attention to with the RAZR i is what the manufacturer calls its ‘Edge-to-Edge’ design, with the handset featuring very small bezels on each side which allow the front facia of the phone to be almost completely filled by the display. It is certainly true that the handset is small considering it houses a 4.3-inch screen – the chassis is only slightly bigger than that of the iPhone 4S, a device with a much smaller, 3.5-inch display.
Constructed from aluminium, the device feels sturdy and well built, and the Gorilla Glass screen means that it should be very resistant to damage. On the rear is a Kevlar backplate which has a slightly rubbery feel and the handset’s sides are adorned with lock, volume and camera keys, a microUSB socket and a flip-up cover which houses the SIM and microSD cards slots.
The RAZR i is only 8.3m thick and weighs in at just 126g, feeling particularly light in the hand. Motorola has also coated the whole phone and its inner circuit boards in a waterproof covering which will see it even further protected during everyday use.
Screen performance on the RAZR i is excellent and the visuals produced are bright and clear. The resolution of 540×960 pixels on the 4.3-inch screen gives a ppi of256 – not the clearest on the market but still a good score nonetheless. Motorola has employed a Super AMOLED Advanced display in the device, which is a more power-efficient evolution of the Super AMOLED Plus screens seen on many earlier Android handsets.
Colours are especially bold on the display and well-designed apps such as Flipboard really show off the device’s image reproduction power. Photos are crisp and bold and video footage also looks excellent on the screen.
One brilliant feature resulting from Motorola’s ‘Edge-to-Edge’ design is that YouTube videos expand to fill the entire display when played. Whereas onscreen controls on many devices fade into black a few seconds after a clip is started, the space that they occupy remains – Motorola has overcome this, with the area in which the footage is displayed expanding after a few seconds to cover the areas that previously played host to those onscreen controls.
Under the Hood
Few smartphones can match the speeds which the RAZR i achieves, which is quite remarkable since the processor that powers it is a single-core chip. This is where the collaboration with Intel has really borne fruit and has helped create a device which is incredibly fast, with online browsing speeds surpassing those of several other high-end handsets including the Samsung Galaxy S III.
The 2GHz at which the CPU is clocked at of is the fastest we’ve seen on a smartphone and this performance carries over to everyday use. Several apps, such as Instagram, which often require a few seconds to update when opened, were instantaneously refreshed on the RAZR i, removing the slightly annoying pause that sometimes has to be endured.
However, the most impressive effect of that Intel processor’s speed is the way in which it allows the RAZR i’s camera to open at a lightning-like pace. Pressing the dedicated camera key from the lockscreen will see the phone ready to capture a shot in under a second. Strangely though, this time seemed to be reduced slightly if the camera app was already open in the background, but even then the performance is still incredibly fast.
We ran a benchmark test on the RAZR i using the AnTuTu app, which brought up results that mostly concurred with what the manufacturer told us about the handset and achieved a four-star result from the app. The only point that caught our attention is that the test showed that only around half of the reported 1GB of RAM was available for use, although it would be fair to argue that the phone is simply making good use of the RAM it has.
We found only one issue with the RAZR i’s processor, and its one that Motorola has already addressed. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox will not work on the device, instead bringing up an error message when a download is attempted. The manufacturer has said that in the case of Chrome this is due to there not currently being a version available which supports Intel’s chip architecture but that a newer version of Google’s mobile browser will be available at the time that the RAZR i goes on sale.
Whilst Motorola has chosen to forego equipping the RAZR i with the same incredible 3300mAh battery that featured in the RAZR Maxx, the newer device still has an impressive 2000mAh power source which should keep it running well. In testing we didn’t find any notable problems with the battery’s performance and the device held up well when really put through its paces by streaming videos and playing games.
Operating System and User Interface
The RAZR i launches with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, although a Jelly Bean update is promised for the not too distant future. Motorola has made an excellent move by making only slight changes to the basic Android interface, adding just a few touches where it feels they are needed and creating a user experience that is very efficient and uncluttered.
Most notably, Motorola has echoed HTC’s policy of creating a trademark widget to sit at the top of the homescreen. The Circles widget gathers together a clock, weather updates, and notifications into a great looking design, with three differently-sized circles flashing up information in realtime. The widget bears a slight resemblance to HTC’s well-known clock/weather effort but carries more information and is, overall, more useful.
Another simple but well though-out addition is a simplified settings menu which slides out from the left of the homescreen when swiped. Containing controls for the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplane mode, along with a link to the main settings menu, it is a great innovation that shows Motorola has put a lot of thought into the UI.
The Smart Actions app is a fantastic Motorola innovation which has been seen on previous RAZR models and thankfully makes a reappearance on the RAZR i. Allowing the user to create custom profiles of settings which are then activated by specified events shows the phone to be incredibly intuitive and customisable.
As an example, the device can be set to mute the ringer when a meeting is listed on the calendar, or bring up your favourite playlist when the headphones are plugged in. Several pre-installed profiles come with the handset, all of which can be altered, and entirely new ones can be created too. Having tested Smart Actions they proved to be very useful indeed, giving a feeling of confidence in their operation that allowed us to forget about them and get on with other tasks.
Along with Smart Actions there is the Vehicle Mode app which presents a simplified desktop interface perfect for use when the phone is mounted on a dashboard. Another clever inclusion is the Desk Dock, which displays a large clock and the phone’s calendar entries – ideal for leaving on your desk while working away at a computer.
Camera and Video
As mentioned earlier, the Intel chip allows the RAZR i’s camera to be opened ready for use in under a second, but that isn’t the only camera enhancement tthe powerful processor brings to the party. That 2GHz speed enables a multi-shot mode which can capture ten images in a second and is great for photographing fast moving subjects.
In terms of specs, the camera has an 8 megapixel sensor with BSI and HDR, and the images that are produced are impressive. The HDR function is particularly adept at altering exposure to produce the best image possible, with there being a noticeable difference in the way colours are captured when using the feature.
1080p HD video can be captured at 30fps and is smooth and clear, and the device also has a low-powered, VGA camera on the front which, whilst nothing to write home about, is sufficient for video calling.
Connectivity and Multimedia
The RAZR i has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity but sadly doesn’t have an MHL socket of the kind seen on Sony’s recent Xperia T handset.
Along with the excellent video playback (and the impressive way in which a YouTube video expands to fill the entire screen the RAZR i) is more than capable when it comes to audio performance. What at first glance looks like quite a basic music player includes full EQ controls and produces high quality sound. Whilst the phone’s external speaker as tinny as expected, the audio quality the device can produced through even a cheap pair of headphones is impressive, with low-end frequencies being particularly strong.
Performance and Verdict
As can be seen with Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, a ‘pure’ version of the Android 4.0 platform works very well on its own and Motorola seems to have recognised this and done little to fix that which isn’t broken. Making just a few embellishments to the UI, such as the Circles widget and the slide-out Settings menu, the manufacturer has added its own innovations only where they really have something to offer rather than being present for the sake of it.
The result of this is that the RAZR i is a more than adequate Android phone that steers clear of offering flashy features in favour of good, solid performance. While the handset may not be the most eye-catching device on the market in terms of its physical appearance, it is a remarkable smartphone which offers a well thought-out user experience and brilliant performance, both of which bode well for the future of Motorola and Intel’s collaboration.