Motorola Razr i: The full giffgaff review
After taking our first look at the Motorola Razr i last week, we're back with the full review. The Razr i is a unique phone; one of the first to be released since Google and Motorola merged and also one of two phones ever launched in the UK to come with an Intel processor. The Razr i is also interesting as it shares the majority of its hardware - except for that Intel CPU - with another phone released pretty much everywhere except the UK, the Motorola Razr M.
The Razr i impressed us in our initial impressions, and today we find out how good the phone really is. Will its Intel processor deliver us the shining future of smartphones, or should you wait for the next generation? Let's find out!
Processor: single-core Intel Atom @ 2.0 GHz w/ HyperThreading
RAM: 1 GB
Internal Storage: 8 GB w/ micro SD slot
Display: 4.3" qHD (960 x 540) Super AMOLED
Battery: 2,000 mAh
Cameras: 8 MP rear, VGA front, 1080p video
Connectivity: HSPA+, Wireless N, Bluetooth 2.1, NFC
Dimensions: 122.5 x 60.9 x 8.3 mm
Weight: 126 grams
Operating System: Android 4.0.4 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
So there are a few interesting points we can tell straight off by looking at those specifications. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is that Intel processor. It is a single-core processor, a rarity in a mid-range or above phone these days, but this is balanced by the highest clock frequency of any phone - 2.0 GHz - and HyperThreading, an iconic Intel technology that allows for reasonably efficient multi-tasking via two logical cores. The CPU is the same as one you'd find powering a netbook running a desktop operating system like Windows, Mac OS or Linux, so theoretically this phone could do the same, running x86 applications from these operating systems natively.
The next interesting point is display. Unfortunately this looks like the weak point of the phone - anything below 1280 x 720p these days seems underpowered to me, particularly if you've got a 4"+ display. The display also uses a Super AMOLED panel with a Pentile pixel arrangement (Red-Green-Blue-Green), which allows for cheaper high resolution displays but causes jagged edges on some objects. In general, the traditional RGB arrangement on an IPS display tends to beat out a Pentile Super AMOLED in terms of image quality and colour correctness.
The camera is also interesting, although not from their specifications. One of the advantages of the Intel chip is that it can handle a burst mode feature on the camera. When activated, the phone will take 10 images in one second, with an appropriate machine-gun-like sound effect. In theory, this should be ideal for photographing quickly moving targets and should eliminate the need to manually take several similar shots if you're in the habit of doing that.
Finally, we've got a battery. The 2,000 mAh battery is almost the size of the Galaxy S3's battery, but is in a phone that has much less to power - a single core CPU, a smaller and lower resolution display and no LTE. This should result in good battery life.
So let's have a look at this smartphone, then! First we'll have a look at the box itself. On the front, we've got a nice and eye-catching photo of the phone set against a crimson and white backdrop, with the Intel processor noted from the off. On the back, we see some other benefits - an edge to edge screen and Google apps.
Opening the box, we see the phone itself with a protective piece of plastic that also lets you know where the buttons and ports are. Underneath the folder cardboard insert, we find our accessories. Clockwise from the top left, we have a micro USB cable, a UK AC adapter, a set of in-ear headphones and a white box containing a sim card poker. It's this which allows you to push in the micro SIM card and micro SD card if you don't have long fingernails.
Overall, the presentation is quite a nice one, as befitting this phone's mid-range status.
3. Physical Features
Now, let's look at the phone's physical features. The Motorola Razr i is a handsome handset, with gently squared off corners and wedge at the bottom of the phone. The 'edge-to-edge display' mostly lives up to the name, although of course there is still a bezel and it doesn't look too futuristic. The display here is only qHD (960 x 540) and the display is Super AMOLED, so the actual quality of the screen isn't quite up there with the IPS LCD used by the HTC One X or the resolution of the Galaxy Nexus. HTC have done brilliant 4.3" HD displays, and I'd loved to have seen one here.
There is an RGB notification LED on the left side of the Motorola logo, and a front-facing camera on the right. I tend to prefer a centered camera, but I rarely use it anyway so it's not a massive deal for me.
The back of the phone has that Kevlar backing introduced with the Motorola Razr released last year, branded with both Motorola and Intel's logo. The 8 megapixel camera and LED flash is at the top, with the loudspeaker sitting off to the right. This is a nice placement that is unlikely to get muffled while holding the phone normally. In the hand, it feels quite natural - a bit angular perhaps, but easy to hold onto and very very solid. It is quite heavy for its dimensions, which lends to the feeling of rigidity.
Now we'll have a look at what's on the sides of the Razr i. As you might have guessed - ports! buttons! Whoo!
So in the first picture we see the left hand side of the phone. We've got a micro USB port for charging at the bottom (left side) and a flap that has the micro SD and micro SIM slots. These are pretty standard, but will require a fingernail or the included tool to push them in and out. The hinge feels fairly solid, and it goes back flush with the side of the phone.
In the second picture, we've got the right hand side of the phone. We've got a lock button near the top, a volume rocker that is a bit hard to use, and a camera button. This is a welcome addition, but it's (deliberately, I guess) hard to hit, as it's flush with the side of the phone unlike the lock key, which is a different colour and raised up from the side. Once you've found it, it works pretty decently for taking photos.
Now for the top and bottom. Not much is here, truth be told - we've got a headphone jack on the top, and a microphone placed on the wedge. That's all.
Overall, a good set of ports and features although I'd have loved to see HDMI-out as standard.
Now, let's move onto the software side of things!
The Motorola Razr i is still a phone first developed when Motorola wasn't part of Google (it takes about a year to eighteen months to see a new product come to market, so we won't be seeing Google-made Motorola phones for a few months yet), and as such its software is still relatively different from stock Android 4.0.
Happily, these changes seem to be mostly for the better. The entire experience seems a lot more catered towards first-time smartphone or Android users, as there is a helpful tutorial as you first boot up the phone, with everything being explained in quite a balanced and reasonable way.
The home screen system is a bit different than on stock Android. For a start, swiping left from the starting screen takes you to a quick settings menu, where you can toggle on and off things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. It's really convenient to access settings in this way, and much more space-efficient than taking up quite a few pixels in the notification bar. You also start with just one start screen, but you can add more easily by swiping to the right. This allows you to choose a new blank start screen, or one based on a preset like Media or Work. These are by-in-large pretty sensible, and will no doubt we a big help to newcomers to Android.
The preinstalled apps are quite perfect. You get stock Android apps, plus a few new additions from Motorola - a Desk dock mode app, a Vehicle mode apps, the Quickoffice suite, and SmartActions. The desk and vehicle modes are fairly self-explanatory, but SmartActions are quite awesome. They are a way of automatically getting your phone to do something based on certain triggers. For example, you might set a SmartAction which alerts you if the battery is low at night to remind you to charge it. You could also turn on Wi-Fi when you get to work, or Bluetooth when you get in your car. It's a clever and comprehensive system, and I'd love to see something similar available on all Android devices.
Other than these few new apps, the new home screen arrangements and a few re-skinned icons, the phone is pretty much just Android 4.0. This is definitely a good thing, and I much prefer what Motorola has done with the phone than Samsung or HTC have with their phones.
Motorola have promised prompt upgrades to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and this should improve the phone's performance even further. The phone is already quite fluid thanks to that Intel processor, but I can't wait to try it with Project Butter and its speed improvements under the hood.
Benchmarks are synthetic performance tests that give a quantitative score by which different phones can be compared. I've run three benchmarks on the Razr i, and I thought I'd share my initial results here so you can get a feel for where this phone resides in the world of Android phones.
Vellamo is a benchmark with two parts - an HTML5 test which examines web browsing speeds and a 'Metal' test which looks at CPU, I/O and Graphics performance.
The Razr i scored 1525 on the HTML5 section. This puts it right behind the HTC One X (1556), which has the same Snapdragon S4 processor as the Razr M. This shows that Intel have come very close to replicating the performance of the traditional ARM chip in this test, which is impressive given that the Intel chip used is the very first generation of modern Intel CPUs and the Snapdragon S4 is the fourth generation of a massively popular and well-optimised Qualcomm chipset.
In the Metal score, we see a similar story - the i receives a score of 606, again just behind the US version of the HTC One X and its Snapdragon S4 CPU at 638.
Our next benchmark is Quadrant. This is a fairly comprehensive benchmark that looks at a range of indicators of CPU performance, with tests for the CPU, Memory, I/O, 2D and 3D graphics.
The Razr i scores 4215 points here, which is slightly better than the Transformer Prime and its Tegra 3 chipset, and just behind the international HTC One X once more.
The actual breakdown of the score is very telling. The CPU performance is measure as being about a third of that of the Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4 CPUs, which indicates the benchmark is optimised for multiple physical cores - an area where the single-core Razr i cannot keep up, even with the virtual cores provided by HyperThreading.
The reason that the Razr i can keep up is its massive memory score, where the i has about triple that of its nearest rivals. The I/O score is also slightly better, with 2D and 3D performance about the same. All in all, you should notice relatively better performance with memory-intensive tasks but worse performance in dual-core optimised apps.
Our final benchmark today is going to be GLBenchmark, a graphical benchmarking app that is a good indicator of performance in 3D games. A new version of the app has just been released, which includes an HD version of the classic Egypt benchmark.
The Razr i scores quite poorly on the 'HD' version of the test - 12 fps and 7.6 fps for the on-screen (960 x 540) and off-screen (1280 x 720) tests, respectively. However this benchmark is more of a forward-looking one designed to challenge chipsets over the next few years, and few phones have scored much more than this.
The 'Classic' benchmark has been tested on more phones, and is a better indicator of performance in current games. Here, the Razr i scores decently in its on-screen test due to the less demanding qHD resolution, with a score of 43 FPS. This indicates that most 3D games will be perfectly playable on the Razr i.
In the offscreen test, the Razr i falls behind however, with a score of just 19 fps. This isn't terrible but it's far from ideal, and could indicate why a qHD panel was used instead of a 720p one - you need a much more powerful GPU to drive that higher resolution display.
The camera on the Motorola Razr i is quite nice; I'd say on par with the Galaxy S2 with excellent performance in daylight and fairly good colour reproduction. As with all phone cameras it falls down at night and in low-light conditions, but it's not egregiously bad here. The shot-to-shot time and the time to launch the camera app seems to be on the whole faster than the Galaxy Nexus, which is remarkably quick to begin with, and the quality is much better thanks to that larger sensor.
The camera's most interesting feature is its burst fire mode, which takes 10 shots in a second. It's a nice feature for high-speed subjects, or for capturing just the right expression from a subject. It does take a short while to engage though, so you'll have to plan ahead to a certain degree.
All in all, a fairly excellent camera for photography although it doesn't quite challenge the flagship Android phones of the day, outside of its fairly unique burst features.
7. Battery Life
The battery life on the Motorola Razr i is nothing short of astonishing. The Intel processor seems to provide excellent mileage, particularly on standby - at one point I used it off-and-on for more than a week and I still had 17% of my battery remaining. If you hate your phones dying on you, then this is a great one to get, as I regularly got two days of usage, including regular push email, web browsing and music listening, before I had to recharge. Motorola seem to be carving out a niche as a maker of long-lasting phones, and I couldn't be happier with the Razr i in this regard.
The Motorola Razr i is an excellent smartphone that makes a solid case for Intel. While its benchmark scores are slightly behind its competitors with Snapdragon S4 processors, it makes up for it with excellent battery life and a useful burst fire feature on its camera. It also impresses with its software, arriving with nothing but useful additions on top of the very solid Android 4.0 base, with Android 4.1 on the way soon. I'm quite pleased with the phone's performance, and I very much look forward to seeing what Intel can deliver with their next generation of mobile chips, slated to land next year.
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