Review: Motorola Atrix 2

Motorola's new Android device 'screams enterprise', says Sim Ahmed

Just over a year from the launch of the first Atrix, Motorola Mobility has released its latest flagship Android smartphone, the Atrix 2, a phone that is clearly targeted towards business users. Everything, from its look to the types of official accessories available, screams enterprise.

Admittedly the 10 free EA games that come with the phone does confuse this message, but I choose to believe this was one of those strange marriages dreamt up by the marketing department.

I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a flagship phone more than the Atrix 2. By no means is this phone terrible — it’s perfectly mediocre. It feels like when the Motorola team thought of creating a phone for business users they lost all the spark and creativity they’ve put into other devices like the Droid Razr.

The body of the Atrix 2 can be best described as business-oriented. It’s nothing ground-breaking. There are no striking flourishes, no exciting angles, not even a unique body shape like the matte white unibody HTC One X. At the same time, the Atrix 2 isn’t unsightly. The rounded corners and and pebble shape of the device is similar to many Android phones on the market, and it’d be a tough job picking the the Atrix 2 out of a lineup of current Android phones.

The 4.3-inch screen is housed neatly inside of a 2mm bezel, surrounded by a dark chrome rim. The back is a rubberised plastic lid which comes off to reveal the battery and SIM card slot. The materials used to make the phone feel very cheap, and after a week of using it, the back creaks with the lightest amount of pressure.

The LCD screen has a resolution of 540 by 960 pixels. So no full HD playback, but the quality of images and video is comparable to other high-end Android devices. I found the colours were very accurate, and viewing videos on the devices was a breeze.

A lot is said about 8 MP cameras on smartphones. A warning to some unaware readers, just because a phone has an 8 MP sensor, it does not mean it’s a complete replacement for your standard camera. What makes the 8 MP cameras on phones like the iPhone 4S stand out are their shutter speed and great low-light photo quality. The Atrix 2 is neither speedy or very well adapted to taking photos in low light. Give it a colourful flower on a bright day and it will be your friend, but just don’t take it to a poorly lit business event.

The weakest aspect of this phone is its sluggish OS. In the past I’ve found Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) to be a great smartphone system. With a dual-core 1 Ghz processor, I’d expect screen transitions and animations to run smoothly. On the Atrix 2 the animations are sloppy, the icons are slow to respond, and trying to navigate through the phone is frustrating.

Most apps downloaded from Google Play run well, with very few instances of sluggishness. It seems the problems are mainly with native apps and the user interface. Sending a text message, a relatively simple function on most phones, is infinitely harder because you’re waiting for the keystroke animation to catch up to the next letter you’ve typed.

Originally I thought these problems were isolated to my review unit. After talking to a colleague from PC World, and some owners of the Atrix 2, I found their experiences to reflect my own.

Blame for the the sluggish interface probably lies with Motorola’s insistence on using the Motoblur user interface. This customised layer built on top of the standard Android OS is specific to Motorola devices, and is something that has irked me about Motorola devices in the past. If you’re comfortable with rooting and flashing your smartphone then this won’t be a major barrier to purchase, but rooting your phone to access the kernel is an easy way to void your warranty so I wouldn’t recommend it to business users.

Motorola is touting its Lapdock accessory as a killer feature for Atrix 2. For $400 you can dock your phone to a keyboard and screen, and use the Lapdock’s Webtop OS to browse the internet and run some apps. PC World journalist Siobhan Keogh says the webdock has its uses while travelling, but is under featured and made of a cheap plastic.

The Motorola Atrix 2 is an interesting phone because it’s one of the few units I’ve reviewed that has been developed with business users in mind. It’s just unfortunate that Motorola thinks cheap building materials and a sluggish interface on an overpriced netbook is what business users want.

It will be interesting to see what the Atrix line offers once the Google-Motorola Mobility acquisition is done and dusted.

2 and a half stars


Dimensions: 126 x 66 x 10 mm

OS: Android OS v2.3 (Gingerbread)

CPU: Dual-core 1 GHz, 1 GB RAM

Screen: 540 x 960 pixels, 4.3 inches

Storage: 8 GB, expandable to 32 GB

Camera: 8 MP with flash

RRP: $799

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