The Motorola Atrix HD is the follow-up to last year's Atrix 4G and Atrix 2 smartphones for AT&T. This year, the Atrix gains a much improved display, a faster processor, and better build over the older phones.
But the 2012 smartphone market is very different from 2011's, and the Atrix HD has some seriously stiff competition in AT&T's smartphone lineup with the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. The Atrix HD has most of the specs to match the top tier Android smartphones, but does it put them together well enough to be a real competitor?
The answer to that question is a bit of yes and a bit of no. The Atrix HD excels in certain areas, but doesn't quite hit the mark in others. Fortunately, its $99 price tag makes it a great value, and it is one to be considered for those who don't want to shell out upwards of $200 on a new smartphone.
At first glance, the Motorola Atrix HD looks like it fell from the same tree that the Motorola Droid Razr and Droid Razr MAXX came from. The design of the phone is very similar to Motorola's Verizon flagships, but the corners have been rounded a bit and the overall look of the Atrix HD is a bit softer than that of the DROID RAZRs. Fortunately, Motorola's hallmark solid build quality is present and accounted for here, and the Atrix HD is certainly a well-built device. The seams are all very tight, and though the phone is primarily plastic, the plastics used feature a soft finish, as opposed to the very glossy finish that Samsung prefers for its smartphones. At 140g (4.9oz), the Atrix HD isn't the lightest phone on the market, and that certainly helps with its solid feel.
The front of the phone features a new 4.5-inch HD ColorBoost TFT LCD display with 720 x 1280 pixels of resolution. This new display features an RGB stripe pixel layout and a pixel density of 330 PPI, besting the pixel density of almost all of the smartphones on the market today. The result of this is that images and text are very crisp, and it is all but impossible to see individual pixels with the naked eye.
The display itself is bright, and colors are punchy, if perhaps a bit over saturated. Viewing angles are excellent, and the ColorBoost screen is usable outdoors in direct sunlight, but it's not quite as good as Nokia's ClearBlack displays, which set the bar for outdoor visibility.
There is a large black border that surrounds the screen, and it makes the Atrix HD feel like its a bit wider than it needs to be. At 69.9mm (2.75in), the Atrix HD is nearly as wide as the Samsung Galaxy S III, which offers a larger 4.8-inch display. The border surrounding the screen on the Atrix is about twice as wide as that found on the Samsung, and it really feels like Motorola could have used a smaller border to increase one-handed usability while still keeping the 4.5-inch display.
Above the screen is a virtually hidden multi-color LED notification light next to a rather small earpiece. Next to that is a 1 megapixel front-facing camera. The only thing below the display is a silk-screened AT&T logo, as the Atrix HD does not have any capacitive or physical buttons on its front.
Like the RAZR line of smartphones from Motorola, the Atrix HD is appreciably thin at only 8.4mm (0.33in) thick. There is a thicker bulge towards the top of the phone that houses the camera and external speaker, as well as provides room for the 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB port, and micro-HDMI port. The right side of the phone is home to a volume rocker and power/sleep/unlock key, both of which were clicky and responsive on my review unit. On the left you will find a flap that hides the micro-SIM and microSD card slots. This flap is really the only part of the Atrix HD that I didn't like, as it felt a bit weak. Fortunately, it's not something that most users will have to bother with very often.
The back of the Atrix HD features a Kevlar fiber panel that provides strength and rigidity and just feels great in the hand. The panel has a soft-touch finish with a faux carbon fiber weave, which is much better than the glossy plastics used on other smartphones. Motorola also notes that the Atrix HD sports a water-repellent nano-coating, so it can withstand the occasional splash from a liquid with no ill effects. The Atrix HD is sealed all around, so users will not be able to access or swap out the 1780mAh battery that is inside.
Overall, the Atrix HD offers a level of build and display quality that you don't normally see in Android devices at this price point. The design may be a bit uninspired, but it's inoffensive and generally gets the job done.