Motorola Droid Razr HD review: How phones should be built

Motorola's new Android smartphone makes a lasting impression with its first-class build quality and outstanding battery life.

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One area where the Razr HD really excels is battery life. The phone packs a 2530mAh nonremovable battery that's more than capable of keeping it running all day. Even with moderate to heavy use -- and while relying exclusively on 4G LTE, a notorious power drainer, for connectivity -- I never came close to hitting empty at the end of the day.

(If you want even more power protection, the Razr Maxx HD model boasts a battery that's about 30% bigger than the Razr HD's and is listed for twice the amount of "mixed usage." I've been testing that phone as well and will share my thoughts on it soon.)

The Droid Razr HD comes with 16GB of internal storage, about 11GB of which are actually available for use. You can add up to 32GB of external storage via the phone's microSD slot, though you'll have to supply your own card.

The Razr HD has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera along with a 1.3-megapixel front-facing lens for vanity pics and video chat. The main camera is pretty good for casual use, though it pales in comparison to the high-quality lenses on photo-centric phones like the HTC One X and One S.

Voice calls on Motorola's Droid Razr HD were A-OK in my experience; I could hear people loud and clear, and callers on the other end reported being able to hear me fine and with no distortion. Verizon's 4G LTE network performance on the device was as zippy as I'd expect, though connection speeds and reliability will obviously vary from one area to another.

The Droid Razr HD supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free sharing and services; just don't expect to find Google Wallet on the phone, as Verizon doesn't want you to use that service.

The software

Motorola's Droid Razr HD runs a modified version of Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS with Moto's own custom user interface. It's disappointing to see the phone shipping with last year's OS instead of the current Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release, but Motorola says it'll upgrade the phone to Android 4.1 by the end of the year.

At a Glance

Motorola Droid Razr HD

MotorolaPrice: $200 (with a two-year contract from Verizon Wireless)Pros: Excellent build quality; outstanding battery life; microSD and micro-HDMI ports; adheres to Android 4.x design standardsCons: Ships with dated version of Android; some choppiness in system animations; camera and display not as impressive as on other high-end devices

The good news: While the Razr HD isn't a pure Android phone, Motorola's changes to the software are relatively minor. The UI-oriented changes are a step down from Google's stock Android 4.x OS, mind you -- Moto arbitrarily switched out system icons, for instance, resulting in a less consistent and less visually pleasing environment -- but compared to the messes other manufacturers make of the OS, the negatives are pretty minimal and unobtrusive.

Interface aside, Moto has added in a handful of unusual software features, like a "Quick settings" screen that shows up when you swipe to the far left of your home screen panels. The company also created a home screen configuration tool that lets you add or remove panels; the phone actually starts with just one home screen panel by default and lets you add up to seven in total. The Razr HD includes Motorola's Smart Actions utility, too, which is basically a simplified version of the popular location-aware Android settings tool Tasker.

There's not much more to say about the Razr HD's software that I didn't already say in my coverage of the Razr M; the devices share the same exact software (including bloatware, which, courtesy of Verizon, there's no shortage of here). For a detailed analysis of Motorola's current Droid Razr software setup, including a visual guide to the UI, see the "Software" section of my Razr M review.

Bottom line

Motorola's Droid Razr HD is easily one of the best high-end phones on the market today. With its rugged build, outstanding battery life and close adhesion to Android 4.x design standards, the Razr HD presents an impressive overall package that stands out from the pack and earns a well-deserved spot among the Android elite.

Of course, nothing's perfect; the Droid Razr HD ships with last year's version of Android, it doesn't have the best camera or display, and its performance is a hair short of where it should be. But the phone has enough good things going for it that it's easy to forgive those faults and enjoy the excellent experience it provides.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more Android tips and insights, follow him on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

This story, "Motorola Droid Razr HD review: How phones should be built" was originally published by Computerworld.

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