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Friday, October 5, 2012

Motorola Razr M reviewed

Bigger isn’t always better.

Yet, by looking at today’s smartphones manufacturers, you wouldn’t know that. Today’s phones just seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Even the latest incarnation of the iPhone — the iPhone 5 — is bursting at the seams and stretching in size.

The Razr M is .33 inches thin.
The Droid Razr M by Motorola bucks that trend — a stark contrast to the last phone I reviewed, the Samsung Galaxy S III, which stands in at a towering 5.38 inches tall. That’s just shy of the largest Android phone, the Galaxy Note, which clocks in at a whopping 5.7 inches tall with a 5.5 inch screen. The Razr M’s 4.7 inch body is rather small in comparison.

Motorola’s Razr line of phones has been around for several years. Back in the mid 2000s, if you owned a cell phone, chances are, it was a Motorola Razr flip phone. The original Razr was so popular back in the naughts, that it eventually sold more than 130 million units, making it the best-selling phone of its kind in the world.

So, it’s no wonder Motorola decided to revive the wildly popular line of phones. However, it is refreshing that Motorola has chosen to do so at a time when being thin and tiny is not cool.

While not as compact as the iPhone 4, left, the 
Razr M, right, is dwarfed by the much larger Galaxy S III 
by Samsung. (Image courtesy of

The first thing I noticed when picking up the Razr M was how nice it felt in my hand, which was the common response when any one of my friends first held the Razr M. The size isn’t overpowering and the sturdy Kevlar splash-proof body just oozes quality when you’re holding it. Cool to the touch, the frame of the Razr M is as solid as on any phone I’ve ever held — even more so than the metal rim of the iPhone 4.

Upon first turning on the phone, you’ll notice a handy feature that allows you to immediately access your camera, texting or phone or just unlock the device depending on which way you slide the lock icon. Although the ability to customize which features you can unlock would have been nice, I really can’t complain since this isn’t even an option I’ve seen on other phones.
Despite the small size, the Razr M 
comes with a 4.3 inch display.

Despite the Razr M’s small package, it’s jam-packed with the same impressive features as other top of the line Android phones.

The Super AMOLED Advanced display comes in at 4.3 inches with a sharp 256 ppi pixel density. The 540 X 960 pixel screen looked just as smooth as other AMOLED-based Android phones — more crisp, dark blacks and eye-popping, highly saturated colors.

The phone comes with a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. Internal storage is only 4.5 GB, but it can be expanded up to 32 GB with the built-in microSD and microSDHC expansion slots. The phone was very responsive and apps loaded quickly via the dual-core processor.

Figure A: Three different samples of 
nighttime photos with the Razr M.
As is standard with almost all smartphones now, the Razr M comes with an 8 megapixel HD camera, capable of shooting high-definition video. I took quite a few pictures with the phone and had a mixed reaction to the quality. I was highly impressed with the video quality of the Razr M, which shot nice high-definition video. However, I was less than impressed with the results of the still camera, especially when shooting in low-light situations. While shooting at night, photos were all saturated with large lens flares and halo effects from any lighting source (see Figure A). While a little bit of this is to be expected, I was unable to tone it down, despite adjusting the white balance and trying several different options. Granted, I'm not a professional photographer, and I didn't have a lot of time to practice with the phone's camera. Still, I did expect better.

Also standard on most Android phones today is 4G access through Verizon’s fast LTE network. It’s nice to have broadband speeds in the palm of your hand. And, the Razr M doesn’t disappoint here. I was able to get downloads of between 14-15 Mbps consistently on Verizon’s 4G network in Huntington, W.Va.

The Razr M comes standard with Android’s 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, operating system. As I mentioned earlier, the multi-function unlock feature is the first thing that greets you on the phone. When you unlock the Razr M, you are then brought to a unique interface with three interactive buttons at the top of the screen: one with a clock, another with the temperature and a small battery level indicator. A simple flip of any one of these allows you to customize them even further. Flip the clock to switch from analog to digital, flip the temperature icon to change the city or flip the battery indicator to launch system preferences. The customization options and user-friendliness of this phone is unbeatable.

And as is standard with most Android phones now, the Razr M comes pre-loaded with several apps from the phone manufacturer, Google and your carrier. Some of the apps, such as the Navigator, which offers turn-by-turn GPS navigation, were very useful — others, not so much. However, it is possible to disable some of these lesser-used apps.

Overall impression
The Razr M bucks the popular trend of bigger is better in the Android world. But, don’t let the small size fool you. The Razr M is just as powerful and loaded as any other smartphone on the market. Its impressive display and processor make for a smooth experience, and its Kevlar body and size just feel right in your hand.
Five years ago, a phone of this size would be considered large. In today’s world of smartphone behemoths, the Razr M is quite compact. To me, however, it’s just right.