One of the few tech blogs who managed to get their hands on Motorola's upcoming AT&T flagship - the Atrix 4G - is, of course, Engadget. The reviewer, unsurprisingly, is the infamous cool geek and editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky, who, from my experience reading Engadget's reviews, does a good overall job but fails to go into those details that matter to most Android users. The Atrix 4G review is exactly what I had expected, and I'm going to summarize it and save you 20 minutes reading it.
- The phone is blazing fast, which is unsurprising, considering its 2 cores and 1GB of RAM. However, no tests or details of installed apps besides Gun Bros were provided. If I take my 8-month EVO, reset it to stock, and play around with it, I'm sure it'll seem fast too, but just how fast? And just how much slower would it be than the Atrix?
Without quantifying it with test suites, the "fast" and "great" information is relatively useless. If Engadget loaded up the device full of real-life software and then looked to see whether it remained just as blazing, I could be a believer. How about doing anything while installing 1-2 apps?
- The battery life easily went over 24 hours - looks like Motorola packed a beefy 1930 mAh battery for a good reason. It is excellent to see that it actually translated into longer uptime rather than merely necessary support for powerful hardware.
- The price: $199.99 on a contract. This is the sweet spot for a phone of this caliber - it's not overpriced but at the same time, it's clearly not a budget phone.
- Lots of RAM: 1GB is easily at least double what most smartphones shipped with in 2010.
Well... that's about it.
- The hi-res qHD screen is large and has great touch response, but performs poorly in bright sunlight.
- The 5MP rear camera takes decent pictures, even in low light, but produces a weird purplish hue. The front-facing camera wasn't "anything to write home about," as expected.
- Motoblur - Motorola knows how to seriously disappoint its fans, and Motoblur is probably one of the top reasons why many of you will not buy the Atrix.
- Android 2.2 "Froyo" - no sign of Gingerbread yet.
- Comes pre-loaded with a vast array of crapware, some of which cannot be removed without root (nothing new here, other than the amount of said crapware seems to be going up).
- Speaking of root, the Atrix's bootloader is heavily protected, and it's unlikely it will ever see full custom ROMs (Droid X and Droid 2 users should be familiar with the pain).
- While we're on the subject, AT&T continued its ridiculous lock-down of the phone to off-Market apps. This means no alternative Markets, such as GetJar (want that new game that came out exclusively on GetJar? No game for you!) and no apps via email or SD card. Lame? Highly.
Note: It is possible that the previous solution for installing external apps will work, but we can't confirm it yet.
- God-awful data speeds. Engadget found the Atrix among one of the worst performing AT&T phones at their location, both in upstream and downstream direction. Their HSPA+ (which AT&T and T-Mobile nowadays call 4G) speeds varied from 0.63 to 1.8 Mbps down and 0.12 to 0.19 Mbps up, which is pretty bad even for 3G.
- The laptop dock is impressive at first - the Webtop idea is definitely quite unique, and the looks and build quality are top notch. The good is quickly outweighed by the bad, however, when you figure out that the trackpad doesn't support scrolling, and it's "a sluggish, somewhat sloppy experience that's difficult to enjoy, even though the basic premise driving this technology is really exciting. We love the idea... but the execution leaves much to be desired." When you remember the $300 bundle or $500 retail price points, the dock becomes nothing more than a gimmick.
- AT&T requires a tethering data plan to use the laptop dock, which means a minimum of $45 ($25 for data + $20 for tethering). What the hell?
- The desktop "HD" dock experience is slightly better, but it's still way overpriced at $129 (or $189 with the keyboard/mouse). The remote that comes with it also has issues with reception, so Engadget recommends to just go for an HDMI cable instead to save yourself all the trouble (and we agree).
- This deserves a standalone bullet, even though I've already mentioned it - both my own experience at CES and Engadget's review unfortunately underline problems with the sluggishness and unresponsiveness of the Webtop UI. I don't want to use a laggy UI in the day and age of extremely fast and smooth alternatives. Sure, this is gen 1, and it's exactly why you should pass on the docks.
We spent a bit of time with the Atrix at CES - if you haven't seen our hands-on report yet, you may want to take a look. I've also embedded the video hands-on below:
The Atrix 4G is a great phone by itself, but AT&T and Motorola seem to have tried their hardest to cripple it on both the app/UI and accessories front. If you're looking for a speedy dual-core powerhouse with a great battery life and don't mind Motoblur and all the restrictions, this phone is for you.
Looking for decent data speeds? Look elsewhere.
Looking to customize your device beyond the locked down stock setup (not including launchers, dialers, wallpapers, etc, of course - stock Android lets you customize those)? Look elsewhere.
Oh, and if you do decide to pick it up, do yourself a favor - pass on the docks and replace them with a $10 HDMI cable. Your wallet will thank you for it (twice in the case of the laptop dock).
So, who's still up for getting the Atrix?