Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

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 Good

  • 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 Neutral

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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.

Our Hands-On

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?

Source: Engadget

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Eduardo

    Not me!!! this is another motoFAIL

  • MeatRocket

    I've already voted with my wallet - HTC Inspire off contract for $299. Rooted and ROMed with the Euro Desire HD image the first night. AT&T/Motorola raised my hopes high with the Atrix only so the pile-driver they were performing would be more effective.

  • http://www.slipshft.com Slipshft

    I was sold at CES after playing with the Atrix for a bit. But then AT&T stepped in a ruined it with their pricing and requirements for the docks (laptop in particular). So, now I will be leaving AT&T all together for another carrier as their service is getting worse and their pricing just plain sucks...

  • Captivate owner

    Well I guess I will wait for the Galaxy S II.

  • Art

    I'm totally loving my Nexus S and would never consider a locked up Moto (been there done that)

  • Eric

    I just want to note. Do you really think one of the Engadget editors knows how to attempt to flash a kernel? Lol. I'll wait till XDA says whether it's locked or not, that part is just Engadget assumptions.

  • Lou

    Anyone buying a Motorola android phone nowadays is a moron. They go against the what android itself strives for which is openness. Name one decent handset Motorola made and I'm pretty sure everyone will say the first moto Droid. Stock UI and root friendly, not so much the case with several of their recent devices!

  • TareX

    I decided against the Atrix after knowing it had a PenTile LCD display.... it's great for everything, except text -which will appear hazy in the browser. Great job, Motorola.

    The no-ROM, is another reason.

    Other than that, I actually love MotoBlur and think its widgets look extremely clean and elegant, unlike the cartoonish LG and Samsung UIs.

  • apollostees

    This is comedy to me :) At&t and Moto just don't get it.
    This obviously has no appeal for the geeks, but even the novice would be turned off by the price of the docks. And the docks are supposed to be one of the attractive features.

  • Sawdust

    Ordered it! The phone rocks - which is the main point and at least 75% of my use. Funny how so much of the focus is on the optional accessories you don't have to buy, and which other phones don't even offer. I ordered the phone, HD dock kit, and the standard and car docks. I am doing more and more on my phone rather than PC -even at home. So the point is to be able to access with a full keyboard, mouse, and screen - rather than that little virtual touchscreen. The Standard dock will make this my alarm clock as well. I like the ability to have everything on one device. Didn't get the LapDock, just too expensive and I wanted to keep my unlimited plan. Switching from an HTC Aria, and MotoBlur just doesn't see that different - just I'll find out soon!

  • Chris

    I will get it. This is a great phone, and Moto is known for very good build quality. Data speeds should be better outside the US ;)

    Definitely though, the HDMI cable is enough for me for now in terms of accessories. I shall get the laptop dock if and when I can get it for about USD 200. Either because Moto went down with their price, or off some poor sucker who bought it at original price.

    • Sawdust

      Ditto for me- will be watching eBay for that same sucker....

  • Amit

    Motorola's intelligence in the field of open source technologies business is pretty closed!

    Megafails...both Motorola Doom and Hatrix!!!

  • BakedR

    so in article it was mentioned its unlikely we would be able to flash the atrix
    I would think some one would figure it out once it was on market for a while?
    Or am I incorrect

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Ask Motorola Droid 2 and Droid X owners how long their phones have been out and how many true ROMs there are for those.

  • Gunderstorm

    If you skip the docking items, especially the laptop, doesn't that leave you with a phone full of useless software bloat?