Why Motorola’s DROID RAZR MAXX is the Best Android on the Market
Late last year, Motorola released the sleek and powerful DROID RAZR device, which was followed in early 2102 by the DROID RAZR MAXX, a nearly identical handheld minus the battery-life woes suffered by the original. CIO.com's Al Sacco's feels for those who purchased the first RAZR, because the RAZR MAXX is what that smartphone should have been--and it's the best Android handheld on the market today. Here's why.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
When Motorola unveiled the DROID RAZR MAXX smartphone at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, the sleek, high-end handheld stole much of the show’s mobile-buzz. It also undoubtedly caused recent DROID RAZR buyers’ blood to boil. That’s because the RAZR MAXX, released less than three months after the first DROID RAZR, is almost identical to its predecessor, with one very significant difference: The RAZR MAXX packs a huge, fixed battery pack that addressed the original DROID RAZR’s battery life issues.
While I would certainly be displeased with Motorola if I had purchased the original DROID RAZR, maybe even furious, I can’t help but love the second iteration, the RAZR MAXX. In fact, I think it’s the best Android smartphone available today. I can practically hear some of you grumbling in disagreement, thinking No way the RAZR MAXX is better than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But I disagree. Check out the following list of reasons why I think the DROID RAZR MAXX is the best Android device currently available.
Though the RAZR MAXX is a fantastic handheld, it’s not perfect. Jump to the end of my list for some quick gripes I have with the Android device–or hit this link.
Why I Love the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX on Verizon
1) Verizon 4G/LTE on the DROID RAZR MAXX is FAST
I’ve been genuinely impressed with Verizon Wireless’s 4G/LTE network in and around Boston where I live and work. I’ve tested the device’s network upload- and download-speeds countless times during the past month or so, and downloads often went as fast as 20Mbps and rarely went below 10Mbps. Uploads were frequently as fast as 13Mbps and they rarely dropped below 5Mbps. That’s consistently speedy, and though the RAZR MAXX obviously isn’t the only Verizon mobile device to see these speeds, it may be the best suited to take advantage of them. Why? Because of its massive battery, which helps the RAZR MAXX keep on trucking on LTE.
2) RAZR MAXX Battery Life is Exceptional
A frequent complaint you’ll hear from Android smartphone users: My battery life is terrible. Indeed, poor battery life is an ongoing issue in the Android camp…but not for DROID RAZR MAXX users.
The RAZR MAXX feature most touted by Motorola is battery life. That’s because the device packs a huge 3300mAh battery, which can deliver around 21 hours of talk time over LTE, according to Motorola. Though I didn’t put Motorola’s claims to the test–I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation on my mobile that lasted 21 minutes, let alone 21 hours–but I rarely ran out of battery over the past month and I often used the device moderately to heavily over a 24-hour period. In other words, the DROID RAZR MAXX has great battery life for a 4G smartphone, which typically get less life than comparable 3G devices.
Just for a comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has an 1850mAh battery, which means the DROID RAZR’s battery is almost double the capacity of the Galaxy Nexus power pack.
3) Size of DROID RAZR MAXX is Near Perfect
At 131 mm long, 69 mm wide and 9 mm thin, the DROID RAZR is really a near perfect size for a touch screen device with no “physical” keyboard–at least if you have fairly large hands, as I do. When I first got the device, it seemed too large to me because I was used to smaller touch devices like the iPhone and the Motorola Atrix, both of which I’ve used regularly. But the size quickly grew on me, and now it’s difficult for me to use a smaller touch device, though I still prefer the smaller size of my “candybar-style” BlackBerry for devices with “hardware” keyboards.
And though the RAZR MAXX is slightly heavy at 145g, due largely to its big battery, the added battery life is well worth the extra weight.
4) Beautiful AMOLED Display on the DROID RAZR MAXX
The DROID RAZR MAXX has a glorious, 4.3″ Super AMOLED display (960×540), which is made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass for added durability. Though the screen doesn’t have as high a resolution as some other high-end smartphones, including the Galaxy Nexus (4.6″ at 1280×720) and the iPhone 4S (3.5″ at 960×640), I prefer its size to any other device I’ve used. And image and video always look crisp and clear to me, so I was never left wanting for a higher resolution display.
5) DROID RAZR MAXX’s Powerful Processor
The Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP 4430 1.2GHZ dual-core processor packed into the DROID RAZR MAXX is a top-of-the-line mobile device processor, and makes the device run like a dream, with little lag even when playing large, HD video files or performing multiple resource-intensive tasks at a time. The Galaxy Nexus packs a slightly more powerful IT OMAP 4460 processor, but I honestly don’t think the Galaxy Nexus needs a faster processor; I experienced little or no lag at all, and graphics were beautiful with the processor Motorola included. That may change when the RAZR MAXX is upgraded to Android 4.0, a.k.a., Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), but for now I’m completely satisfied with the current processor. (More powerful isn’t always necessarily better.)
6) Great 8MP Camera with LED Flash on the DROID RAZR MAXX
The eight-megapixel rear-facing camera on the RAZR MAXX is one of the better digital cameras I’ve found on a mobile device, and it offers users a variety of customization options to help tailor your pictures to your environments. (For comparison, the Galaxy Nexus has a 5MP camera and the iPhone 4S shooter is also 8MP, though MP count really isn’t an accurate measure of digital-camera quality.) I captured a ton of great pics with the RAZR MAXX, and I was pleased with the overall image quality and 1080p HD video I grabbed. It has a front facing, 1.3MP camera meant mostly for video chat sessions, which the RAZR MAXX does quite well via Wi-Fi or 4G.
7) Motorola Webtop OS and Lapdock are Unique
The DROID RAZR MAXX, like a number of its Motorola-built Android brethren, has a cool feature called, Motorola Webtop, which lets you connect your device to a monitor and keyboard or a specially designed “lapdock” to provide a desktop-like work station and experience. Motorola sent me a lapdock along with the RAZR MAXX for review, and I’m very familiar with the Webtop OS because I’ve used a Motorola Atrix, which also has Webtop, for the past year or so.
The Webtop experience is cool, and it could certainly be valuable to business users who want to use their handhelds as their main computing devices. I probably wouldn’t purchase the lapdock, because it’s quite pricey at $250, and it’s basically just a laptop shell without a “brain.” But I could see myself using Webtop along with a monitor and keyboard, to access content stored on my mobile device and to utilize the RAZR MAXX’s speedy Web connection. (See Webtop in action in this video review.)
Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX Quick Review Conclusion
To sum that all up, I really, really don’t want to return my test unit to Motorola. I get a lot of smartphones from wireless carriers and device manufactures to review. I typically use a device for a few days, note what I like about it and what I don’t and then put it aside before sending it back. But my experience with the DROID RAZR MAXX has been different. I’ve used the device almost every day since I’ve had it. And it just keeps growing on me. Because I’m not currently eligible for an upgrade I won’t be purchasing one for myself just yet. But I will sorely miss the RAZR MAXX…for the most part.
Hit the jump for a quick list of things that I won’t miss.
DROID RAZR MAXX May be the Best Android…But It’s Not Perfect
The DROID RAZR MAXX is my favorite Android device on the market today, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t found a few areas that could use some improvement.
All you Galaxy Nexus fans are probably foaming at the mouth right now because I haven’t condemned the RAZR MAXX’s lack of Android 4.0 ICS. Of course, it would be great if the device had the latest version of Android, but the fact that it doesn’t really isn’t a deal breaker for me. The Galaxy Nexus is the only device that officially has ICS, and that alone does not make it the best Android on the market. Android ICS packs a number of cool new features (read details on those enhancements here) but even with Android Gingerbread 2.3.5, the version of Android that runs on the RAZR MAXX, I’d still pick it over the Galaxy Nexus for the above-stated reasons. Also, the RAZR MAXX is slated to get Android 4.0 ICS in the future, according to Verizon, though it may not be until late 2012.
My number one gripe relates to an issue with the devices cellular radios, which causes some problems when you’re in areas with a very weak 4G signal. For example, if you’re right on the edge of an LTE coverage area, your DROID RAZR MAXX will “hop” back and forth between 4G/LTE and 3G/CDMA, as any phone would in such a situation. However, the RAZR MAXX seems to have problems with the transitions, and the device will often get hung up when swapping network technologies.
It happens often enough to warrant this mention. I’ve had to shut my device down on multiple occasions, in order to get it to find network coverage again. The problem gets old fast, especially if you often find yourself in an area with weak 4G cellular coverage. I’ve only used a few other Verizon 4G devices in the past, but I don’t remember any of them experiencing this issue as badly or as frequently as I did with the DROID RAZR MAXX.
Secondly, though the RAZR MAXX build quality is most impressive–it has a Kevlar-coating from Dupont to help protect it from nicks and scratches, as well as a “force field of water repellant nanoparticles, according to Motorola–I had some issues with the volume up and down keys sticking randomly. This is a minor issue, and it could be specific to my device, but having used the handheld for less than two months, this was somewhat worrisome.
The fixed battery pack means you can’t buy a backup battery and swap yours out when you need to, which isn’t ideal. The device isn’t cheap at $299.99 with a new, two-year Verizon Wireless service contract. And Motorola really ought to offer some sort of trade-in program to folks who purchased the initial DROID RAZR with the bum battery. But other than these minor complaints, the DROID RAZR MAXX is a fantastic device I’d recommend to anyone looking for a new Android smartphone.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.