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.

With its recent acquisition by Google, it's no understatement to say Motorola Mobility is on the brink of a brand new era. While Google's influence on Moto is just barely starting to show, the company's newly launched line of Droid Razr phones makes me optimistic about its future.

The flagship of Motorola's new lineup, the Droid Razr HD, is available now from Verizon Wireless for $200 with a new two-year contract. The new Android 4.0 smartphone is accompanied by the Droid Razr Maxx HD, a near-identical device with a bigger battery that sells for $300, and the Droid Razr M, a smaller and slightly lower-end model that costs $99 with contract.

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I've spent the past several days using the Droid Razr HD in place of my own personal device. While the phone is far from perfect, it gets a lot of things right -- and with its focus on build quality and battery life, it fills an important niche in the ever-expanding Android market.

How 'bout that body?

The first thing you notice when you pick up the Droid Razr HD is how well constructed it is. The phone feels rugged and durable while still achieving a high-quality, premium look.

Motorola Droid Razr HD

The Razr HD is 2.7 x 5.2 in. and 0.33 in. thick. It weighs 5.2 oz. -- a bit heavier than some of its contemporaries but still quite comfortable to carry. The phone has a textured Kevlar material on its back, a silver metal band around its edges, Corning Gorilla Glass on its front and a water-repellent nanocoating on its surface to protect it from spills. This is no plasticky, flimsy-feeling phone; the Droid Razr HD is built to survive.

The phone has a 4.7-in., 1280 x 720 Super AMOLED HD display. It does utilize Pentile technology, which will undoubtedly disappoint some display aficionados, but with its 720p resolution, the screen actually looks quite good by most standards. It's bright, clear and easy on the eyes, with little to no visible pixelation.

Above the display sits a giant 3/4-in. LED indicator that flashes different colors to alert you of missed calls and other notifications. As with other Android phones, you can install a third-party app to take control of the LED, and customize how and when it works.

The Razr HD has a single speaker on its back. On my review unit, the speaker sounded somewhat distorted when playing high-pitched sounds, like the tones for incoming text messages and other system notifications. This may or may not have been a defect specific to my review unit; it's hard to say for sure.

Buttons, ports and slots -- oh my!

Motorola's Droid Razr HD has separate micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports on its left side -- so that, unlike most smartphones these days, it doesn't require any special adapters to be hooked up to a TV. The left side of the phone also hosts a microSD slot -- another much-appreciated rarity for smartphones. (One oddity: The microSD slot has a door that opens only with a special pin tool included with the phone. Better not lose it.)

The Droid Razr has a headphone jack on its top. On the phone's right side sits a metal power button that's textured by a series of tiny notched indentations; this gives it a rough sort of feel, which is a bit jarring at first but makes it easy to identify the button by touch. Below the power button is a volume rocker, which is textured in a different way -- with single protruding notches on its top and bottom.

Speaking of buttons, the Droid Razr HD uses virtual on-screen navigation buttons instead of physical buttons on its face. This gives the phone a significant advantage over other current devices when it comes to overall user experience, as physical buttons are a dated element of Android that simply don't jibe with the 4.x-level platform. It baffles me that other phone manufacturers continue to include physical buttons despite Google's recommendations and the subpar experience they provide.

Under the hood

Motorola's Droid Razr HD runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core processor along with 1GB RAM. For the most part, I found the phone fast and pleasant to use: Apps loaded quickly, Web browsing was smooth and speedy, and multitasking was snappy as could be. I did, however, notice some occasional choppiness with home screen swiping and system animations during my time with the device.

I noticed the same occasional choppiness when reviewing the Droid Razr M -- which shares the same processor and RAM as the Razr HD -- last month. On both phones, the effect was subtle but apparent. Given the fact that other devices with less horsepower don't suffer from this problem, I suspect the software is to blame.

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