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Review: Motorola Razr HD

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Review: Motorola Razr HD

Buy Motorola Razr HD

Introduction and Design

The Razr line has fast become the new flagship for Motorola, and with good reason. Last year's Razr was a strong smartphone contender, with an impressive battery life and slick screen. Now, exclusively for Telstra's 4G LTE network, the Razr lineup has been refreshed again, with bumped up hardware and edge-to-edge displays that earn that HD moniker.

The Razr HD shares the Kevlar backing and AMOLED screen of its predecessor, but of course the resolution has been bumped up to a modern 1280 x 720 resolution. The phone itself has also gotten a bit thinner.

Razr HD review

It also bears many similarities to its Razr siblings, Motorola's Razr M and the US-only Droid Razr Maxx HD. All three phones run a 1.5Ghz processor with 1GB of RAM. The Razr HD is in the middle of the M and the Maxx HD for storage and battery life, but it's no mid-range device. Motorola has also promised an Android 4.1: Jelly Bean upgrade for all three handsets.

And speaking of Droids, with so much talk about Star Wars in the news lately, we can't help but mention that Motorola actually pays royalties to Lucasfilm to use the name Droid. George Lucas is nothing if not an excellent businessman.

So is the Razr HD worthy of name? It's certainly no bumbling C3PO, it's as handsome and helpful as R2D2, but is it a stone cold robotic killer like IG-88? Can it assassinate the competition from phones like the iPhone 5, Galaxy S3 and Nokia Lumia 920? Let's find out.


As the name would suggest, the Razr HD is a sharp instrument. Thanks to a thin body, it looks the part of a premium device in either black or white. Picking it up you'll notice it's a little on the heavy side, weighing in at 146 grams.

Motorola RAZR HD review

Holding the phone, the Kevlar backing is pleasant to the touch. The feeling is somewhere between very soft plastic and firm rubber. It's a lot like the rubberised rear chassis of the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

The pattern is unique, sort of a mix between herringbone and hounds tooth. It's extremely smooth but grippy enough as not to be slippery. An edge-to-edge screen and tight, thin bezel give the Razr HD a seamless design. At 131.9 x 67.9 x 8.4 mm, it's tall and thin in a way that resembles the Galaxy S3.

Razr HD review

The display is 4.7-inches long, a little bigger than the 4.3-inches of visual real estate on the Razr M. It's a big screen, those with smaller hands will find it takes a little shifting around to reach from top to bottom.

The Razr HD has three capacitive Android buttons: back, home and recent applications.

motorola razr hd review

Motorola slapped its name at the top of the device, directly above a notification light that flashes when you've got a missed called, email or text message.

Droid Razr HD review

On the right side you'll find the phone's only physical buttons. The lock button is towards the top, it has a ridgey-ness that feels a bit like a nail file, but not harsh. The volume rocker is below it, in the middle of the right side. It has little metal beads at both ends that make it easy to find with your thumb.

Droid Razr HD review

Located on the left side is a pair of ports, micro-USB for charging and data connections, and HDMI for connecting the Razr HD to a television or monitor. Just above the ports is the phone's micro-SD and micro SIM tray. Like on a late model iPhone, it pops open when you insert a paperclip or SIM tool (included) in the small hole.

Droid Razr HD review

A solo external speaker is found on the back, to the right of the camera lens. Laying the phone flat on its back will not completely muffle audio, but it does reduce sound quality.

Droid Razr HD review

Motorola claims a "splash resistant" coating on the Razr HD. The phone can't be submerged in water, but it's implied that it will stand up to rain or an errant glass of water. We did not put this to the test, though, and consumers should know that the one-year warranty against defects does not cover liquid damage.

The Razr HD is a bit bigger than the Razr M, getting more battery life, storage space and a larger, higher resolution screen in exchange for its heftier form factor and weight.

The Razr HD's microSD slot gives it a storage advantage over fixed capacity devices like the iPhone, and the HD already has great battery life with a 2530 mAh cell, as we'll get into later. Consumers who want something easier to carry (and afford) will likely find the Razr HD to be a balanced offering.

Size-wise, the Razr HD is in the middle of svelte smartphones like the iPhone 5 and brick-like devices such as the Optimus G. It's sleek but not terribly thin, and also rather hefty. You won't forget that it's in your pocket, but it's certainly not in cumbersome phablet territory like the recent Galaxy Note 2.

Overall, the Razr HD achieves a premium feel. The big edge-to-edge display gives it a smooth, simple face that's a pleasure to touch. The Kevlar backing is resilient and grippy, and the only other phones that feel like it are HTC's Windows Phone 8S and 8X.

Users with small hands that want something they can nimbly navigate might prefer a Razr M or iPhone 5, but for those that want a bigger handset with serious battery life, the Razr HD is a solid choice.


The Razr HD's screen is its most significant gain over its predecessor, the original Razr. By going edge-to-edge, Motorola has bumped up the screen size from 4.3-inches to 4.7 without making the handset any longer. To keep up with its neighbours, the resolution has been increased from 960 x 540 to 1280 x 720, earning that HD moniker.

It's a Super AMOLED multitouch display with 312ppi. It does wonderful things with colours, making bright hues come off super-saturated and beautiful. Dark tones are equally strong, with blacks that are deep and dead of night dark. We've said before that the Razr HD is distinctive, these high contrasts are yet another way Motorola's new device stands out from the competition (though whether it's actually "better" is debatable).

motorola razr hd review

Gorilla Glass keeps the display safe from nicks. Walking around town, we let it hang out in our pocket amongst keys and change, and it emerged with nary a scratch. Best of all, since the display is edge-to-edge with only a thin aluminum bezel, it gives the whole face a smooth, premium feel.

Using the Razr HD outside in sunlight is generally no problem. On your average sunny day the screen is almost as visible as it would be in even indoor lighting. Of course, seriously intense sunlight will wash out the display, but no more so than other devices.

Droid Razr HD review

When it comes to choosing the best screen, a lot of it comes down to personal preference, not ppi. In our mind, the HTC One X+ is still king in this category. While the amped-up contrasts of the Razr HD are glorious, they're also over the top. The One X+ offers more true to life colour representation, also on a 4.7-inch display.

When comparing the iPhone 5's retina display, screen size is a big issue. Apple's phone has a 4-inch screen, while the Razr HD is 4.7-inches. People who play many games or spend a lot of time watching videos on their phone will likely appreciate the additional visual real estate. Still, there is something to be said for a shorter screen. Those who value ease of use above all will find an iPhone 5, or Razr M, easier to manipulate with just one hand.

Finally, the Optimus G might be the best phone we've seen for reading text on the web or in e-books. It displays text that's slightly sharper, on a screen equal in size to that of the Razr HD.

motorola razr hd review

Also, the Optimus G and Samsung Galaxy S3 both have nifty face recognition technology that keeps the screen from dimming while you read it. The Razr HD lacks this feature, and while we never struggled with the dim timer, face recognition makes the Optimus G and Galaxy S3 superior reading devices.

To summarise, the Razr HD has a big, durable edge-to-edge screen that stands among the best displays available. The high contrast colour it conveys adds to the distinctiveness of this Motorola handset. It's a massive improvement over the original Razr, but doesn't really outshine any current phones in its price range.

Obviously, it's a better screen than what you'll find on the more compact and affordable Razr M, but that's offset out by an overall smaller form factor and lower price.

Again, it comes down to personal preference. We personally liked the high contrast shades it offered. The pre-loaded backgrounds do a fantastic job of showing off just intense colours can be on this phone. They're striking to look at, especially against the simple black or white body of the phone and it's minimalist face.


Motorola has already upgraded the Razr HD to Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. As with the Razr M, Motorola has laid a few nice tweaks over the Android OS.

The Razr HD has the standard of seven home screens to deck out with icons and widgets. Generally, the Razr HD's 1.5GHz dual-core and 1GB of RAM are enough to keep the OS running smoothly. You can flick across the seven home screens easily, and apps open in a snap.

Back, home and recent applications are the three capacitive Android buttons that run the show. They respond with a blue glow and haptic feedback when touched.

motorola razr hd review

Touching the home button brings you back to the primary home screen. From there, pressing it again will bring up the Manage Pages screen, which lets you add, delete or rearrange home screens. This is one screen that started to chug a bit with just a couple applications running.

Generally it takes real multitasking to give the Razr HD hiccups. We cooked up a combination of widget-laden home screens, multiple browser tabs and a game running in the background that produced some stuttering when opening and closing apps or adding home screens. Overall, though, performance was very strong.

Droid Razr HD review

The Razr HD's Geekbench scores were around 1430, which is just shy of the iPhone 5. Considering that the iPhone 5 has a 1.2GHz dual core, which is less than the 1.5GHz on the Razr HD, it's just an OK score. Guess that Apple engineering is good for something.

From a practical standpoint, the Razr HD is peppy and responsive. It starts up in a little over 30 seconds, and needs just a few more seconds to get all its widgets up and running. It would take a quad-core device like the Optimus G or Galaxy S3 to provide much better performance.

Getting into Motorola's interface tweaks, one its most intuitive choices was adding a Quick Settings menu. Found to the left of the primary home screen, it makes toggling WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode or changing your ringtone just a swipe away. Once inside, the full settings menu is just a touch away.

Droid Razr HD review

Other manufacturers, like LG with the Optimus G, crowd these options in the notification center. Motorola made a great choice putting this Quick Settings menu to the left. Not only does it make the menu highly accessible, it makes the leftmost home screen the primary page, which feels like a logical choice.

The default dock icons are Phone, People, Messaging and Camera. These icons can be removed or swapped out, but you are limited to just four. We're not sure what the reason for this limitation was, other than possibly reducing visual clutter. However, Android's native support for folders has been extended to the dock, meaning you can stack multiple icons into groupings.

This strikes us a strange choice. The dock is designed for frequent apps that you always want at your fingertips. We don't want to be pressing twice to open a folder and select an app. And while we rarely put more than four icons on our dock, it's a little odd to deny people the choice.

Droid Razr HD review

Also, folders on the home screen seemed to require a more dead center tap to open than regular icons. Nothing else we would touch had trouble registering, though.

We did like the way Motorola's UI displayed folders. The primary app is in front, and you can see the edges of the other icons peeking out from behind it, like they're all lined up and waiting. Label a folder and the name appears below it.

By default, Motorola's handsome Circles widget is on the primary home screen. We're big fans this tri-cluster of disc-shaped widgets, which display weather, the time, missed calls, incoming text messages and your battery level, and serve as portals to useful menus.

Droid Razr HD review

Touching any of them will send you into the respective app to set up alarms, time zones or get a more detailed forecast. Swiping vertically will flip them over, allowing you to toggle between an analog or digital clock, the temperature for regions you've chosen and other information. They're efficient, fun to flip and add another distinctive element to the Razr HD's style.

Again, Circles look great and convey information well, but we found ourselves wishing we could separate the three circles. It's not a big issue, just something the customization-happy Android fan in our hearts thought of. Maybe next time Motorola?

The lock screen is a typical Android style. It displays the date, time and notification icons. To wake the phone, you slide a key icon, and can also jump directly into the Phone, Camera and Text apps. It's clean, simple and private, since it doesn't display incoming messages, just an icon alerting you to their presence. We do wish it were as customisable other lock screens, where you can choose which apps are at the ready.

Droid Razr HD review

To wrap up, the Razr HD's interface continues the phone's trend of style and efficiency. Circle widgets and the Quick Settings menu are slick, accessible ways of getting at settings and information

Motorola's tweaks are all thoughtful and unobtrusive. While they seem to have chosen visual simplicity in some places rather than further customisation, it has made for some great looking design.

Performance-wise, the Razr HD is everything you should expect from a dual-core, 1GB of RAM device. It navigates Android very well, and it takes a sizeable workload to slow it down.

Calling and Contacts

With all the different apps and features on a smartphone, you could almost forget that makes regular old phone calls. Motorola hasn't forgotten though, and neither has Telstra. The Razr HD offers excellent call quality and voice fidelity.


The new Razrs, the Razr M, and our current subject, the Razr HD, are exclusive to Telstra in Australia. The company has a reputation for strong signals and reliable coverage, which proved to be well deserved in our tests.

Using the phone on Telstra's network throughout the Sydney region, we never had any interference or static on the line. We never suffered a single dropped call.

Droid Razr HD review

The handset speaker was plenty loud, making it no trouble to hear a call. The speakerphone was equally powerful, and voices only suffered slight distortion when the volume was maxed out, a level that's really quite loud. It projected well enough that a group gathered around a table of a large to medium size would have no trouble conference calling.

Our only complaint about the speakerphone has to do with the rear speaker grill. Since it's placed on the back of the handset, laying the device flat muffles sound, albeit only somewhat. The slightly bubbled design of the rear means it does not lay completely flat, but there is a noticeable drop in quality.

Droid Razr HD review

As far as dialing the phone goes, the keys are an attractive blue on black. Your most recent contact dialed is displayed at the top, for fast redialing. You can jump to a week's worth of call history by touching Recent at the top, or see contacts designated as Favorites, displayed as smart looking picture tiles.

Droid Razr HD review

There's also a microphone icon that activates the Android voice command function. It's accurate enough that when it presents you with three contacts it thinks you've mentioned, your actual choice is always among them. Still, that means you have to make a touch selection, so voice isn't good enough to make the Razr HD a hands-free device. It's also a little slow on the draw, asking us to "say a command" before accepting input. Apple's Siri is still the winner here.

Multitasking is complemented by the notification center, which displays your current call in the dropdown menu. From there you can jump right back into your call with a single touch. It shows elapsed call length, and even a little red phone icon so you can hang up without returning to the dialer.


The People app, found on the dock by default, does a pretty good job of managing your contacts. It stays close to standard Android methods, but does a nice job of managing contacts from multiple sources.

Droid Razr HD

Contacts can imported from a number of mail clients, including Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook. Facebook imports are also supported.

Once imported, contacts can be sorted into groups. Family, friends and coworkers are the default groups, but you can make an unlimited number of custom groups.

Contacts can also be marked as Favorites, which makes them easily accessible from the Phone application.

Messaging and Email


Droid Razr HD review

Texting is still an insanely popular way to communicate, the world over. It's convenient and inexpensive, and requires a minimal amount of that dreaded human contact to get information across.

Text messages are managed by the Messaging app, a green speech icon with a smiley face. It makes its home on the dock by default.

As is typical Android fashion, the Razr HD displays messages in the back-and-forth style of an instant message conversation, using profile pictures when available.


There are two stock email clients on the Razr HD, the first being the basic Android Email app. While it can handle everything from Exchange to Yahoo to your average POP3/IMAP account, it says right at the top, "for Gmail accounts, use Gmail app." It's a bit strange since it will still accept Gmail addresses, and some users may want to keep all their communication in one program.

Droid Razr HD review

The second email app is, of course, Gmail. It has a different look but behaves in the exact same way as the stock Email app. Both apps can be switched between Push and Manual email checking.

Both apps also have convenient widgets that give you a preview of your inbox, allowing you to scroll through email, jump into your entire inbox or a specific message, or start composing a new message with a single touch, right from the home screen.


The Razr HD has three keyboards: the stock Motorola keyboard, Swype and Chinese character input. The Motorola board is the default, with a design of white letters on gray keys, a period to the right of the keyboard and a microphone for speech composition the left.

The top row of keys have number functions, which can be accessed with a long press. It's convenient for a digit or so, but for typing out a phone number you'll want to switch to the number keys.

The size of the Razr HD's screen gives you plenty of room to type in either portrait or landscape mode. Haptic feedback gives it a satisfying oomph that some would say the iPhone 5 lacks. Predictive text was decent, coming to the rescue on longer words, and there's enough clearance between its suggestions and the top row of keys that you won't often hit it by mistake. It wasn't too clever when it came to learning our favourite words, though.

We had only one major complaint about the Motorola keyboard: the lack of a .com button. .com also doesn't come up in predictive text, which seems silly given how often you type it.

The Swype keyboard is a nice option to have onboard, but it's not our personal preference. Some worlds, mainly those with a lot of the same letters in close proximity, can give it trouble. Still, we'd rather have it than not.


As we've mentioned, both of Motorola's new handsets, the Razr M, and this Razr HD are exclusive to Telstra in Australia. This gives them the major benefit of being on Telstra's 4G LTE network, which is the biggest in the country.

4G speeds

Droid Razr HD review

Testing the phone throughout Sydney using the app, we experienced data connections that were generally quite fast. Speeds went between 10 to 25Mbps, usually averaging around 16Mbps.

While a home WiFi connection can reliably outpace this, these are some very good data speeds to be getting on the go.


To our most pleasant surprise, the default browser on the Razr HD is Google's own Chrome. Chrome users should be delighted to find that, upon logging in, all their search suggestions, browsing data and bookmarks have followed them onto their mobile device.

Droid Razr HD review

The search bar found on the home screen also has access to your search history. It's so seamless that a search you just made on your PC will show up as a suggestion on the Razr HD without missing a beat.

Chrome's tabbed browsing allows for great multitasking, letting you open lots pages at once. This is one place where the phone's hardware came off as fully capable. You can move between a dozen tabs without having to reload the pages. With this many sites open at once, page previews can become fuzzy, but once you make your selection they come into focus.

Whether on Telstra's network or WiFi, browsing is fast. Even when our service had only a two bars (which wasn't often) pages opened quickly. Of course, since this is an Android phone, there are lots of other browsers available, such as Mozilla Firefox.


To our tastes, a mobile phone will never dethrone a tablet, laptop or good old fashioned TV for watching videos, but on the go or lying in bed, you could do a lot worse than watching a YouTube clip or Netflix stream on the Razr HD's 1280 x 960 AMOLED screen.

The rear speaker is plenty loud, and like in speakerphone mode, sounds don't distort unless you dial the volume up all the way. Once again, the solo speaker's position on the rear is not perfect. Since it's low on the body we never covered it completely when holding the phone, but just having our hand cupped over it could distort the sound a little. Luckily the Razr HD's thin build makes it easy to hold in one hand, which helps avoid the problem.

motorola razr hd review

The headphone jack is in the typical top right position. Whatever you plug in to listen with should stay out of your way pretty easily.

Thanks to 16GB of internal memory, and the possibility of an additional 32GB by microSD expansion, there's plenty of room for movies purchased from Amazon or the Google Play Store.

The Razr HD does a have an HDMI video out, which is an interesting option, but the necessary cable must be purchased separately. Most users will probably have other means of watching a movie file on their TV or monitor before having an HDMI to mini HDMI cable around.

Google Play

Droid Razr HD review

As we mentioned, Google Play is available on the Razr HD, just like on any Android device. Not only are there enough games, apps, books, videos and music available to make it competitive with Apple's App Store and iTunes, it can seriously ease the transition from your old Android device to your new one.

From the options drop down menu in the upper right, you can jump into My Apps to see software currently associated with your Google Play account. Each app you already own has to be selected for download individually, which is a bit of a pain, but otherwise it makes it easy to migrate to a new Android phone.

Battery Life and Connectivity

Battery life can be a difficult balance to maintain for a high-end smartphone. While a quad-core processor can give awesome performance, it tends to suck power cells dry. The same goes for 4G LTE service and a big screen. Manufacturers do have the option of allowing for removable batteries so users can swap in a back up cell, but that tends to make phones larger, and has consumer footing the bill for an additional battery.

Luckily, battery life is one place where the Razr HD really shines. Its dual-core processor walks the line between peppy performance and energy conservation.

Battery life

The Razr HD has a 2530 mAh battery. While it's not removable, it gets its handsome sealed design from this choice. We know a lot of users lament a lack of removable battery, but we think Motorola made the right decision, since we never had trouble making it through the day on a single charge.

Throughout all our normal, day-to-day testing, we never managed to drain the battery, even with frequent 4G use, plenty of photo snapping and gaming. On a day of average usage, making phone calls, writing emails, text messages and surfing the web, the phone would generally end up with a battery percentage in the high 60's.

motorola razr hd review

Officially, Motorola rates the Razr HD for 7 hours of YouTube streaming, and 6 hours of 4G LTE. We'd say the phone definitely lives up to these numbers, give or a take a little depending on how many programs you have running in the background.

This stalwart battery life is becoming something of a signature for the Razr line. The original Razr from last year had just a 1780 mAh cell, so the move up to 2530 mAh is a substantial adjustment.

Droid Razr HD review

In addition to hefty batteries, the new handsets have Motorola's Smartaction software, which can automatically implement charge-saving settings. WiFi, Bluetooth, push notifications and other data services can be set to automatically turn off when your phone drops to a certain level of charge.

Just to try it out, we drained the battery down to 5% and let Smartaction do its thing. The phone lasted for over an hour in standby.

Droid Razr HD review

We gave the Razr HD the TechRadar battery test, where we maximise screen brightness, turn on WiFi, GPS and push notifications for Twitter and email, then play a video file for ninety minutes. At the end of it, the Razr HD still had 83 percent battery remaining. That's right with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3, which scored 82 and 83 percent, respectively. That's stellar battery performance. We likely have a 4G LTE and a bigger, richer screen to blame for that. A fair trade-off, we'd say.

Bottom line, battery life is a real strength of the Razr HD. We're glad that it is, since it more than makes up for the lack of removable battery.


As most Android phones, there are several clients available for moving files to an from your Razr HD, whether you're on a PC or a Mac.

The standard Android File Transfer software works just fine. You manipulate files just as you would with a Finder window. You can also transfer to the phone's SD card, and have your computer read from that, or vice versa.

Droid Razr HD review

There are also plenty of options for wirelessly uploading pcitures and videos you taken. Google Drive, Picasa, Flickr and Dropbox support are all built in, or you can easily upload to the social network of your choice.

Camera and Video

The Razr HD sports an 8-megapixel camera, backed up by an LED flash. Just like its display, the Razr HD's camera tends to blow out colours with high contrasts. While it's not exactly to true to life, we liked the ultra saturated look makes already strong colours truly eye popping.

Droid Razr HD review

The front facing camera is 1.3-megapixels. It boasts image quality that makes it perfectly capable for Skype chatting and the occasional self-shot.

Despite this flair for saturation, the camera underperforms overall. Images are often blurry or grainy, and manual exposure adjustment is usually a must, either by using a slider or choosing a point of focus on the screen.

On the software side, there are all the typical options, including panorama, multi-shot, timer and HDR, which optimises shots with difficult lighting.

While HDR can significantly improve a picture, it slows down the speedy shutter time considerably. We really liked how the camera would suggest HDR in certain lighting situations, where it thought it would help out.

Droid Razr HD review

Droid Razr HD review

Droid Razr HD review

Droid Razr HD review

Even with all the software perks, it's rare to get a shot out of the 8-megapixel lens that would be mistaken for anything but a mobile phone picture. Also, the camera's snappy shutter speed is undercut by the need for manual light adjustment and the occasional shift into HDR. Basically, it's good enough for a plate shot or party snap, but don't capture anyone's high school graduation with the Razr HD's camera.


The Razr HD is a stylish and capable piece of hardware. It looks great in black or white, and feels nice thanks to its Kevlar backing and edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass. We have only the slightest reservations about it, simply because smartphones have become so very competitive at this price point.

We liked

First off, the design. The Razr HD is much better looking than its predecessor, the Razr. That edge-to-edge screen gives it a bold, simple face and capitalises on the sizeable real estate of the device. It's also pretty thin for a device with a 4.7-inch screen and a big battery.

The 1.5GHz dual-core proves that not every phone needs four cores to be a premium device. The Razr HD doesn't perform as well as the quad-core packing Galaxy S3, Optimus G or HTC One X+, but it's perfectly capable of running Android and a flurry of apps. It takes hefty multitasking to bring about minor stuttering.

motorola razr hd review

The version of the OS it runs is close to vanilla, but the few tweaks Motorola has implemented are actually quite nice. The Quick Settings menu and Circles widgets were two of our favourites.

Being exclusive to Telstra's 4G LTE network doesn't hurt these new Razrs either. While Telstra's service is by no means cheap, it was blazing fast and reliable. While using the phone in Sydney, we rarely ended up with less than four bars or on 3G service.

The battery is great too. Motorola's claims of 7 hours of YouTube streaming, and 6 hours of 4G LTE came through, thanks to a big 2530 mAh battery and energy sipping dual-core processor.

Finally, we liked the Razr HD's big, sharp screen. The high contrast colours are eye catching, and the extra visual real estate is great for gaming and watching videos.

We disliked

The camera is nothing special. It takes pretty average to subpar pictures in anything but perfect outdoor light.

Droid Razr HD review

There's a decent amount of Telstra bloatware consumers can surely do without it, all of which cannot be uninstalled. It can be hidden though, which is half a step in the right direction.


The Razr HD is a very good phone. The screen and overall design is very handsome. Its dual-core processor is capable, and it only sips battery power. It's a long lasting, reliable device that still has more than enough power to get the job done.

Being exclusive to Telstra is no handicap either, since the company's 4G LTE service is expanding and fast.

There's nothing wrong with the device, except for a mediocre camera. It's just that competition is so stiff. At this price you could have one of our other favourite phones, the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3.

The choice essentially comes down to personal preference. While we prefer the aluminum and Kevlar construction of the Razr HD to the more plastic feeling construction of the Galaxy S3 and Optimus G, there is something to be said for quad-core power. And while many weren't crazy about what iOS 6 brought to the table (and took away. We're looking at you, Apple maps), it can't be denied that the iPhone 5 is one of the best phones out there.

Ultimately, it's a very fine phone, but struggles to stand out amongst the competition. Remember how we mentioned that Motorola pays George Lucas to use the name Droid? To put our verdict in Star Wars terms, the Razr HD is far more of a helpful R2-D2 than fussy C-3PO, but it's not quite capable of assassinating the competition like IG-88.

Buy Motorola Razr HD

Review: MSI GX60

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Review: MSI GX60

Buy MSI GX 60


Is there such thing as enough CPU power? MSI seems to think so with the release of the MSI GX60 gaming notebook.

That's because, intriguingly, the MSI GX60 pairs one of AMD's A10 fusion CPUs with the AMD Radeon HD 7970M graphics chip. So that's a budget-orientated processor combined with the fastest GPU AMD currently offers. Bold move, MSI.

For gaming, of course, graphics grunt has always been critical. Indeed, Intel has been winding back on CPU performance in recent years as it attempts to step up the performance of its graphics cores.

But MSI really is pushing that notion og good-enough CPU performance to its absolute limits. Whether it works will depend on the ability of that A10 processor to maintain playable frame rates at all times.

If you're wondering what the upsides might be, well, it comes down to two things. The A10 processor is cheaper than a high end mobile CPU. And it's also more power efficient.


That's true because the CPU part of the AMD A10 package is pretty modest. It also sports an integrated graphics core that can be used when the system is running on battery power. But then, all of Intel's mobile processors also sport what you might call back-up integrated graphics, too.

Even so, you'd hope that the MSI GX60 was both longer lasting and cheaper than the gaming laptop competition. If it delivers on those two metrics and keeps the frame rates trucking, MSI could be onto a winner.

The price comparison is easy enough to make. The PC Specialist Vortex III 680, for instance, packs the alternative flagship GPU from the green team, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680M along with a pricey Intel Core i7. And it's nearly £150 more expensive.

Then there's Samsung Series 7 Gamer, powered by Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M but yours for £1,349. That's an extra £300, therefore.

Toshiba's Qosmio X870 and its Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M combo is even pricier at around £1,700.

Admittedly, there are several other variables that effect pricing, including screen size, storage specification and more. But one thing is clear enough. If the MSI GX60 delivers great gaming performance, it'll be a bit of a bargain.


If the basics of the MSI GX 60 are AMD A10 fusion chip plus AMD Radeon HD 7970M graphics, how do the details stack up?

The A10 chip is the top spec 4600M, as you'd expect. So that's four AMD-style CPU cores or two AMD modules humming a 2.3GHz tune as standard with a top Turbo frequnecy of 3.2GHz.

Each module contains two integer units but a single floating point unit. Is it really a quad-core chip? Probably not. But it's more than a dual-core processor, too.

The AMD A10 4600M also sports an integrated AMD Radeon HD 7660G graphics unit with 384 shader cores. But the real graphics grunt is provided by the dedicated Radeon HD 7970M chip and its 1,280 shaders, 850MHz clock speed and 256-bit memory bus.


It's a bit of a beast and it makes for an interesting alternative to the the NVIDIA GeForce GTX-powered laptops on the market, including the aforementioned PC Specialist Vortex III 680, Samsung Series 7 Gamer and Toshiba's Qosmio X870.

If that makes for a tasty mix, there's more spice provided by the storage solution. Mass storage takes the form of a conventional 750GB magnetic drive.MSI has also slotted in a pair of 64GB mSATA solid-state drives in speedy RAID0 configuration.

As for system memory, we're talking two 4GB sticks of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory. Then there's the 15.6-inch full-HD LCD panel. So, that's 1,920 x 1,080 and a very high pixel density. It's a TN panel, so it's unlikely to offer colour accuracy to rival the best IPS screens.

But there are several grades of TN technology today and the best offers pretty good contrast, colours and viewing angles along with the best pixel response. Makes sense for a gaming machine.


Oh and the panel coating is matte anti-glare rather than glossy, which is definitely our preference.

Next up, there's a beefy 87Wh lithium battery pack. In some ways, it's the combination of that battery with the AMD 10 CPU that makes the MSI GX60 really interesting.

On paper, it promises a very rare thing. A gaming notebook with the legs to run long distances away from the power socket.

What it's not, however, it hugely portable. As a 15.6-inch notebook, the chassis isn't huge in width, though a fairly fat bezel around the screen means it's quite large for this class of notebook.

However, at 55mm thick and 3.5kg, this is no thin and light. You wouldn't want to lug it to the office and back on a daily basis.


Cinebench 10:8,080pts
Battery Eater 05:131 minutes

Even more for the MSI GX60 than most power portables, performance is going to make or break this laptop.

Inevitably, raw CPU performance is unimpressive. The A10 CPU's AMD Piledriver cores don't have a reputation for immense performance. And with only four of them running at relatively modest clocks, the result is a mediocre score of around 8,000 in Cinebench 10.


To put that into context, a quad-core Intel Core-i7 desktop processor is roughly four times faster. Yikes.

Performance of those two 64GB mSATA solid-state drives in RAID0 is a little patchy, too. A peak sequential read speed of nearly 600MB/s is undoubtedly spectacular. Writes of just 52MB/s are pretty poor, however.

The random access performance isn't too hot either, clocking in at 7.3MB/s for reads and 13.3MB/s for writes. Frankly, the GX60 would be better off with a single conventional 2.5-inch SSD. The sequential reads would be a little slower. But everything else would be much, much quicker.

If that doesn't make for a terribly appealing mix, it's hardly catastrophic, either. In fact, it's just fine if the GX60 can deliver where it counts in games.


Sadly, it doesn't. A perfect example of where it falls short is provided by arcade-style racer Dirt Showdown. Hardly renown for being a CPU hog, Dirt Showdown runs at pretty much the same frame rates regardless of the graphical settings.

Whether you're running at 1,280 by 768 pixels and no anti-aliasing or 1,920 by 1,080 and all the eye-candy shovelled on it's the same. Unfortunately, that same is low to mid 20s in terms of frames per second.

That's not quite good enough and it's undoubtedly a function of the CPU holding back performance. Admittedly, most console port games will run just fine. But anything a bit more demanding and purpose built for modern CPUs is going to chug a bit.


That's a shame because games look absolutely, positively stunning on the GX60's 15.6-inch LCD panel. The 1,920 by 1,080 resolution makes for a super-tight pixel pitch and in turn razor-sharp visuals.

Add in vivid colours and decent pixel response and you have a gaming lappie that makes games look awesome. Well, the ones that run smoothly, at least.

The final part of the puzzle in battery life. Over two hours in Battery Eater 05 is a decent result for this type of portable. Even better, in a light web browsing scenario with Wi-Fi enabled, you'll get at least four hours and perhaps as much as five or more depending on screen brightness.

That's much better than you'll achieve with most gaming-centric laptops.


There's no doubting the MSI GX60 makes for a compelling package on paper. Graphics grunt is typically what defines games performance. So why not wind back a little on the CPU in return for lower pricing and better battery life.

That's exactly what MSI did, dropping in an AMD A10 4600M chip. It's essentially a budget processor and sports two of AMD's Piledriver modules and four AMD-style cores.


We liked

The screen is excellent and delivers just what you want from a gaming portable: rich and vivid colours, great contrast and huge detail thanks to a 1,920 by 1,080 pixel grid.

The battery life is excellent for this class of notebook. Depending on how you use the GX60, you can get as much as five hours or more away from a wall socket. For that you can thank both the big battery and the integrated AMD Radeon HD 7660G graphics core, which kicks in when the system is running on batteries.

The integrated speakers aren't half bad, either. OK, the absolute volume levels aren't exactly kidney pummelling. But the quality and clarity are great. And you do get just a hint of lower bass frequencies.

We disliked

Make no mistake. AMD cores are not like Intel cores. And Intel Core i7 quad-core chip typically delivers at least twice the performance of the AMD A10 processor.

Unfortunately, that makes a difference in games, where the A10 processor prevents the excellent AMD Radeon HD 7970M mobile graphics chip from delivering its best. It ends up twiddling its silicon thumbs waiting for the A10 to catch up.

Similarly unedifying is the performance of the two 64GB mSATA SSDs in RAID0 configuration. You'd be better off with a single conventional SSD.

We're also a little disappointed by the sheer heft of the GX60. Given the low power CPU and even taking into account the powerful graphics chip, 3.5kgs and 55mm thick is not what we were expecting.

Final verdict

That said, it all makes for a very sturdy and robust feeling system. Likewise, the keyboard feels great, too. Engineered by keyboard specialist Steelseries, it's very stable with little to no deflection of the keyboard bed.


But it's the AMD A10 CPU that's the real sticking point. It's just about tolerable for most current games. But there's absolutely no performance in hand for future games. And it makes the AMD Radeon HD 7970M dedicated graphics chip seem a little futile and the GX60 ultimately a bit off-target.

Buy MSI GX 60

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Review: BlackBerry 10

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Review: Updated: BlackBerry 10


We've been playing with BlackBerry 10 (BB10) for the past few days and we'll be updating this review over the coming weeks with more in-depth findings.

After a number of delays and set backs BlackBerry 10 is finally here and BlackBerry's new mobile platform can finally take its first breath as it steps out into the mobile market.

Kicking off the BB10 revolution is the BlackBerry Z10 tasked with reigniting the ailing fortunes of the Canadian firm, but it's the software the handset is running which is really the key to BlackBerry's success, or ultimate demise.

The BlackBerry smartphone range has been in desperate need of a reboot for a while as the likes of iOS 6, Android Jelly Bean and Windows Phone 8 have outstripped the now extremely outdated BB OS7 platform.

Where as the other platforms have witnessed incremental upgrades BlackBerry 10 is a completely new offering – BlackBerry has scrapped the BB OS7 base and rebuilt from the ground up.

BB 10 sees the implementation of a whole new user interface doing away with the familiar BlackBerry system we're all used to, in favour of something which resembles the likes of Android and iOS, although with its own unique features.

BlackBerry 10 has merged homescreens, widgets, app lists and a unified inbox into one slick interface, offering up an easy-to-navigate user experience.


BlackBerry 10 review

The first thing you're greeted with on BlackBerry 10 is the lock screen, which not only shows the time and date, but also notifications, unread messages and upcoming calendar events.

There's a button to launch the camera straight from the lock screen to grab a quick snap, just hold down on the icon for a couple of seconds.

To unlock a touchscreen BB 10 handset you need to slide your finger up the screen and as you do the homescreen below will begin to appear, giving you a sneak peek of what's underneath.


The main BlackBerry 10 homescreen comprises of 'Active Frames', technically mini-applications, which give you an overview of information from a particular app and launch the full version when tapped.

BlackBerry 10 review

BB10 will display up to eight of these active frames, displaying your most recently used apps with the latest app appearing in the top left position.

Only four active frames can fit on the screen at a time, so you'll need to scroll down to see the rest – which all seems a little pointless, as you can just as quickly swipe sideways to access the app list and launch the app you want from there.

For those of you who may be concerned that these 'Active Frames' could be both data and battery intensive, BlackBerry assures us that this is not the case, with the QNX core of BlackBerry 10 providing efficient power management, and the frames only downloading the minimum amount of data required for them to update.

When you're in an app there's no back button, instead with BB10 you use a gesture to exit applications by running your finger up from the bottom of the screen.

While this is easy to do those who are already familiar with smartphones will find the action pretty unnatural and it takes a while to get used to the new way of doing things on BlackBerry 10.

BlackBerry 10 review


Swiping from right to left will take you to the app list, with 16 apps on the screen at any one time – if you have more than 16 apps additional pages are added and can be accessed by swiping the same way again – familiar territory for iOS and Android users.

At the bottom of both the homescreen and app list you'll notice a shortcut bar, with quick links to the phone, search and camera applications – allowing you to quickly jump to these regularly used features.

There's a pleasant fading animation as you flick between pages, and you'll see the previous page of apps fade away to the side of the screen, to be replaced by the new page.

Peek and Flow

BlackBerry 10 review

Peek and Flow are two core aspects which come heavily baked into BlackBerry 10 and they dictate the way you use the system.

Flow refers to the way the whole of BB 10 operates, as you glide between applications and screens with no hard navigation tools such as the back or home buttons with are found on rival handsets.

It's very different to any system we've experience before so it took us a few days to get our heads around the various gestures required to effectively use BB10.

At times we wished there was a simple back button below the screen as it wasn't always clear how to return to the previous screen, but the more we used BlackBerry 10 the more we became used to the way it needs to be used.

Our concern here is that BB 10 requires a relatively steep learning curve for everyone, even those who have owned BlackBerry handsets in the past.

BlackBerry 10 review

It becomes easier once you've played with BlackBerry 10 for a few days but we fear customers may be turned off in store when they preview a handset.

Now onto Peek, which is the smart little gesture allowing you to check your latest notifications and messages without having to exit the current app you're using.

As you swipe up over the screen BB10 will minimise the pane you're viewing and display notification icons down the left side.

This includes icons for new texts, emails, BBMs, social updates and missed calls and if any of these pique your interest then continue your finger's motion to the right and the screen will slide over to reveal the BlackBerry Hub so you can see who the message is from.

If it's just a boring news letter you can return to the app or video your were viewing without having to go back to the app list and navigate to it.

The whole BlackBerry 10 interface does appear to be very smooth with no sign of lag which makes for a pleasing user experience – once you've worked out the various gestures required to get around that is.

BlackBerry Hub, BBM and keyboard

BlackBerry Hub

The BlackBerry Hub is the universal inbox found on BlackBerry 10 and it pulls in all forms of communications from calls and texts to emails, BBMs and social updates.

BlackBerry 10 review

Of course, with so many accounts feeding into the handset, the more popular among us will be quickly inundated with notifications from various different channels, and this is where the peek idea makes it easy to see when you've got anything new to look at.

To make the reams of messages easier to manage place your finger on the title in the bottom left corner of the message centre and pull across to reveal a list of all the accounts you have linked up and then select the one you're interested in – this will then populate the Hub which notifications from just that source.

There are also various options which can be selected for a particular message, hold down on the communication in question and a slim column of tools will pop up to the right for you to choose from, including reply, forward and delete.

Drag down from the top of the message centre and the Hub will automatically pull in your calendar events for that day in the top half of the screen, allowing you to quickly see what you've got on without having to launch the full calendar app.

It's an impressive setup and we reckon other platforms may be looking at the BlackBerry Hub with a little bit of envy.


BlackBerry 10 review

BBM, or BlackBerry Messenger has been a cornerstone of the BlackBerry experience for years and it gets a revamp with BlackBerry 10.

The dedicated application has been given a lick of paint with easier navigation and a new feature called BBM Video.

BBM Video joins up with BBM Voice which launched recently on BB OS7 to bring both voice and video calls to the BBM application on BlackBerry 10.

There days of the BlackBerry bolt ons on tariffs have been and gone, with all your BBM activity coming out of your data allowance if you're not connected to Wi-Fi, so you'll need to keep an eye on your usage.


BlackBerry 10 review

Now all this messaging capability is nothing without an input method and keyboards are arguably the thing BlackBerry handsets are most known for.

BlackBerry has spoken in length about how it's engineered its onscreen keyboard to bring users the experience they get on the physical version with the all new touch offering.

Straight up we can say the BlackBerry 10 keyboard is miles better than the pitiful attempt which adorned the Torch range of BlackBerry devices, but it's not perfect.

The keyboard sports the silver frets which can be found on the Bold 9900, providing additional spacing between lines allowing for better travel between keys.

These frets also act as the space for the next word prediction and the more you type the more BB 10 it learns and offers smarter suggestions.

We were able to type at a reasonable pace, but we found the next word prediction if anything slowed us down as the font is too small to easily see and we found our fingers were covering most of the suggestions anyway.

Camera, browser and more


BlackBerry is making a big song and dance about its BB 10 camera application as well, especially the 'Time Shift' feature, which allows you to select the perfect smile of your subject after taking the photo.

Fire up the camera app (from the lock screen if you so wish), select 'Time Shift' mode and snap your subject, and the app will then search for faces in the image.

BlackBerry 10 review

Once a face is located in a photo, you can tap it and literally roll back time to find the point at which your friend had their eyes open and the perfect grin.

If there are multiple people in your snap, you can individually adjust each person, however during our demo we found 'Time Shift' struggled in lower lighting conditions, subjects face's need to be illuminated well for the camera to detect their mugs.

BlackBerry 10 review

'Time Shift' did take a couple of seconds after the photo was taken to detect faces and offer us the chance to tweak the image, but this could be down to the fact it's running on a development build of the BB10 software, and speed could be improved in the final product.

Of course the camera can take standard photos and record video alongside the 'Time Shift' function, which itself is an impressive function, but we wonder how much we'd actually use it day to day.


The BlackBerry browser has also had a refresh for BB10, bringing it in line with the minimalist style of current offerings on other devices, and the location of the URL bar at the bottom of the page is reminiscent of Internet Explorer on Windows Phone.

BlackBerry 10 review

Even though Adobe has already ditched future support and upgrades of its Flash platform, BlackBerry has made sure it's built in support for the dying format in BB 10, allowing you to access all your favourite Flash built sites and videos of Korean men dancing on invisible horses.

Sweep from left to right while in the browser and the 'peek' functionality comes into play again, this time showing various internet-centric options such as History, Bookmarks, New Tab and currently opened tabs.

There's also a Reader mode built into the new browser, which lifts article text and images from a web page and displays it in a more manageable and easy to read format, stripping out fancy ads, menu bars and any other clutter which gets in the way of actually reading something.

The browser is certainly much, much faster than before, and users will be impressed at the upgrade.

Comparison tests have shown the BlackBerry 10 web browser to be faster than its equivalent on Apple's iOS 6 and the new version of Windows Phone - we'll reserve proper judgement until we have a final handset in our sweaty palm, but at least this is a positive sign.


Then there's Cascades, a new navigation system cooked up by BlackBerry especially for BB10, allowing for quick multitasking from within applications.

BlackBerry 10 review

The example we've seen is in the messaging app - open an email it will display full screen, but drag your finger from left to right and the message will slide with you, revealing the inbox below.

This means if you get a new message in the middle of reading an email, you can check who it's from without having to close the application – similar to the notification bar on Android and also now iOS.

If you were to open an attachment from the email, a PDF document in the case of our demo, pulling to the side to view the cascade will show the app's layers stacked up – a more visual paper trail, if you will.

It's certainly an intuitive feature that we found to work smoothly on the development handset – but it will be interesting to see how this feature is embedded into other applications and if it will have the same pleasing results.

BlackBerry World

Apps have been a big talking point in the run up to the launch of BlackBerry 10, with BlackBerry assuring everyone that it's got loads of developers creating applications especially for the platform.

BlackBerry 10 review

BlackBerry World launched with over 70,000 applications in the store and while big names such as Whatsapp and Skype were banded about during the BB 10 launch event, the apps are yet to make an appearance on the platform.

While 70,000 doesn't sound like a lot especially when you consider the likes of Android and iOS boast over 700,000 each, BlackBerry reckons it's the quality not quantity in BlackBerry World which makes all the difference.

We'll update this section regularly as the big firms release killer BB 10 apps for a platform which desperately needs them.

The BlackBerry Word app itself isn't our favourite app store in terms of design and navigation, with a confusing list of various apps, music and videos on the main page making it difficult to digest all the information.

You can refine your search by categories which goes some way to working out what's on offer, but there's no option to view say just free apps for example.


BlackBerry 10 is a solid smartphone operating system offering up all the functionality you'd expect, wrapped up in a package with does set it apart from the likes of Android and iOS.

When it comes to messaging and web browsing BB 10 is second to none and can happily take on the stalwarts of the mobile world, but it's not the perfect operating system.

Applications will be a big sticking point for many as most people will take the vast offering on Google Play or the App Store over the tiny on comparison BlackBerry World.

There are a lot of big names missing from BlackBerry World at the moment and while many have promised their commitment to BlackBerry 10 the fact they are not there at launch is a little confusing and is little to put punters off.

The way you navigate round BB10 is very different to its rivals and it requires the user to spend a decent amount of time with it to fully understand its complexities.

Once you get to grips with BlackBerry 10 you'll find it's a quick and fluid user experience which allows you to get to the main features quickly without getting lost in various menus and settings.

The thing is it just doesn't feel as complete an offering as iOS, Android or even Windows Phone and we reckon BlackBerry 10 has a bit of an uphill struggle if it's to steal users away from those three.

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