Motorola Atrix review

Can this be the phone that brings back Moto's Razr effect?

Motorola Atrix
The definitive Motorola Atrix review

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Let's get one thing out of the way first though: if you're looking forward to gorging on Gingerbread, you won't find it in the Motorola Atrix.

The Atrix may come with all the bells and whistles one would want, but it ships with Android Froyo 2.2. It seems odd for Motorola to launch its new flagship handset with an old operating system – especially since Gingerbread 2.3 has been out now for several months.

And this could prove to be a problem for buyers concerned about being left behind, with the new Android OS – Ice Cream Sandwich – expected by the end of the year.

A Gingerbread upgrade is planned for the Atrix for some time in 2011, but this may cost Motorola in the meantime, as other manufacturers push their handsets as having the latest OS.

Social media junkies will love this phone. Indeed, it'll appeal to anyone who loves Android's use of widgets. But for those who are always connected – and always have something to say – the Moto Blur overlay makes it fun.

Motorola atrix

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn updates can all be configured and they change in front of your eyes on the home screen as they come in.

Motorola atrix

From here, you can read, reply, view profiles and so on. It's not an in-depth Facebook or Twitter experience, offering just the basics of Reply and Retweet, and serial social media types will prefer proper apps for those.

Motorola atrix

But for people who want to just glance at what's happening, the Motorola Atrix does this well. The widgets are present from the moment you set the handset up (after you've been guided through the relatively long process of setting up a Moto Blur account, on top of configuring your Google version too).

Motorola atrix

But in the true spirit of Android, they can be moved around to one of the seven home screens at your disposal.

Motorola atrix

Widgets for the music player, camera, Google search, function toggles and other apps are loaded on by default along with shortcuts to various apps. Again, these can be removed or reorganised at your pleasure simply by long-pressing the screen.

Also, when you get messages from, say, Gmail or Twitter or LinkedIn, you get the appropriate mini icon in the notifications bar in full colour.

Motorola atrix

The coloured notifications are a small touch – but it adds to the feeling that this is a very complete and fluid OS. As with previous Android handsets, Motorola has slightly tweaked the notification bar on the Atrix (own battery icon, signal bars etc) as well as adding shortcuts to Dialler and Contacts screens at the bottom of the main home screen, where they flank the App Drawer button.

These don't stay as you swipe across screens as they do on some Android handsets (such as Samsung's TouchWiz).

The dual processor is quick, responsive and, seemingly, very difficult to confuse. Switching between traditionally processor-heavy apps didn't seem to even register a blip, and live wallpapers played along happily in the background.

One of the games we tried on the Motorola Atrix, Need for Speed Shift (which Motorola says comes as standard, but it cost us £6) is very graphic-heavy and the kind of game that would grind some Android phones to a halt. Yet on the Atrix, it whizzed along without a care in the world.

Opening the app drawer, you can scroll through what's in there at lightning speed. It all looks very neatly laid out and in there are both the stock Android apps and those that Motorola has seen fit to install already.

Motorola atrix

You do find they double up sometimes, where for instance not only do you get the incredible Google Maps (plus Navigation), you also get Orange Maps which is perhaps not as comprehensive (we say 'perhaps' because it wouldn't open on our review handset).

Similarly, you get the standard Android News and Weather reader, plus another next to it in the App Drawer called 'News' which does the same sort of thing.

Motorola's included widgets are also fairly functional – it's the usual fare such as toggles for various settings, clocks and shortcuts to contacts.

Motorola atrix

A nice touch, though, is the ability to resize certain widgets so that they take up more or less space on your screen.

It also affects how they look. For example, make the clock widget larger and you get a calendar on the screen too. Make it smaller and it switches from an analogue to a digital clock instead.

They're not particularly colourful and look rather business-like, but they're well thought out and, again, they make you feel Motorola has put some thought into its skins rather than just rushing the Atrix out of the door with stock Android loaded on.

If you're not a fan, however, the likes of Launcher Pro can quite easily override the Motorola skin, allowing you to customise the Atrix to your heart's content.