Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD hands-on: bigger battery, beautiful display, Jelly Bean onboard

Every family has a big brother and in Motorola's case, it's the Droid RAZR Maxx HD. The device, bearing a 4.7-inch 1,280 x 720 Super AMOLED HD display and running Android Jelly Bean (on these demo units, at least), just went official at the company's event today in New York City. And to help with the bombast, HelloMoto! trotted out Google's Eric Schmidt, giving these three Verizon RAZR amigos a hearty welcome. Under the hood, the handset sports a dual-core 1.5GHz S4 CPU, 32GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera on back and, last but not least, the star of this show: a 3,300mAh battery. We spent some time with this Kevlar-coated phone, so follow along as we deliver our first impressions.


We weren't fans of the initial Droid RAZR, what with its yellow-green display and odd hump back. But this HD update has us a bit smitten. Admittedly, it feels a bit odd in hand, owing to its brick-like construction and that substantial 3,300mAh battery underneath. Sticking with tradition, the device's back is an all-Kevlar affair and it feels great, conferring just the perfect amount of friction and grip so you won't have to worry about accidental drops. The edges of the phone are ringed with metal, adding a subtle accent that conspires to make this LTE handset appear quite premium.

So let's talk about that display. From a distance, it's incredibly gorgeous with colors that scream right out of the 4.7-inch screen. Up close there are some pixels evident, but on the whole that Super AMOLED HD panel is put to good use here. On a bit of a down note, when we went to access the browser, we noticed that unsightly yellow tinge rear its head. We'll hold off on issuing a verdict on that hereditary flaw until final review units are in our hands -- but consider yourself warned. Back to a positive note, viewing angles on the RAZR Maxx HD are superb, holding up even at the most severe tilt we could muster in this crowded event space.

Verizon subs who also happen to be Android fans will be glad to know that the Droid RAZR Maxx HD will ship with ICS and receive an upgrade to Jelly Bean pretty swiftly. Though, take heed, the Android 4.1.1 OS on this demo device is not an unmolested version of that mobile software -- there's a light skin atop with some helpful Moto customizations. What could that be, you ask? Well, as a neat twist on homescreen layout, when you swipe left a Quick Setting panel appears, which is something we'd primarily seen associated with the drop-down pane. Apart from that, the number of homescreens is entirely up to the user with a simple tap on the Home soft key whisking up pane management.

Tap on that very vanilla app drawer icon and you'll be greeted with a mix of GApps, as well as Motorola and Verizon bloat. Thankfully, it's been kept to a minimum, ringing in at about 10+ third-party apps. We're assuming there will be an option to either uninstall or disable these, but we didn't have time to explore that on the device.

As for real-world performance, that dual-core S4 setup's done well by the Droid RAZR Maxx HD. Navigation moved along quickly and smoothly, transitioning between panes, apps and the app drawer with ease. What we couldn't get a real sense for was browser performance. Because of the severely clogged WiFi network at the venue, the Chrome browser (now a standard app) took just about 15-plus seconds to load a simple Google search and even more to render the full Engadget desktop site. When it did manage to load, we tested pinch-to-zoom which briskly resized the selected image and text.

In all, the Droid RAZR Maxx HD is shaping up to be heavyweight contender for Big Red's LTE lineup. As for official pricing and release details, well, all Motorola's given us is a very vague "before the holidays" window. When it does finally hit retails shelves in-store and online, expect to snag this big battery beaut in black.