More than anything else, the RAZR line is about design and hardware -- the HD series is no different. If anything, it ups the ante. The entire backs of the devices are wrapped in Kevlar, with a distinctive herringbone-like pattern of black and gray rectangles that give the rear of the phones a very smooth, seamless feel. Holding it naturally, that surface is interrupted only by the small Motorola logo inlay in the middle of the handset. Above that are the speaker and the 8-megapixel camera. The Droid RAZR HD finally sees Motorola bid the camera hump adieu. The design flourish made its most high-profile appearance in the Droid X and made a return in devices like the Atrix HD and original Droid RAZR. There is still a slight taper to the body, but no obvious bulge to house the sensor. At 8.4mm thin it's quite a svelte device. It may not get down to the nearly anorexic 7.1mm of the Droid RAZR, but that extra volume is put to good use by the 2,500mAh battery which, as we'll see later, stomps all over its predecessor. The MAXX HD is a hair thicker at 9.33mm and has no taper whatsoever, which allows it to fit a stunning 3,300mAh powerpack inside. That beefier battery and bumped-up storage (32GB internal versus 16GB) is all that separates the $199 RAZR HD from the $299 RAZR MAXX HD. Otherwise, they're the same exact phone.
The slightly thicker body leaves room for a nice strip of aluminum around the edges and allows Motorola to spread out the various ports and buttons. The top houses only the headphone jack, a drastic change from the original Droid RAZR which also found room there for the HDMI and micro-USB ports. Those have instead been moved to the left-hand side of the handset, towards the bottom of the body, below the hidden tray for the micro-SIM and microSD cards. On the right side are both the power button and the volume rocker, which are nicely textured and depress with a satisfying amount of feedback. Up front, you'll find the requisite sensors and an HD camera for video chats and self-portraits. Sandwiched between the ear piece and Motorola logo is a long, thin notification LED that underlines the company name.
The word we'd use to describe it is "dense" -- like a brick.
Combine all that with an edge-to-edge sheet of Gorilla Glass on the face and you've got a rather solid and premium-feeling device. Actually, the word we'd use to describe it is "dense" -- like a brick. It's roughly the same size and weight as the Galaxy Nexus but, subjectively, it seems heavier until you hold them both simultaneously. It's about a millimeter thinner than the Nexus but, thanks to its straight sides and almost featureless body, it feels quite a bit more awkward in the hand. The RAZR HD and MAXX HD seem just a little too big, despite being narrower than the Galaxy S III and One X. That's a shame because we love the heft and stunning build quality. Strictly from a material selection and construction standpoint, the RAZR line belongs in a class alongside HTC's One series and the iPhone -- it's just that good. But, as time wore on, the subtle inconveniences of the design became increasingly clear. It's almost as if Motorola forgot to take ergonomics into account when building the devices, making one-handed operation a bit of a chore. It was impossible to find a position that allowed this reviewer to stretch across the screen with his thumb while keeping the lock key within easy reach.
One of the most welcome changes to the RAZR line is certainly the screen. Without changing the size of the handset, Motorola has gone from a 4.3-inch panel to a 4.7-inch one and bumped up the resolution from qHD to a full 1,280 x 720. Of course, being of the Super AMOLED HD variety, that means we're still looking at a PenTile layout here. That being said, it's not a bad screen at all. It can't quite compete with the stunning LCDs found on the Optimus G or the One X, but it's at least on par with the Galaxy Nexus. Colors are bright and saturated while darker areas are deep and almost light-absorbing -- perhaps unnaturally so. But jagged edges are hard to spot, viewing angles are extraordinary and it shrugs off direct sunlight as a minor inconvenience. One of the biggest surprises, however, was the speaker phone, which was loud, clear and one of the best we've heard in a long time. And you'll be able to put that speaker to good use almost anywhere on the globe since, in addition to the Verizon standard LTE and CDMA radios, the RAZR HD and MAXX HD also support GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900 and HSPA on the same bands, plus 2,100MHz.
Performance and battery life
Moto has decided to make battery life its bread and butter.
While every other manufacturer is talking about innovative cameras, quad-core processors and glorified styli, Moto has decided to make battery life its bread and butter. That trend started with the Droid RAZR MAXX -- the first phone we've ever seen with what could be called an excessively large battery. The RAZR MAXX HD keeps the same 3,300mAh non-removable pack, while its slimmer sibling goes with a 2,500mAh one. That's a significant upgrade over last year's model and one that delivers a stunning amount of longevity. Under normal usage the RAZR HD sails through a full day without a hiccup, and two days is well within reach with judicious use of the screen. On our standard battery drain test (which involves looping a video with the display brightness set at 50 percent, WiFi and GPS turned on) the RAZR HD chugged along for an impressive 10 hours and 42 minutes -- that's longer than most tablets. The MAXX only takes things further, testing this reviewer's patience by refusing to die for 14 hours and four minutes. That doesn't quite match the epic longevity of the first MAXX, but it's still a nearly unheard of number. What's more, both lasted almost a full hour longer than Motorola's official figures -- that's about as pleasant a surprise as one can get.
The dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 inside is hardly cutting-edge any more, but it's more than enough to keep the phone chugging along at a healthy clip. Navigating the UI is smooth, seamless and the device hardly seems to break a sweat firing up most apps. Even relatively intensive 3D titles like Dead Space and Grand Theft Auto III hum along on the new RAZRs. We did, however, consistently encounter serious lag with the keyboard. Quite often, it would take a few seconds for the keyboard to catch up to our typing, and memory-intensive apps like Chrome only seemed to exacerbate the issue.
The phones easily held their own in benchmarks and, as expected, kept pace with the glut of phones on the market with the same 1.5GHz Snapdragon internals. The SunSpider score of 1,914 is respectable, though surprisingly high considering similarly specced devices from Samsung and Moto have completed the test significantly faster in the past. Otherwise, our quantitative testing turned up no surprises. Serious powerhouses like the Galaxy Note II and the Optimus G were able to run circles around the RAZRs, but even the most demanding of users will rarely need that sort of horsepower on a regular basis. More important for the average user will be the ability to suck down data at an impressive clip and the HD didn't disappoint. We averaged about 17 Mbps down and 14 Mbps up around New York City, during a mix of on- and off-peak tests. We also found call quality to be surprisingly clear, considering the underwhelming performance of its smaller sibling the RAZR M in this area.
The camera has always been a strong suit of Motorola handsets.
We're beginning to believe that Motorola found a formula that works for capturing images way back with the Droid X and hasn't really bothered to change much since. Things have certainly gotten better, just not dramatically so. That's not to say we're disappointed with the image quality here -- far from it actually. The camera has always been a strong suit of Motorola handsets and the same is true of the new RAZR brothers. Both have an 8-megapixel sensor inside, the same as you'd find in the RAZR M, Droid RAZR, Bionic and practically every flagship Moto device dating back to 2010. While the number of pixels hasn't increased, photo clarity and saturation has. In the light of day, images captured are bright and colorful, on par with most point-and-shoots. Even indoors and under artificial light the results are still pretty good, though we'd suggest leaving the flash off unless absolutely necessary. The new camera interface also improves over past offerings with a less cluttered presentation and more responsive controls. Perhaps our favorite feature is the phone's ability to detect less-than-ideal lighting conditions and prompt you to switch to HDR mode.