Review: Motorola Atrix 2 with lapdock

The Atrix 2 appears to be Motorola's attempt to converge the tablet, PC and smartphone.

NameSmartphone: Motorola Atrix 2
At a glance:Dual-core processor,10 free EA games,4.3-inch display,Overlay slows down Android
Summary:A solid phone with a fatal flaw.
Rating:3/5
RRP:$799 (phone) $499 (lapdock)
Contact:motorola.com

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The Atrix 2 appears to be Motorola's attempt to converge the tablet, PC and smartphone. After all, smartphones are like mini-PCs in many ways - especially now phones include dual-core processors, multi-core graphics, and enough RAM to run a desktop OS like Windows XP. The Atrix 2 is supposed to be a powerful phone that can be used with other devices to create something resembling a PC experience.

And the Atrix 2 is certainly powerful - when playing games, performance was flawless. When we benchmarked the device, its scores were up there with the LG Optimus 2X and the Optimus 3D. However, there's a serious caveat - while games and apps run smoothly, the Android 2.3 operating system itself runs remarkably slow, possibly due to Motorola's proprietary Android overlay. Opening the app screen or reverting to the home screen often takes a full second, and sometimes the phone appears to not respond at all. Most phones use a 100-200 millisecond response screen, so a second can feel like an awfully long time, even if it doesn't sound like it. When you're buying a dual-core phone with an $800 price point, you have every right to expect better. We could reel off a rather long list of phones that cost less but perform better, at least in that regard. Even if you're a dedicated mobile gamer, you'll spend less time gaming than you will navigating around this sluggish 'desktop'.

That said, the Atrix 2 is being marketed as much as a business and entertainment hub as it is a smartphone. The phone comes with 10 games from EA, including family-friendly titles like Monopoly and Bejeweled 2, and not-so-friendly games like Dead Space. It also has an HDMI out port, so you can plug the phone into your TV, use the phone as a controller and play games on your TV, if you like. Of course, the phone isn't just about games, so you can also plug in your phone and play 1080p video. Video plays smoothly and looks great, at least on the 40-inch Samsung TV we tested it on.

If you prefer to use the phone's screen rather than your TV, you'll be looking at a 4.3in display with a 540 x 960 resolution. It's a bit narrower and longer than your average 4.3in display, which means the device fits quite nicely in hand and doesn't feel uncomfortable to hold for long periods. With the brightness turned all the way up, colours are vibrant and text is easy to read.

If you're looking for a sexy phone, the Atrix 2 is probably not it. It's not bad looking, but there's nothing remarkable about it - it just looks like another black smartphone. What really differentiates it is the ability to plug it into what Motorola calls its 'lapdock'.

It is what it sounds like - a dock that you plug your Atrix 2 into that essentially turns it into a netbook-sized laptop. When you plug in the Atrix 2, you begin running Motorola's 'webtop' version of Android. It has a Firefox browser, and not much else - most of the apps are browser-based - so you need a persistent internet connection.

The dock itself is a plastic case that creaks even at the lightest touch, and it's a bit slower than a netbook would be, but it's a novel idea and a handy accessory to have if you want just a couple of devices for some light work (or play) while you're on the road. You can also bring a USB mouse and a flash drive with you, as the dock has two USB ports available. The lapdock also acts as a charger, so you can charge your Atrix 2 while you're working.

One feature of the Atrix 2 that really impressed us was the camera. It's 8MP, can record video in 1080p HD, and has a lightning-quick autofocus. Taking photos was fast and clear in natural light. As per usual with a smartphone camera, though, the image quality was a bit of a let-down in low light, even with flash turned on.

The Atrix 2 has the top-of-the-line hardware specs you might want, but the sluggish OS and boring look let it down. Because you use the OS so heavily, it's really not acceptable for it to be so slow. Despite the gaming cred and HD video, we really can't recommend it unless you need an all-in-one smartphone, tablet and PC solution.

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Tags smartphoneMotorolamotorola atrix 2motorola atrix

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Siobhan Keogh

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