12/16/2011 04:23 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2012

Motorola Droid Razr Review: Beautiful Design, Super Fast, One Of The Best From 2011

The Motorola DROID RAZR from Verizon

(1) In many ways, the Motorola Droid Razr is everything we had expected and hoped that the mythical iPhone 5 would be. It is impossibly thin and impossibly light; it features a big 4.3-inch screen that stretches much of the length and height of the front of the phone, with a display that is bright and crisp; it has 4G LTE, an excellent 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a really excellent 2-megapixel front-facing camera. In resurrecting and rethinking the once-envied Razr brand for its newest Droid, Motorola has produced a terrific Android device that should conjure up some new envy of its own. This is no disposable Razr. From its eye-catching design, to its must-be-held-to-be-believed weight, to its palpable processing power and data speed, Motorola's Droid Razr is one of the best, if not the very best, smartphones of 2011.

(2) Given the sheer number of vaguely identical candybar-shaped mobile devices now released each year, a smartphone, at its best, should be something that not only immediately distinguishes itself from competitors, but that also makes the owner eager to show it off and feel as though he or she is gaining something by being associated with it. This past year, all of the great ones have accomplished this with a polished, fluid user experience combined with a defining single feature -- think Siri on the iPhone 4S; the brilliant, massive display of the HTC Titan; the first taste of Ice Cream Sandwich with Face-Unlock on the Galaxy Nexus. The Droid Razr's defining characteristic, its wow factor, is its design. Yes, it is very, very thin; yes, it is very, very lightweight. But despite being incredibly, almost unbearably, wispy, the Razr does not come off as cheaply made, or fragile; on the contrary, both of the Rrazr's faces look and feel great, with a gorgeous textured finish on the back side and an eye-catching silver Motorola nameplate on the front. The phone's edges are angled more gradually than the typical phone, owing to the Razr's octagonal shape. On the back of the phone, there is a slight speed bump where much of the hardware lives, but even that protrusion is in unity with the rest of the phone's make. This is a fantastic, original feat of gadgetry design...

(3) ...which would mean nothing if the phone's other features didn't impress. But they do, big time. The 4.3-inch AMOLED display is crisp, superb. Both cameras are really good (especially the front-facer), and the phone feels great in your hand (though, full disclosure, my smaller-handed colleagues found the Razr, and every other phone with a display larger than four inches, too large). I especially like the Android operating system on the Razr; Motorola has kept things mercifully simple, without the overload or cram that many Android handsets suffer from out of the box. There are three intuitive front screens featuring three widgets: one for favorite contacts, one for recent photos, and one for Google search. What's more, the most frequent complaint about Android as an OS -- that it is balky, unresponsive or not as fluid as iOS or WP7 -- does not apply to the Razr's Android, which has been designed with a grace and fluidity uncommon to other Android phones. When you swipe screens to the right or left, they swing away from you or toward you in three-dimensional space, rather than just sliding horizontally. It is a phone full of small touches: the way the display zaps from "on" to "off" like an old black-and-white television; the excellent Smart Actions that learn your habits and suggest battery-saving settings that automatically go into effect in certain conditions. These touches add up to make the Droid Razr such an unqualified, unified success. This is an Android phone whose software feels wholly in line with its hardware.

(4) Like all heroes, the Razr does have a flaw, an Achilles heel, a hole in its swing, what have you. The battery life is atrocious. You're going to need to charge at least once a day, even with Bluetooth and WiFi off, screen brightness dimmed low, email set to fetch. A Razr user will constantly feel the disappointment that comes when looking down at a phone and too often finding the battery meter in the red. This may not be the phone for you if you do not have steady and ready access to a charger.

(5) If you do have steady and ready access to a charger, however -- and this is coming from someone who sits at a desk most days and on a couch most nights -- then you won't do much better than Motorola's re-imagined Razr. Despite its super-squid-like ability to suck battery life, the Razr's robust combination of speed, responsiveness and total design perfection make it a more than worthwhile buy, at $299 for a 32GB handset on Verizon. According to its technical specifications, the Droid Razr is a premium phone, with a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16 million color, 540 x 960 Super AMOLED display, the Bluetooth 4.0, the 2-megapixel front-facing camera that shoots 720p video. But one need not read the spec sheet to recognize that this is a special Android phone, not just due to its creative spelling of the word "razor." And if you're wondering where that "O" went (R-A-Z-...R?), perhaps you will find it when you hold this phone for the first time. "Oooooooooo..."



Cost: $299 with two-year contract
Carriers: Verizon
Operating System: Android 2.3.5 ("Gingerbread")
Network: Verizon 4G LTE
Display: 4.3-inch
Weight: 4.48 ounces
CPU: 1.2 GHz dual-core
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB internal; 16GB SD card included, expandable up to 32GB
Camera: 8MP rear-facing 1080p; front-facing 2MP 720p
Charger: Micro USB
Battery Life (stated): Up to 12 hour 30 minutes