Motorola Droid Razr Maxx Review: 4G LTE With Solid Battery Life Just Got Real

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Steve Jobs, Superhero

Short Version

The Droid Razr Maxx by Motorola is a very special phone. You see, I had a bit of a thing for the Droid Razr when it first came out, but it wasn’t quite perfect. It felt a bit light, and I had trouble holding it in my hand since it was so big and so thin at the same time. Plus, battery life was a bust. It wasn’t awful, but it only lasted about nine hours, meaning most people would need to bring a charger along every day.

The Droid Razr Maxx throws all those problems into the trash can, and only gains about 18g and 1.89mm in return.

Features:

  • 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced qHD 960×450 display
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz processor
  • 8-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, flash, and 1080p video capture
  • 1.3-megapixel front-facing shooter
  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Verizon 4G LTE
  • MSRP: $299.99 on-contract

Pros:

  • Big battery life improvements (more on that later)
  • Bump in storage from 16GB to 32GB
  • Feels a bit more like a premium product with the added heft

Cons:

  • If you liked the size of the RAZR, the thickness might bother you
  • Poorly placed microUSB charging port
  • No removable back cover (which has its rough consequences, I recently learned)

Long Version:

If I had to choose between the Droid Razr and the Droid Razr Maxx, I’d go Maxx all the way. Battery life may not be the star spec when you’re reading your reviews, but we all sooner or later realize that it’s probably the most important spec of all. 4G LTE is amazing. If you haven’t tried it, you should (seriously) run down to a Verizon and do a Google search or load an app on to one of the store units. You won’t just notice the difference; you’ll pine for it. But don’t get ahead of yourself. Before the Razr Maxx, every phone with 4G LTE support couldn’t keep up after a few hours of use.

The Razr Maxx crushes that pretty huge problem and finally makes 4G LTE a viable option for the power user.

Battery Life:

I usually save this section for closer to the end, but I figured you guys are just going to scroll to this section anyway, so I might as well get it out of the way.

Yes, the Razr Maxx’s battery life is far better than that of the Razr. I actually still have my Razr from when I reviewed it, and was able to test both phones alongside each other. But before I get into the results, let me tell you about how we tested it. We have a battery test program here that continuously searches Google for images. Once one page loads, another pops up. I can close out of the browser at any time to load apps (which I did), make calls (did that, too), browse the web (yep, that too), and watch some videos.

But the most important thing to remember when I give you these numbers is that both phones, the Maxx and the original Razr, were in constant use from the beginning of the test until they died. No locked screen. No minute to catch their breath.

The Razr lasted for four and a half hours with constant (and varied) use. The Maxx, on the other hand, stuck with me for eight hours and fifteen minutes. For those of you following along at home, that’s almost double the battery life. If I use the phone like a normal human being (read: not Google Image searching random names constantly), it lasted a full day and on into the next day before it needed a charge around 11 am. This is with Wifi and 4G LTE in use.

Hardware:

The phone itself is beautiful. Many of you may be bothered by the fact that its 8.99mm thick compared to the Razr’s 7.1mm waist line, but I actually found the extra bulk to both feel more premium and look… well, better. Because the Razr is so very thin, the classic “Moto hump” on the back is much, much more pronounced than it is on any other Droid. On the Razr Maxx, the hump is actually quite subtle.

The phone is a tad heavier than its predecessor, which I think lends itself to that premium feel, as well. Though, size may still be an issue for me. As I said with the Razr, my hands are pretty big for a girl and I still have trouble performing one-handed actions on the Razr Maxx.

One thing I failed to mention in my Razr review that I’ve since realized annoys me quite a bit is the placement of the microUSB port. Both the microUSB port and HDMI out are placed square on the top of the phone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this makes it impossible to play a game or work in landscape while the phone is plugged in. Motorola (and others), please start putting your charging ports on the top side, if possible.

As far as the display goes, of course it’s beautiful. There’s very little differentiation between pixels and the size really lends itself to TV/movie viewing. Screens vary from phone to phone (even if they’re technically the “same screen”), and I did notice that the Razr Maxx has a more of a yellowy tint to it, whereas the Razr has more of a bluish tint. These are just my units, though, and if they weren’t side by side I might not have noticed at all.

I’m still a huge fan of the design, and think those boxy corners and that Kevlar fiber casing are a great direction for Moto to be headed in.

Performance::

Alright guys, after two whole sections of (mostly) praise I need to get out a big gripe. While I was testing the Razr Maxx, it froze twice. This isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve spent a good deal of time with the phone and really pushed it to the maxx (heh), and pretty much all phones freeze at some point or another. The problem, however, is that every time the Maxx froze, it stopped responding to touch.

You don’t necessarily need a removable back cover to help with battery life on this thing, but without it there’s no way to manually shut down the device. Each time I held the lock button to turn it off, I couldn’t tap the icon to shut it down. Plugging it in to a PC didn’t jolt it out of its freeze either. This left me waiting for the phone to either cool down and snap out of it, or run out of battery (which can be a helluva long wait with the Razr Maxx, especially when it’s basically sleeping). The Maxx overheats to an extent, just like the Razr, and I assume this was the culprit in my freeze issue.

Basic performance, on the other hand, was just fine. Switching between apps, surfing the web, and watching mobile video was all pleasant. I didn’t experience any serious hiccups (other than those freezes), but the usual Android lag still remains. Luckily, Moto chose to leave Blur out of the equation and laid a rather light, useful overlay onto both the Razr and the Maxx. I say keep ‘em coming like that, Moto.

As far as software goes, everything is the same on the Maxx as it is on the Razr, so I’m going to refer you to the Razr review.

Camera:

I kind of brushed over the camera performance in my Razr review, so I figured I’d show you guys what I’m talking about this time around. Still image quality is very good, especially in bright environments (see below). Even zoomed in, the camera still takes quality shots though it still won’t replace a nice point-and-shoot if you take pictures more than the average bear (that Yogi reference is weak, but I’ll still leave it.)

Low-light pictures aren’t as great, but it still gets the job done as far as stills are concerned (see below). Video capture in low-light environments doesn’t really cut it though. I tried to take a little video at my friend’s birthday party last night in a bar and had no luck. Just a lot of squiggly, blurry darkness.

If you know how to use the camera and focus before you hit the shutter button, the lag between tapping shutter and taking the picture isn’t that bad at all. If you try to focus and hit the shutter to early, you’ll be waiting a while.

Motorola packed all kinds of fun goodies into the camera application, which can be accessed by a rather slick drop down bar that sits right on top of the view finder. It offers up basic settings (like where to save the pic, geo-tagging, etc.), effects (like B&W, negative, and sepia), scenes (some of which help a bit with low-light shooting), modes (including panorama), exposure and flash.

All of this is majorly helpful, but I did have one small complaint with panorama. Unless you’re really steady, the shot can look a bit awkward. If you tilt a bit, for example, while moving from frame to frame, the shot can have bendy lines that should be straight and other strange qualities (in the image below, the train tracks dip a bit toward the right even though they are completely straight and level in real life).

Light:

Dark:

Panorama:

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, I’d say this is probably my favorite new 4G LTE phone, mostly because it actually makes LTE a viable option. Past that, it’s quite beautiful, reliable, and well-built. You won’t scratch the screen by dropping it a few feet (thanks to that Corning Gorilla glass) and the Kevlar fiber casing is not only durable but it adds a nice touch in the design department.

I’m a bit concerned about the overheating issue, but I’m also aware that I was using the phone in a way that most users won’t since I was testing. Still, if you’re a power user, I’d think twice about this and maybe see how others are faring as far as freezing is concerned.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to apologize on behalf of Motorola for screwing over Droid Razr owners. If you’re happy with your Razr and love how thin it is, than just ignore me. But for most of you, I assume that battery life is really bugging you on the original. It’s only been a couple of months since the Razr debuted, and that’s probably the biggest problem I have with this phone. I applaud Motorola for seeing an issue and nipping it in the bud, but you have to be careful that you don’t screw over your original customers in the process.