Motorola Atrix: the ecosystem explored

It was back at CES in Las Vegas in January that the Motorola Atrix was announced; it was April when we heard it was coming to Orange; it was yesterday that it went on sale.

Four months is a long time in the world of mobile phones so we thought we’d bring you a reminder of exactly what the Atrix family looks like now that it has landed on our fair shores.

 

The handset: Motorola Atrix MB860

Yes, MB860 is the official model number for the Motorola Atrix. It offers up headline hitting specs, being one of the first Nvidia Tegra 2 handsets to be announced at the beginning of the year, as well as one of the first Android handsets to step up the screen resolution: the Atrix offers you a 4-inch 540 x 960 pixel resolution display.

It’s not the slimmest phone out there, measuring 63.5 x 117.75 x 10.95mm and weighing 135g, but you do get a whopping 1GB of RAM and 10GB of internal memory (before you employ the microSD slot to expand further). Uniquely the Atrix has a fingerprint scanner built into the power button, providing additional security. 

The Atrix is the brains of the show here - it contains all the software to handle all of the various features on offer, the mainstay being the WebTop user interface that offers a full Firefox browser alongside the phone interface once connected to the big screen. On it's own, the Atrix offers Motoblur running on Android 2.2.2. 

We’re working up our full review of the Motorola Atrix as you read this, so be sure to check back in the next few days for the complete lowdown.

 

The docks: HD Multimedia Dock and Standard Dock

The Atrix has two connections on the side, USB and HDMI, both of the micro variety. The placement isn’t accidental: it means you can dock it easily. With the aims taking care of your entertainment needs, the HD Multimedia Dock offers you more than just somewhere to charge your phone.

The first thing it offers is that HDMI connection. You can connect your Atrix to TV so you can play back local content, or turn your TV into computer on the fly using the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

The HD Multimedia Dock makes use of the WebTop interface (which we’ll cover in our review) so you can easily access your multimedia content in the Entertainment Center and browse the Internet using the Firefox browser. At the same time you get access to your standard Android apps, with the option to rotate, resize, or go full screen if you want so you don't forsake one thing for the other.

The HD Multimedia Dock also has three USB connections around the back, so you can connect a range of other devices - we'll be having a closer look in our review to see exactly what works and what doesn't, but so far we've found it to be conversant with small (capacity-wise) USB drives. 

The dock is powered, so charges your phone, and also offers an audio output so you can hook your dock up to an amp or speaker system.

There is not too much to get excited about with the Standard Dock, as it’s name suggests. It will charge your Atrix and as a bonus offers an audio output so again you can hook the dock up to free your tunes. The Standard Dock seems more at home as the bedside dock, paired with the "widget clock" display.

Interestingly the top of the docks can be removed, suggesting that future Motorola devices will make use of the docks with a different inserts.

 

The gamble: Lapdock

Docks are fine: so long as the price is right people will take the convenience of having somewhere to park their phone. But suggesting that they double-fist convergence with a £299 accessory dock-cum-laptop is a different matter.

We’re going to give the Lapdock a thorough going-over over the coming weeks, but Motorola have at least got the design right. It’s slim, lightweight and essentially adds a keyboard and larger 11.6-inch screen with a simple port in the back to dock your Atrix handset.

The Lapdock, like the HD Multimedia Dock, runs WebTop so the UI experience is essentially the same on both.

The Lapdock will give you 7 hours of use from its internal batteries (which need their own power supply to charge) but it will also charge the phone when docked, so you won't drain both the phone and the Lapdock when working on the move.

Neat touches, like the battery indicator lights at the front, the additional USB connections on the rear and the inclusion of stereo speakers, means the laptop does expand the experience further. The keyboard makes it easier to bash out proper emails or documents than on a phone or straight touchscreen tablet and Moto Agents have told us that they've been able to ditch their laptops and just use the Atrix and Lapdock. We'll see about that.

 

The accessories: Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

These probably don’t need too much explaining - they are straightforward accessories. But they are part of the magic if you opt for the HD Multimedia Dock, giving you wireless control over your phone.

Both connect to your Atrix with Bluetooth. Once paired, you will be able to control your Atrix with them, but it’s a fiddly experience. Once you are in WebTop, however, it behaves much more like a regular computer-on-your-TV setup.

The mouse is a little cheap and plasticy, taking two AAA batteries internally, but offers you two mouse buttons and a clickable scroll wheel. It is, effectively, just a Bluetooth mouse and will work with any Bluetooth HID profile device.

The keyboard is a slightly different proposition. It is better quality, the Chiclet-style keys offering a nice action and with a respectable size to make proper typing easy. 

But shortcuts are the name of the game with media keys, including playback control and volume, as well as browser, messaging, contacts and Gmail shortcuts. That’s right, the keyboard has a Gmail button, which makes us very excited.

As the keyboard and mouse work with the phone, it doesn’t matter where you’ve docked it - it will still control it. So, that means if you’ve gone for the whole package you can use it with HD Multimedia Dock so that you have a massive Moto-Android computer on your TV, or you can use it with the Lapdock. Sure, having two keyboards is silly, but having a mouse makes sense and having a scroll wheel is certainly a practical bonus as the Lapdock doesn’t seem to offer multitouch on its trackpad.

There is also a small remote which offers up basic media controls so that you can enjoy your content on your docked phone without having to use the keyboard or mouse. It’s an IR remote, so you need line of sight for it to work.

Orange as exclusive launch partner for the Atrix in the UK has a special offer on the HD Multimedia Dock, keyboard, mouse and remote control, which it is calling the "Work and Play Kit". If you are an existing pay monthly Orange customer and you upgrade in May, you get the kit for free. If you're not currently on a monthly contract with Orange, when you buy the Atrix you can get the kit for £49.99, a bargain considering it will normally cost £129.

 

Round-up

The Motorola Atrix seems to have the widest ecosystem of any single device we’ve seen so far. Motorola are very much pushing this as a computer in your pocket, playing to those want entertainment or business applications or both. It’s an impressive array of accessories that seems to support this story (and we’ve not seen the car dock yet either).

But Motorola are also taking something of a gamble here. Will anyone walk a complete convergence path? Will the 720p output of the HD Multimedia Dock catch the eye of the discerning customer? Would you pick a £299 phone-powered Lapdock over a netbook? We're working on bringing you all the answers.



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