Motorola Razr Maxx review

4 out of 5
£423

For

Epic battery life, the Razr is still a great phone, speedy for day-to-day use

Against

Loses a little of its good looks to the larger battery, still no Ice Cream Sandwich, quite expensive

We have been using the Motorola Razr for quite a long time now. It's a phone that we've honestly fallen in love with. It's styling is unique and interesting, it's tough without looking like a builder's phone and it's been a sturdy and reliable companion.

Apart from the battery. The battery is dreadful.

Take the Razr out for the day, listen to some music, surf the web, and by early evening you'll be down to 20 per cent battery and in a flap in case you can't listen to Carly Rae Jepson on your way home, while still being available for an emergency phone call.

And that's where the Razr Maxx comes in. A hugely upgraded battery means you should be able to get as much as two days' life out of this new phone. So, is this THE phone to buy right now, or do other handsets make it look a bit silly?

Design

Aside from the battery, the design of the device is where the original Razr and the Maxx are most different. To accommodate the new, larger battery, the Maxx doesn't have the stylish kink where the camera and flash live. Instead the phone has a very slight angle to it, but there are no lumps and bumps.

Some people will be pleased by this, as the rear of the Razr was subject to some controversy when it launched. We'll say this: the Maxx is a lot more boring to look at as a result, but it's not an ugly phone by any stretch of the imagination. Where devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S handsets just attempt to ape the iPhone, the Razr really brings something different to the party. This new phone still looks good, but a little of its flare and style has gone with the new battery.

Other differences are very subtle. The Motorola logo on the front has changed from black text on a silver background, to silver text on a black background. The edging on the phone has also changed from a black to a reflective silvery sort of tone. It's hard to describe in text, but quite obvious when you see the phones together.

Volume and power buttons are on the right-hand side of the phone, micro-USB and mini-HDMI outputs are still on the top, while the micro-SIM and microSD card slot are still on the left of the phone. We like the placement of the headphone jack, and we're pretty keen on the fact the phone has microSD too, in these days where manufacturers are going for just internal storage.

The Maxx is also, as you would expect, a little heavier than the original phone. Only by about 18g more though, so hardly a disaster. You'll notice it when you hold both phones together, but it won't trouble you in day-to-day life.

Battery life

When we said earlier that the Razr struggled to last the day, we weren't joking. And this is a constant cause of tension for us. It sounds almost ridiculous to say, but when our phone dies, so does a little piece of us. We need a mobile all the time. How else are witty comments going to get on to Twitter. How else are we going to listen to a perpetual loop of Carly Rae Jepson and how are people supposed to get in touch with us in an emergency.

We don't ask for much, but for a phone to go from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, is the one thing we do need.

So the Maxx is very welcome. In our tests, charging fully overnight will get you through a whole day, and up to bedtime of the next day. That's excellent, but it also means that heavy users of mobile broadband, games and video will have a phone that they can punish for a day, but still have charge when they get home in the evening.

And at 3300mAh, we've used tablets with less battery capacity, so we'd hope the phone could handle extreme use. In fact, if you put this battery into an old feature phone, it would probably last you a whole year.

As a guide, our old Nokia N95 8GB would always last two days on a charge - and it was a smartphone, rather than a feature phone. It has a 1100mAh battery, so the power back in the Motorola could logically run that phone for six days.

Screen and audio

We enjoy the sound from the Motorola via good headphones. By default, it lacks bass, but switch to one of the other EQ profiles, and things start to look up. Generally, the sound is clear and well balanced. The speaker isn't bad either, it's got plenty of volume, and sounds decent. The only problem is that it is covered when you place the phone down on its back, so the audio becomes muffled.

The screen is good. It's not too hard to see in outdoor lighting conditions. We find that indoors, even the minimum setting is too bright. This is a typical problem with OLED screens, as is the slightly odd colour tint. It's far from a big deal, but the screen on the Razr isn't going to give you reference quality colour. It's a decent enough screen though, and watching video on it is more a pleasure than a chore.

Call quality and phone stuff

The Motorola theme is a bit dark. The SMS app is all black and white, by default, although it is improved by profile pictures showing up when you link Facebook. The contacts system isn't much to shout about. Motorola hasn't really made much of an effort here to make finding your friends easy, aside from the ability to set up favourites.

Call quality is good. Although in terms of hardware it's the same as the original Razr, ours seemed to have a less rattly earpiece. It could be Motorola has tweaked something here, but we'd say that the Maxx has the edge on call quality - at least between our two samples.

There are no serious problems though, calls are loud and clear and we had no trouble being heard, or hearing what was said. The phone does noise cancellation on calls too, so that should help produce the best quality sound for whoever you speak to.

Gingerbread. Really Motorola? REALLY?

When the original Razr came out, we were disappointed that the phone didn't have Ice Cream Sandwich installed. This meant that, despite being a less-impressive handset, stylistically, the Galaxy Nexus was a better buy, because it had the very latest version of Android installed.

Not to worry, Motorola told us, you'll get Ice Cream Sandwich in the new year. Well, it's now nearly June, and the original Razr hasn't had an upgrade to Android 4, and the new phone ships without it too. Motorola - now owned by Google, hilariously - says that the ICS update will come in Q2, but probably toward the end of it.

This is pretty unforgivable, we have to say. We can't help feel that the Razr would be an amazing handset if it were given the latest OS to run. But we won't know for a while yet, because Motorola doesn't seem to be in any rush.

Camera

The Razr camera is good too. Colours are a little muted, but the detail is pretty decent and in good light, it produces some pretty strong images. That said, there are also times where it randomly does not produce a great image. Auto focus is a bit slow too, which tends to mean you end up with photos being taken before the camera has finished its busy work. 

You get 1080p video recording, as with the last Razr, and it too is quite good. It will certainly do for YouTube, but it's not the best quality video we've seen, and it's really only 1080p in name. 

Minimal Motorola faff

The good news is that the Motorola heavy-handed customisation of MotoBlur days have gone. The phone will still handle all of your social and email accounts though, and it does have good, strong OS integration. So when friends call, you will see their most recent status update, and you'll get their Facebook photo too. Which is a nice touch, and works pretty well.

Most annoying is that you have to agree to Motorola's terms before you can use the phone. It doesn't really matter, but it's still something that irks us, as there's no way around it.

We do however like Motorola's music player, it's one of the best custom jobs we've seen. It includes DLNA support, so if you have a home server - Windows Media Player, Twonky, Plex et al - then you'll be able to stream music from it, to your phone. You also get the option to tweet what you're listening to (don't) and the player can also get the lyrics, so you can sing along to the hit of Carly Rae Jepson.

By way of keyboard, you get Swype and a standard keyboard. We don't really get on with either of these. Swype is a good idea, but it can be laggy sometimes and it's not great if you just want to tap letters. The standard Motorola keyboard is well laid out, but its predictive text is horrible. If we were using this phone for a long time, we'd want to get a third-party keyboard from the Play store, which is easy enough to do.

Verdict

In terms of the phone hardware, not much has changed here since the last Razr. The Maxx isn't as striking to look at, and its name is twice as stupid as the already absurd Razr, but it's still a great phone.

The extra battery is fabulous, the phone remains a good media player with decent audio quality via headphones, and that Motorola connected music player that we rather like.

All in all, this is THE Android phone to get if you need a lot of battery life. We've yet to encounter a phone with a bigger power source, and for many people, that's likely to be enough of a reason to get this phone over all the others.

We're just furious about the lack of Android 4 at launch.