Motorola RAZR HD LTE Hands-on (Video)

This morning we had a chance to try the upcoming Rogers-exclusive Motorola RAZR HD LTE. While it bears many a similarity to the recently-released ATRIX HD LTE, the RAZR HD takes the improvements over the original RAZR more seriously, and overcomes many of the obstacles that held it back from being a top-tier device.

While the RAZR HD is not as thin as the 7.1mm original, it feels far more like a premium product. Its 4.7-inch Super AMOLED HD display is vivid and bright, with excellent viewing angles and deep, satisfying blacks. We weren’t able to confirm whether it’s PenTile-based, but in a quick comparison it looked as good if not better than Samsung’s Galaxy S III display. With a screen resolution of 1280×720 and very limited bezel — Motorola claims that the HD’s front is 62% screen, one of the highest percentages on the market — and an excellent form factor, the device looks to be another sure hit for the company.

But a lot has changed since Motorola’s Kevlar-backed resurgence into the smartphone industry last November. The RAZR HD feels like a culmination of many practice attempts at making a great smartphone, and with Google overseeing the software portion of things, the OS is about as good as it gets without a Nexus name attached to it. I told you in our ATRIX HD LTE review, Motorola has toned down much of its “BLUR” legacy and, aside from a few additions — not replacements — the Android you see on the RAZR HD is pretty close to stock.

Motorola recognized that there was untapped potential in Android’s home screen layout, and has included a helpful Quick Settings menu on the left-most tab of the home screen. Helpful widgets and interactive icons, with the ability to flick up on Mail, Contacts or Messages to preview content, help round out the immediate improvements. Then there are SmartActions, which help the already battery-friendly device achieve “all day” battery life.

Now to the hardware. The RAZR HD LTE is nearly identical to the ATRIX HD LTE internally: a 1.5Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage with expandable microSD slot, LTE connectivity and an 8MP camera. Where the RAZR HD is improved is its design — there’s a metal bezel with fantastic buttons, and an improved Kevlar back — and battery size. The 2530mAh battery is the same size as the one in the original Galaxy Note, but the screen is significantly smaller than that phablet. The unified body design allowed Motorola to squeeze as many components into a small space as possible — they describe the Kevlar and metal body as a “bucket” in which all the parts are carefully laid inside and covered with that thin Super AMOLED screen — and achieve all-day battery life in the process.

The RAZR HD is a Rogers exclusive and will therefore be loaded with a number of Rogers apps. Though many of them are placeholders and don’t take up space on the device until downloaded, the advantage of having Ice Cream Sandwich on board is that any app can be disabled with one touch, essentially disappearing it from the device. When asked about an upgrade to Jelly Bean, Motorola said that with Google’s help the company will become a leader in Android updates and will push Android 4.1 to the RAZR HD as soon as possible.

One interesting aspect of the RAZR HD’s design is its microSIM/microSD slot. Instead of using the often-maligned plastic clip, Moto has chosen to go with an iPhone-like tray that can be unlocked using an included pin. The opening also houses a microSD slot for expandable storage; the microSIM is housed in a familiar “cage” to ensure it is inserted in the correct orientation.

Also on the left side of the device is a mini HDMI port and a microUSB charging port. The back of the device, as stated, is made from a strong Kevlar material, and is coated with a water-resistant film that should protect the phone from the elements better than many others on the market.

The 8MP camera is unchanged from previous devices, and while Motorola claims that shutter speeds have improved since the RAZR and even the ATRIX HD, but we worry that by using the same module and lens as its forebears a poor camera could end up being the HD’s biggest liability. Until we get a review unit, we won’t know for sure.

The Rogers Motorola RAZR HD LTE will be available in the coming weeks.