Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the Motorola Droid Razr HD, since the two devices are almost identical.
It's clear Motorola swung for the fences with its new $299.99 Droid Razr Maxx HD. Sitting at the top of the company's 2012 lineup, it's the most impressive Android handset I've ever used, and it had better be considering its sky-high sticker price. If you're willing to spend the big bucks, though, you get a lot to like, such as swift dual-core processing, a 4G LTE data connection, and a gorgeous 4.7-inch HD AMOLED screen, and then there's that battery. As it's equipped with the same legendary 3,300mAh high-capacity battery that propelled the Droid Razr Maxx to greatness, saying the Razr Maxx HD has staying power is a laughable understatement. All this plus an elegant and durable design might just help you forget that the phone's camera is woefully behind the curve.
Measuring 5.2 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide and just 0.37 inch thick, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD is almost as svelte and pocket-friendly as its sibling the Droid Razr HD (5.2 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.33 inch), impressive considering its large 4.7-inch display and high-capacity battery (3,300mAh). That said, the Razr Maxx HD is substantially thicker than both the Samsung Galaxy S3 (5.4 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.34 inch) and the original Droid Razr (5.1 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.28 inch). The phone is close in size to its predecessor, the Droid Razr Maxx (5.14 inches by 2.75 inches by 0.35 inch).
The 5.5-ounce Droid Razr Maxx HD is a hefty beast, however, heavier than the Galaxy S3 (4.7 ounces), Droid Razr HD (5.1 ounces), Droid Razr (4.5 ounces), and Droid Razr Maxx (5.1 ounces). I'm sure the extra weight comes from Motorola's use of more premium materials in the Razr Maxx HD's chassis. Just like on the Droid Razr HD, a thin silver strip circles the phone's edges, giving the device an expensive feel similar to the HTC Evo 4G LTE, iPhones, and pricey BlackBerry handsets. I also appreciate the solidity and sense of durability those additional ounces bring. I prefer this to cheap plastic construction any day of the week.
The Razr Maxx HD's only physical buttons are a trim volume rocker and power key placed on the right side, chiseled from metal as well. There's no dedicated shutter button for launching the camera with one touch. On the left side are ports for HDMI and Micro-USB along with slots for microSD and LTE SIM cards.
A standard 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top, which is where it should be. I have a low tolerance for headphone ports placed on a phone's bottom edge, sorry, iPhone 5. Above the screen are the Droid Razr Maxx HD's 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as a wide notification light, which I love. Hey, I've been a fan of flashing phone lights since my first digital StarTAC. On back is the phone's main 8-megapixel camera, backed up by an LED flash. Razr loyalists will be glad to find Motorola's distinctive Kevlar fiber coating protecting against scratches and abrasions here, too. I also like the coating's soft-touch feel, and it repels fingerprints and grease.
A huge improvement Motorola has made to its new Razrs is the enhanced displays. The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD features a vast 4.7-inch 720p (1,280x720-pixel-resolution) screen that's much sharper than the displays used by the first Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx. Those devices had qHD resolution (960x540) screens with a lower pixel count. Details of enemy tanks and warplanes were very crisp in the HQ YouTube trailer for "Red Dawn," entertaining enough to help me suspend my disbelief in such a ridiculous plot.
Additionally, the Razr Maxx HD's display produces vivid colors because it uses AMOLED screen technology. That certainly made the explosions, gunfire, and Emma Stone's red dress in the "Gangster Squad" trailer pop. Viewing angles are nice and wide as well, something that I appreciate since I often watch movies or other content while doing household chores. I typically place the phone on a nearby shelf at odd angles and steal glances at it as I walk around the room.
To draft text messages, the Droid Razr Maxx HD uses Motorola's virtual keyboard, which offers four rows of large, well-spaced keys and an arrangement identical to the stock Android layout. Thanks to the big screen, typing on the device tends to be both fast and accurate. You can also switch over to the Swype keyboard, which lets you drag your finger through letters to form words and sentences quickly and even with one hand.
Software and UI
At $299.99, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD costs a pretty penny, which is why I'm disappointed that the device ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and not Google's latest operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Still, Ice Cream Sandwich offers a modern look and plenty of enhancements over Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Motorola also says that the phone will be upgradable to Jelly Bean in the future.
One of the latest Android benefits is visible right from the lock screen, which showcases the time and date in clean lettering on the upper left. The phone can display icons for various phone functions on the lock screen that users can jump directly to. Just like other Motorola handsets such as the Droid Razr M and the Razr HD, the Razr Maxx HD lets you drag a pulsating key icon over to the camera, phone, or text symbols to fire up these applications. Additionally a sliding button that toggles phone volume sits in the lock screen's top-right corner.
Motorola has grafted its custom interface over Android as well, essentially the remnants of the reviled Motoblur UI of years past. Thankfully it's not intrusive and even provides a few handy perks over basic Android. The phone offers two home screens to start with, but you can have a total of seven to fill with widgets and application shortcuts. The primary home screen occupies the leftmost pane and scrolls from left to right. An interesting and useful tool is the Quick Settings screen that appears when you swipe left from the main home screen. There you have access to often-used functions such as ringtones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane mode.
If you've gotten your hands on the Motorola Droid Razr M, Motorola Atrix HD, or Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE, you'll find the same Circles widget placed prominently on the home screen. It's one of the slickest home-screen UI gadgets since HTC's legendary Sense weather clock. It features three interactive discs that display analog and digital clocks, weather, and battery level.