JR Raphael

Motorola Droid Razr HD: First impressions

October 17, 2012 12:01 PM EDT

Motorola Droid Razr HDIn the market for a new phone? Motorola's latest high-end Android handset hits stores tomorrow, and let me tell you: This thing looks like a real contender.

The Motorola Droid Razr HD goes on sale Thursday for $200 with a new two-year contract from Verizon Wireless. It'll be accompanied by the Droid Razr Maxx HD, a slightly thicker version of the phone with a bigger battery and twice as much internal storage that'll cost $300 on-contract.

I've been spending the past day getting to know the Droid Razr HD. Here are my initial impressions:

• Plain and simple, this is a really well-built phone. The Droid Razr HD has a textured Kevlar material on its back, a silver metal band around its edges, and Corning Gorilla Glass on its front. Particularly compared to the plasticky build styles popular with many Android manufacturers these days, the Droid Razr HD feels solid, durable, and like a first-class device.

• Moto's design approach seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. Personally, I find myself digging the Razr HD's vibe. The phone definitely has the industrial-style look that's become Moto's trademark over the past few years, but don't misinterpret that to mean the phone feels clunky or utilitarian: The Razr HD has a high-quality, premium sort of look; it's just more rugged and angular than some of its contemporaries. I suspect those qualities will be quite appealing for a lot of people.

• Overall, the Razr HD has been pretty snappy for me so far, but -- as was the case with the smaller Droid Razr M model that I reviewed last month -- I have noticed some occasional choppiness in home screen swiping and system animations. (The phones share the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, so this similarity in performance isn't surprising.)

• The Droid Razr HD ships with a lightly modified version of Android 4.0, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich, instead of the more current Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release. This is unfortunate, especially for a company now owned by Google. To be fair, Google hasn't been on-board with Moto for long -- and its influence on the company is likely just barely beginning to show -- but still, Jelly Bean's been out in the wild since early July. Motorola may be promising an Android 4.1 upgrade for the Razr HD "by the end of the year," but there's really no excuse for anyone's flagship phone to be launching with last year's OS at this point.

• Smartphone stamina is one of Motorola's main focuses, and the Razr HD reflects that ambition: The phone promises 16 hours of talk-time, 7 hours of video streaming, 20 hours of music streaming, or 6 hours of nonstop LTE-based Web surfing. I haven't had the phone long enough to reach any firm conclusions, but in my limited use so far, those estimates don't strike me as being too far off from reality. 

Android Power TwitterRest assured, we're only scratching the surface: I'll be using the Motorola Droid Razr HD as my own personal phone for the next several days. During that time, I'll pay close attention to the intricacies of its performance, display, software, and all the other things that can make or break a smartphone experience.

As I've said before, lab tests and 24-hour speed-reviews certainly have their place, but I'm far more interested in seeing how devices work in the real world -- the way a real person would use them. And that's not something you can figure out in a matter of hours.

Check back early next week for my in-depth impressions.

UPDATE: Motorola Droid Razr HD, Razr Maxx HD: To buy or not to buy?