Motorola Mobility, now part of the Google empire, offers the Atrix smartphone, which is set apart from other smartphones by the accessories that are available for it.
The major accessory that makes the Atrix unique, and which will interest business users, is the ability to slot the Atrix into the Motorola Laptop Dock (Lapdock), allowing it to be used as a laptop.
Why not just get a separate netbook and smartphone? Motorola thinks its system is one that will benefit both types of user.
The Atrix uses nVidia’s 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor. This supports a maximum of 1GB of DDR2 system memory, which the Atrix has. It runs version 2.2 of Android (codenamed Froyo), although an upgrade to Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) is planned for later in the year.
Atrix graphics are provided courtesy of a graphics system integrated with the processor that gives the four-inch screen a native resolution of 960 x 540 (quarter HD) in 24-bit colour.
The only ports on the Atrix are a micro USB 2.0 and mini-HDMI connections. These are the two ports that let the Atrix be clipped into the back of the Motorola Lapdock, which is basically a laptop activated when the Atrix is attached [see picture].
There’s a headphone jack on the top of the Atrix above the rear-facing 5-megapixel camera and next to the on/off switch, which also doubles as a fingerprint sensor. There are also a couple of audio volume control buttons on the right-hand side of the device, and the speaker is on the bottom of the Atrix.
Weighing 135g and with dimensions of 118mm x 64mm x 11mm, the Atrix supports microSD cards up to 32GB (which are hot-swappable) [see picture].
The Atrix has 16GB of storage onboard, so combined the storage capacity could be boosted to 48GB.
Power is provided by a relatively large 1.93Ah lithium polymer battery and this lasts a surprisingly long time – about a day with intense use, but it should be good for several days with light use, before it needs recharging.
The Atrix supports high-speed download (HSDPA) and upload (HSUPA) packet access enhanced 3G mobile technologies, as well as HSPA+ comms technology. There’s also integrated GPS, and Bluetooth v2.1 enhanced data rate (EDR) onboard, while standard wifi support is provided by an 802.11a/b/g/n system.
The most interesting optional accessory is Motorola’s Lapdock, which allows the Atrix to function as a smartphone-powered laptop when the phone is attached on the rear of the Lapdock.
When attached to the Lapdock, the Atrix screen is mirrored onto the Lapdock's screen. It is initially the same size as appears on the phone, but the view can be maximised on the Lapdock to give a larger view.
The optional Lapdock weighs in at 1.1kg, has dimensions of 284mm x 138mm x 14mm, but has just two USB 2.0 ports, apart from the AC adaptor connector.
The Lapdock has an 11.6-inch screen and runs a cut-down Linux operating system, but it won’t work unless the Atrix itself is parked in its appointed place and switched on.
There is a selection of applications on the Lapdock that can be run independently of the smartphone applications when the smartphone is attached and powered up, including the Firefox browser, dedicated Facebook access and a file manager, for example.
The Lapdock has a 36Wh Lithium-ion battery claimed to be good for eight hours.
To check the Lapdock battery’s current charge state, you press a button on the front of the Lapdock, which lights up battery status LEDs – five means fully charged, one means a recharge might be needed soon.
The rear-facing camera on the Atrix is a 5-megapixel HD-capable model with an LED-flash. It offers a variety of modes for taking pictures such as portrait, sports and a macro mode for close-ups. The front-facing camera is a less capable, lower-resolution model.
As a smartphone on its own, the Atrix exudes quality in both manufacturing and user interface, although the Android OS version (Froyo v.2.2) it uses is not the latest.
We set up the fingerprint sensor first. To use the fingerprint sensor, users have to train it by swiping two of their fingers several times before the system can be used to access the Atrix.
It worked well, both in the training phase and subsequent device access, normally only needing a single swipe from our right index finger to log on to the Atrix.
We asked other people to try their fingers on the sensor to check it didn’t let anybody else in – which it didn’t. You have to assign a backup PIN, just in case circumstances mean you can’t use the fingerprint sensor.
The Atrix uses an Android HTML Webkit onboard browser, which supports Adobe’s Flash Player version 10.1. We found it gave a good web experience – websites loaded quickly and displayed well on the Atrix’s screen.
Motorola has overlaid the Froyo Android OS with a user interface combined with its MotoBlur service. MotoBlur is a service that allows the Atrix to receive updates to numerous social networking sites automatically, such as Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, for example.
We signed up for the MotoBlur service and it found a real boon for using social networking sites. Messages, updates and content are pushed automatically to the Atrix [see picture].
Motorola’s overlaid MotoBlur user interface also adds shortcuts to the phone dialler and contacts screens, and adds extras to the notification bar at the top of the screen, such as the battery charge state, wifi and mobile connectivity signal strength.
As well as improving interaction with social networking sites, MotoBlur also gives users several security features normally found only in enterprise handsets. Users can back up their content over the air to their MotoBlur site account, and also remote-wipe the handset if it is lost or stolen.
Atrix users can also set up POP3/IMAP email accounts and configure the phone for synchronising with corporate directories.
For Office productivity, the Atrix uses the QuickOffice productivity suite, and users can also use the onboard Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) application to share media content across DLNA-enabled devices.
We found that the battery life of the Atrix was exceptional due to the power rating (1.93Ah) of the battery – compare this to the 1.4Ah rating of the 8GB iPhone.
We estimate that users should get 2-3 days' use with the Atrix although, as with most smartphones, excessive usage will drive down battery charge.
As with most Android devices, users can check which hardware or software is using the most power through the Atrix's battery-check application.
The call quality on the Atrix was generally good for most of our calls, although we did have a few instances where callers appeared muffled, but this could be down to the network not the phone.
Docking the Atrix into the lapdock is a bit fiddly since the micro USB and mini-HDMI ports have to be aligned properly, and it’s not hard to imagine heavy-handed users bending the connections if they try to force the phone harshly into the connections.
Inserting the Atrix into the HDMI and micro-USB couplings on the Lapdock boots up the Lapdock’s Linux OS, which displays the current Atrix screen and waits for you to use applications intrinsic to the Lapdock, or use applications on the Atrix.
The Lapdock charges your phone and can also piggy-back the Atrix’s network connections to use its onboard browser.
The Lapdock doesn’t have any network connectivity of its own, which you might expect since it costs around £300 – the price of some netbooks.
Adding in just wifi connectivity would enable users to have what amounts to a cloud application client, able to browser access cloud-type applications such as Gmail.
The battery charge LED indicators on the front of the Lapdock gave an approximate battery life indication of about two days.
There were other Atrix accessories with our review sample, including a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and an HDMI dock, and a dock for charging the Atrix, without connecting it to the Lapdock [see picture].
Pricing and availability
The Atrix launched exclusively with Orange, but is now available from Everything Everywhere partner T-Mobile.
The Atrix is free from Orange on a 24-month contract costing £35 per month. This includes 600 minutes of talk time, 750MB of mobile data, unlimited texts and fair usage unlimited wifi per month.
The Lapdock costs £300, but Orange business customers can purchase an Atrix/Lapdock bundle free on the Solo 55 tariff.