By CHRIS CHONG
The Atrix 2 is one of those devices that seems to tick all of the right boxes and should impress, but does it?
ON PAPER, the Motorola Atrix 2 is a pretty formidable beast and has a spec sheet that would make any owner proud.
Inside, it packs a 1GHz dual-core OMAP processor (with PowerVR graphics chip) and 1GB RAM, which ensures that it has no problems with multitasking and playing all of the latest mobile games.
It easily handles gamer staple diets of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja with no problems while the bundled Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (a racing title with pretty good 3D graphics, if you're not familiar) runs very smoothly with no hiccups at all.
For the most part it launches apps very quickly and renders even the most graphics-intensive webpages with ease.
It also has very impressive battery life. The quoted 8.5 hours of talk time doesn't seem like a stretch and I have been charging the phone only once every four days on average.
As a multimedia device, it'll easily play 1080p videos without a hitch and it supports a large number of formats too.
The large 4.3in LCD screen has an impressive resolution (960 x 540 pixels) but bad viewing angles. At anything other than dead centre, there's a very noticeable drop in contrast and a slight shift in hue. In this day and age of AMOLED displays and IPS-panels, this is quite unacceptable.
To its credit, though, the big display and high resolution makes it a lot easier to read webpages on the Atrix 2 compared to other phones.
The other thing that disappoints is the 8-megapixel camera. Yes, it has autofocus but there's no way to prefocus or reframe a shot. This is a problem because whenever you press the shutter button, the Atrix 2 will always hunt up and down its focal range for a couple of seconds before settling on a focusing distance (which is nearly always wrong).
This is made worse by the lens' rather narrow field of view, which I've measured at roughly 36mm (film equivalent), which is not wide enough for group shots.
This means that the Atrix 2's lens is more suited to portraits or close-ups, which its poor autofocus clearly does not encourage. The clincher is that the produced photos have noise and very narrow dynamic range - basically way too much contrast.
While I realise that this may not bother most potential Atrix 2 customers, I'm a photography nut myself and these two issues are deal breakers for me.
I'm also a little disappointed with the selection of widgets provided by Motorola because they have several usability issues. The WiFi widget, for example, only lets you turn WiFi on or off, but not select networks.
And then, there's the Universal Inbox widget, which presents a non-scrollable snapshot of the latest message that you've subscribed to (SMSes, e-mail messages, Facebook messages, etc).
It's not much since it empties itself right after you've read something, even though you may still have unread messages in your inbox. A scrolling list of all unread messages would have surely been more useful.
On a more general note, the lack of haptic feedback or instant visual acknowledgements when you tap on widgets or shortcuts makes the phone feel less responsive than it really is.
In fact, the haptic feedback only seems to come on when you press any of the four system software buttons below the screen itself. This is more of an Android issue than something specific to the Atrix 2, mind you.
The Google connection
Being an Android phone, the Atrix 2 makes a better case for itself once you're connected to the cloud. Upon startup, I keyed in my Gmail and Facebook account details and had all of my contacts (with e-mail messages and phone numbers where available) automatically added to the phone, complete with profile pictures and status updates pinned to them.
As with all Android phones, the use of Google Talk as a native instant messaging service appeals to me. Same with Google Calendar syncing. Basically, if you rely a lot on the many online services provided by the Google empire, this phone is a very natural fit.
Motorola has this picture gallery widget that grabs the latest photos uploaded by your friends onto Facebook, but I often ended up with photos from people I have little interest in, and there didn't seem to be a way to get it to show a particular album. After a while, I just turned it off.
If you're an Android fan who intends to play loads of 3D games, or to do loads of web browsing and social networking, the Atrix 2 is just the phone for you.
However, the poor performance of the camera might be a turn off for some but it's highly subjective and most may not even notice the deficiencies.
Pros: Very good battery life; lot's of power and RAM; large LCD excellent for viewing webpages and text.
Cons: LCD has poor viewing angles; poor camera; clunky widgets.
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G HSDPA 2100
CPU: 1.0GHz dual-core TI OMAP4430 + PowerVR SGX 540 GPU
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread)
DISPLAY: 4.3in qHD (960 x 540-pixels)
CAMERA: 8-megapixels with autofocus, LED Flash
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi (802.11b/g/n), Micro USB 2.0
MEMORY: 4GB Flash memory, 1GB RAM
EXPANSION SLOT: MicroSD
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 303hours/8.5 hours (GSM); 382hours/ 8.5 hours (3G)
OTHER FEATURES: GPS, DLNA media streaming; ; 1080p movie recording in MPEG4
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 66.0 x 125.9 x 10.4mm
Review unit courtesy of Zitron Group, (03) 2141-1800