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Motorola Atrix – phone or notebook? Try both!

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One Android-based devices acts and works much the same as any other Android device. That means it ‚s up to the manufacturer to add extras to differentiate it. SEAN BACHER finds the perfect example in the Motorola Atrix.

One Android smartphone is much the same as the next one ‚ the operating system is the same and therefore many of the features are much the same. The only way manufacturers can define themselves from the rest of the pack is to customise the phone with their own unique look and feel ‚ and possibly throw in a few extra features.

Motorola has done just that with its latest smartphone ‚ the Motorola Atrix. Not only have they added the Moto Blur skin to the operating system, but have also included both software and hardware extras that separate it from the rest of the flock, turning it from a sheep into a leader.

Just how much of a leader, though? We put the Motorola Atrix through the Gadget 5 Question User test.

1. Is it ready to use?

With SIM and battery inserted, boot it up and you are presented with the Motorola logo, with the line: ‚Dual Core Technology‚ . That already indicates there is a lot more to the phone than meets the eye.

The phone then asks you to register yourself on the device. Register as in scan your fingerprints. It was rather confusing at first, as there is no slot or place that remotely looks like a finger scanner. However, upon closer inspection, it turns out that the over-sized power button located at the top behind the screen is also a biometric reader.

It takes three scans per finger before it registers and saves that print. You need to do this for both your left and right hand, so that you won’t be limited to activating the phone with only one hand. Also handy in case you lose a finger! Once your fingerprints have been saved ‚ for use when turning the phone on ‚ you are also asked to enter a standard numeric backup password. Just in case you loose both your registered fingers?

It’s now time to set the phone up. Since it’s an Android device (Android 2.2, or Froyo) you can do it simply by entering your Google credentials.

For each application on the phone, including e-mail and Twitter, you will need to input your user name and password. Motorola does make it easier with a built-in accounts app. Open it, click on the Add Account option and you are presented with a list of the most popular accounts available for smartphones, including FaceBook, Twitter, Picasa, Gmail, Twitter and Yahoo! Mail.

2. Is it easy to use?

The phone includes four physical buttons: a Settings button that lets you change in-app settings and also give you quick access to the phone’s main setting screen: a Home button: Back button and Search button. This makes controlling the device extremely easy as you are able to jump back and forth between applications without having to close any. In addition to these buttons, the power and volume buttons are all easily identifiable ‚ and are well lit up for easy operation in the dark.

On the main home screen, you are presented with three ‚soft‚ or virtual buttons, one to enter into phone mode, one to access the installed applications menu and a button to access your contacts.

In an attempt to differentiate their version of the Android operating system, Motorola has covered the OS with its own skin called Motorola Blur. This provides a smooth, sleek interface that you can customise as you wish.

The phone sports six home screens, which you can populate with widgets and apps of your choice. To add a widget, just hold a finger on the capacitive touch screen and a menu will pop up from which you can select which widget you want and where you want it to appear. You can chose from Motorola’s built-in apps, or select the ones you have downloaded from the Android Market place. Very handy, as you are able to dedicate an entire screen to your e-mail and another to your Twitter feed, or you can split the screens up ‚ displaying more than one widget or app per screen. You move the widgets from one screen to another by holding your finger on that widget, and then swiping it over to the screen where you want it placed.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

The Atrix sports a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor with 1GB of RAM. A very powerful device, but all this power does come at a price.

This high-speed processor, combined with 4‚ colour screen, means battery life is going to suffer. On a fully-charged battery, the phone was able to last a full eight hours before needing to be plugged in, and lasted just over three days in standby mode ‚ a far cry from Motorola’s advertised 250 hours.

The biometric reader on the power button worked exceptionally well. Scanning a fingerprint to activate the phone was quick and efficient and left me wondering why all phone manufacturers don’t do the same thing.

In an effort to differentiate itself from other smartphones in South Africa, Motorola has included a docking station with the phone. And it transforms your phone into a completely different beast.

Besides being able to charge the phone when it is docked, the station also includes three USB ports. Use these ports to plug in a USB keyboard, mouse and monitor and, abracadabra, you have a mini PC on which you can type up documents and spreadsheets and even view PowerPoint presentations.

If you don’t feel in a business mood while in dock mode, switch it over to multimedia mode, connect the station to your television via the included HDMI cable and you have a powerful entertainment centre. A Bluetooth remote even lets you flip through songs and movies stored on the memory card.

The power of the Atrix doesn’t stop there. Motorola is offering its LapDock as an optional extra. For an extra R2 000, you can transform the Atrix smartphone into a fully-fledged notebook. When docked into the Lapdock, you get an 11.6-inch screen, full keyboard, stereo speakers, and a 36Wh three-cell battery that powers the notebook for up to eight hours.

3. Is it innovative?

From the time you power up the Atrix, it oozes innovation. The biometric finger scanner is a first, the docking station included with the phone is a novel idea and the ability to turn your phone into a notebook takes the cake.

Motorola pulled out all the stops with the Atrix.

4. Is it value for money?

The Atrix retails for around R5 800. Rather expensive, but on a par with Samsung’s Galaxy S II. Furthermore, the phone includes a docking station, meaning you can do much more than with the phone than you would with any other Android handset.

And, for an extra R2 000, you can turn it into a notebook too.

Factoring in the innovation, the phone’s power and Atrix’s ability to morph into a completely different animal, the phone is clearly a value for money device.

In closing

Sure, the phone lacks a bit on the battery side of life, but is sure makes up for it in other departments. It is by far one of the best Android based phones on the market and will not disappoint.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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Yes you can use it as a phone. It works like any other Android based handset on the market, meaning you can make and receive calls and send text and multimedia messages.

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