Review of the Motorola V3 RAZR


There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this phone, and a lot of hype too. Based on some of the things Iíd read before getting a chance to review the V3 RAZR I was under the impression that it was the best phone every made by Motorola.

 

The Motorola V3 RAZR is available through Rogers.

Last Updated: 15-Sep-2005

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

For a look at Field Test information that supports the assumptions made about which band is present in which parts of Square One Shopping Mall, see Rogers Service in Square One.

Certainly its one of the most stylish phones on the market right now, and it seems to me that the RAZR is more of a styling exercise than anything else. At any rate, with my expectations driven higher than usual I was expecting great things from this phone, but what I discovered was a fairly mediocre effort that doesnít really come up to the standards Iíve seen on other Motorola GSM phones over the years.

Note that all tests were performed with the firmware that came with the phone AND with version R374_G_0E.42.08R, which was flashed into the phone after all of the original baseline tests were performed.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: Tests of RF sensitivity were made at Square One as usual. 1900 MHz performance was tested in the Hall of Shame against my Nokia 6310i and my wifeís Siemens A56. While the results were very close, the best performer was the 6310i, followed by the A56, followed by the RAZR. Where the 6310i could render very consistent audio, the RAZR would break up so much that it was difficult to hear.

A number of people challenged the above test by noting that I did not know for sure if the RAZR was indeed on 1900 MHz at the time of the test. To that end a third set of tests were performed with Field Test Mode loaded into the RAZR. This confirmed that there were ONLY 1900 MHz voice channels that were usable in the Hall of Shame and it further confirmed that there were no 850 MHz channels on the site inside of Square One.

850 MHz performance was tested in the lower level of Sears (away from the mall entrance and its indoor 1900-MHz-only site), where the dominant signal is from a site outdoors on the nearby CIBC bank building. Once again, this was confirmed in a third set of tests using Field Test Mode in the RAZR to determine the channels being used at the time.

In this case the test could only be performed against the A56 (as my 6310i doesnít support 850 MHz), but like before the A56 trumped the RAZR for RF sensitivity. Where the A56 would produce mostly-solid audio with a few dropouts, the RAZR would produce mostly dead air with a few snippets of audio. While these differences are not night-and-day, it is clear that the RF sensitivity of the RAZR could do with being improved.

During the third set of tests I compared the RAZR to the 6310i in the lower level Sears. With the RAZR operating on 850 MHz voice channels, the 6310i still managed to edge it out in terms call stability, though the margins were admittedly small.

Over-the-road Performance: Iíve been quite impressed with many different Motorola GSM models when it comes to over-the-road performance, though mostly because of how theyíve dealt with the handoffs. It was common practice for Motorola GSM phones to quickly blank the audio when a handoff occur, giving it a rather non-offensive flavor. The RAZR on the other hand sounds a lot like a Nokia when it hands off, which isnít necessarily a bad thing, but I found the handoffs messier-sounding than on other Motorola models.

However, over-the-road performance is actually quite decent on this model, if not quite as a smooth-sounding as on other Motorola models (such as many of the Vxxx-series phones).

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: Once again, my expectations here were high because of my experience with many of the previous Motorola GSM phones Iíve tested. It was almost expected that Motorola models would have exceptional tonal balance with rich, full-bodied sound that is an aural joy. I was therefore rather disappointed by the RAZR, which sounds a little hollow and lacks the richness that Iíve come to expect from Motorola models. Comparing it once again to the Nokia 6310i and the Siemens A56, the RAZR comes off sounding like a cheaper phone.

This isnít to say that the RAZR is a bad-sounding phone in the grand scheme of things, because it isn't. It actually sounds pretty good, but when it is compared to other Motorola GSM models and low-end phones like the A56 (and especially to my Nokia 6310i) the RAZR just fails to impress.

Sound Reproduction: Yet again the RAZR fails to meet expectations, but at the same time it doesnít sound all that bad compared to other less-than-stellar phones that Iíve tested over the years. Compared to my Nokia 6310i the RAZR has a slightly coarse-sounding reproduction that just hasnít been a problem with other Motorola GSM models.

Outgoing sound quality is another matter completely. Itís a tad crude-sounding and it isnít very loud. Most GSM phones operating on Rogers produce quite loud outgoing audio, but the RAZR is quite a bit fainter.

Earpiece Volume: The earpiece volume of the RAZR is also mediocre. It is neither stunningly loud nor ridiculously faint. Itís about the same level as the A56, which I never gave particularly high marks to for earpiece volume. I found that the RAZR was loud enough for most circumstances, but it is insufficient in noisier conditions, especially if the caller is faint. This is a common problem with Motorola GSM phones however, and so it isnít a specific failing of the RAZR.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Speakerphone: The RAZR includes a built-in speakerphone, but the overall volume and clarity of the speaker are really disappointing. There are countless phones (especially some of the newer Nokia models) that simply blow it out of the water in this respect. This is just one of those speakerphones thatís great for when someone puts you on hold, but otherwise iffy for use in a real conversation.

Ringer Volume: The ringer on the RAZR uses the same speaker that gives it such poor speakerphone performance. As a result the ringers arenít as loud as they could be and they are nowhere near as clear and melodic as on, say, a V300. The volume is loud enough for most environments (those that arenít too noisy), but for really loud conditions (like busy malls and sidewalks) the phone could do with a better ringer. However, it is certainly louder than quite a few phones Iíve tested over the years, and with the correctly-chosen ringtone it shouldnít be too much of an issue.

Keypad Design: This is the first phone Iíve ever tested with a literally flat keyboard. From a styling point of view the keypad is actually quite stunning, and yet still quite traditional in its layout. The keys all press easily with good tactile feel. My only misgiving with the keypad is the complete lack of differentiation between one key and other. Like other flush keypads it is difficult to use without actually looking at it, and itís also difficult to know if you are pressing the correct key until youíve pressed it. After prolonged usage of the keypad I found it rather annoying.

Display: This is probably the single best feature of the phone. The display itself is quite large (measuring 4.4 cm tall by 3.8 cm wide, which is approximately 1.75 by 1.5 inches). Color clarity and brightness are first rate, and the display is even visible in direct sunlight.

The only flaw I found with the display is that it darkens appreciable as the phone is twisted from side to side. The problem this creates is that no mater what angle you look at it, each of your eyes sees a slightly different brightness and color balance. The effect can be interesting, but over long periods of time it is a strain on your eyes.

Conclusions

I biggest gripe with the RAZR is that itís a bronze-winning phone masquerading as a gold medalist. There is no excuse why an up-market phone such as this should be trounced in CORE FEATURES by the likes of an entry-level phone such as the A56. Sure, the RAZR is better in many ways than a lot of cut-rate phones out there, but given its placement in the market the RAZR comes out looking like a poor excuse for engineering.

So if I were recommending a Motorola phone to anyone I wouldnít pick the RAZR unless I knew that person favored style over substance. Then again, I donít tend to recommend phones to people who have such priorities because Iím not in the habit of taking on the role of beauty pageant judge.

Clearly the RAZR has styling that really gets peopleís attention, but once we look beneath the gorgeous skin we find a phone that isnít even close to matching the performance of other ďless attractiveĒ models like the A56, or vanilla Motorola models.
 

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