Motorola’s most powerful CDMA phone ever is a Verizon Wireless exclusive in the United States. Does it have the power to stand out, or is it stuck living in the shadow of the RAZR2? Read more to find out…
Buy a RAZR maxx Ve at VerizonWireless.com ($199.99 after rebate with new two-year agreement)
Buy a RAZR maxx Ve at LetsTalk.com ($129.99 after rebate with new two-year agreement)
The RAZR maxx Ve is really the second CDMA RAZR. The original RAZR V3c was replaced with the RAZR V3m, but the only difference was the addition of a memory card slot (which, actually, was simply not installed in the original V3c… both were based on the much-thicker E815 which bore a microSD slot originally). So, now we are at the Ve.
The RAZR maxx Ve builds on the V3m in a few ways. First, newer displays. The Ve finally adds a QVGA internal display, and a large external display. The display is larger vertically than horizontally, and resembles an E815 external display rotated 90 degrees. Second, is with a better camera, the Ve has a 2.0 megapixel CMOS camera with auto-focus, a first for Motorola. Finally, it adds Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP. The Ve also incorporates improvements from the Motorola KRZR K1m, and features the same touch-sensitive keys.
First Impressions, Basic Phone Functionality
The first thing that everyone notices about the RAZR maxx, is the impression that it is thicker than the original RAZR. However, this isn’t really the case. What Motorola did was raise the front faceplate up to the height of the camera. So while you think it’s thicker from memory, comparing the two side-by-size makes you realize that the RAZR maxx is no thicker than a typical RAZR. But, everything isn’t so nice about the new RAZR. While it looks great, a major improvement from the original RAZR, it hides a dark secret… what we’ll call the Ouch Factor.
We handed the RAZR maxx out to several people… every single one of them hurt themselves opening the RAZR maxx. Why? Because the flip has large hinges on both side… probably to accommodate the auto-focus camera. Unfortunately, they taper off in a manner that if your finger is guiding the phone, you’re going to get pinched if it’s covering the area where the hinge lands on. This is made worse by people thinking it’s an original RAZR. The original RAZR does not create a “pinch zone”, allowing people to leave their finger at top-left of the phone (or top-right part if you’re left handed). Not only does the RAZR maxx create a pinch zone, it creates one of the largest we’ve ever seen in a phone. Bottom line: if you don’t want to be pinched, keep your hand off the top of the phone when flipping it open. Not a great design aspect from the second revision of the RAZR.
Another design aspect we didn’t like, was the Motorola logo at the bottom of the phone. It’s cheaply painted on… doesn’t look good, prone to flaking, and would have been much better off with the stylized metal rippling logo that Motorola is famous for (it’s on the back of every RAZR). When you’re paying $300+ for a regular phone, you expect to not have cheap painted logos on your phone.
Functionality-wise, the RAZR maxx Ve shines in the basics department. Call quality is excellent, and the keypad is designed to accommodate all the landscape of the device; the keys extend from one end of the device to the other, unlike the original RAZR. Reception is typical of the RAZR, in fact, we didn’t notice any difference from the V3m RAZR.
Sadly, the phone still continues to carry the terrible Verizon Wireless User Interface. And to add insult to injury, it still doesn’t have the (still terrible) Flash-based user interface of just about every other new phone. Motorola has confirmed that this is the last high-end Motorola to lack Verizon’s Flash-based UI; the RAZR2 will have Flash-based UI installed. However, we’d feel much better having an Off switch for the whole deal. Thousands and thousands of users are hacking Motorola Verizon phones to tear off the Verizon user interface, and the exclusivity on the phone makes it even more difficult to do that on the RAZR maxx.
Advanced Phone Functionality
The phone’s large QVGA screen does make some Get it Now applications appear tiny. This is mostly due to the result of lazy developers refusing to adapt their programs for the Ve specifically, and offering them up the V3c/V3m RAZR applications (which bear a much smaller resolution). Most high-quality applications however work great, such as V CAST Video and VZ Navigator.
Bluetooth has been improved with A2DP and is the first CDMA Motorola with Bluetooth 2.0. However, we experienced several issues with Bluetooth on the device. Mainly, range issues with headsets disconnecting even when in a pant pocket (and headset on the opposing ear). That is simply not acceptable for a phone of this pricetag. Worse, it makes us want to dump it for the V3m RAZR… what good is Bluetooth 2.0 and A2DP if you can’t get a good signal?
The web browser is as bad as usual. While GSM phones get treated to an embeeded version of Opera Mobile, Verizon users are stuck with the standard Openwave browser. Worse, Sprint’s Obgio browser on their Motorola phones runs circles around Openwave’s implementation… even on the RAZR maxx Ve. Considering both are running as BREW apps, this is simply not acceptable, there is no reason that a Sprint Motorola phone should have a browser that is twice as fast. It is simply in Motorola’s interest to either migrate Verizon phones to Obgio, or scrap both and deploy a reliable Opera Mobile implementation.
V CAST Music works just like the V3m (aside from the addition of A2DP). Newer features such as V CAST Song ID are not yet available on the RAZR maxx Ve to test. The touch sensitive music keys however work as expected.
The Drop Test
As usual, we drop most phones that we review, to test their durability. The test is performed at pocket-level, onto sidewalk. The Ve took most of the damage on the bottom of the front of the phone. Thankfully, we didn’t find a bunch of white plastic underneath the few scratch-level dents that were made. So, this phone is a bit more durable than the typical plastic-casing you’d find.
But watch out for that front-facing glass. Our drop didn’t touch it, so we can’t attest to its durability.
The camera is probably the RAZR maxx Ve’s best asset. Finally, a Motorola phone with an adequate camera. While Sony Ericsson and Nokia have each turned out wave after wave of phones with models specifically catering to the camera-quality crowd… Motorola has ignored this market. The RAZR maxx finally tries to correct this. The 2.0 megapixel CMOS is augmented with an LED flash and auto-focus.
We wanted to pick a shot that really stress tested this phone, and there isn’t a better place than the Verizon Wireless retail store (we just happened to be there… Verizon sends us their phones for review directly). The lighting conditions are poor because they’re right on the edge between when to flash or to not (dark, but not too dark).
Click to enlarge…
As shown above, the camera takes very nice photos, even in poor lighting conditions. Text readability is sharp, sharp enough for us to segway to the sticker shock; $369.99 without contract. But hey, at least you’re getting a phone with a camera that can auto-focus enough to handle reading the pricetag without squinting or de-blurring.
The camera is actually one of the few places where the RAZR maxx’s differ. The GSM (V6) and CDMA (Ve) versions differ in their cameras, despite having similar specifications. The GSM version has a front-facing camera on the hinge. The CDMA version however has an auto-focus trigger. The auto-focus is rather manual, unlike other phones, the user presses down about half way on the key (it is pressure-sensitive). Upon pressing down half-way, the camera will sample and auto-focus, turning the cross-hairs green if the focus is acquired. Pressing down quickly has it basically take a guess and shoot, even if there is not a reliable acquisition of focus.
The camera is indeed a good camera. The auto-focus when combined with an auto-flash removes the bad-photo-syndrome so present on Motorola phones. We had trouble throwing off the auto-focus, and it was very hard to take a bad photo with the focus locked in. Is it a Sony Ericsson S710a (or any other phone with a CCD lens for that matter)? No. But, it’s as close as you’ll get in this generation of phones.
In the end, the RAZR maxx Ve is nothing more than a V3m with a better display, better camera, and better (but buggy) Bluetooth. With the buggy Bluetooth out of the equation, this is nothing more than a modest improvement to a mid-range phone for over $350, fixing the major complaints about the original RAZR.
Does it stand out from the RAZR2? That’s hard to say… the auto-focusing camera might perform better (we’ll let you know on that one when we review the RAZR2 itself). But, feature-wise, there aren’t any advantages in the RAZR maxx Ve over the RAZR2. The RAZR maxx would have been a great phone, if it was released 6-9 months ago. We’re sticking with the original RAZR V3m and SLVR L7c for now.
Pros: Most powerful CDMA phone, excellent camera
Cons: Buggy Bluetooth, about to become obsolete right after release
Final Score: 3/5