Review by Dan Seifert on Thursday November 10, 2011.
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One of the upgrades that Motorola applied to the ATRIX 2 over the original model is a new, 8 megapixel camera, replacing the 5 megapixel unit that was found on the original. The new camera features an always-on, continuous focus that can either drive you mad, or make shooting pics easier by taking care of focusing duties for you. In good light, the continuous autofocus worked fairly quickly, but as the light levels dropped, the time it took to achieve a focus lock climbed. The ATRIX 2 has a dedicated camera key that was missing on the ATRIX 4G, but it is set very low into the body of the phone, making it difficult to press. Additionally, it is a single-stage button, so you cannot control autofocus with it.
Images captured with the ATRIX 2 are fairly flat, like those from most of Motorola's cameras, but they do have an impressive amount of detail. The colors lack the punch of images from Samsung or Apple phones, but exposures are reasonably accurate.
Another upgraded feature found in the camera is the ability to record 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixel) HD video, an improvement over the 720p that the ATRIX 4G managed. The video quality was solid, if not quite up to the level of Samsung's Galaxy S II or the iPhone 4S, and the ATRIX 2 supports both zoom and continuous autofocus while recording.
I would be remiss not to point out the numerous bugs and glitches that I experienced while using the camera. During my tests, the camera locked up the phone on a number of occasions, even forcing a full restart of the phone in some instances. Other bugs included no audio playback when reviewing video clips on the phone itself, even though audio was recorded and you could hear it when the clip was played on a computer.
The music app on the Motorola ATRIX 2 is a bit more featured-rich than the one found on stock Android. It features syncing with iTunes or Windows Media Player on a computer, internet radio, podcast support, and an FM radio when headphones are plugged in. The music player also has a "live music information" feature that will scan your music library and offer album and artist art, music news and events, and song recommendations. Also built-in to the music player is a music store where you can purchase individual songs or complete albums. Motorola's ZumoCast app also allows you to stream music from a desktop or laptop computer to the ATRIX 2. Motorola does not include headphones with the ATRIX 2, but the external speaker gets quite loud without breaking up, though it unsurprisingly lacks bass response.
The Motorola ATRIX 2 is equipped with a 1,785mAh battery, a tad smaller unit than the 1930mAh battery that fueled the ATRIX 4G. Actual battery life was average for an Android device these days, as it lasted about 12 hours with light use, and tapped out around 8 hours with heavier usage. This was with my standard set up of two email accounts set for push notifications and multiple social media accounts syncing at short intervals.
The Motorola ATRIX 2 is a mild improvement over the ATRIX 4G that preceded it. An improved screen, potentially faster data speeds, and a better camera - overlooking the camera software issues, of course - add up to a better overall smartphone experience. Unfortunately, the only reason many consumers will look at the ATRIX 2 is likely because of its price, which, at $99.99 on-contract, is significantly less than the other dual-core smartphones that clutter the shelves of most mobile phone retailers. The ATRIX 2 is not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S II or the Apple iPhone 4S, both of which are $199, but for those on a tighter budget, it is a solid, if slightly boring, smartphone choice.
You will find sample images and a sample video captured with the Motorola ATRIX 2 on the following page.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.