A lot of gadgets cross our desks at Sugar HQ, but rarely does one pique the interest of everyone — even the IT guy. The Motorola Atrix 4G and its optional accessories are like nothing I've seen before, most notably because it essentially turns into a fully functioning PC and home entertainment center. The phone runs on AT&T's new 4G network and connects via a dock to either a laptop or to your TV, complete with keyboard, mouse, and remote control, enabling you to view HD video.
What's in the box:
The phone, laptop dock, and TV dock are sold separately. The Atrix starts at $199 for the phone alone with a two-year contract. The laptop dock costs $499, but apply an instant $100 rebate and additional $100 mail-in rebate to bring the price to $299. The HD dock will run you an additional $130; $190 for the dock bundled with keyboard and mouse.
Find out more, including my take on the Atrix after the break.
The Android device runs a custom-built version of Android 2.2, including Motoblur. It's not my favorite interface, and if you're used to a traditional Android device, you may be put off by Motoblur at first. It features a dual-core processor, 16GB of storage with room for an additional 32GB on microSD. The rear-facing 5mp camera and flash also shoots HD video. It also boasts a 960 by 540 screen, which is higher than the Nexus S and just slightly less than the iPhone 4's 960 by 640.
The Atrix uses Firefox as its browser (slightly strange given that it's an Android device, no?) and has built-in Adobe Flash support. Everything about it is fast, including its camera.
The full setup includes the HD Multimedia Dock, a remote control, and bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse. The Atrix fits into the HD dock, which contains an HDMI port, three USB connections, and sound connection. It docks via HDMI port and micro-USB, so you could conceivably also plug the phone directly into your TV, though the remote control will only work with the dock itself, not the phone. The keyboard is thin, but full-size and easy to use, with several Android shortcut keys for mail, chat, web browsing, and the Android Market. It requires two AA batteries; the mouse requires two AAA batteries.
The entertainment center interface is simple to navigate using the remote control; scroll quickly through music, photos, and videos using either the remote control or keyboard keys.
The Atrix 4G's laptop dock is incredibly thin and light (2.4 pounds) with an 11.6-inch screen. It has its own battery with a life of up to eight hours. The keyboard is slightly smaller than a standard, but very close to the size of the keyboard in my MacBook Pro. I had no trouble typing with it. The trackpad is large, fast, and responsive. The phone docks on the back of the laptop and the screen lights up almost immediately. The phone functions fully accessible while it's docked to the laptop; just use the keyboard to dial. Separate "webtop" and mobile views on the screen allow you to toggle between your phone's screen and the laptop's — a feature that is both helpful and unique.
As a phone, the Atrix 4G is fast — faster than any Android phone I've used in the past and faster than my iPhone (thanks, 4G!). Each accessory is simple to use. The only problem with the Atrix is that it feels like a major commitment. Yes, it packs the functionality of Internet TV, a phone, and even a netbook, but each accessory is crafted so specifically for the device that when you no longer have the phone, the pricey accessories will be rendered obsolete.
That said, the phone's functionality, speed, feel, and looks are impressive. The laptop dock is so light, sleek, and portable it's hard not to enjoy using it. And the thinking and design behind the laptop dock are notable if only for its originality. Would I use one regularly? Absolutely, though Chrome fans or those not wishing to commit to a new phone may want to wait to see Google's completed and priced CR-48 before committing.