A lot of people in the tech world have been talking about modular computing for years. The idea: carry around a primary device, which plugs into various docks to deliver more functionality. Today Motorola made that concept a reality with the very innovative Atrix 4G, which is coming to AT&T. This dual-core Android superphone not only outputs whatever is on its display to separate laptop and home media docks, it launches a whole separate webtop application that delivers a full HTML browser (Firefox 3.6). You can even see both the phone and webtop interfaces at once, which can interact in clever ways.
We got some hands-on time with this exciting device and wanted to share our first impressions, along with some photos and a quick video.
Hardware and Specs
By itself, the Atrix 4G is a beast of a device, powered by Nvidia’s dual-core Tegra 2 chip. Coupled with a whopping 1GB of RAM, this CPU is capable of 1080p video playback and smooth Flash performance. The device sports both front- and rear-facing cameras and can record HD video. The qHD display (960 x 540 pixels) isn’t as gorgeous as a Super AMOLED panel, but menus and web sites looked bright and colorful. For the security conscious, a unique and convenient biometric fingerprint reader is there for unlocking the phone. The 4G in this phone’s name means the handset will tap into AT&T’s HSPA+ network for enhanced speeds up to 6 Mbps.
Docking Options, webtop App
The Atrix 4G has an HDMI output, but things get really interesting when you plug the phone into Motorola’s Laptop Dock. You just connect the device into the back of the ultrathin 2.4-pound clamshell, and the Atrix 4G is transformed into a mini notebook. The dock features a 11.6-inch screen and a chiclet-style keyboard that felt solid but somewhat scrunched. It’s definitely not full size. You also get two touch buttons and a trackpad that worked well when we briefly surfed the web.
Motorola’s webtop app lets you surf the full web (yes, we got the real Gmail), enjoy Flash sites, and even run Android apps like Citrix Receiver. Those with a Citrix account can run full Windows right on this Android device, which was pretty wild to see in action.
The Motorola HD Multimedia Dock has features USB ports and an HDMI port. This little accessory gives you the flexibility to connect the Atrix 4G to a HDTV for enjoying media or for plugging in a larger monitor, keyboard, and mouse at your desk. The beauty of these docks is that it you can just pick up where you left off. For example, when we loaded Laptopmag.com on the phone itself and then connected to the Atrix 4G to the Laptop Dock, the Firefox browser automatically opened the site.
In docked mode you can use Android apps at full screen, or place the phone screen on the left and web interface on the right. You can even leverage both interfaces at the same time, such as looking up a business in the browser and then dialing it on the phone.
Although there’s still a lot of unknowns, such as the price of the Laptop Dock, the Atrix 4G really pushes the limits of what a smart phone can be. It builds upon the ahead-of-its-time Palm Foleo and niche devices like the Redfly and takes the modular concept to the next level.