Motorola's Atrix a fine phone

The Atrix can be thought of as one of the first examples of a post-PC computer, offering many of the same advantages of a PC in a much smaller, more portable and more adaptable form.
When the Atrix is plugged in to an optional dock that resembles a notebook computer, it can be used much like a laptop. Another dock can be connected to a computer monitor and keyboard to allow the Atrix to act like a desktop PC or can be connected to an HD television, allowing the device to act as a kind of digital set-top box. The accessories allow users to write e-mail, surf Web pages or even watch movies as they would on a standard computer.
To be sure, the Atrix is more than just a wannabe PC. It's also a fully capable smartphone based on Google's Android operating system. It's superfast at playing games and running typical phone apps, thanks to its dual-core processor, one of the first in a device this small. It has a high-resolution 4-inch screen, and includes a new, refined version of Motoblur, Motorola's software that links contact information with status updates
drawn from users' social networking and other online accounts.
But it's the Atrix's ability to mimic and potentially replace other tech gadgets that makes it so intriguing.
I'm writing this review at my desk. For part of the time, I've used the monitor and keyboard I use with my office-issued Windows PC. But I've also been using something that looks and feels very much like a notebook computer. In both cases, the actual "computer" I've been using has been the Atrix.
The notebook accessory for the Atrix, dubbed the laptop dock, has a full keyboard, a trackpad, an 11.5-inch LCD screen and its own battery that Motorola says will last for up to eight hours of use even while recharging the battery that's in the phone itself. The Atrix plugs in to the accessory through a dock that's hidden behind the accessory's screen.
When you plug in the phone, the screen on the laptop dock lights up and you get an interface called "webtop" that offers a computer desktop and taskbar. From the webtop taskbar, you can launch the Firefox Web browser or, through a virtual image of the Atrix's screen, any application you have installed on the device.
The other accessory — the HD Multimedia dock — is more versatile. If you attach it to a computer monitor via a digital video cable, you can use the Atrix as a kind of desktop computer. The dock has two USB ports into which you can plug a wired keyboard or mouse or an external hard or flash drive. You also can connect the Atrix to a wireless keyboard or mouse using Bluetooth.
Alternatively, you can plug the HD dock into your TV using an HDMI cable and use the Atrix as a media player. A built-in application called entertainment center allows users to quickly access and view on their television the pictures, songs and movies stored on the device. The HD dock includes a remote control that allows users to do all this from the comfort of their couch.
Unfortunately, the Atrix's versatility comes at a high price and doesn't work very well in practice.
The laptop dock alone is $300 — not including the price of the phone or your wireless service plan — which is about what you'd pay for a low-end notebook computer with an actual brain in it. The HD dock, with a bundled keyboard, mouse and remote control, goes for $190, or about twice what you'd pay for a Roku media player or Apple TV, both of which are able to do much more as digital living-room devices.


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