Motorola Atrix: Your Next PC?

I’ve rarely been so excited about some new technology item as I was when I first saw the Motorola Atrix and Laptop dock at CES in Las Vegas in January this year.

By Magnus Nysted

Published: Sat 3 Sep 2011, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:03 AM

The premise is simple: the smartphone becomes the center of your computing universe and you have “dumb” Lapdock, which essentially turns the smartphone into a netbook, when you need a keyboard and larger screen. But does it live up to the promise?

Let’s first quickly look at the Atrix. It’s a smartphone with a 4-inch touchscreen running Android 2.2 (2.3 update coming September 15 according to Motorola’s PR in Dubai), 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB memory on board and microSD card slot, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording.

Where it gets really interesting is the accessories, primarily the HD Multimedia Dock and the Lapdock. Place the Atrix in the Multimedia Dock, connect USB keyboard and mouse, and a monitor or TV using HDMI, and you have in a effect a desktop computer. On the TV runs WebTop, a Linux-based operating system that resides on the Atrix but that gives you a high resolution working environment on the TV. You can really only run FireFox 3.6 but you can install addons and Adobe Flash runs, just like in the FireFox you run on your computer.

The concept is the same with the Lapdock, except it turns the Atrix, in effect, into a netbook. You dock the Atrix at the back of the Lapdock and the Webtop software starts up. While connected, the Atrix is charged from the Lapdock’s battery and Motorola claims a battery life of 8-10 hours which seems pretty accurate. The keyboard and trackpad on the Lapdock works just like on a netbook and you will find two USB ports on the Lapdock for connecting a mouse, flash memory etc. Although you’re limited to just the FireFox web browser, the Lapdock still makes the setup a decent working environment, which, for some users, can replace a netbook.

After using the Atrix, the Multimedia Dock and the Lapdock for a while now I can tell you my excitement for the idea has not diminished but I’m less impressed with the practicalities of using this to replace a PC.

The main problem is that when up and running, Webtop just runs too slow. There’s too much lag between clicking on a tab in FireFox until it switches, it takes too long to scroll on many web pages, etc. This means, the solution is okay for short periods of work but not quick enough to permanently replace a PC, and therefore the concept fails. Memory is also an issue as I repeatedly got messages saying Webtop was out of memory and that I should close tabs and pages.

The Motorola Atrix is a pretty good smartphone on its own although competitors have passed it by in recent months. With the Multimedia Dock and the Lapdock it still offers a flexibility that no one else can touch. The implementation, however, is not as good as it needs to be and the price of the accessories also has to come down considerably before something like this is a credible alternative to buying stand-alone items.

Atrix sells for Dh2,399, the Multimedia Dock is Dh400, and the Laptop Dock is Dh1700. You can also get the Atrix with Multimedia Dock for Dh2,599 or with Lapdock for Dh 2,799. —

· Magnus Nystedt talks and writes about technology as much as he can. Follow him on Twitter as @mnystedt for the latest on consumer technology in the Middle East.

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