The Motorola Atrix 4G is the latest victim of the iFixit teardown team's Torx screwdrivers, plastic opening tools and nosey prodding. The smartphone, which AT&T will begin offering March 6, is alone in coming with a dock that can turn a user's smartphone experience into more of a netbook experience. It's also the first smartphone on the U.S. market to boast a dual-core processor-though LG introduced its Optimus 2X first.
As far as the iFixit team is concerned, however, the really big news is that the Atrix 4G is the most repairable smartphone they've taken apart, earning it a repairability score of 9 out of 10. (The Nokia N8, you may remember, earned an 8 out of 10, as did the Dell Streak. By contrast, the Verizon Apple iPhone 4 received a 6 out of 10, while the repair-averse Apple MacBook Air got just a 4 out of 10.)
Motorola's owner-friendliness was evident from the start. Not only did the Atrix 4G's cover come off easily, but also printed inside the back cover are instructions showing users how to remove the battery and reconnect the cover.
"We applaud Motorola's drive to help its users with this procedure," iFixit wrote on its site.
Also easy, said the site, was "exposing the innards of the phone," which prove accessible with the removal of a few T5 Torx screws and some plastic clips. (No "evil screws" here, as they found on the Apple iPhone 4.) Even a big sticker showing a model number and SKUs came off easily and was fixed with an adhesive that make it possible to re-stick it after it was removed.
Seven steps in, the team noted, "We haven't encountered any VOID stickers or things of that sort while taking apart the Atrix, making it appear to be very repair-friendly."
A few steps later, the major players on the motherboard were revealed to include an Elpida chip that contains 1GB of DDR2 RAM and covers the phone's Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU. There's also an Ericsson chip, along with technology from Qualcomm-supporting HSPA+ (Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) technology and putting the 4G in Atrix 4G-Toshiba, Triquint, Kionix and Hynix.
In what the team called a nice bit of integration, the phone's front camera, earpiece speaker, power-button assembly and top microphone are all housed on a single cable. Again, on another cable, the rear camera, proximity sensor, ambient-light sensor, pressure contacts for the headphone jack and side volume buttons all come out as a single piece.
"What a decade can do for cables," enthused the team. Comparing the thickness of a Parallel ATA cable to the Atrix camera cable, wrote iFixit, "the PATA cable is 0.66 mm thick, while Atrix's camera cable measures 0.17 mm! And they're routing several components through the same cable!" In a photo on the site, the two are the equivalent thicknesses of a stick of gum and its wrapper.
From there, the team removed the metal plate behind the LCD display, releasing a few retaining clips and-success. The LCD, which Motorola chose not to glue to the front panel glass, lifts right up from the panel. More than saving the team from breaking out their heat gun, this lack of glue is good news for owners.
"The roughly 80% (this number is a rough estimate and is a calculation deemed accurate by the iFixit statistical department) of people who drop their Atrix now won't have to spend their money on replacing a fully functional LCD in addition to their broken glass!" writes iFixit.
While finding the smartphone to be "definitely designed for repairability," and "just waiting for our loving hands to disassemble it," wrote iFixit, two things barred it from earning a perfect score. These, wrote Miroslav Djuric, iFixit's director of technical communication, are Motorola's MotoBlur, "we prefer vanilla Android, thankyouverymuch, and the dreaded anti-root mechanisms Motorola has insisted on including in its phones."
That said, he added, "We love just about everything else with the phone, including its uncanny ability to be repaired."