Motorola Atrix 2 Best Sub-$100 Android Smartphone Around

Motorola's Atrix 2 is a great smartphone that's well worth the $99 price on contract at a time when the Motorola Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy S II handsets costs $200 to $299.

The thing that's tough about reviewing the Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone line is that you have to get around focusing on the joy the phone's accessories bring to the user. I'm going to give it a shot, but there is one accessory that stands out that I'm going to address later in the review.

The Motorola Atrix 2 sports several refinements over the excellent, inaugural Atrix 4G launched from Ma Bell earlier this year, which I noted then was AT&T's best Android handset ever.

With a $99 price tag on contract, I'd argue without hesitation that the Atrix 2 is the best sub-$100 Android smartphone on the market--hands down.

The Atrix 2 runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread on a 4.3-inch Qhd (Quarter High Definition) screen that sparkles to the eye with a 960-by-540 resolution. Recall that the original Atrix, which debuted at the 2011 Consumer Electronics show in January and cost $199 at launch, has a 4-inch screen and ran Android 2.2 Froyo at launch. The Atrix 2 is similarly designed and sized, sporting a metal housing with a texturized, black rubber enclosure.

The Atrix 2 is powered by a speedy, 1GHz dual-core processor, which together with AT&T's 4G network makes for a nice combination of application performance. YouTube, Angry Birds and Motorola's ZumoCast cloud application for music and movie playing worked well, as did the Motorola Music app.

Call quality was as crisp and clear as usual, though I've always had pretty solid AT&T service here in Fairfield County, Conn. The camera, with 8 megapixels and fun perks like the ability to take six consecutive pictures with multi-shot capability, is vastly superior to the pedestrian 5 megapixel shutter in the original Atrix.

While I found some lag time on the original Atrix, I found none on the Atrix 2. Moreover, the Atrix 2's video camera records and playbacks video in HD 1080p, besting the 720p capture and 1080p playback of the original Atrix 4G

The Atrix 2 also has 8GB on board memory, expandable to 32GB, 1GB of Dual Channel RAM. That's actually less than the 16GB of onboard memory of its predecessor, whose microSD is expandable to 48GB. The battery, a 1785 mAh power supply, is also solid, lasting me 12 hours on a full charge with moderate use.

The new Motorola Lapdock 100 is the real joy of using the Atrix 2, allowing users to leverage the Atrix 2's Webtop app to put the phone's content on a larger, 10.1-inch HD display with a 1366-by-768 resolution. The idea of the Webtop and dock is a fine one for corporate road warriors who don't want to carry a laptop or tablet computer.

Atrix 2 users simply plug their phone into the Lapdock 100 via the phone's mini-USB and HDMI ports to immediately access their phone applications and content.

That includes QuickOffice for Microsoft Exchange program access and Google Docs, even CRM and ERP apps through the Mozilla Firefox browser that launches when the Webtop app connects to the dock.

There's something cool about being able to control your phone's dialer app from the Dock by picking a number from contacts and calling a number with a simple finger scroll and click of a button. Apps can get added or dropped from an application tray at the bottom of the Lapdock 100 screen.

The Lapdock 100 offers 2 USB ports, and comes with a 30 watt wall charger that resembles a notebook power cord. Unfortunately, the Lapdock 100 pricing and availability has not been disclosed.

My biggest problem with the Lapdock 100 was the 2-finger trackpad, which I found slower and less responsive than the trackpad on the first, more clunky dock I used last year. The original dock actually weighed slightly more -- 2.4 pounds to the 2.2 pounds of the new model. Probably because of the 11.6-inch display WXGA display.

There's no question $99 for the Atrix 2 is a great bargain, but AT&T and Motorola are pushing for Atrix 2 buyers, who both companies envision will be the corporate road warriors who get reimbursed for company equipment, to shell out hundreds of dollars for the Motorola Lapdock 100.

I can recommend the Atrix 2 if you're an AT&T customer in need of a great, low-cost, premium smartphone. And you don't even need the Lapdock to enjoy. It's a fine calling, texting and application-accelerating handset for anyone. It's a nice sign that users needn't shell out $200 to $300 for a high-end Android phone.