Motorola Atrix 4G Review

Joshua Topolsky:

As far as the display goes, we’re extremely excited to see new Android phones taking higher resolution screens. With the added real estate the qHD provides, we were able to get a lot more utility out of Gmail, the browser, and a handful of other content-heavy applications, and text and images looked crystal clear on the display. There were some issues with Android applications that don’t properly take advantage of increased resolution, but they were few and far between — for the vast majority of software we used, the display worked beautifully. Touch response was also excellent, though we can’t say if that’s due to the screen technology at play here, or that super fast CPU. One item of note — the display is difficult to see in bright daylight, and the automatic brightness adjustment didn’t quite do the trick.

The Motorola Atrix 4G has a 4-inch TFT LCD with a pixel format of 960×540. I dislike meaningless jargon as much as the next guy so I’ll try to unpack this useless term: qHD. The q stands for quarter and HD refers to 1920×1080. Put two together and you get quarter HD. Halve the horizontal and halve vertical and you get a quarter: 960×540, exactly one quarter of HD. Now the funny thing is when anyone wants to refer to a pixel format of 1920×1080, they usually say Full HD and/or 1080p, not HD. So technically and more correctly it should be qFHD, another ugly jargon. Using the term qHD only makes things more complicated; I hope it goes away.

The 960×540 pixel format on the Atrix 4G translates into a resolution of 275PPI, which is lower than the class-leading iPhone 4 (326PPI), but still quite high. Using a looser definition of Retina Display would this qualify? I think so. Like Topolsky has already mentioned the text and images are crystal clear. I’m glad to see other brands besides Apple and Samsung put more emphasis on great displays. That’s great, but:

I’m not an Android app developer, but if I were one I’d be pulling my hair out! There are too many different pixel formats to support. I’m surprised that there aren’t more apps that don’t fully support the higher resolution LCD on the Atrix 4G. And it’s not like 480×270 was the default pixel format before and now all developers have to do is double the pixels vertically and horizontally. I think display pixel format fragmentation on the Android platform is going to get worse. And that’s one of the reasons why I don’t think Apple will be coming out with a smaller iPhone with a different pixel format. iOS developers want to develop and deploy apps as quickly as possible. Having to code for a different set of pixel formats not only make the development process more difficult, it takes longer to push it out, and adds a lot of burden on customer support.