Motorola’s affair with Android has been tumultuous, and one that’s filled with hits and misses, with refined MOTOBLUR user-interface and top-of-the-line hardware, will Motorola strike gold with the ATRIX? Visually, the ATRIX spots a particularly uninspired black-themed design, one that isn’t likely to stand out amidst flashier and dressed-in-aluminum counterparts. The phone is predominantly plastic, which explains its lightweight 135g body. Nonetheless, the ATRIX feels sturdy and fits comfortably in the hand.

The control layout on the ATRIX is fairly straightforward and run-of-the-mall. The HDMI and MicroUSB ports are lined neatly on its left profile, while the volume controls are on the right, A 3.5mm audio port sits on the top right of the smart phone. Two complaints that we have are that there isn’t a shutter button for the camera, and that the power/lock button is positioned awkwardly, if not for the fact that the latter also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner, positioning it on a sloped section of the device makes for rather inconvenient pressing.

What we do like is the ATRIX’s gigantic 4-inch qHD touchscreen, which features tough Gorilla Glass, also one of the smartphone’s many selling points, with a high resolution of 960×540 pixels, text and pictures were crisp and sharp with excellent color rendition. The capacitive screen is accompanied with a row of touch-sensitive controls at the bottom, that are nicely spread out and very responsive when prodded and tapped.

Taking things to a deeper level, it’s a little disappointing that the ATRIX comes with the rather outdated Android 2.2 software, despite being Motorola’s top-end smart phone product, though Motorola says an update to Android 2.3 update is in the works. Nonetheless, the ATRIX does come with some nifty software additions also seen on previous Motorola handsets: built-in SWYPE capabilities, the MOTOBLUR interface and the nifty MOTO Phone Portal app. The inclusion of SWYPE is a welcome addition on the ATRIX, as it nicely complements the standard Qwerty keypad on the device.

The beauty of the Android platform is that it allows manufacturers to dress their phones up with custom interfaces, and the ATRIX is no exception. MOTORBLUR comes with a strong emphasis on social media with custom widgets that allow for easy one-tap connectivity, whether for social networks, status updates and so forth. Motorola-specific widgets can also be freely resized; these include a mixture of widgets for settings, social networking and informative purposes (weather, for example). In addition, the interface also comes with an all-in-one inbox of sorts that combines your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and text-messaging inboxes. Last but not least, the MOTO Photo portal app allows users to organize your phone’s contents (pictures, contacts, SMSes, calls) or reply messages via either USB or Wi-Fi connections on your PC browser.

The other exciting aspect of the ATRIX is that it comes with accessories that drastically transform the basic functionalities of the device. Take for example, the Lapdock, an accessory that looks exactly like a notebook/netbook but comes with a unique preposition – it requires the ATRIX in order to run. The Lapdock is basically a dock with an 11.6-inch screen, keyboard and touchpad. Plug in the phone, and the Lapdock comes to life with the Webtop app launching immediately. On the screen itself, you will see a Linux screen with your ATRIX’s Android window open. The Lapdock immerses users in a netbook/notebook experience through the ATRIX, all the while retaining its smartphone capabilities. For example, you can surf on the Firefox browser available on Lapdock while replying to an SMS on the ATRIX’s Android window, or while answering a phone call. Generally, we liked the Lapdock experience, though the smaller keys on the keyboard can take some getting used to. Do also note that the Internet experience can be slightly sluggish at times since the Lapdock is relying solely on the ATRIX’s dual-core processor to handle CPU-intensive tasks.

On the whole, the ATRIX is a worthy challenger to both existing and upcoming dual-core smartphones on the market. With its speedy processor, performance was generally smooth, whether for day-to-¬¨day operations like surfing, navigation or even gaming. Aside from mediocre camera and battery performance, the ATRIX is still a device that’s very much worth considering, given the outstanding list of features.