Motorola Atrix Lapdock – Novelty or Necessary

Having had a Motorola Atrix since its release earlier this year I can wholeheartedly say, that while it has its issues, it is as close to a perfect phone as I have ever had. It is certainly the best Android device I have used. But it isn’t just a phone.

Being an early adopter I have also got the Atrix’s Standard dock and the HD Entertainment dock with keyboard and mouse. So it was only a matter of time until I had to get the accessory that Wow’d everyone including myself at CES this year, the laptop dock or lapdock as Motorola calls it. I remember holding it at the Motorola stand at CES and just being blown away that something so seemingly simple and obvious was finally built and that Apple didn’t build it.

When I finally received the lapdock recently I immediately was thrilled to see that it’s size and aluminium body were just as I remembered from CES.

The Atrix in the lapdock

What is noticeable immediately is a solidly built, razor thin product that dare I say it, resembles a Macbook Air in build. It certainly has an exceptional build quality that sadly the phone lacks.

The phone slots into the dock easily and solidly and when the lid is opened you are face to face with the sharp 11.6″ WXGA (1366 x 768) screen which compliments the frame’s quality build. It is a real shame that Motorola chose to wrap the Motorola cheap case rather then a slick casing similar to the lapdock.

Atrix Lapdock

It has a chiclet style keyboard that is pretty well spaced and has good tactile feedback. In fact it is better then some netbook keyboards I have used.  It’s oversized trackpad is solid and easy to use and responsive. However due to it’s size it can get in the way if you rest your wrists while typing.

There are two USB ports at the back which is another positive as they enable thumbdrives, external hard drives and other peripherals which immediately has the lapdock encroaching into laptop territory.

Atrix Lapdock next to MSI Wind U100+

It’s weight of around 1kg and its form factor put it ahead of many netbooks in its category. I say category but it doesn’t really have one. it is currently in a unique category of its own but it is clearly aiming to be a replacement for a netbook.

Atrix Lapdock vs MSI Wind U100+

So what is it good for?

The first thing that it has in its favour is that as long as it is charged and you have your Atrix with a data connection you are able to do almost every basic daily activity on it, from sending emails and updating Facebook to surfing the web using Firefox (odd that it isn’t Chrome you may think).

Webtop OS

It will take about 30 – 40 seconds to boot up once you have put your unlocked phone in the dock and opened the screen. If you are a Windows user you will take a bit of getting used to its user interface. With its OSX style icon dock at the bottom with a number of icon shortcuts to Facebook, Firefox it is pretty straight forward. There is a status bar at the top with Wifi, Bluetooth and battery displays.

Once you get the hang of using the phone’s software for certain tasks such as email and tweetdeck it is really quite straight forward. I used Quickoffice to do basic word-processing documents but you can also use Google docs.

The dock is all about the “Cloud” and this is where there are limitations. Without the Atrix in the dock it is a beautifully crafted industrial metal paperweight and with an Atrix without a data connection it is a music and video player.

Entertainment Centre

The Entertainment Centre allows you to watch videos play music or view pictures that are stored on the phone. I’d advise you to listen to music through headphones attached to the phones 3.5mm jack as the lapdock’s speakers are as expected just functional.

With the phone in the dock if a call comes in you can answer it using the lapdock and the phone becomes a speaker phone. However you can remove the phone and take the call and then replace the phone into the dock and it will start where it left off.

It isn’t a fast laptop it is certainly no threat to an Atom powered netbook as far as performance goes but it doesn’t try to be. It is there as an extension of your phone and is perfect for a commute to work to clear emails or update Facebook. It is also perfect for keeping in touch while on business or even vacation. But it is limited. You wouldn’t try an put huge pitch presentations on it or heavy graphics.

What is needed for version 2.0?

I hope that this isn’t a one off. I would like to see Motorola develop a new phones to fit this dock so that it isn’t obsolete in a matter of months.

However I would also like to see version 2.0 have the following, be cheaper, a webcam, a touchscreen, more webtop apps and a longer battery life, (although mine has lasted 8 hours in one sitting and that was also charging the phone’s battery), and be backwardly compatible with current Atrix.

The only thing that comes close right now is the Asus Eee Transformer but that is a tablet with a keyboard dock which means still having to carry a tablet around as well as your phone. This allows you to have just your normal pocket sized phone when that is all you need or change into a basic but useful laptop.

Well done Motorola you came out with a game changer so let’s see if the game really changes in the market or whether it is just one of those great ideas that will sadly be obsolete in a year or so. Either way it is everything I need for commuting to work, showing products to clients or watching videos while travelling on a plane and all that using the power of my phone.

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