As a phone, the Motorola Atrix is one of the most powerful phones we've tested. With that dual-core processor and 1GB RAM, there's ample grunt to maintain a smooth interface.

It also grants you the luxury of hi-def video playback direct to your TV via the HDMI connection. Angry Birds on the big screen, anyone? It runs on Android 2.2 rather than the latest 2.3, but we won't slap it down too much for that. At a glance could be mistaken for any one of a number of decent handsets from LG or HTC.

Docking in

But what sets the Atrix apart is its ability to dock with the custom-built Lapdock to transform itself into a computer. The Lapdock is like a stripped-down laptop - screen, keyboard, trackpad and a pair of USB ports, but that's it. The Atrix does everything else: processing, OS, storage, the lot.

Once you're docked, you get a Linux-based WebTop OS which includes proper Firefox for full-fat browsing. It's a technical marvel and supports the latest internet standards, but the lack of multi-touch gestures or a scrolling edge on the trackpad make page navigation hard work without a mouse.

You'll also notice a simulation of the phone's screen on the desktop. It's weird poking a windowed phone screen via a trackpad, but it does mean you can use the social networking widgets that come with the Motoblur Android skin, along with all the VoIP apps you can download from the Android Market. There's no webcam, but you can make speakerphone calls.

Limited concept

There are limits to this “phone as a computer” concept. There's file management for your phone and any USB-connected storage, and you can edit documents via the likes of the bundled Quickoffice Pro, but it's painfully slow and fiddly. Media playing is a happier affair, aided by a music, movie and picture browser.

If you don't fancy the Lapdock (and in case you hadn't guessed, we don't), there's also the option of plopping the phone into a multimedia dock that outputs via HDMI to a TV, using the same media-playing interface as in Lapdock mode. The addition of USB ports on the multimedia dock makes this a reasonably compact way of viewing video from USB sticks on a TV.

While we applaud the concept and the fact that Motorola has actually followed through with a final product, sadly it doesn't really come off. Physically, it's not the most elegant solution, and once you are set up with the Lapdock you'll probably be left wondering why you didn't just use a netbook instead.

That shouldn't put you off the phone as a standalone item. Beneath the toughened 4in Gorilla Glass is an impressively detailed 960x540 display that compares well with the Super AMOLED screen of Google's Nexus S: it's crisper, it matches the Nexus's black depth and it provides superior, super-bright whites. It's great, and if it ran on Android 2.3 it would be in contention for a fifth star.

Stuff says... 

Motorola Atrix review

A fine figure of a smartphone that wants only for a 2.3 update, but extras disappoint