Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Motorola Atrix HD: Which AT&T Smartphone to Buy?

By Johnny Wills | Jul 18, 2012 10:40 AM EDT

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Following early leaks and rumors, Motorola Atrix HD is finally official. Selling as an AT&T exclusive for $99 on a two-year contract, the third member of Motorola's Atrix family is a strong competitor to high-end smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S3.

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Motorola Atrix HD is the best smartphone in the Atrix family - for both looks and specs. The design is simply inspired from the Razr family. In simple words, it is an updated Droid Razr Maxx with the same potential to be one of the best-selling smartphone at AT&T

The Atrix HD has 4.5-inch ColorBoost HD display, Snapdragon S4 processor, an 8-megapixel camera, and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The specs are competitive to the Galaxy S3. Let us see how it compares spec-to-spec and feature-to-feature against the mighty Galaxy S3.

Design and Display

As figured out earlier, the Atrix HD is AT&T's Droid Razr with rounded corners and revamped face. At 8.4mm thickness, the Atrix is really slim - even slimmer than 8.6mm thick Galaxy S3. Lined up against the Galaxy S3, it is less taller, but with negligible difference in width.  Overall, the Kevlar backplate is an advantage for the Atrix HD, but the "wow" feeling is still missing from the design.  

Coming to the display, the Atrix HD has 4.5-inch LCD display with HD resolution. The Galaxy S3 heralds the same resolution on a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display. Motorola has added something they call "ColorBoost" in the Atrix HD, whose function is to slightly over-saturate colors and give a vibrant effect to the display. Fortunately, a little over-saturation is not an issue as at 326ppi the display is sharper and easily readable when compared to the Galaxy S3's screen, which has a pixel density of 306ppi.

The main problem with Atrix HD's display is the large bezel that surrounds it, which is not a standard for high-end smartphones. It also lacks presence of a physical button below the screen. Samsung Galaxy S3, on the other hand, at big with a larger display that dominates the front side of the smartphone.

Processor, Memory, and Storage

Both smartphones run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. However, the Galaxy S3 takes the game a step further with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Atrix HD has just 8GB of on-board storage and 1GB of RAM. Both handsets come with a microSD card support for expandable memory options.


Connectivity wise, the two smartphones in the fight are almost the same. The unique feature in the Atrix HD is the dedicated HDMI port. Samsung Galaxy S3 also offers an additional connectivity feature - Near Field Communication (NFC) - for apps like S Beam. Both the smartphone have a benefit from AT&T fast 4G LTE network.

User Interface

Once again, the Android 4.0 - also known as Ice Cream Sandwich - is a common feature on the two smartphone. Galaxy S3 has adopted the traditional TouchWiz skin with revamped UI. Motorola Atrix HD has MotoBlur UI with SmartActions software. Good news is that the heavy MotoBlur integration is gone; however, the bad news is that the lapdock connectivity and Weptop apps are also gone. The Atrix HD is business ready. The government-grade encryption protects all confidential data like contacts, e-mail, and calendar schedule. One other newly added feature is the Circle widget that displays information like data usage, weather, battery stats, etc. in rings.

Samsung has also played its own tricks on the Galaxy S3. Utilizing Pop-up Play, users can play videos in thumbnail size on the screen, while doing other tasks. Smart eye tracking keeps the screen awake as long as you are looking at it. In additions, it also dims the display to save energy when the user is not looking at it. S Voice is giving a neck-to-neck competition to Apple's beloved Siri. S Beam is for transferring big files with very fast speeds, utilizing NFC chips.

Overall, the Atrix HD is safer and the Galaxy S3 is smarter.


Both the smartphones benefit from an 8-megapixel rear snapper, which is a common feature in high-end smartphones. In case of the Atrix HD, it looks like Motorola hasn't paid much attention to image post-processing. Capture images lack contrast and vividness. Image captured in low light conditions are usually a bit noisy. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a much more absolute camera with added tricks like the burst camera mode and HDR mode.

In both cases, the camera records 1080p videos at 30fps. The secondary camera in the Samsung Galaxy S3 is 1.9 megapixels, while in the Motorola bet the front-facing camera is 1.3 megapixels.


Motorola Atrix HD packs a 1780 mAh unremovable battery. The Galaxy S3 has removable 2100 mAh that received a lot of positive reviews. We do not have sufficient data on the battery life of the Atrix HD, but we have enough to confirm that the battery performance of the Atrix HD is lower than Galaxy S3.


Motorola Atrix HD lacks some feature of a top-notch smartphone like camera richness, low on-board storage, etc; however, we should not forget that it is available for just $99 from AT&T. In case you are looking for a bargain, Best Buy is offering the smartphone for $49 on a similar contract with AT&T.

On the other side, Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the best smartphone, if not certainly the best, available in the market and it will easily remain so for few more months. Samsung Galaxy S3 is overall a better smartphone than the Atrix HD. It has benefited from the few shortcomings of the Atrix. It is available for $199 from AT&T at two-year contract. Pricing is almost the same across other carriers too.



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