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Can the Atrix 4G Really Become Your Next PC? 297

GMGruman writes "The Motorola Atrix 4G got a lot of attention at CES because of its ability to dock to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and run the full desktop Firefox browser in addition to its Android apps. Now that it is shipping, I took the Atrix 4G and its Multimedia Dock and related peripherals out this week for a test-drive to see if delivers on this 'post-PC' promise. The verdict: It's a good first half-step toward mobile devices being your primary computer. The end of the Windows hegemony is in sight."
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Can the Atrix 4G Really Become Your Next PC?

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  • single page link... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:09PM (#35353292)

    Single page link... []

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @10:06PM (#35353634) Journal

      Who authorized this story? Why wasn't I notified that there was going to be a pro-Android story on the front page?

      Somebody get the Apple Nation on the line. We need some trolls here, STAT! Go! Go! Go! We're bleeding here, people!

    • by bemymonkey ( 1244086 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @02:45AM (#35354720)

      No point, the author is obviously an idiot who has no idea what he's talking about.

      "When you dock the Atrix, the Firefox browser and other dock-provided services aren't running from the Atrix but instead from a stripped-down Linux PC inside the dock. A real post-PC device would run everything from the smartphone or tablet, and it would use the dock to add more processing or take advantage of peripherals."

      The stripped down Linuxy interface might make it seem that way, but that's not really the case...

      "Running the Atrix's native Android apps on the big screen proved disappointing. All you get is a blown-up version of the Atrix's screen in a window. Android apps such as Quickoffice don't adjust to take advantage of the bigger screen as you would expect -- unlike many iOS apps when run on an iPad [12] instead of an iPhone [13]. For the "lite" PC concept to work, native Android apps will have to take advantage of the larger screen, keyboard, and mouse. Otherwise, you're paying essentially just to have a desktop browser run off your smartphone."

      Because QuickOffice and all the other Android apps were surely designed with desktop use in mind, sure... it's not like the Atrix is the first device of its kind and software makers would need a little time to catch up, huh? Not to mention that the Android apps being shown on the screen are shown by way of simple screencasting - no point in doing anything else as the touch interface isn't there anyway.

      Sounds like this guy didn't really do much research before buying. All the stuff in the article was pretty much in, well, any normal review of the Atrix. I was hoping for a little more perspective as to installing a more full featured Linux ARM build as the Webtop... which is pretty much the only way I could imagine using the Atrix as a PC. Although come to think of it, custom software on a Motorola device is very unlikely... I'm sure they've locked down and encrypted the webtop in some way as well.

  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:12PM (#35353306) Homepage

    If it was done with something a bit more open than Android, it might have a shot at replacing netbooks.

    • by dbcad7 ( 771464 )
      For "apps" you have Android, and Web based.. Firefox is running through Linux.. I am certain, that someone will find some ways to take advantage and get access to running Linux apps as well.. If your point is running Widows apps.. can be done.. other than that, I guess maybe you should design your open platform.. whatever it is that you have in mind.
    • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @10:03PM (#35353616) Journal
      $400 for a netbook that doesn't run windows. Hell, doesn't even run when it's not hooked up to your phone. You can buy a netbook running windows 7 (or a full linux distro of choice) for under $300.

      How about something more original, like docking into a tablet?

      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @10:09PM (#35353660) Homepage
        This is my exact problem with Tablets and smartphones. Sure things will get cheaper eventually, and you'll be able to use these mobile devices as your primary computer, but it just isn't there yet. You can get a much more capable laptop that can dual boot a full windows / Linux, desktop, most of them with the power to run Windows and run Linux in a VM for less than the price of most tablets, or even a lot of smart phones on the market. Basically you end up paying quite a bit for something that only does half the job.
        • and your reason why tablets have taken this long to work into the market place and why ever version up until now has sucked.

          You can't imagine your way out of a paper bag.

          a tablet will never replace your desktop it isn't meant to. if you think it will your wrong. It is a complement. a secondary or tertiary device. do you have one sheet of paper one pencil and one ruler to work with? Or do you have multiple pens/ pencils, dozens of sheets of paper, rulers, compasses, squares, scissors tape, paper clips, e

          • You can't imagine your way out of a paper bag.


            a tablet isn't going to be your only computer.

            Wow! The contradiction is mind boggling!

            Can't you imagine a future where tablets are powerful enough to be many people's only computer?

        • I fail to see the reason behind having your phone as the be-all, end-all of computing. Let's say it was possible, let's say a phone could run everything you want, play all your media, etc, etc. No compromises. I STILL think we'd have other systems. Why? Convenience if nothing else.

          For example: Suppose your phone is your media player. Easy enough, HDMI out and a powerful enough processor and there you go. Wonderful! Watch all your media anywhere... Except now when your kids want to watch a movie, you have to

        • HDMI output, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Plus the standard apps; word processor, calendar etc etc etc..

          And this is today.

          The pocket is the new desktop, and guess what MS effectively bought (for $0), the largest mobile phone producer in the world.

    • by Rennt ( 582550 )
      You can fetch the source from a git repository, compile it, flash it to your device and have a complete working OS stack. The majority of the software is OSI approved. How much more open do you want?
    • Yeah. Having used Maemo for the last year, I think that would be awesome with a full sized keyboard and screen. Or Meego i guess (haven't used it). I had a play with LXDE on my n900 and apart from the processor being to slow for it to be practical, it showed some promise. The new generation of ARM chips would cope a lot better, methinks.

      While Android is great for phones/tablets, I kind of think trying to run it as a desktop is a bit square peg meets round hole.

      • I'll agree except that you can run at least a Citrix receiver and access your virtual desktop with full desktop capabilities which is pretty appealing at least from my perspective. The only trick to VPN or some sort of trusted authentication system to avoid needing VPN software on the phone. I did this when the owner of the company I work for got frustrated he could never print from his iPad. Gave him his virtual desktop and he hasn't looked back.
    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

      You are missing the point. No mobile browser trying to cope with a huge (by phone standards) screen, regular Firefox. Give folks some time to hack and even if Moto doesn't ship it out of the box you will have (or whatever fork ends up shipping) and not some pocket mostly view only app that can muddle through a Word doc. Adobe's normal desktop Reader is only a recompile away, enough users holler and it will turn up. And so on. Moto was afraid to just turn loose a normal Linux desktop on t

    • Seriously, I've been posting for ages that I want almost this exact device, but it should run Windows Phone 7 on top of Windows 7 (Windows Phone 7 is really mostly a .NET based window manager with apps) and that it should :
      - Have wireless charging so I can leave it in my pocket and have a charger in my chair
      - Have wireless HDMI (whatever flavor is the flavor of the week)
      - Have wireless USB (bluetooth is too damn complex and even still doesn't work worth a shit) for keyboard, mouse, e
    • I would like a MeeGo phone that doubles as a portable PC. Unlike Android it's got a full standard GNU/Linux stack, including an X-server.

  • Because, well, that's the real question. Can we do away with PCs and windows? ...

    I think the answer is obvious. YES. It's the year of the linux desktop.

    ... *sigh* I mean no ... *double sigh*
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then no, it won't replace my PC.

  • NFW (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Atrix -- which costs $199 with a two-year contract from AT&T Wireless in the United States -- ...

    Shove it!

    • From the article:

      The Atrix -- which costs $199 with a two-year contract from AT&T Wireless in the United States -- ...

      Anonymous Coward wrote:

      Shove it!

      Quoted for truth. Adding a monthly cell phone plan can be expensive for people who are currently happy with the combination of a bare-bones land line, a dumbphone with $5/mo service for those few calls that can't wait (such as arranging a ride home), a PDA or netbook that gets Wi-Fi, and home Internet access allowing more than single-digit GB/mo.

      • Such people obviously aren't the market for a bloody smart phone.

      • Don't forget to add on the fact that you are locked into the revision of Android Motorola has placed on the device unless they feel like blessing you with an upgrade. Punitive measures like signing the kernel serve no one's purposes but Motorola's, and is a downgrade in capability compared to a regular PC simply from an ownership standpoint.

  • The question is (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:21PM (#35353376)
    Can it run Crysis? Also, from TFA:

    data, which would be too risky to carry around everywhere anyway. Sorry, folks, you won't escape cloud services

    Yeah, because the "Ooops we accidentally deleted your emails" from Google and also Hotmail a while back, plus countless other examples from other "cloud" providers, establish beyond a doubt the trustworthiness of the "cloud"... Nah, I will keep my desktop for now, thanks.

    • Cloud service reliability will only get better. A total loss of data is still *much* less likely with data stored on my hard drive. Granted, regular backups would help a lot, but I'm too lazy.

  • Real convergence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:23PM (#35353382)
    ... could have happened with MeeGo, it's a damn desktop computer in your pocket, all you need is a dock, and preferably with standard connection port, and you are there. The dock could even come from a different manufacturer in the ecosystem. But heck, with the recent turn of events, it's not going to happen anyway.
  • When you dock the Atrix, the Firefox browser and other dock-provided services aren't running from the Atrix but instead from a stripped-down Linux PC inside the dock.

  • I wonder if this is where Apple is headed with Thunderbolt (née Light Peak) ? A thunderbolt-equipped iPhone could drive a large external display and still have a seperate 10 Gbps multi protocol data channel left over which to drive peripherals, which is plenty fast.

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:34PM (#35353452) Homepage

    So I was reading the article and thinking "$400 for the laptop module? $200 + peripherals for the dock? Those are the equivalent of a cheap laptop/PC" Then I got to this tidbit:

    "When you dock the Atrix, the Firefox browser and other dock-provided services aren't running from the Atrix but instead from a stripped-down Linux PC inside the dock. A real post-PC device would run everything from the smartphone or tablet, and it would use the dock to add more processing or take advantage of peripherals."

    What? Why the heck am I buying this thing? All you're selling is an ultra-underpowered, crippled Linux computer that only works when a weird phone is plugged in for no particular reason. Syncing open tabs in FireFox is nice, but that's not enough. A simple app could do that. At home, I can keep a computer no problem. On the go, I still have to keep your laptop dock thing, so no space savings there.

    Then there are other downsides. I'm guessing it drains the battery faster to use the laptop dock thing. The pictures of the laptop dock make it look really easy to snap the phone off the back accidentally and break the phone/dock. It's nice to know the reviewer doesn't think the thing feels secure in the dock.

    This seems to be where computers will go for most people, but this first implementation clearly sounds more like a beta product than a first generation.

    • The dock has its own battery so it shouldn't drain the phone.

      Accessing information on the phone from the dock is interesting, though a wireless option with something faster than bluetooth would be nice. The phone also acts as the data connection for the dock which could also be made wireless.

      I'm not sure about calling it beta rather than first gen but there are areas that could be improved. Hopefully we can get a standard. Then phones will be able to easily interface with cars which is happening, but the

    • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

      This seems to be where computers will go for most people, but this first implementation clearly sounds more like a beta product than a first generation.

      Agreed, but it's a step in the right direction. Being able to carry just a cell phone, and no laptop would be great. But my phone is never going to replace a good desktop at home, if you need one.

    • This will take off once the dock is replaced with a wireless connection.

    • by GooRoo ( 245743 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @01:39AM (#35354544) Homepage

      When you dock the Atrix, the Firefox browser and other dock-provided services aren't running from the Atrix but instead from a stripped-down Linux PC inside the dock. A real post-PC device would run everything from the smartphone or tablet, and it would use the dock to add more processing or take advantage of peripherals."

      From everything I've read, this is patently untrue. The browser runs on the phone 'webtop'. There are those on XDA-developers that have already figured out how to get the 'webtop' to start even without the laptop dock connected and instead display to HDMI.

      Anyway, I don't agree with many of your conclusions, but I do agree the peripherials are overpriced - as I would expect for a first of it's kind product.

    • It's not true, the guy who wrote the article just doesn't seem to have any idea what he's talking about. The info in there (the bits that are correct, at least) could have been gleaned completely from early reviews or even the previews on the various gadget blogs...

  • My N900 is the computer i use more in a way or another most days. But it don't replace my PC, complements it. Sometimes i need far more horsepower, memory, and bigger screen and input devices than my phone, and in that tasks the Atrix would fall short too. I don't know if future devices (using i.e. the Sixth Sense [] approach?) will improve a lot input and output of information for small devices, that coupled with improvements in battery, cpu and memory could make the PC less needed.

    Maybe im using PC too muc

  • No.. but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @09:53PM (#35353544)

    No, it can't. But it can replace your netbook or maybe a low powered notebook.

    That's a good thing.

    But the smartphone market will give a good kick in the arse to intel/AMD to start releasing much better hardware, for less money, to keep the desktop well ahead of the smartphone game. A brand new 900 dollar phone (600 + dock) is roughly on par with a 700 dollar laptop. That's pretty appealing. Desktops, well, I just priced out a bunch of desktops in the 1600-2000 dollar range, which are easily 10x more powerful, so if you have any use for the power, no, the phone won't do it.

    10 years ago we passed the point of the hardware making much difference to a word processor. And we aren't quite at the point where the average desktop user can just dictate to their computer (though we're close, I managed a several setups like that for students with disabilities), and pretty much anything can web browse. Until software that people would use everyday catches up to hardware there's probably a market for a phone that replaces a desktop, and then we'll go back to a desktops. It's hurt intel and AMD I think that while transistor density may still be doubling every 18 ish months performance isn't. Core 2 -> i7->sandy bridge is like 20% performace gains clock for clock, at each step, and the clocks aren't much faster, and there aren't even more cores (because nothing uses 6 cores well yet, let alone 8, 12 or 16). HTML 5, and google's native code over the web etc. *might* change things a bit, giving people instant access to stuff. But all the great technologies we're touting, colour e-book readers, mp3 players, phones that can run programs aren't exactly great performance wise. I could read PDF's just as well 15 years ago as I can today, play music maybe 12 years ago as well as I can today, and any computer can run programs. The phone guys have done a good job using the web to make software accessible, but if the desktop guys could pull of the same there'd be demand there (and as someone else pointed out, my Steam games collection isnt' about to run on a phone).

  • From the article:

    but if you're using the dock in a living room with your HDMI-equipped TV, adding USB cables in the mix could be awkward.

    That's what USB hubs are for. Buy a USB hub and a 16-foot cable to the TV, and it'll reach your TV tray with no problem.

    Further, using a USB keyboard means you'll lack the special Android keys (Menu, Home, Search, and Back) and will need to rely on the mouse to access their on-screen equivalents.

    Then that's a defect in the port of Android. It should have used the menu key of a 104-key keyboard (between right Alt and right Control) for menu, Win+F for search, Win+Left or Win+Backspace for back, and Win for home. The author doesn't appear to mention having tried a "multimedia keyboard" either.

    Android apps such as Quickoffice don't adjust to take advantage of the bigger screen as you would expect

    Part of that is because the Android 2.3 certification requirements docume

    • by shawb ( 16347 )
      Or leave the dock right by the monitor, and use a wireless keyboard and mouse. Basically just agreeing with you: this is a problem that has already been solved. In many ways. The Evo 4G already has HDMI out, and with a customized USB hub could run just about any peripheral needed for consumer purposes while recharging the phone. Storage? just use the cloud. How much space do you need in a consumer device now that media is generally streamed? Of course the software and OS probably aren't quite there f
      • Storage? just use the cloud. How much space do you need in a consumer device now that media is generally streamed?

        At typical U.S. prices for 3G data at single-digit GB per month? Lots.

        the future probably isn't so much with a dock that allows for bigger and better I/O as it is a way to connect the smartphone to the PC so the actual run state of a program can be shifted from one device to another similar to dragging a window between screens of a multi monitor setup.

        Which, if you read the featured article, is very much how Firefox on this device works.

        • by shawb ( 16347 )
          I was thinking Wi-Fi

          Didn't get that far... I get really annoyed by articles that are split into pages just to get more ad hits.
  • The Celio Redfly was doing this years ago with Windows Mobile and now offers a desktop connection that also supports BlackBerry []
  • A Motorola Atrix 4G? No, probably not. A Sony NGP-class device with quad-core CPU and quad-core GPU? Depending on the connectivity, quite possibly, for the majority of tasks. If it's got hardware accelerated HD video & flash, can attach to fast storage through the dock, I think most people wouldn't know the difference. The average person surfing the web, streaming video, using Facebook and email, and playing the latest pointless Zynga game, definitely not going to be a problem.

    Are hardcore gamers going

  • At first I thought it said "Altrix", which reminded me of the SGI Altix [] that I use at work. Now if they had reduced that to something resembling portable (or even something resembling what I would want for my next PC), I'd be impressed!
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2011 @11:21PM (#35353984) Journal

    This guy is stretching and distorting the truth to make the review positive.

    An example, he only mentions the SUBSIDIZED cost of the phone but uses this price further on to compare it to a netbook BUT does NOT then use a subsidized netbook which do exist. This is like comparing two cars and taking the lease cost of one as being different from the purchase cost of the other. Well duh.

    He then claims that 400 dollars for the dock is cheaper then a netbook... except a netbook is both complete and not just a dock and 400 dollars is also the mid range price for a netbook. Was he looking at Vaoi's perhaps? I can find 200-300 dollar netbooks with ease and totally "free" ones if I buy them with a phone subscription.

    He then goes on about Firefox Linux not being able to run Java. Is that so? Gosh, what am I running then? What he really means to say is that this dock can't run java apparently for some reason. Firefox and Linux can't this hardware he is trying to like can't.

    Really, the most standard, cheapest netbook can do what this thing does and WAY more. Even the multimedia dock is expensive. I still have all the cost and hassle of carrying a netbook besides my phone but without any of the advantages. Like oh say multiple video outs because on the move I can't always dictate what inputs are available for a screen.

    And this thing as far as I read the review can't even do video. What a LOT of people seem to want netbooks to do is output video, considering the demand for 720p capability which the first netbooks lacked. What is this multimedia dock going to do for me on the move?

    We have heard the "PC is dying" speech before and so far, it hasn't happened. That is because the PC, netbooks and laptops are very very good at serving the edge cases, all those uses to which we put our hardware that some exec at MS/HP/Apple or whatever didn't dream off. Just compare Android's gmail app with regular gmail AND especially a tricked out desktop with gmail tied in. It is clear gmail the app is the light edition. Sometimes that is handy but only if the ease of mobile access makes up for the restrictions.

    But if I need a bag to carry a dock or whatever around, why not just carry a cheapo netbook and be done with it.

    To me, a phone as a PC will only become intresting if I can skip the dock and hookup the phone directly. THEN I can use it as a tiny laptop.

    The end of the Wintel domination? Not yet in sight. With efforts like this, I doubt it ever will. Come on, would it have been that hard to implement some more basic Linux apps?

    • For some reason there's a ton of people who are just obsessed with the idea of a smartphone as the One Computer to Rule Them All(tm). They want a single device that replaces their desktop, laptop, DVD player, MP3 player, and so on and think a smartphone will be it. They've never stopped to consider the downsides of this even if such a thing did work perfectly (which as you noted it doesn't). There are plenty of reasons to want more than one device, ones that are better at some things than others.

      However bec

  • Not when it has a $50+ data plan per device.

    ATT DataConnect 4G is $50 for 5GB then $10 per GIG.

    And they are selling this with a a two-year contract.

  • I don't see the point of this phone -- why run apps from the phone at all when it's in the dock? Put a powerful processor in the dock and run the apps on the (presumably much faster) dock processor when the phone is docked -- mount the filesystem from the phone so all of your files are available.

    Running apps (except firefox) from the phone itself seems like a gimmick that doesn't really accomplish anything useful.

  • For a long time, I was really excited about this.

    However, I can't bring myself to commit to a two-year contract (with a maximum of 4 GB of data costs me an extra $50 per month) when my phone does what I need it to do now.

    Besides, in the next 8-10 months, phones with 28nm transistors and quad cores will be around. Not that I'm waiting on the technology, but when I do buy into it, it's going to be for something worth it to me.

  • The end of the Windows hegemony is in sight.


    Over there!

    Still can't see it.

    It's right beside the year of the linux desktop!


  • My next PC? Somehow I don't see a toy like that replacing a triple-screen 3D workstation.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire