Motorola Razr Plus Review: A Blast From the Past With Modern Twists

Motorola Razr Plus Review: A Blast From the Past With Modern Twistsmotorola-razr-cases-straps-3480.jpg

Motorola Razr Plus Review: A Blast From the Past With Modern Twistsmotorola-razr-plus-9392

8.5/ 10
SCORE

Motorola Razr Plus (2024)

Pros

  • Cover screen updates
  • Good battery life
  • Fun, fashionable design
  • Camera upgrades a step forward, but could go farther

Cons

  • New cameras are a mixed bag
  • Camera cover screen position not great for right handed-people
  • Gets warm gaming or charging

I’ve been using the new Motorola Razr Plus for two weeks and there’s something transformational about it that’s made me rethink my relationship with phones for the better — and brought me back to my childhood.

This story is part of Samsung Event, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Samsung’s most popular products.

I’m a kid of the ’80s and grew up loving the Transformers. It was the Transformers’ duality that fascinated a 10-year-old Patrick: I loved the fact that an 18-wheeler truck could transform into a giant talking robot who was a heroic leader. The new Motorola Razr Plus doesn’t transform into a robot or a truck, but it does morph from a 4-inch handset (picture the iPhone 5 or the original Samsung Galaxy S) into a full-fledged 6.9-inch Android phone. What makes the 2024 Razr Plus more adept at doing so than previous foldable Razrs, or even last year’s excellent Razr Plus, is that the cover screen is better in every way.

The outer display is larger with a new 4-inch panel, but still integrates its exterior camera lenses in the same way as last year’s model. I dig the way the dual cameras protrude out like a vampire bite. The cover screen’s software lets me run my regular array of Android apps and has more widgets and panel customizations this time around. It also has an always-on display that’s great for quickly checking the time.

Over the course of my time testing the Razr, I found myself using the cover screen as much as the internal screen. If I had to put an unscientific number on this, I’d say that 40% of the time I only used the cover screen. The other 60%, it was the internal one. At one point, I realized I hadn’t even used the internal display’s selfie camera because I was so content taking photos with the rear cameras when the Razr Plus is folded closed.

A trio of Motorola Razrs in cases with straps A trio of Motorola Razrs in cases with straps

The Razr Plus is all about that cover screen life.

Patrick Holland/CNET

I paid for my coffee from the cover screen, listened to Spotify via its nifty widget, took Zoom calls and even played games without opening the phone up. And I did all of these things and more one-handed, which for me is the biggest appeal of small phones.

There’s a lot more to enjoy in the new Razr Plus, especially its long battery life, fast charging and improved cameras. The new model is certified to survive temporary dunking, with an IPX8 rating that means it can be immersed under 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

Many of the features I like on the Razr Plus also have shortcomings, though, especially for a phone that costs $1,000. The new cameras are a mixed bag in terms of photo and video quality, which has been an area Motorola phones struggled with in the past. That cover screen is brighter than last year’s model, but still hard to see outdoors, especially in direct sunlight. The fast charging which supports up to 45 watts is good, but the phone itself doesn’t come with a wall charger. And the new IP rating for fresh water immersion comes at the expense of losing last year’s IP-rating for dust resistance. 

But taken in total, the Razr Plus shows how far Motorola and other companies have come from the early days of foldables. When the company made its first attempt at reviving the Razr in 2020, its screen hinge was practically open to the elements. The new phone is an absolute delight to use and will no doubt appeal to fans looking for something more unique and fashionable than the standard rectangular slabs offered by Apple and Samsung — it makes an alluring alternative to the best flat smartphones.

The Motorola Razr Plus is available to preorder for $1,000 starting Wednesday and go on sale on July 24.

Motorola Razr Plus 2024 models in the tented position Motorola Razr Plus 2024 models in the tented position

The Razr Plus comes in four colors.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The Samsung factor

It’s not lost on me that this review comes out before Samsung holds its July Galaxy Unpacked event. The Galaxy Z Flip 6 will likely be one of the big reveals and will undoubtedly offer improvements over last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 5. I mention this because, as has been the case for several years running, the new Z Flip will be the Motorola Razr Plus’ biggest competitor. We will not only review and test the new Samsung foldable, but also put it head-to-head against the Razr Plus to see how the two stack up in their latest rivalry.

At this time, I’m confident saying that Samsung has a lot to live up to. The new Razr Plus brings numerous hardware and, more importantly, software upgrades that improve the phone in nearly every way. And Motorola did this all without raising the price.

The Motorola Razr Plus’ fashion-forward design

Motorola Razr Plus 2024 Motorola Razr Plus 2024

The back of the phone is covered in vegan leather.

James Martin/CNET

Like last year’s Razr family, the new Razr Plus is made from a mix of aluminum (the frame), Gorilla Glass Victus (the cover screen) and vegan leather (the back). The combination of materials make the Razr Plus tactile-tastic and an absolute delight to hold. It’s basically like having a case built right into the phone. Fun fact: Vegan leather doesn’t crack if you drop it.

Motorola takes this playful approach even further when it comes to color. There’s spring green, peach fuzz, midnight blue and the Razr-iconic hot pink — y’know the same color as 2004 Razr V3 Paris Hilton had. Even the most conservative color, midnight blue, has a two-tone “vegan suede” texture complete with a subtle stripe down its back. The Razr Plus’ fun colors and textures make it eye candy for passersby. I had co-workers who didn’t know me run up wanting to hold and use it.

As much as I enjoy using the Razr Plus closed and one-handed, one drawback, if you’re right-handed like me, is that the camera bump nestles into the base of my thumb. This is more annoying than anything else and those cameras do have to go somewhere.

Both displays now have a matching 165Hz refresh rate which makes everything from playing games and scrolling social feeds to Android animations look smooth. I’m fond of the way the cover screen edges get dark before going to sleep. Can I tell the difference between the 2023 Razr Plus’ 144Hz cover screen and the new one? Nope. But I know there are people who can and who care about such things. Those people will be delighted.

Both displays are brighter; the cover screen is able to reach 2,400 nits and the interior display 3,000 nits. In use, I wish they were the same brightness. It’s odd using the phone outdoors and going from the bright main display to a less bright cover screen. Occasionally I found the cover screen hard to see under direct sunlight, even with the brightness cranked to full.

The 6.9-inch inner display’s aspect ratio is narrower compared to a regular phone, which is great for having two apps open at the same time, one on top of another. But it’s less enjoyable when watching videos on YouTube and TikTok, where there are noticeable black “bars” of empty space above and below (or on the sides, depending on the way you’re holding it). If you find a film that’s shot in a movie theater format like 1.85:1 or 2.39:1, it will fill the screen perfectly — just don’t tell Christopher Nolan you’re watching Oppenheimer on a Razr.

The Motorola Razr Plus has new cameras

Motorola Razr Plus 2024 Motorola Razr Plus 2024

Motorola upgraded both exterior cameras on the new Razr Plus.

James Martin/CNET

The Razr Plus has three cameras, two on the outside and the same 13-megapixel camera as last year on the inside. The exterior cameras both have new 50-megapixel sensors paired with a wide-angle lens (with optical image stabilization) and a 2x telephoto lens respectively. The telephoto camera replaces the ultrawide shooter on last year’s Razr Plus, which can still be found on the new $700 regular Razr. Motorola told me that its customers took more zoomed-in photos than they did ultrawide ones, hence the change.

It comes down to personal preference whether you’re on team telephoto or team ultrawide. But based on my experience, the 2023 Razr Plus’ ultrawide camera wasn’t great. Pictures I took with the new telephoto, while still a step down in image quality from the main camera, were better optically than the old ultrawide. But the telephoto only really shined for me under bright even lighting or at golden hour, like this photo I took in New York.

This was taken with the Razr Plus’ 2x telephoto camera.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Photos taken indoors under mixed lighting with the tele lens look soft with lots of noise reduction applied, especially if you zoomed in past 2x. I took this photo of Paris Hilton djing at Motorola’s Razr launch party in Brooklyn at 4x. The results are serviceable at best. Her skin tone looks splotchy, especially around her nose. And details, like her hair, are soft and muddy. Will this hold up to a social media post? Certainly. But I was hoping this telephoto would be better.

I took this photo at 4x digital zoom.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Here are two shots of lasers over San Francisco for Pride weekend. Notice the difference in brightness and saturation between the main camera’s photo taken with night vision (Moto’s name for night mode) and the telephoto camera’s image taken in the same mode.

Lasers over San Francisco taken with night vision on the main camera.

Patrick Holland/CNET

And here’s the same moment captured with the new telephoto camera at 2x. It’s much darker and the colors less saturated.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Fortunately, the main camera fares better and is more consistent in terms of image quality, even in mixed lighting. I am genuinely impressed with many of the photos I got with the Razr Plus’ main camera. Just like with last year’s Razr Plus, you’ll probably be relying on the main camera more in the end — as the old photography adage goes, just use your feet to zoom.

This was taken with the main camera.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The Razr Plus thrives in the golden hour.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Here’s a photo from the main camera taken under the warm dim house lights of the Golden Theater in New York.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The new hardware certainly contributes to the better photos I took, but so does Moto AI. Yep, I made it this far into the review before mentioning those two overhyped letters. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are nothing new to smartphone photography.

But even at its best, this is still a foldable phone that’s a step behind its non-folding brethren in terms of camera power and consistency. Take a look at the two shots below, taken within seconds of each other with the Razr’s main camera. Both are HDR photos, but in one of them the highlights are blown out to white — note the sky in the background. The sky in the other image is not only visible but you can see structures in the distance and electrical wires strung between buildings in the foreground. Why are they different? I have no idea, but I suspect AI might have something to do with it.

This photo and the next were both taken in HDR mode on the Razr Plus. Notice the difference in the backgrounds.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The buildings in the background are visible in this shot that was also taken with HDR — very different results.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Video recordings are likewise a mixed bag. But this phone isn’t meant to be a paragon of what smartphone cameras can do. Motorola focuses just as much on how enjoyable it is to take a photo or record a video as it does the quality of what you get. It reminds me of taking Polaroid photos with friends in high school — they were a blast to capture even if we all looked like ghosts in the actual pictures. I have so many crappy Polaroid photos from my youth displayed around my house today. Their comparatively “low” quality gives the moments captured a sincere rawness not found in the crisp images shot with modern phones.

If the Razr Plus’ fun fashionable design is good for one thing, it’s selfies. And the foldable’s clamshell design means you can take them with the main exterior camera. You can even angle the Razr Plus so it sits flat on a table to be its own tripod. I had so many friends and CNET colleagues take selfies with the phone or want their portrait taken. And everyone is smiling in every single photo. This is why you get a Motorola Razr Plus.

Look at all the happy fun people!

Patrick Holland/CNET

There is something about taking photos with the Razr Plus that makes people smile.

Josh Goldman and Eli Blumenthal/CNET

The Razr Plus’ battery and performance

The Snapdragon 8S Gen 3 powers all of the Razr Plus’ goodies along with 12GB of RAM and fast UFS 4.0 storage. There will be some phone diehards and tech journalists wondering why Motorola didn’t include the non-S variant of Qualcomm’s chip, but in uses the 8S Gen 3 is plenty fast, and it’s capable of powering AI features whether I was scrolling social media or playing games.

Multitasking was a breeze. The phone never felt slow to me but did get warm when playing games like Genshin Impact for longer than 10 minutes. In benchmark testing, the Razr Plus did well. It’s not the fastest phone we tested this year, but it sits in-between the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the Oppo Find N3 Flip. Unlike other foldables that unfold into far bigger displays, I wouldn’t use the Razr Plus to do any heavy productivity-related tasks, so I didn’t mind that it wasn’t at the top of the charts — most people will be fine with its still-fast speeds.

Geekbench v.6.0

Motorola Razr Plus 2024 1,958 4,925Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 1,999 5,116Oppo Find N3 Flip 1,321 3,350Motorola Razr Plus 2023 1,756 4,318

  • Geekbench v.6.0 single-core
  • Geekbench v.6.0 multicore
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

What the Razr Plus lacks in pure performance power it makes up with in battery life. Every day over two weeks of use, I ended my days with the phone having around 15 to 20% of its battery still charged. In CNET’s battery tests, the results told a similar story. The Razr Plus went from a full battery to 90% during our 45-minute endurance test where I made a Zoom call, streamed a video, played PUBG Mobile and Stack Bounce and scrolled Instagram and TikTok. That’s identical to what the Z Flip 5 did in the same test and slightly better than the Oppo Find N3 Flip, which dropped to a barely lower 89%.

In CNET’s 3-hour video streaming test over Wi-Fi, the Razr Plus dropped from a full battery to 84% — and that was on the main screen. The Z Flip 5 dropped to 80% in the same test.

The Razr Plus has a large 4,000-mAh battery which is largely the reason behind the good results — Motorola managed to squeeze in even more capacity over last year’s Razr Plus’ 3,800-mAh battery. And remember the phone’s screens are significantly brighter than last year’s Razr Plus which scored similarly in the same tests.

Motorola Razr Plus final thoughts

Motorola Razr Plus 2024 Motorola Razr Plus 2024

I keep coming back to the Razr Plus even over my own smartphone.

James Martin/CNET

This phone doesn’t have the best cameras, it’s not the fastest device you can buy and its biggest competitor is likely releasing a newer version of its foldable clamshell phone this week. But when I consider the Motorola Razr Plus on its own terms, it is outstanding. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s a delight to use.

Simply put, I enjoy using it more than phones that cost $200 to $300 more. Motorola found a unique approach to the Razr Plus last year, and this year’s model builds on its strengths and addresses many of its shortcomings. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I used a phone this fun. Motorola prioritized the experience of using a Razr Plus over pretty much anything else. And that will definitely appeal to some people more than others.

Should you buy a Motorola Razr Plus? I recommend seeing what Samsung ends up announcing before you do. It can’t hurt to wait.

How we test phones

Every phone tested by CNET’s reviews team was actually used in the real world. We test a phone’s features, play games and take photos. We examine the display to see if it’s bright, sharp and vibrant. We analyze the design and build to see how it is to hold and whether it has an IP-rating for water resistance. We push the processor’s performance to the extremes using standardized benchmark tools like GeekBench and 3DMark, along with our own anecdotal observations navigating the interface, recording high-resolution videos and playing graphically intense games at high refresh rates.

All the cameras are tested in a variety of conditions from bright sunlight to dark indoor scenes. We try out special features like night mode and portrait mode and compare our findings against similarly priced competing phones. We also check out the battery life by using it daily as well as running a series of battery drain tests.

We take into account additional features like support for 5G, satellite connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus support, fast charging speeds and foldable displays, among others that can be useful. We balance all of this against the price to give you the verdict on whether that phone, whatever price it is, actually represents good value. While these tests may not always be reflected in CNET’s initial review, we conduct follow-up and long-term testing in most circumstances.

Motorola Razr Plus Review: A Blast From the Past With Modern Twists Motorola Razr Plus Review: A Blast From the Past With Modern Twists240624-yt-motorola-razr-plus-hands-on-v06

Watch this: First Look: The 2024 Motorola Razr and Razr Plus Come With Colorful Upgrades

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