motorola-atrix

Motorola Atrix as a PC Replacement

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing about e-commerce.  But contrary to what you may have heard, I’m secretly one of those nerdy “gadget guys”.  Ok, maybe it’s not such a big secret, but I’m definitely not what you would call a “bandwagon jumper” who rushes out to participate in every new fad like those people who camped out in line to get the first iPhone.  Sure, it’s hundreds of times more powerful than the computer that runs the Hubble.  I get it.  But in the end, all that computing power still couldn’t make up for the tiny screen.

Then along came the Motorola Atrix.

You see, in 2010 I made the decision to ditch the “traditional desktop” running Outlook and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, and moved the entire company to Google Apps for business.  This put our company mail into GMail, Google Docs replaced MS Office, and web-based collaboration replaced Microsoft Project.  Everything we did was done with a web browser, and after some initial resistance from my employees, they eventually got onboard and realized the benefits of this forward-thinking move.  It was time to let the old way of doing things expire.

When I saw Clayton Morris demo the Motorola Atrix, I immediately thought it could be the next step in my personal quest to free myself of localized software.  I had been a Blackberry user as long as I can remember, and with no Android experience other than the tablet we keep at the office for testing site compatibility this was going to be a learning curve for sure.  But I wanted to see if it could be done… if I could ditch my Windows-based notebook, which goes with me everywhere and use only the Atrix with the dock in its place.

My Computing Needs.
As I mentioned already, most of my day to day “stuff that has to be done” happens through a browser anyway.  Firefox was already my browser of choice.  The only thing that I figured I might have trouble with was that I do use SQL Management Studio a lot, and occasionally a graphics program for resizing images etc.   I searched Android Market and found a number of RDP clients to choose from, so I figured in a worst-case scenario I can always remote desktop into one of the Windows 2003 or 2008 servers and run SQL Management Studio from there.  I recognize that some may consider this “cheating”, but for me this is about breaking the need for local software and to see if the Atrix + dock can truly replace the personal computer.  As for the graphics program, I haven’t yet figured that one out yet but with so many web-based photo manipulation tools out there I’m sure there is something that will work.  And if not, I’ll write one myself – yeah, I’m still that nerd.  I can do stuff like that.

Taking the Plunge.
I was a Verizon customer so I had to pony up more than $200 just to break the contract and switch to AT&T, plus about $540 (after $100 rebate) for the phone and the lapdock.  My first Android experience went surprisingly well – since I do everything in Google Apps, within a few minutes all of my mail, contacts, and calendar settings – including employees shared calendars – were all visible in the phone.  A few minutes later I added in my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.  In an hour, I wondered why I had kept my Blackberry so long in the first place… and I hadn’t even touched the Lapdock yet.

A little trouble at first.
I plugged in the phone and started using the dock, updating Firefox bookmarks.  It worked as expected, but after a while I noticed the spacebar wasn’t responding to every tap.  A quick check on the Motorola forum showed me to be the only person having this issue, so I took it back to AT&T and swapped it for another one and no more issues.

Getting Used to the Interface.
Keep in mind that this is also my first real Android experience anyway, so I’m really learning two systems – the “firefox is all I have” lapdock interface, and Android itself.  The phone itself is fast, but it seems to slow down a little when docked.  Firefox was a little more sluggish than what I’m used to on the PC, but it seemed like there were a lot of programs running on the phone that didn’t need to be, so I’ll do some more research on that in the next few days.  When docked, there are actually two web browsers available – Firefox and the “app browser” which looks the same as the one on the tablet we were playing with.  This actually worked out to be pretty convenient, because I can use that one to leave my personal GMail account logged in on instead of switching between the two in Firefox.  All of the websites I visit regularly have worked fine so far.

First Obstacle Encountered.
Within the first couple of hours, something came up and I needed to jump into one of the Windows servers through Terminal Services.  I downloaded “Remote RDP Lite” – it’s not perfect by any means, and was obviously built for phones and not the lapdock, but it did the job.  Hopefully in the near future we’ll see some RDP clients that can take advantage of the laptop-sized screen instead of just stretching out the phone.

Anyway… so far so good, but it’s still the weekend.  The real test will be on Monday when I’m back in the office, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.  This won’t be the last you’ll hear on this subject, so follow me on Twitter to stay in the loop and share this article with your friends!

28 replies
  1. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    A little more on the Spacebar issue… the second lapdock started having the same problem, where taps weren’t being registered unless I pressed down really hard.

    This is whatit lookslikeif Ididntusethe backspace andkeep correcting as I type.

    Annoying to say the least… and since it’s now doing it on the SECOND lapdock too, I’m convinced this is a design flaw.

    I’ve “fixed” the issue myself by popping the spacebar off and bending it a little bit (center down, sides up) – just slightly, you don’t even notice it visually, but its enough to make the center of the spacebar touch the sensor button a little better. So far it’s been working, so I’m back on the Atrix full time. I sent a message to Motorola and let them know, I may be the only person having this problem but I may also be the only person trying to use an Atrix as a full time PC and typing at ninja-like speeds @ 120 words per minute.

    Anyway, my test resumes. :)

    Reply
  2. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    A little more on the Spacebar issue… the second lapdock started having the same problem, where taps weren’t being registered unless I pressed down really hard.

    This is whatit lookslikeif Ididntusethe backspace andkeep correcting as I type.

    Annoying to say the least… and since it’s now doing it on the SECOND lapdock too, I’m convinced this is a design flaw.

    I’ve “fixed” the issue myself by popping the spacebar off and bending it a little bit (center down, sides up) – just slightly, you don’t even notice it visually, but its enough to make the center of the spacebar touch the sensor button a little better. So far it’s been working, so I’m back on the Atrix full time. I sent a message to Motorola and let them know, I may be the only person having this problem but I may also be the only person trying to use an Atrix as a full time PC and typing at ninja-like speeds @ 120 words per minute.

    Anyway, my test resumes. :)

    Reply
  3. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    Picked up the webtop dock today, I must say I’m pretty disappointed with it. I was looking forward to being able to run Firefox on a 1080p monitor, but it turns out I’m limited to 1280×720… the lapdock has better resolution than that!

    All of the “1080p” ads apparently pertain only to HD video playback and the whole “entertainment center” functionality, not the webtop running phone apps & Firefox.

    That’s a major disappointment, and makes the $200 webtop price hardly worth it. I care more about physical screen size than resolution. I might just return that and stick to the lapdock.

    Here’s Motorola’s Confirmation.

    Reply
  4. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    Picked up the webtop dock today, I must say I’m pretty disappointed with it. I was looking forward to being able to run Firefox on a 1080p monitor, but it turns out I’m limited to 1280×720… the lapdock has better resolution than that!

    All of the “1080p” ads apparently pertain only to HD video playback and the whole “entertainment center” functionality, not the webtop running phone apps & Firefox.

    That’s a major disappointment, and makes the $200 webtop price hardly worth it. I care more about physical screen size than resolution. I might just return that and stick to the lapdock.

    Here’s Motorola’s Confirmation.

    Reply
  5. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    So far no issues with my slightly modified spacebar. I did have one other issue, which isn’t really Atrix specific but annoying nevertheless. Occasionally, my palm will hit the large touch pad while typing, move the cursor off of the text box, and then next time I hit the backspace (which Firefox maps to the back button) bye bye work…

    In Firefox you can go to about:config and find browser.backspace_action and set it to 2. That prevents the backspace key from letting you leave the page.

    Reply
  6. Ron Rule
    Ron Rule says:

    So far no issues with my slightly modified spacebar. I did have one other issue, which isn’t really Atrix specific but annoying nevertheless. Occasionally, my palm will hit the large touch pad while typing, move the cursor off of the text box, and then next time I hit the backspace (which Firefox maps to the back button) bye bye work…

    In Firefox you can go to about:config and find browser.backspace_action and set it to 2. That prevents the backspace key from letting you leave the page.

    Reply
  7. Allen
    Allen says:

    I really love your blog here on the Atrix. I am in the market for a new phone my old HTC Droid eris is only a year old but being first generation it is a dead horse now lol. Well I am patient and can wait for the Motorola Droid Bionic which is supposed to be the Atrix for Verizon coming in June or July do you think I should wait. The Thunderbolt looks so incredible but I want a device like the Atrix that can replace my laptop well not totally because I cannot imagine a phone that can rip DVD’s or play my whole video library to my tv.

    Please keep it updated I will check it every day.

    Reply
    • Ron Rule
      Ron Rule says:

      Thanks :) I thought about waiting for the Verizon version instead of breaking contract, but the iPhone was supposed to be at Verizon one year after launch too and it took over three so I didn’t want to wait. Supposedly, though Motorola is going to be coming out with more phones in the future with the “dock mentality” like the one you mentioned. The Atrix won’t be the only phone you can dock and use like a PC, so if you want to wait for a Verizon version go for it.

      Also I finally got to play with a working Citrix setup last night, that’s where the Atrix power really lies. I think I’m going to do the whole XenServer thing at the office so then I’ll be able to have all of my dev tools and other misc. stuff and truly never need another PC again. But that’s just me, I work in the cloud and don’t have any need to burn DVD’s or play PC games. So it’s definitely not for everyone, but I like pushing myself into ditching the local apps & going all web-based.

      Reply
      • Charles
        Charles says:

        Sorry to harp on battery questions, it just worked out that this topic was what all my questions were about…

        (1) Does the laptop dock contain its own battery?
        (2) If so, does the dock battery also power the phone?
        (3) Last of all, how much battery life do you get?

        Reply
        • Ron Rule
          Ron Rule says:

          Yes, the dock has its own battery and will charge the phone while connected. As for the lapddock’s battery life, I’m getting about 5 hours out of it with normal real-world usage. I don’t make a lot of speakerphone calls (I usually disconnect it and hold the phone), and I’m usually using it in Wifi mode and not the 4G, but not sure how much of an effect that has.

          Reply
  8. Allen
    Allen says:

    I really love your blog here on the Atrix. I am in the market for a new phone my old HTC Droid eris is only a year old but being first generation it is a dead horse now lol. Well I am patient and can wait for the Motorola Droid Bionic which is supposed to be the Atrix for Verizon coming in June or July do you think I should wait. The Thunderbolt looks so incredible but I want a device like the Atrix that can replace my laptop well not totally because I cannot imagine a phone that can rip DVD’s or play my whole video library to my tv.

    Please keep it updated I will check it every day.

    Reply
    • Ron Rule
      Ron Rule says:

      Thanks :) I thought about waiting for the Verizon version instead of breaking contract, but the iPhone was supposed to be at Verizon one year after launch too and it took over three so I didn’t want to wait. Supposedly, though Motorola is going to be coming out with more phones in the future with the “dock mentality” like the one you mentioned. The Atrix won’t be the only phone you can dock and use like a PC, so if you want to wait for a Verizon version go for it.

      Also I finally got to play with a working Citrix setup last night, that’s where the Atrix power really lies. I think I’m going to do the whole XenServer thing at the office so then I’ll be able to have all of my dev tools and other misc. stuff and truly never need another PC again. But that’s just me, I work in the cloud and don’t have any need to burn DVD’s or play PC games. So it’s definitely not for everyone, but I like pushing myself into ditching the local apps & going all web-based.

      Reply
      • Charles
        Charles says:

        Sorry to harp on battery questions, it just worked out that this topic was what all my questions were about…

        (1) Does the laptop dock contain its own battery?
        (2) If so, does the dock battery also power the phone?
        (3) Last of all, how much battery life do you get?

        Reply
        • Ron Rule
          Ron Rule says:

          Yes, the dock has its own battery and will charge the phone while connected. As for the lapddock’s battery life, I’m getting about 5 hours out of it with normal real-world usage. I don’t make a lot of speakerphone calls (I usually disconnect it and hold the phone), and I’m usually using it in Wifi mode and not the 4G, but not sure how much of an effect that has.

          Reply
  9. Allen
    Allen says:

    Ok So how is it going? No new post I try to check back every week to see how your experience is going. How is the PC free life going? What apps are you using for RDP? Is the Apps taking advantage of the extra screen space or is it just a stretched out version of the phone? Thanks for the answers to the Charles questions so if you use your phone as a phone all day what is the battery life? Do you have any drawback’s or downside to using the phone?

    I believe that this is the wave of the future real soon people will be using there smart phones as there PC. The cloud is the coming to fruition thanks to smart phones and tablets. Now if Google would get there head out of there butts and make a Google Docs app so you don’t have to go to a web browser. I cannot believe that Google has not made an App for all there products like Sites, and Docs.

    Reply
    • Ron Rule
      Ron Rule says:

      Nothing new to report, I have a couple things in the works though. :) I’m at about 95% Atrix usage at the moment, I still need a PC for SQL tools and a couple things and the RDP client doesn’t cut it because it’s limited to an “enlarged phone-sized resolution” vs. the dock’s true resolution capabilities. This will change once I get a Citrix setup going at the office, then I can truly go 100% full time.

      Reply
  10. Allen
    Allen says:

    Ok So how is it going? No new post I try to check back every week to see how your experience is going. How is the PC free life going? What apps are you using for RDP? Is the Apps taking advantage of the extra screen space or is it just a stretched out version of the phone? Thanks for the answers to the Charles questions so if you use your phone as a phone all day what is the battery life? Do you have any drawback’s or downside to using the phone?

    I believe that this is the wave of the future real soon people will be using there smart phones as there PC. The cloud is the coming to fruition thanks to smart phones and tablets. Now if Google would get there head out of there butts and make a Google Docs app so you don’t have to go to a web browser. I cannot believe that Google has not made an App for all there products like Sites, and Docs.

    Reply
    • Ron Rule
      Ron Rule says:

      Nothing new to report, I have a couple things in the works though. :) I’m at about 95% Atrix usage at the moment, I still need a PC for SQL tools and a couple things and the RDP client doesn’t cut it because it’s limited to an “enlarged phone-sized resolution” vs. the dock’s true resolution capabilities. This will change once I get a Citrix setup going at the office, then I can truly go 100% full time.

      Reply
  11. Steve Martens
    Steve Martens says:

    I had an Atrix for a couple of weeks and liked the experience. Unfortunately, I had issues with the dock where when I broke the station down, I could not restart the dock, upon reassembling, unless I plugged it back in first. 1 second was all it took, but it would not work without it. Once AT&T replaced the dock, this issue went away. I would not use this dock without a mouse – the touchpad is not my thing on any system and the Atrix does not employ two finger functionality enjoyed on other systems – so it was even a bigger pain. Moving the cursor and selecting is about it for functionality. I liked the fact that it uses Android 2.2 and not 3.0, there are actually applications I use now on my DroidX that I could easily move over and the experience became so much easier when I ditched the OOB Corporate Sync email and the Quick Office application in favor of Touchdown for Exchange and Office Suite Pro. Without “Touchdown” I would not be able to encrypt data, provide remote wipe capabilities, and employ a unique PIN (won’t allow you to use other PIN’s already in use on the phone). There are a number of other options that also make it very usable, so I did not mind forking out $20. Office Suite Pro allowed me to edit and did not distort the original formating of the attachments like Quick Office. Other than not having the ability to create an actual MS Word document and MS Excel spreadsheet, the generic versions were okay in a pinch. I liked the fact I could easily import certificates and the built in proxy option allowed me easy access to the Internet from my internal LAN. I did not try RDP, I wish it had a camera, and I agree the cost is high. The USB ports quickly allowed both wired and wireless mice to work and the search for printers found my HP 110D quite nicely – too bad the driver options would not work, so printing did not function. The AT&T network is a disappointment that I do not wish to live through again, so I will not give up my Verizon service quite yet.

    Reply
  12. Steve Martens
    Steve Martens says:

    I had an Atrix for a couple of weeks and liked the experience. Unfortunately, I had issues with the dock where when I broke the station down, I could not restart the dock, upon reassembling, unless I plugged it back in first. 1 second was all it took, but it would not work without it. Once AT&T replaced the dock, this issue went away. I would not use this dock without a mouse – the touchpad is not my thing on any system and the Atrix does not employ two finger functionality enjoyed on other systems – so it was even a bigger pain. Moving the cursor and selecting is about it for functionality. I liked the fact that it uses Android 2.2 and not 3.0, there are actually applications I use now on my DroidX that I could easily move over and the experience became so much easier when I ditched the OOB Corporate Sync email and the Quick Office application in favor of Touchdown for Exchange and Office Suite Pro. Without “Touchdown” I would not be able to encrypt data, provide remote wipe capabilities, and employ a unique PIN (won’t allow you to use other PIN’s already in use on the phone). There are a number of other options that also make it very usable, so I did not mind forking out $20. Office Suite Pro allowed me to edit and did not distort the original formating of the attachments like Quick Office. Other than not having the ability to create an actual MS Word document and MS Excel spreadsheet, the generic versions were okay in a pinch. I liked the fact I could easily import certificates and the built in proxy option allowed me easy access to the Internet from my internal LAN. I did not try RDP, I wish it had a camera, and I agree the cost is high. The USB ports quickly allowed both wired and wireless mice to work and the search for printers found my HP 110D quite nicely – too bad the driver options would not work, so printing did not function. The AT&T network is a disappointment that I do not wish to live through again, so I will not give up my Verizon service quite yet.

    Reply

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