Impressive Competitive Review Motorola Atrix Vs N9 - By: robin jakson

Operating System:

Nokia's N9 is the debut handset for the latest build of Nokia's open-source MeeGo 1.2 'Harmattan' operating system.

Jumping right in at the deep end, the N9 uses gesture based touchscreen control for the MeeGo interface rather than having home, menu or back buttons.

MeeGo features three task-specific home screens which you can navigate to with individual gestures, it's not the most intuitive control system and takes a bit of practice but once you get the different swipes embedded in your brain it can be a very smooth and seamless experience.

Although we can imagine such a system will sit well with some, many people may find it a bit 'closed off' and we'd hesitate to guess at how much it will take off.

The three home screens break down into 'Events', 'Applications' and 'Open Apps' .

Events presents you with system notifications and status updates, along with social networking info, we're speculating this might be where you'll find your mail, text and IM feeds too but details are not exact at this point in time.

'Applications' is descriptively titled as the screen from which you organise and launch your apps.

Rather than integrating active app management and multi-tasking with the Applications screen Nokia has created the 'Open Apps' screen, which as the name suggests is where you manage your open apps.

What format multi-tasking will actually take in practice, and what the accompanying performance will be like, is still an unknown factor right now.

There's every chance with such an apparent heavy focus on apps in the interface layout, indeed with a whole home screen dedicated to active apps, Nokia will have paid close attention to handling multiple apps simultaneously.

Nokia's apps have been developed with Qt 4.7 compliance in mind and at the forefront of these is a HTML5 supporting web browser based on the Webkit 2 architecture.

MeeGo support extends to multiple mail accounts along with push mail and integrated Microsoft Office, PDF and Open Office attachment viewing capabilities.

Social networking and IM integration has become a focal point and Facebook, Skype, GoogleTalk, Gmail and Twitter apps are all part of the package.

Nokia Maps is provided for location-based services and navigation and a number of games are bundled in, including a pre-loaded build of Angry Birds.

Future app development and support remains uncertain, although Nokia has pledged to support the platform for years to come, the open-source nature of MeeGo, while attractive to developers, isn't going to be the only factor in securing its popularity. Claiming ground with operating systems, particularly in a climate dominated by Apple and Google is notoriously hard going.

One particularly attractive feature is that Nokia plans to allow updates over the air for MeeGo on the N9, taking the fuss out of updating is certainly something to please consumers.

MeeGo also feature Nokia Link which allows you to synchronise with both Macs and PCs for sharing and exchanging media files.

The Atrix runs on Google's prolific Android operating system, it ships with 2.2 Froyo, a 2.3 Gingerbread update is promised at some point this year, although at this rate it will probably be just in time for Ice Cream Sandwich's release.

It's a bit of a shame really as the Atrix is a very nice phone let down slightly by a more dated version of an otherwise competent operating system, it feels like it's made for something better than this.

Froyo isn't a bad build, it's just that Gingerbread is better, much better, it was improved across the board.

Performance on Froyo isn't as good as Gingerbread and although the multi-tasking is great, Gingerbread's is better, not only that 2.3 offers greater control through its app management tools too.


Hardware in the N9 is impressive to say the least, it may be a single core handset but Nokia has really gone all out to make it about as powerful as possible.

The N9 uses a 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor on the TI OMAP 3630 chipset.

It doesn't end there though, not only is this supported by a PowerVR SGX530 graphics processing unit (GPU), but there's also a 430 MHz TI TMS320C64x digital signal processor specifically for picture and audio data, as well as call and data transmission.

Motorola has opted for a different route, instead fitting the Atrix with a dual-core power plant, though it is still clocked at 1GHz and uses ARM architecture like its competitor.

The Atrix runs an ARM Cortex A9 processor on the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, while graphics power is also Nvidia based with a Geforce GPU.

The Nokia's setup is powerful stuff but it's not going to outperform the dual core Cortex A9 of the Atrix.

Winner – Motorola Atrix


The N9 boasts an 8-megapixel primary camera made by camera manufacturer Carl Zeiss, the camera resolution comes in at 3264x2448 pixels while video capture is at 720p.

The handset features video calling and is fitted with a secondary camera.

Other features include autofocus, dual LED flash, geo-tagging, face detection, touch-focus, exposure control and white balance.

This is a very serious camera setup clearly aimed at people who are more than a little bit snap-happy with their phones.

The camera setup on the Atrix is a little more low-key, it has a 5-megapixel primary camera at 2592х1944 resolution and video capture quality at 720p. The features run-down includes geo-tagging, image stabilisation, autofocus and LED flash.

The phone also has a secondary VGA camera.

The N9's camera setup is leaps and bounds ahead of the Atrix, but it's understandable given the apparent attention Nokia has lavished on the camera as a big focus for the phone.

Winner – Nokia N9

Final Thoughts:

We can see a similar problem with both of these handsets despite the fact that the hardware and build quality on display here is top notch, both phones are very well provided for and extremely well put together.

However, the potential problem with each is not any element of the hardware and technical capability, but the operating systems they run.

In each case there isn't anything wrong with the operating systems used, but there are better Android builds than Froyo and MeeGo Harmattan is yet to prove itself.

Harmattan looks like a very competent offering but how it will actually perform is yet to be revealed in the stark light of consumer testing out there in the marketplace.

Both phones are very capalbe and while we are impressed with the Nokia we think the Motorola Atrix is a stronger package all things considered.

We wish it had a more up to date operating system but that's its only real weak point.

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