Motorola Moto X expert review
Motorola has recently been working to bring Android back to its roots by removing the bloat and junk added by manufacturers to leave you with a brilliant phone that works exactly as Google intended. But does the Moto X achieve this? Agent Plummer finds out.
The Moto X is by no means the most powerful phone you can get, nor does it have the most impressive camera or expandable storage. But it does bring a solid Android experience that nails all the day to day needs wonderfully.
Really, this shouldn't be a great surprise, as the Moto X is apparently the first device to be fully designed and produced by Motorola since it was bought by Google (who is now trying to sell it on to Lenovo). So what we should be looking at is a great bit of hardware combined with a version of Android that isn't jammed full of uneccessary (and mostly frivolous) add ons, apps and everything else. But is that what you truly get?
Motorola Moto X - SUMMARY
A great look and feel compliemented by snappy, responsive software that almost makes it the perfect package - if only it were a little cheaper.
- Phone design and shape feel great in hand
- Great build quality
- Moto extras are genuinely useful.
- Camera quality is rather poor
- No expandable storage
- Back is a bit slippery.
DESIGN AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The Moto X is a wonderfully designed phone, with a curved back that fits flush with the palm and makes it nice and easy to hold. It's a one-piece plastic design, so you can't take the back off - in fact, the only access you can get to the inside is through the nanoSIM slot on the side of the device. This gives it a minimalistic and solid feel, and the rest of the phone design is in keeping with this look.
The front is dominated by a near-edge to edge display, and because these edges are curved as well, it makes the screen the absolute focus when looking at the device. The Moto X features all softkeys for Android functions, so there are no physical buttons on the front at all. Instead, the Home, Back and app switcher buttons simply appear on screen as and when needed. Along the right of the phone you will find the lock/power button at the top and volume rocker switch in the centre, whilst on the left you have the nanoSIM tray.
The top of the phone holds just the headphone jack, whilst at the bottom you have the standard microUSB port for charging and data transfer. The back of the phone is where you'll find the camera, LED flash and speaker. This back plate is available in a range of colours and styles - our review unit had a white holographic pattern on the back which looked very stylish.
If we were as lucky as our US cousins we could actually use the Moto Maker website to choose the colour and style of the back, front, buttons and even add a signature to the phone. Unfortunately, it seems we here in the UK will be limited to the stock that the network carriers get, but I do hope they bring the option over to our shores sometime soon.
In terms of size and weight, I find the Moto X near perfect - the small bezels around the display means the device isn't actually very wide, while the weight at 130g keeps it feeling like a well-built device, without ever seeming heavy.
| || |
Processor and Memory
Motorola have taken a different step with the internals than what most manufacturers have with high-end phones, in that they have not made the device extremely powerful. In fact the dual-core 1.7GHz processor pales in comparison to the Quad-core offerings found in the likes of the Nexus 5 and Galaxy S4.
But this is only the raw processing power - how this translates to actual day-to-day performance is another matter. So far, I have not found using the phone slow anywhere except the camera. I showed it round to a few of the Agents here and got similar thoughts from them - general performance is no different from top-end devices like the S4.
The are many possible reasons for this, but the general consensus seems to be that the less manufacturs add on the base Android software, the better performance will be. I think comparisons to the S4 show this best as the S4 does have so much more power, but is also rammed full of extra software, so the day-to-day performance you get is essentially the same as the Moto X.
The Moto X comes with 2GB RAM (which is on par with the Nexus 5/Galaxy S4 etc.) so there is more than enough memory to have plenty of applications running without any slow down, as well as enabling the phone to run any memory-intensive apps such as HD games. Internal storage can be either 16GB or 32GB, and the lack of bloat from Motorola taking up this space means more storage is available for you for your own apps, photos and any other media you want to store. Unfortunately, there is no option of expandable memory, so you will have to choose wisely when choosing your storage as once you've run out, your only option is to begin removing content.
Resolution: 1280 x 720 Dimensions: 4.7"Display Type: AMOLED ppi: 312
The Moto X features a 4.7" screen which as mentioned above is almost edge to edge. This means that when you're holding the device in one hand your thumb can easily reach all areas of the screen without having to perform some fantastic finger acrobatics! The resolution is a bit low, at only 720p rather than 1080p, but the ppi is just as high as what Apple class as Retina (~300ppi), so like an iPhone you'll struggle to see individual pixels and all the icons and text on screen look perfectly sharp with no blurred edges or soft-looking images.
Brightness, however, is not as good as competing handsets, and even on full brightness the screen seemed to be quite dim. White colours on screen tended to have a cream colour to them which made the whole screen appear darker.
The Moto X also features something called Active Display, which works very similarly to the Glance Screen on Nokia Lumia devices. It basically provides you with essential information, such as your number of missed calls, texts or emails, without you needing to unlock the phone. The usefulness of this feature is a bit uncertain though, as it only gives you an icon display, so you'd still have to fully unlock the phone to see who or what the messages are about. It's probably more useful really for knowing when you don't have notifications, so that you can save yourself from having to unlock the phone.
Rear: 10MP, LED Flash, 1080p@30fps
Front: 2MP, 1080p@30fps
The Moto X features a 10MP snapper, which I've found them to be very hit and miss. It's a bit bizarre really, as sometimes it seems to take excellent shots whereas others seem fuzzy and completely unfocused. You can manually set focal points which improves the look of pictures, however the auto-settings are just not up to scratch.
In general photos are OK, but they do seem to have a warm, sometimes orange, glow. Response time is also a bit slow, with a 2-3 second delay in between taking photos. It's better than a lot of phones but simply cannot compete with the likes of the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nokia Lumia or Sony Xperia - all of which have fantastic cameras.
You won't be really disappointed with the snaps, as they are mostly alright, and some really do look great. There are some added extras too which do enhance the camera experience, such as the twist to shoot shortcut. This is an interesting feature that means you can quickly jump to the camera app for those instant shots.
Other features include HDR mod, offering improved picture quality, and slo-mo mode. You can also use panorama mode for taking sweeping panoramas of your surroundings, which again works quite well. The big problem with all of these extras is that they still suffer from some of the soft light and fuzziness of normal camera pictures, which takes away somewhat from what is a pretty decent handset.
The Motorola quoted battery for standby time is 576hrs, whilst talk time should be around 13hrs. These times put it around average for a phone in this range, but how do these translate to real life? Again, around average. I've found that the phone will easily last through a day of usage and my usual test of streaming an episode of Top Gear from Netflix showed it to use around 16% battery, so you could easily sneak an episode or two without running the battery down completely.
The Moto X comes with the latest version of Android, codenamed KitKat. This adds some refinements and smoothness to the system which should increase overall stability. Other new features include Smart callerID - which kicks in whenever you get a call from someone not on your contact list. Smart callerID will search through Google to try and identify who it is who's calling - so you'll know if it's a local business or random scam call. Hangouts now integrates with your messaging, so you can use normal SMS and talk to Google contacts all in one place. You can also make some apps full screen, so that you have no buttons or distractions - perfect when reading a book, for example.
One of the most anticipated features of the phone is Google Now - Android's equivalent to Apple's digital voice assistant Siri. The Motorola Moto X however takes this one step further, by having the phone always listening out for commands, even when the display is off and the phone is in standby mode. This means that at any point you can say "OK Google Now" and the phone will begin listening to your commands. You can ask the usual such as the weather, as well as messaging and calling people, along with general searches. I did a side-by-side comparison with Siri, and found that Siri tends to recognise and process commands faster, but delivery of results once processed is quicker with Google Now - possibly because Google now uses (unsurprisingly) Google's search engine, whereas Siri uses Bing search instead. Obvious privacy issues aside, the always-listening service takes the technology one step closer to Iron Man's Jarvis, and as a Geek I find that very exciting!
Motorola's additions to the base Android system are minimal, which reduces impact on the system as a whole and makes the device run much quicker than equivalent devices stuffed full of manufacturer bloat. In fact I could only find two or three extra apps, all of which are actually pretty useful. One is Motorola migrate, which enables you to transfer data from your old phone directly onto the Moto X, which saves a lot of hassle compared to the otherwise laborious process of data transfer.
Another app is Motorola Assist, which gives your phone some auto-actions. You can set it to meeting mode where it will keep the phone quiet and redirect calls and send a message to them explaining you're busy. You can also set it into car mode, where the phone will read aloud messages and can auto reply to them. Overall, the software experience is very good: it's quick, smooth and a lack of bloat means it's almost a vanilla Android expereince.
Moto X - THE VERDICT
I really enjoyed using the Moto X. I think the software is nice and quick, and the design is actually rather nice to look at and hold. The only real let-down for me is the camera, as it's just too hit and miss. However, everything else on the phone is great and if you went with this device there is very little that you wouldn't appreciate on it. I only wish that it was slightly cheaper, so that it could directly compete with the arguably better Nexus 5.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE Motorola Moto X
Google Nexus 5 - an even purer Android experience at a pretty good price.
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - all the great hardware of the Z1 compressed into a smaller package
HTC One - Still a great handset and a great Android experience.
Are you a Moto X owner who doesn't know what you'd do without it? Or are you considering making the swtich to Android? Leave a comment and let us know!