Motorola Moto X Review

As we start telling you the results of our in-depth review of the Motorola Moto X, one thing is becoming more and more clear to us: one of the key factors in the success of a smartphone is definitely its positioning. This is a time when industry biggies aren’t hesitating the slightest bit while instilling their devices with the latest high-end components without worrying about their skyrocketing MRPs. Amongst them, Motorola stood out because it positioned its flagship as a mid ranger. Not only that; it has laid particular focus on being different among the pool of similars by developing innovative features that consumers can actually put to use. Moreover, its US version benefited from a bevy of body customization options which gave it yet another distinct appeal. It’s these bold decisions that the company took for which it deserves plaudits. Let us run you through all that has been packed inside it, so that you may judge for yourself whether it’s worth your hard earned cash or not.

Motorola Moto X

Specifications:

On paper, the X doesn’t stand a chance against the Galaxy S5s and the One M8s, but if you’re any bit interested in this device you’d care more about its functionality and performance rather than its specs sheet. You’re getting a 720p HD display which happens to be 4.7 inches in size and of the AMOLED type. A non-removable 2200mAh battery occupies space inside it and as far as storage memory goes, only the 16GB version has made its way into India. If you’re wondering, there’s no microSD support available. Why? We do not know, but it’s said that former Motorola-owner Google made this decision with a view of compelling people to use its Drive cloud storage service, of which an additional 50GB is made accessible to every Moto X owner for two years.

Moto X Specs

Talking about its processing power, Motorola has gone innovative in this department as well. It has built a custom setup named the X8 Mobile Computing System that’s aimed at efficiently supporting the unique functions of the Moto X. For usual processing there’s a 1.7GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 Pro unit, whereas the phone’s graphics are handled by a quad core Adreno 320 GPU. One core each has been dedicated to natural language processing and contextual awareness. That makes it a total of 8 cores, hence the name X8. For satisfying your photography needs, this device carries onboard a 10MP rear camera, and for video chatting, there’s a 2MP front-facing snapper.

Design

If you’re the kind to whom minimalism appeals, you’ll be in love with the X’s design in no time at all. A great portion of the almost bezel-less front surface is occupied by its display, with Motorola not having bothered to even find place for etching its own logo on it. This in a way signifies that the company’s focus is only on the phone’s offerings and nothing else. A earpiece, the front camera and an almost-invisible sensor inhabit the upper region of this device’s face, while the lone occupant of the lower side is a microphone. At 10.4mm, this device is quite slim on its sides, but it gains a gradual bulge as its rear surface tapers towards the middle. This hind side features a pretty clean center-aligned arrangement of the rear camera, a flash and the Motorola logo placed beautifully inside a dimple.

Rear Dimple

The company might not have added the dimple for this particular purpose, but placing your index finger inside this small pit while operating the device gives you a surprisingly neat sense of grip on the handset. The side surfaces on this smartphone are the usual deal. On the right, there’s a micro SIM slot while the surface on the left hand side is dominated by power and volume rocker buttons, whose clunky nature deals a slight blow to the otherwise premium-looking design of this device. A 3.5mm jack and a microUSB port are placed on the center of its upper and lower surfaces, respectively.

Moto X Front

The Motorola Moto X weighs in at 130gms and so does the Nexus 5. But the latter smartphone is a much advanced affair with its larger and higher resolution display, its quad core processor, its stronger battery and larger form factor. This makes us believe that it’s the custom X8 architecture which gives the X most of its added weight. Nonetheless, 130gms gives you a perfect experience when it comes to handling the device, sliding it out of your pockets, holding it in landscape mode for photography and games and other daily scenarios. Lastly, the handset features something known as a nano coating which gives it water-repelling attributes. This does not mean it is water-resistant or waterproof, as it only enables you to easily wipe off water if it’s spilled on the unit.

Display

Measuring in at 4.7 inches diagonally, the panel on the front surface of this smartphone its well sized to occupy a 1280 x 720 pixel display (312ppi). But one of the highlights of the X is that its makers have chosen to go with the AMOLED technology instead of any other. No doubt, the colors can be expected to be a bit saturated, but they are much richly displayed on this type of a screen. More importantly, one of the device’s selling points – its Active Display – is made possible by the AMOLED panel. We’ll be talking about this later of course. If you’re concerned about viewing angles, they are flawless and so is the touchscreen feedback. This ensures that the display department is where the Moto X scores a lot of points.

X Display

Software

For most of the part, the Motorola Moto X is a vanilla Android experience. And the bits in which it isn’t, make you wish were part of the stock version of Google’s OS. Let us start with the most useful among all the Moto X software attributes – its Active Display which can showcase your notifications in a minimalistic manner on a white-on-black screen without even requiring you to unlock your device. Active Display is made possible by the phone’s AMOLED panel which enables it to illuminate just a few pixels instead of awaking the entire screen. More importantly, this and the fact that there’s a separate contextual core dedicated to this task ensure that you do not get paranoid about your screen being illuminated for such a long time. We will admit, we were affected by this fear for the first couple of days, but Active Display turned out to be an extremely useful feature once we got used to it.

Touchless Control

When you have a notification, Active Display keeps subtly pulsating to tell you about it. If you wish to read it you can just tap the icon and your goal will be achieved. Another one of the features made possible by this technology is a clock that can illuminate itself when you move the device the slightest bit. This means you can have the time displayed to you when you pull it out of your pockets, or just pick it up from your workstation.

Active Display

The device’s Touchless Control attribute is another thing that makes it so desirable. ‘Okay Google Now’ is all you have to say to wake it up from sleep mode and perform whatever task you desire. If you’re worried about someone else saying that phrase and annoying you, your fears are true. Despite the fact that Touchless Control trains itself at start-up to recognize your voice through a tedious process, we experienced that it responded to various other voices arbitrarily. Anyway, Touchless Control is a great tool for when you’re occupied with something like while you’re driving, so you can easily send texts, place phone calls or glance through your emails without touching your phone even once.

Another utterly neat addition to the Moto X’s arsenal is Quick Capture. We were a bit apprehensive about this trait for reasons that it felt more like a gimmick that you’ll forget about after the first few days, like the Smart Scroll or Smart Pause features of the Galaxy S4. But the more we used it, the more we got accustomed to it, and we now feel that there’s no better, efficient, quick and fun way to launch a phone’s camera than Quick Capture. Just flick your phone twice and the camera is ready for you in a second, making sure that you don’t miss that priceless selfie opportunity with your favorite movie star.

Quick Capture, Assist And Migrate

There’s some amount of bloatware infused into the device by its maker, but defying all odds, it turns out to be actually useful. Motorola’s Assist app is something worth talking about. Using GPS and other sensors, it identifies that you’re driving and reads your notifications aloud. By tracking your Google Calendar, it identifies that you’re in a meeting and silences the phone for that duration. Stuff that is so automated seldom fails to impress and Assist is one more area where the X shines in the software department. Besides, there is another Motorola tool called Migrate which helps you switch devices by grabbing data from your old ones. That’s a pretty nifty addition as well. It’s hence that we’ll say that as a software package, the Moto X is a winner by all aspects.

Camera

This phone’s rear camera is powered by the Clear Pixel technology which means it is able to capture 75 percent more light than other smartphone snappers. We’ll admit, its low-light performance is a bit towards good side, but we are not particularly impressed with the results of this 10MP camera. Although it is able to capture its colors in a satisfactory manner, its rendered images lack detail and are quite soft on the whole. Zooming in on them makes you realize how blandly they’ve been captured. And this fault affects the camera as much in perfectly-lit environments as it does in dimly lit ones.

Sample Picture
Sample picture

The Motorola Moto X has been blessed with an innovative proprietary Camera app that the company has tried to make extremely basic. A pull-out menu can be accessed from the left-side, giving you a nice little wheel you can spin to access its features. Things like HDR mode, Panorama mode, Geo-tagging, flash and more can be accessed through here, but the lack of ISO and White Balance settings could leave professionals craving for more. There is a bizarre exposure setting which lets you choose where you want to focus and adjusts the exposure according to the light on the chosen part. This feature takes some time getting used to but even when you get a hang of it, it cannot bring the satisfaction of manually adjusting the exposure on your smartphone’s camera.


Sample videos captured from the phone (To be viewed at 1080p setting)

This phone does decent 1080p full HD videos at 30fps and even features a slow-motion mode which can shoot at a 720p HD resolution. This latter mode is quite pleasing an addition, but the fact that its video playback is tied to 14 to 15fps makes it a bummer. The videos don’t quite gain the stunning slow-motion effect that a 120fps or perhaps even a 60fps setting grants them on other smartphones. Speaking about settings, it’s the lack of them in the Camera app that had us unsatisfied. However, the phone is targeted towards the masses and that’s the reason why the approach to the Camera app has been so minimal. Expect this Clear Pixel snapper to satisfy your basic photography needs, but don’t expect stunning professional-grade shots from it. Lastly, there’s a 2MP front camera on this phone which works exactly like how a 2MP front camera should work, so there are no complaints there.

Camera App

Performance

Now here’s something we had been waiting to talk about. It is perhaps the Moto X’s near-stock Android user interface that enables this phone to deliver the swift and superfast experience which it does. True, it’s only a dual core device but the fact that there are dedicated cores for its other major functions and 2GB worth of RAM to exploit enables it to deliver extremely swift performance. Gliding through apps, switching between them, returning to those running the background, running heavy games, taking phone calls or any other such task does not take a toll on the performance of this device in any way. The X8 architecture is therefore to be praised like anything.

Moto X Background Apps

We’ll be telling you the benchmark results, but our advice would be to forget about them, for they do not give you a full idea of how the Moto X behaves in person. On AnTuTu, it scored 22,455 points, showing itself to be better than the Note 2 and the Xperia Z. But if it is to be compared against today’s biggies like the Galaxy S5 (39,481), that score is obviously very low. The X scored 8,092 on Quadrant Standard Edition which is again extremely low as compared to the S5’s 24,633. That however, didn’t stop a 3D game like GTA: San Andreas from running in an extremely swift manner. On benchmarks, this phone is only managing to beat previous-gen devices, but take our word for it and do not base your decision to buy the Moto X on these scores, for it’s a far better performing phone than what they make it out to be.

Battery

Motorola’s claim of the X providing 24 hours of juice on a single charge is not a complete farce, but that would require much lesser usage than what we normally put it through during our review. For us, the daily usage consisted of phone calls every now and then, browsing the Internet, some playing around with ‘Okay Google Now,’ clicking pictures to pass time, heavy gaming before going to bed and six hours of standby after that. With 3G and Wi-Fi both switched on, this kind of a cycle was delivered for about 12 hours by the Moto X. But we will say, if you keep off the heavy gaming aspect, you can gain much more from the 2,200mAh battery of this phone. There’s a decent battery saver present on this phone which restricts background data till you start charging it again.

Side Surface

Pros

Useful software attributes that aren’t gimmicks.

Extremely well designed and good looking with a modest array of specs.

Swift and nimble performance.

Cons

Camera is a letdown.

No expandable storage.

Score

Final Verdict

The Motorola Moto X is not a smartphone made for the high-end junta. It’s a neat little device which serves those who want a good-looking, decent and efficient smartphone that can perform a few tricks worth boasting about. If those aspects are to be compared against its price in India of Rs. 23,999 (Rs. 25,999 for a wooden backplate), then we’d go as far as to say that this device redefines the mid-range segment. One the whole, we love each and every thing about this phone except for its camera which leaves much to be desired. We’re giving it a score of 4.2 out of 5.