Motorola Moto X (2014) review


WhistleOut
23 January 2015

90 / 100

It really wasn’t that long ago that we were reviewing the original Moto X and loving it. Motorola has thankfully kept what we liked so much in the former and added in a few neat new tricks for this year’s model.

Pros: Cons:
  • Straight forward design, inside and out
  • Voice controls are great
  • Android Lollipop is a big step up
  • Great HD screen
  • Camera could be better
  • Battery life is good, but not great
  • No useful extras, like an IR blaster or waterproofing

Design wise, the Moto X is more contain over form, especially when looking at the straight black plastic model. The curved chassis fits well in the hand, the soft-touch plastic feels great and the recessed Motorola logo beneath the camera is a magnet for your index finger. Not literally, but in an ergonomic sense — our finger found its way into the groove pretty much every time we lifted the phone up.

This simple physical design can be spruced up a bit, depending on where you live, by using the Moto Maker online design tool, and deciding which colours and trims you’ll give your personalised handset. If you live outside of the US, UK and Germany, then it is worth keeping with local suppliers to see which colour variants they are stocking. Even a white plastic body gives this handset a lift. If you’re lucky, you might even find Moto X handsets with bamboo and leather battery covers. These alternate materials look and feel amazing.

The only downside to Motorola’s Keep It Simple Stupid design philosophy is that a number of increasing common smartphone features are left out. While we don’t mind the Moto X shipping without a fingerprint scanner, we’d love to have seen it comes with a level of waterproofing. We have also become quite fond of phones with Infrared blasters built in, which allow you to control TVs, DVD players and and compatible Air Conditioners.

Motorola chooses great components for the Moto X in 2014, including a superb full HD resolution LCD display. While other manufacturers try and tempt us with more and more pixels for our screens each year, Motorola sticks with 1920 x 1080 pixels and a really good quality panel. Colours are noticeably rich and vibrant, and really help bring the new Android Lollipop system, with all of its colourful new design, to life. It really is the quality of display that people notice. Several friends and colleagues have commented on how great it looks during our review time.

Ooh, lollipop

Perhaps one of the best reasons to buy a Moto X 2014 right now is that it is one of the first phones in the world to use Android 5.0, codenamed Lollipop. The cute candy name signifies that this is the 12th version of Android (L is the the 12th letter in the alphabet) and it is far and away the best version to date.

People familiar with Apple’s iOS system will appreciate the new colour and confidence in the look and feel of Lollipop. This design is bold, with bright pastels on every menu and wallpaper option. There are plenty of subtle animations across the system which help it feel more alive than previous versions of Android have.

There’s loads of new and useful functionality, too. You can now have multiple logins for different users, and a guest mode. This is great is you regularly pass your phone to the kids during dinner, or want to show untrustworthy workmates your holiday photos without them idly scrolling through your private pics.

Notifications now appear on the phone’s lock screen and you can swipe away unnecessary notices without having to unlock your phone and open the corresponding app each time.

You still access notifications by swiping down on the display, but you know access quick settings by swiping down again. From here you can quickly toggle WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, plus you can turn on your phone’s flashlight (the camera’s flash) and Cast your screen to a Google Chromecast TV adapter.

Motorola’s own

For the most part, Motorola uses Google Android without any adding many embellishments, unlike Samsung, Sony, HTC, et al. You get the best of Google Android, without any spammy useless apps, widgets or customisations getting in the way.

But this doesn’t mean that Motorola adds nothing at all, in fact some of the best features in the Moto X are Motorola designed. The standout here is always-on voice activation, which allows you to communicate with the phone, without touching it at all. For example, when I’m driving I can say “Phone, Wake up” (my own preset wake command). Once it responds I can say “Navigate to Home” and the phone will open Google Maps and set a course for my house (again, something I have set up earlier).

You can use voice commands to do quite a bit on the phone. You can open apps, toggle settings options, ask for the weather forecast or even ask the phone to “Take a selfie”.

To conserve battery life, Motorola also created a lock-screen tool it calls Adaptive Display. The idea is that rather than turning on the screen every time you want to check your phone, you can see incoming messages in white text on a black screen. You dont even need to press the power button, the Adpative Display comes on when you wave a hand over the screen or rock the phone.

Camera

Photogs are the group left most in the cold by the Moto X 2014. The 13-megapixel camera in the Moto X has a respectable number of pixels, but it doesn’t match these specs with great photos overall. Going through the dozens of photos we took during testing, most have been taken out of focus, and it’s low-light shots are dreadful. Even shots in dim indoor lighting are more disappointing than we’d have expected.

Outdoor shots, with sunlight behind it, the camera here is capable of nice photos, as you can see in our samples. When you look closely at these shots, you don’t see the same level of clarity and detail that you will find in photos taken by Samsung or Apple camera phones.

Performance and battery life

Beneath the screen, Motorola has packed in a very capable mobil processor in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. It’s a quad-core chipset, clocked at 2.5GHz per core, with an Adreno 330 graphics unit and 2GB RAM.

In layman’s terms, the Moto X is a powerful little computer with power enough for everyday smartphone use. We tested the phone by using it everyday for about a month, and we never encountered any sputtering or lagginess, and no serious system hiccups.

We did charge the Moto X everyday though, which is something we were beginning to enjoy not having to do. Motorola include only a 2300mAh capacity battery, which is 10% smaller than the batteries you find in our big name phones, like the Galaxy S5. It doesn’t seem to be a particularly power hungry phone, but at the end of each day we found ourselves on about 20% charge and we went looking for a power adapter.

Motorola does include Fast Charging technology here though, so you can rejoice the battery in under an hour, with a promise of about 60% in 30-mins according to Motorola. Still, with the competition stretching out the time between charges to 2 days or more, we hope the next big release from Motorola is more battery focused.

Overall

Despite lacking a number of the headline features found in many of its rivals, the Moto X stands out as one of our favourite phones, right now. In fact, it may be because there is no fingerprint scanners and eye tracking technology that we like it so much. This phone feels bright and fun and is very easy to use.


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