Moto X Review – The hands-off phone from Motorola

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Ever since we reviewed the Moto G last year, we’ve been hoping and looking forward to its big brother to come to the UK to test. When we attended the launch in February, our anticipation was only heightened. Now we have our hands on it, and this is the result: The Moto X review.

Moto X Review:

At first look, the Moto X is remarkably similar to its little brother the Moto G. The front is plain black glass (when the screen is off anyway), and there are no physical buttons to break the surface. A smooth curve on the edge to the back which is a smooth back with a grippy coating.

Moto X Review back

The back is almost as plain as the front, with a checkered Carbon fibre-styled pattern and only the Motorola “M” in a small finger sized divot bellow the LED Flash and rear camera. The speaker, situated next to the camera, is just a small perforation of holes and not that obvious, keeping the esthetics nice and plain. The only other mark on the back is a microphone hole on the bottom and the standard model number printing in black, which, again, doesn’t distract the eye from the simplicity of the design.

Moto X Review Top back

The screen is a 4.7 inch AMOLED display, with a resolution of 720X1280, which means it’s capable of only 720p playback. As you would expect from an AMOLED display, the colours are rich and evenly balanced which allows for a better viewing experience.

Hardware:

The Moto X isn’t the most powerful phone on the market, but it isn’t by any means a slouch either. With a Snapdragon S4 Pro Dual-Core 1.7 GHZ processor, 2 GB of RAM. On their own, these figures don’t sound amazing, but with Motorola’s X8 Mobile Computer System – which is the secret source of the Moto X – the device becomes a very modern piece of kit.

The Motorola X8 MCS is what allows the Moto X to do all of its great features without killing your battery in the process. The Moto X uses it to keep an “ear out” for your command with Touchless Control or show you your notifications with the smallest of power used with Active Display (more on those later). If Google, Motorola’s parent company, allow for this system to be licensed for the Nexus devices, this will could become a game changer.

Benchmark Results:

As always, in this Moto X Review, we put the device through a batch of benchmark tests with AnTuTu 4 and Quadrant Standard Edition.

AnTuTu Results:

On the surface, the Moto X didn’t perform very well (at least for a flagship phone) in the results. Scoring 23, 031 points. This put placed it below the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One in the graph. However, I don’t think the AnTuTu app takes into account the X8 MCS. Either that, or the X8 architecture doesn’t get involved in processing.

Moto X Review

As for the OpenGL ES 3D test, the Moto X scores a reasonable 3821 points in the 3.0, and 3915 in the 2.0.

Moto X Review
OpenGL ES 2.0 3D Benchmark result
Moto X Review
OpenGL ES 3.0 3D Benchmark Result

Quadrant SE Results:

In Quadrant SE, the Moto X managed to score 8541, which is almost 50% more than the next device on the graph, the HTC One X.

Moto X Review
Quadrant SE Benchmark Result Graph

Software:

As previously mentioned in this Moto X Review, the device has some very impressive software. This is partly achieved by the X8 MCS which allows the Moto X to use these software tricks without using much (if any) battery.

One such feature is Active Display. This is similar to Samsung’s feature where you can see a brief update of your notifications without turning the full display on. On the Moto X, however, only the pixels needed are lit up, meaning that the whole screen doesn’t need to be lit to show you the notifications, and therefore less battery power is used. The main premise to this is if the phone picks up vibration from a tap, or a change in lighting (like being taken out of a pocket) and the notifications will be shown. What notifications are shown can be customised, as can the responses from the user.

Moto X Review
Active Display set up

The Moto X’s main publicized feature, however, is the Touchless Control feature. This allows you to operate the Moto X without having to touch the screen. This is most useful when you are driving, or when having dirty hands (from cooking, or DIY for example). You simply say the trigger phrase (which is, by default, “OK, Google Now”) and the phone will react to your command. The genius of this system, though, is that you don’t need to press a button first (unlike with S Voice, where you have to double-click the home button). Even with the phone on standby (device turned on but screen off) you can utter the trigger phrase, and the device will turn on and react to your command. “But what if you have a password/security setting?” I ask you say. Motorola have provided for that too, as you are able to perform certain actions without having to unlock the phone (This can also be customised to be able to do anything, although there are certain security risks inherent with this option, such that anyone could find out your home address and other personal information from the device).

Moto X Review Touchless control
Touchless Control Setup

Another fun feature we found (completely by mistake) was something specific to the Moto X called Spotlight stories. Spotlight stories is almost like an easter egg of an app. It’s not found in the app drawer (although there is a widget which will take you to it). When there is a new story to play, you will find a new animation on your screen, begging for your attention. The one that grabbed our attention was a small animated bug crawling down the screen, sitting on top of an icon and staring at us, blinking. We were so puzzled as to what it was, we just had to click on it. Doing so took us to an interactive animation which you view by turning 360 degrees in the real world which will allow you to see more of the animation. You can find out more about Spotlight Stories at googlespotlightstories.com, I genuinely hope they release it for any device soon, as it’s a really fun app.

Moto X Review
Spotlight Stories Information

As with other Motorola devices (like the Moto G), the Moto X also has Motorola apps such as Motorola Assist and Moto Migrate. Other than that, the Moto X is stock Android OS 4.4 KitKat.

Camera:

The Moto X has a 10 MP rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video. The camera app is more or less stock Android 4.4 KitKat, but has been enhanced by Motorola with the addition of several features such as feature called “Twist and Take”. This means you just twist your wrist twice, and the phone will automatically jump to the camera app, ready to take a picture, meaning less missed moments which happen off the cuff. This is aided by the fact that there is no shutter button per say, rather the whole screen is the button. similarly, to zoom, you drag your finger up or down. Sliding from the left hand side of the screen will show the options wheel, and sliding from the right side shows the gallery.

Moto X Review
Moto X Review Test Photo HDR

The pictures themselves are reasonable for a 10 MP camera. The Moto X doesn’t have a particularly high-powered image clip however, so don’t expect amazing results without a bit of work. Above, you can see some example pictures taken with the Moto X review unit we were sent in full sunlight. For a demo of the video camera (as well as the unboxing video), head on over to our YouTube channel.

Moto X Review
Moto X Review Test Photo normal quality

Battery:

The Moto X has a 2200 mAh battery, which is good for about 24 hours of use (depending on usage, of course). Charging times were very good, taking about 60 minutes for a full charge. Usage was also good, as the device was left on for several days with little battery loss. You can also turn on the device’s Battery Saver mode, which kicks in once the phone is low on battery, which stops all background data transfer till charging again. You can still make and take calls, but data browsing (such as web browsing etc) is turned off to enable longer usage.

Conclusion:

The Moto X is a great phone, with some very interesting features. It’s not the fastest device on the market (far from it) but should be able to keep up for a couple of years yet. The addition of the X8 MCS is promising, and I hope to see its use in the future, or a development based on it at least.

There are downsides however. Namely that there is no expandable memory is disappointing. Also, the lack of design customisation post purchase is a little disappointing after the Moto G (although this would be better if Moto Maker was available in the UK). The reasonably pedestrian processor means that you won’t want to play too high-powered games. finally, the 720p resolution is also sad.

That being said, we like the Moto X, as it shows promise for the future of Motorola, whom looked doomed not two years ago.

The Moto X is available from Motorola, your Network provider, Amazon, or our friends at Clove Technology from £290 ($482.50/€346).

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