Motorola‘s Moto G absolutely blew us away with the value it offered. For the money, there hasn’t really been a better mobile.
The Moto X, which had been saved strictly for the US, immediately became a more tempting proposition when we got our hands on the Moto G. Now, finally, it has arrived on UK shores and we have got one in to play with. So is it worth the extra cost over the G?
Hardware and Design
The Moto X keeps it simple. It is, essentially, a bigger version of the Moto G. That means a solid robust build feel and a screen that takes up the majority of the front of the phone.
The unit we were sent for testing came in black, with a matte back that had a carbon fibre-effect splashed across it. It looks good, but is nothing on some of the designs that the ‘Moto Maker’ can turn out.
Moto Maker is Motorola’s online smartphone customisation suite. It lets you pick the color scheme for your phone and build a product that is the best fit for you. In short, it’s awesome. But here is the catch – It’s not in the UK yet.
Motorola Moto G review
This is a major disappointment, as we absolutely love some of the Moto X creations currently making their way out of the US. For us, this standard black slab of a mobile (or white if you go to Phones 4U) just isn’t that exciting to look at.
That said, the build is pretty hard to fault. Like Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact, the Moto X is really nicely put together. The problem is, it doesn’t look quite as premium as Sony’s offering. In fact, we would argue the Nexus 5 (which is cheaper) also outdoes it here.
In the hand, the Moto X feels just right in terms of ergonomics and ease of use. It’s 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm dimensions and 130g weight are exactly what a smartphone should be.
Pocketability is spot on and really, it’s only the less-than-premium feel which lets the Moto X down. We can’t help but feel however that opting for something put together using Moto Maker might cure some of these woes.
As for hardware, the Moto X ships with a nice 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED screen (more on that later), as well as a dual-core 1.7GHz processor from Qualcomm and 2GB of RAM. As spec sheets go, for the £350 asking price, it’s easily bested by the Nexus 5.
Also rather irritating is that the Moto G’s specs aren’t hugely far off, with the much cheaper device boasting a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. Given that the asking price of the Moto G is around £150, it seems a much better value proposition.
In fact, in terms of the Moto X’s setup, this handset actually suffers at the hand of Motorola’s cheaper offering. Sat side by side, we would save ourselves the cash. That said, if Moto Maker ends up in the UK (which Motorola has said it hopes will be the case), the X might be the more exciting device.
The Motorola X uses a pair of cameras – 10-megapixels on the back for the serious stuff, with 2-megapixels on the front for video calling.
As smartphone cameras go, the feature set you get is actually rather impressive. Slow motion video, burst modes and a decent amount of adjustability make it one of the better Android cameras we have used.
It’s also devoid of all the clutter you find on some of the alternatives. A simple swipe left brings up settings, while right opens up the gallery. There are clever touches, like burst shots being done by simply holding your finger on the screen.
Our absolute favorite camera feature has to be the Moto X’s photo app quick launch. All you need to do is flick your wrist twice and the camera will open, even if the handset is locked. Some have complained about this functionality being a bit flaky, but we never had any issues.
As for the cameras themselves – Motorola uses a RGBC sensor, which features a fourth ‘clear’ pixel type. The idea is that this extra pixel helps keep images clean and noise free in low light. To an extent, it does, but compared to other top end smartphone cameras, the Moto X is nothing special.
What it is, however, is marginally better than other options at this price point. The ability to shoot 1080p video on the front facing camera is handy for video calling, while the user interface is among our favorites.
User Interface and Apps
Motorola might have just parted company with Google, but the Moto X was put together very much when they were friends.
While it might not boast the stripped-back experience of a Nexus device, the Moto X plays it careful not to add anything unnecessary over what Android already manages.
However, what is there is largely very useful. ‘Active display’ for example will show you notifications on your smartphone screen without needing to wake the device entirely. It saves more battery than you might think.
Then there is the ‘always on’ Google voice search. This one is less useful, partly because if you use a security code on your mobile (which everyone does), you still need to unlock your handset to use it.
Activating Google Now using the ‘OK Google Now’ command also feels a touch counter-intuitive, even if the voice recognition itself is scarily accurate. That said, you can ask the Moto X virtually anything and Google will come up with an answer for you.
Other than that, we love Motorola Assist. It uses things like GPS to recognize what you are doing and then alter your smartphone’s behavior around it. Driving? Then Moto Assist will read out text messages for you.
As for the Android itself, 4.4 KitKat is the best version Google has put out to date. It’s fast, looks slick and has clear and easy-to-understand apps. Basically, the Moto X is a bit like a Nexus 5 in how it handles, but with some extra icing on the cake.
Therein lies its problem really, as the Nexus 5 is cheaper and we aren’t sure these added features justify the cost. They certainly aren’t useless tweaks, but if you really want to pay the Motorola premium is up to you.
Music and Movies
With the Moto X you get a 720p screen to play with. Compared to the 1080p competition, it’s just not quite as sharp and as such, falls behind other devices when it comes to movies.
Sony also went down the 720p route with the Z1 Compact, but nailed it in the viewing angles and color reproduction stakes. Here, you have a little bit of color banding when viewing pure white on the screen and there isn’t the same image processing tech as Sony, meaning movies and video just aren’t as good.
That said, the display isn’t bad. We have seen much worse at this price point and it’s ability to dynamically light parts of the LED screen for its ‘Active display’ is definitely handy.
In terms of the music and movies available, usual rules apply, in that there are absolutely loads to choose from on Google Play and from the various apps on offer.
The speakers are in another league compared to the competition. They are loud, clear and great for hands-free calling. Music playback is decent enough that it rivals larger tablets. A definite plus point.
Right up there is the Nexus 5, shining brightly in the face of the Moto X. As we have already mentioned, it’s cheaper and boasts 99% of the features included with Motorola’s phone. It also has a better screen.
Nexus 5 review
Then you have Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact, which is also a very impressive contender and one well worth considering. HTC’s One Mini also ranks well.
The Moto G is the problem with the Moto X. Basically, Motorola made such an incredible value handset that its more expensive offering would have to be something truly special in order to compete.
Perhaps if you were to take into account the customisation that Moto Maker offers, then all the other bonus features you get with the Moto X would justify its extra cost. Until then though, unfortunately the Nexus 5 seems a much better deal.
That said, we can’t help but love the logical approach to mobile design that Motorola has applied to the Moto X. Some of the Android competition could do well taking a long, hard look at themselves and learning a thing or two from Motorola’s book.