Moto X 2014 Review


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Motorola stands as one of the old ones, the leaders in mobile technology that somehow got sidelined amidst the confusion and chaos as everyone aimed for the race to the top. With the launch of the first generation Moto X, they proved that they still have the mojo to create a product that stands out despite not having top of the line specifications. With genuinely useful software additions to stock Android, top notch build quality and near infinite customization possibilities, the handset was unique and consumers noticed it. Enough to warrant a second run and enough for Motorola to kick things up a notch and launch the 2nd generation Moto X that takes all the best things from the first generation phone and supercharges it with top of the line specifications. So is the Moto X (2014) a winner? Read on to find out.

Video Review

Hardware

The second generation Moto X is a premium device through and through. From the moment you pick it up, you can see how comfortable this device is to hold. From the slim bezels to the aluminum band running around the device that feels luxurious. The metal band also acts as the antennae.

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Over at the front, all you’ll see is the 5.2 inch display that is covered by a Gorilla Glass 3 coating. The edges of the display gradually curve and meld into the metal band at the sides of the device. Up top and below the display are the earpiece and speaker grilles. There’s also the 2MP front facing camera with 4 IR LEDs lined up next to it. On the black variant, these LEDs are nigh invisible. As we mentioned earlier, the entire glass front gradually tapers away at the edges and draws your attention only to the gorgeous display that we’ll talk about more further in the review.

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The side bands of the phone are aluminum and have a dull grey finish. The right side of the handset sports the power button and volume rocker while the left side is free of controls. There’s a micro USB port at the bottom of the handset while the top of the phone has the 3.5mm audio jack as well as the SIM card slot.

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Moving over to the back of the phone is where you really start seeing the industrial design work done by Motorola. The entire back of the phone has a gentle curve to it that makes it fit better in the hand. Independent of the back that you chose, you’ll see the trademark Motorola dimple that is once again brushed aluminum and looks great. Above it is the 13 megapixel camera and dual LED flash set up which is very distinctive. The LED flash is placed within a transparent ring that runs around the camera module. We’ve got the leather backed variant and we’ve got to say that it feels absolutely amazing. The quality of materials is top notch and the grippy leather back helps get a better hold on the handset. The only handset that comes close to this would be the OnePlus One which has a sandstone finish on the back.

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All said and done, the hardware on the 2nd generation Moto X is exemplary and we’d seriously put this in consideration for one of the best built Android devices out there right now. The phone measures under 10mm thick even at the bulge and tapers down to 3.8mm at the edges all of which makes it a much more ergonomic phone. Depending on how you look at it, the phone feels better than even the HTC One M8 and definitely leaves the Samsung & Sony Z3 behind especially when it comes to ergonomics. The glass, aluminum and leather back give the phone a reassuring heft and results in a device

Software

The Moto X runs Android that is as close to Google’s vision as it comes but can’t exactly be termed as stock Android. The company has added a fair few additions on top that work in tandem with the hardware to offer an experience that really brings the Moto X into its own.

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For the most part this is stock Android 4.4.4 KitKat but Motorola has thrown in context and gesture aware features that are a step up from those on the original Moto X. The most impressive of these is Moto Actions that employs the IR Leds to sense your hand above the display. The phone then lights up the AMOLED display and shows you your notifications at a glance.

Next up is Moto Display that in some ways can be considered an extension of Moto Actions. After swiping your hand over the display, you can tap any icon that shows up on the screen to see notifications from it. Needless to say you can also swipe straight into the application.

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The final addition to the handset would be Moto Voice which is the company’s take on voice control and in many ways builds on top of the already excellent Google Now service. It adds a wide range of additional commands and works even when your screen is switched off. Unlike the original Moto X, you are not tied down to a pre defined phrase. You can create and set your own phrase though there is a bit of trial and error involved here in case your phrase is too short or doesn’t have enough syllables. The entire list of capabilities includes setting your Facebook or Whatsapp status to finding your phone which is in particular a very useful function. All said and done, Moto Voice works very well and the cherry on the pie has to be the ability to use it completely hands free.

Moto X UI

The rest of the software package is rather spartan to say the least. This is pure and clean Android very similar to what you’d get on a Nexus device and your usage experience will be what you make of it.

Performance

From a relatively old chipset to one of the latest ones under the hood, a lot has changed over the course of an year. The new Moto X is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chipset, the same that powers other flagships like the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 amongst others. Clocked at 2.5Ghz, it is paired with a Adreno 330 GPU. Suffice to say there is enough oomph under the surface to power anything you might throw at it. The lack of bloatware further emphasizes this. Other specifications include 2GB of RAM and 16/32GB of storage depending on the SKU you opt for. The phone as you’d imagine is blazing fast with no compromises at all on performance. The lack of any bloatware or skin further accentuates this. From scrolling through web pages to launching apps, you’ll not be left wanting for power. To see how the handset compares to the rest of the top end Android competition, we ran it through a range of synthetic benchmarks to get some cumulative scores. You can take a look at them below.

Motorola Moto X 2014 GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan

In the GPU centric GFXBench benchmark, the phone scores 12.6FPS which is right next to the Xperia Z3 that scores 12.8. The difference is imperceptible and for all practical purposes the phones are equally powerful.

Motorola Moto X 2014 Quadrant Benchmark

Likewise in the Quadrant benchmark, the phone scores 21545 points which places it above the newly launched Sony Xperia Z3 but under a lot of the top end competition. That said, the score in itself is very respectable.

Motorola Moto X 2014 Linpack Multi-Thread

The linpack benchmark solves a dense series of linear equations to calculate the floating point performance of the handset. With a score of 822.764, The 2014 edition Moto X fares well against the competition.

Synthetic benchmarks tell only part of the tale and though the handset might seem to lack behind some of the competitors, there is no tangible performance difference them in real life usage. Despite mixed benchmark results, we’d say that the Moto X 2014 edition is easily one of the best performing Android devices out there.

Display

The most obvious upgrade on the 2nd generation Moto X is the shift from a 720p to 1080p panel. The screen remains a AMOLED panel which means that you’ll get the deepest blacks possible with slightly oversaturated colors and not completely accurate whites as a compromise. That’s not to say that the display is bad, its just inherent with AMOLED panels and without a doubt the Moto X has one of the best ones out there.

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Brightness levels are great and so is sunlight visibility. Where the display really shines is in viewing angles, allowing you to view content while holding the phone almost perpendicular to your face not that you’ll ever be doing that in real life.

Camera

The camera on the new Moto X is a 13MP unit and is in most ways an upgrade over the 10MP ClearPixel sensor from last year’s model. As we mentioned earlier, a ring runs around the module with a dual LED flash embedded in it. The ring helps to diffuse the flash a bit but the difference isn’t as stark as you’d expect.

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We found that the camera really comes into its own when you switch on HDR mode. Images are generally good though there is always a hint of noise even in well lit scenarios. There’s also a modicum of extended controls in the form of manual focus and exposure rings. Videos shot on the phone are generally very good and you can also capture 4K footage though you obviously won’t be able to view that on the handset itself. The front facing 2MP camera on the handset proves to be rather disappointing with slow shot to shot times and noisy, low quality images.

Connectivity & Battery Life

The 2014 edition Moto X comes with whole range of connectivity options that you’d expect from a high end handset. You’ll get the usual set of radios including WiFi 802.11a/g/b/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS, GLONASS and NFC. The phone ships in both 16GB and 32GB SKUs but unfortunately there is no SD card expansion here which is a bit of a downer for heavy multimedia consumers. We think Motorola could have done well by offering a 64GB variant as well.

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The battery on the Moto X is a bit polarizing. Clocking in at ‘just’ 2,300 mAh, the phone still manages to last at least a full day of usage. Battery life can be very subjective but in our usage the phone was closed to dying at the end of a full day with 3 email accounts configured and constantly syncing, day long whatsapp use, an hour of music streaming, a couple of photos and videos and about an hour of calls. We’d rate that quite good and with careful usage you should be able to get about two days out of the phone.

Conclusion

We really like the Moto X. The phone is built like a top end device and performs like one too. There are tangible improvements on all fronts and the stock-ish Android experience is not something we’d complain about. We do feel that the camera could have been slightly better in low light but that’s something that can be said about most smartphones out there for what its worth. The battery too could’ve been slightly more beefy given the top end hardware credentials.

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That said, we the Moto X to be a very compelling device that adds some very welcome and useful features that genuinely aid usage unlike those crammed in by the likes of Samsung. Would we recommend the new Moto X? Definitely yes. While the price point is a bit higher than the handset it replaces, we still find it to be an excellent piece of kit that most will find very little to complain about. In fact we’d also say that it ranks amongst the best Android devices you can get at the moment. The new Moto X is priced at Rs. 31,999 in India.

Pros

Build quality

Customizability

Stock like Android build with useful tweaks all around

Cons

Battery

Camera could be better

 

 

 

 


Author: Dhruv Bhutani

Your friendly neighborhood techie. Currently using a Pixel 2 XL. Catch him on Twitter (@DhruvBhutani) / Facebook .