Motorola Moto X Style Review


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The Moto X Style from Motorola is the flagship product in the X series from Motorola this year. While the Moto X Play came out earlier last month, the X Style went official in India this month. It is basically a high-end smartphone that has a design that is quite similar to the Moto X Play but has much more beefed up specifications and features. We had reviewed the Moto X Play and we found that it is a really good smartphone and that it is one of the best in its price segment. Will the Moto X Style be able to impress us as much or even more so? Let’s find out in the review.

Unboxing

We have already unboxed the Moto X Play. The full video of the unboxing can be seen below:

The contents of the box are:

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  • Motorola Moto X Style smartphone in Black
  • 2-pin Motorola Turbo charger (9V / 1.67A or 12V / 1.2A (15W))
  • Headset with microphone
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Bumper case
  • Quick start guide and other booklets

Materials, Design and Build Quality

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The design to start off with is almost identical to the Moto X Play and in fact, both are identical to the Nexus 6 up front. It would be hard to tell them apart at a glance if they are kept separately. But putting them together, you would know which is which seeing the different sizes and the aspect ratios. The Moto X Style sits in between both in terms of size. It is marginally bigger than the X Play as it houses a 5.7″ display compared to the 5.5″ display on the X Play. You still have quite a compact design in terms of size as the smartphone has a screen to body ratio of 74.9% which is only marginally lesser than the Note5 which has a similar sized screen. The Moto X Style measures 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1 mm, the X Play measures 148 x 75 x 10.9 mm and the Note5 measures 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm. Looking at the specs sheet, you can spot that the X Style is thicker than the X Play too. Even though it’s marginal, it is thicker. However, that can’t really be felt when handling the phone as the X Style feels quite sleek in your hands. The X Play did feel a bit chubby and that was attributed to the large 3630 mAH battery on board. The Moto X Style in comparison has a smaller 3000 mAH battery but is thicker. However, the good thing is that it feels slimmer, probably because the curved edges distribute the thickness more evenly due to the large surface area.

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The Moto X Play had a removable back panel that had a leathery finish and a diamond like pattern. The Moto X Style on the other hand has a non-removable panel with a rubbery finish and a striped pattern. Although the X Style is slated as the more premium handset, we’ll have to give it to the X Play as it does feel more premium with its back panel. The only thing that looked bad on the X Play was the thick Chrome ring running around the back. The Moto X Style thankfully makes do without that and the rubber provides good grip in your hand as well as on surfaces. It is resistant to fingerprints as well to a certain extent.

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Up front is the large 5.7″ 1440p or Quad HD display. Above it, you have the earpiece, front facing camera, LED flash as well as the ambient light and proximity sensors. Below the display, you have the secondary speaker. You also have a bunch of sensors all around the display on the top and bottom to facilitate the various Moto Actions and Moto Display features.

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At the right side, you have the volume rocker button and the power/lock key. The power/lock key actually has a nice grooved finish while the volume rocker key has a smooth chrome finish. The grooved finish feels good to hold and press but it also helps to distinguish between both the keys just by feeling it.

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The left side is empty and at the top, you have the 3.5mm audio jack and the SIM slot. At the bottom, you have the micro USB port.

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Moving over to the back, you have the 21 Megapixel camera unit along with a dual-tone LED flash. The entire unit is housed in an elongated silver strip with a Motorola logo at the bottom. The logo is in a dimple and this dimple acts as a resting position for your finger when making calls etc. and improves the handling of the phone. At the top right corner, you will see the secondary microphone and at the bottom you can see the primary microphone. Like the Moto X Play, the Moto X Style also comes in both Black and White colours, however the back panel isn’t removable and neither is the battery. It also has a water-repellent coating that gives it an IP52 rating. But that doesn’t mean it is waterproof and that you can use it underwater. While it may survive an accidental dip in water and it is fine to use it maybe under light rain, it’s still not advisable to use it in the shower or in swimming pool.

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Display

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The display on the X Style is a 5.7″ 1440p TFT LCD display and it looks gorgeous. We loved the display on the X Play which was a 5.5″ 1080p display. Well Motorola have taken everything good about that display including the smooth glass, 2.5D curvature etc and made it bigger and added more pixels. So overall, it is an even more impressive display. The display is sharp and vibrant and it also has good brightness. The sunlight legibility is quite good too as the screen isn’t very reflective and the brightness is high.

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Like the Moto X Play, the Moto X Style has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which does a good job at protecting the display from scratches but it does pick up smudges quite easily. Motorola allows the user to choose the colour mode they want. Users can’t choose the colour temperature or choose a mode manually but they can choose between a normal or vibrant colour mode. It doesn’t make a world of a difference but people who prefer richer colours can opt for the vibrant mode.

Calling and Messaging

The call quality is really good on the Moto X Style. The earpiece is loud and clear and is suitable for all environments. The loudspeaker is really loud and it is much louder than the unit on the Moto X Play which we felt was a bit low in certain surroundings. We also connected the phone to Bluetooth speakers as well as car kits and the audio quality was quite good. Your voice also gets conveyed clearly thanks to the noise cancellation technology. The dial pad is large and easy to use. The phone allows you to store practically unlimited contacts and gives the option of saving contacts onto your phone, SIM card or syncing it to your Google account. It allows you to add information such as phone numbers, addresses, IMs, Notes, Company details, birthdays etc.

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The stock keyboard on the phone is Google Keyboard and it works really well. It’s fast and efficient and quite accurate too due to the large screen estate which makes typing much easier. Trace input is also supported and if you aren’t happy with Google Keyboard, you can always install a 3rd party keyboard to better the experience.

Software and UI

The Moto X Style comes with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box and as such has hardly any customizations or UI layers on top. This is one of the reasons why the phone performs really quick and how Motorola is able to roll out updates for the phones so quickly. Motorola ID allows you to have a similar experience across multiple devices as it records your usage patterns, settings and preferences and loads them onto the phone. There is a built-in application called Migrate that allows you to quickly transfer old data to or from this device. Android, iOS and other devices are supported although on iOS, only contacts and calendar are synced. On Android however, photos, videos, messages and much more can be synced.

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Motorola themselves have bundled quite a few neat features along with the phones. The Moto Display screen is a useful feature that allows you to have a clock as well as a quick way to unlock your device even when it’s in standby. You can have Moto Display set up in a few different ways. Either it gets activated when you hover your hand over the device by activating the IR sensors on the front of the device or alternatively you can choose for it to get activated when you pickup the device yourself. It also shows you the notifications from the apps that you have selected to be shown.

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Twist to capture is another trick up the phones sleeve. You can launch the devices camera app simply by twisting your wrist twice quickly. Works regardless of whether the device is in standby or awake. It even vibrates prior to the camera app being launched to notify you just in case the wrist movement was accidental. Apart from that you have the usual wave to silence features which allows you to silence calls or snooze alarms simply by waving your hand over the device. It also has 4 different assist modes that automate a few things. For example in the driving mode, you can configure the device to auto play music or read out notifications and call alerts. The phone does so once it recognizes that it has connected to a known Bluetooth device which you can associate with the driving mode. The other modes are sleeping, home and meeting. You can control the phone using voice commands up to three feet away by programming different phrases. By using one of the suggested phrases or setting up your own, you can control the phone without even touching it whether it is to place a call or to search up a song that you’ve just heard playing in the café. Using these features will definitely reduce the battery life on the device, however Motorola promise that it won’t be affected much.

Storage and Performance

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The Moto X Style has a dual nanoSIM slot, which can be accessed using a SIM ejector pin. The phone supports 4G LTE, however only one SIM can use 4G LTE at a time while the other remains on 2G. The X Style comes in both 16GB and 32GB storage variants. There is a 64GB version as well but that hasn’t yet been launched in India and we aren’t sure whether it’ll be coming or not. Even outside, the availability of the 64GB version depends on the region. We have the 32GB variant for review and the phone comes with 21.56GB of storage out of the box that is available to the user. There is a lot of pre-loaded content that takes up a bit of space. So  removing that should free up more space than that.

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Luckily, both the variants also have a microSD card slot. If you’re thinking that it must be a hybrid slot like most other dual SIM phones with a SIM slot, then you are mistaken as the Moto X Style neatly manages to fit in a microSD card slot beneath both the SIM slots on the removable tray. Hard to notice it as you wouldn’t normally expect it. The phone can take microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity. It also has a micro USB port, Bluetooth 4.1 as well as support for dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac.

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The other main difference between the X Play and the X Style is what’s under the hood. The X Style has 3GB of RAM compared to the 2GB of RAM on the X Play. Out of 3GB of RAM around 1.4GB of RAM is free when the phone is idle. It also has a more powerful hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor which is the same as the one found on the LG G4 and Google Nexus 5X.

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The device performs really smoothly. We didn’t have any issues with lag or system hanging up. Check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

Motorola Moto X Style AnTuTu Benchmark 5

Motorola Moto X Style Vellamo 3.1 Browser (Chrome)

Motorola Moto X Style Vellamo 3.1 MultiCore

Motorola Moto X Style 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited

Check out the complete set of Motorola Moto X Style benchmarks here. We will add the gaming review soon.

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Music Player and Audio Quality

Despite the fact that the Moto X Play appeared to have stereo speakers, it actually had only one speaker which was situated below the display. The earpiece didn’t double up as a speaker like on HTC or Sony phones. In the case of the X Style, we are glad to see that it has stereo speakers and the earpiece doubles up as one of the speakers. The speakers are really loud and have good clarity. They handle both music as well as videos well and the location is ideal such that the user gets the same immersive experience be it in portrait or landscape mode. The speakers also wont get muffled when placed on a surface unlike phones that have it at the back.

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The audio quality through earphones are really good. Even better than the X Play we can say. The loudness is more than sufficient in any environment. Even if you don’t have noise cancelling or isolating pair of cans, you can be sure that the volume will do that job for you. However, be wary that increasing the volume to very high levels can damage your ears as well. The dynamic range is good and so is the clarity. There isn’t much of a stereo cross-talk either.

The stock music player on the smartphone is Google Play Music. Nothing much to speak about the UI since it is the same as on any other phone. You get to access content both online as well as offline. Tracks can be grouped in several different ways. You have quick controls of the track being played while you are browsing the library. In the now playing screen, you have the track information, album art as well as track controls such as seek/skip and play/pause. There isn’t any equalizer and like we mentioned the music does seem a bit bass heavy at times. For that matter, you would be better off getting a 3rd-party music player from the play store that can be used to make the best of the potential of the phones audio quality.

Camera

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Hardware wise, the primary camera on the X Style is identical to the one on the X Play. Both have 21 Megapixel sensors with dual-tone LED flash. In terms of image quality too, the smartphones are identical as well. The processing algorithm applied to photos on both the phones are the same as well. The camera produces quite detailed images with good sharpness and vivid colours. The dynamic range is pretty decent too. But what we found to be really good was the autofocus and shutter speed which were really fast. Couple that with the ability to launch the camera app simply by twisting your wrist twice regardless of whether the phone is awake or in sleep means you can capture quick shots without missing the moment. The depth of field is also really shallow and you can get nice bokeh in the background when you focus on an object really close. The camera can capture 21 Megapixel images in 4:3 ratio and 16.1 Megapixel images in 16:9 ratio. Click any of the images below to view the full resolution samples. The photos on the left are with HDR turned on and the ones on the right are the regular photos.

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The bad aspect of the camera is that it produces noisy images in low light. With more megapixels, the noise also increases and since the sensor isn’t that big, the noise levels are high. Sony phones also suffer from the same issue because of their 20.7 Megapixel sensors. The dual tone LED flash can take over and mitigate that to a certain extent if you are photographing an object or people. But if you’re shooting a landscape or cityscape at night then you’ll have to make do with the noise levels. There is a night mode as well that improves the quality a bit by applying a luminance mask over it, but there is a reduction in sharpness.

Another big change in the camera is in terms of video recording. The Moto X Play maxed out at 1080p resolution at 30 fps due to the processor limitations. The Moto X Style however can record 4k (2160p) videos at 30 fps. The video quality is quite good. The camera manages to capture detailed videos with good sharpness and colour balance. The field of view is a bit narrower than while taking stills so you’ll have to keep that in mind when framing. The best part of the videos is the fact that they are buttery smooth and feel as if it has OIS even though it doesn’t.

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The front camera too is quite good especially in well-lit conditions where it has good detailing, sharpness and colours. At night, the noise does creep in, but the photos are still pretty good and should be more than enough for your social media channels and in case it is too dark, there is a front LED flash that can brighten up the frame.

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The camera app has a very simple UI that relies a lot on gestures. It autofocuses itself and has a circular meter that you can use to adjust the exposure as well as the focus. Touching the screen takes the photo and there are shortcuts for video recording and camera switching. In portrait or landscape mode, swiping from the left edge of the screen to the right brings the options out where you can adjust the resolution for photos and videos, enable/disable HDR, flash, night mode, touch to capture etc. HDR mode comes in auto, on or off settings and users can also enable/disable geo-tagging. Swiping from the right to the left opens up the gallery. Swiping up or down on the viewfinder zooms in and out of the frame. The camera interface is nice and simple to use but we would’ve liked to have more manual control to get the best out of the camera but that is something a 3rd party app can easily allow.

Battery Life

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Despite a bump up in terms of screen resolution and screen size, the Moto X Style actually has a smaller 3000 mAH battery compared to the 3630 mAH unit on the Moto X Play. This will definitely mean that the battery life isn’t as good as the X Play no matter how good the optimization is on the software front. The good thing is that the X Style does support Turbo Charging which Motorola claims will charge 34% of the phone’s battery in 15 minutes. The charger that Motorola have included in the box is weirdly one single piece without a detachable cable so you will have to carry around a separate micro USB cable as well in case you want to use the fast charger. It achieved a One Charge Rating of  11 hours and 56 minutes, mainly due to brilliant talk time. It didn’t last long in tests, especially 3G browsing test, which is below average. Check out the complete set of battery test results here.

Conclusion

The Moto X Style does everything what the X Play does as good if not better. The X Style costs Rs. 30,000 for the 16GB version and Rs. 32,000 for the 32GB version. That means it’s another 10k more than the 32GB Moto X Play. What you get is louder and better stereo speakers, front facing LED flash, 4k recording, bigger and higher resolution display and a more powerful processor and more RAM. In the process, what you lose is the great battery life. But apart from that, it is all uphill on the Moto X Style and if you are a power user, I would recommend you to get the Moto X Style and since it has fast charging, the battery life issue is mitigated to some extent. If you aren’t so much of a power user and can do with a slightly slower processor and 2GB of RAM, then the Moto X Play might just be the choice for you and you can save at least 10 grand in the process.

Pros

  • Brilliant Display
  • Great Audio Performance (Loud Speakers and Good Audio Quality)
  • Dual Nano SIM with dedicated microSD Support
  • LED Flash for Front Facing Camera
  • 4K Video Recording (Stable Videos)
  • Good Camera Quality
  • Close to Stock UI

Cons

  • Average Battery Life (Moto X Play is much better)
  • Non-removable Back Panel
  • Noisy Low Light Performance for Camera

Srivatsan contributed to the review


Author: Sandeep Sarma

Sandeep Sarma is a blogger and a freelance photographer. Apart from gadgets and phones, he also has a passion for movies and cars. He currently uses the S7 Edge as his main phone. Catch him on twitter at @sandeep9sarma