Moto X Review
The Moto X is the is one of the most impressive Android phones available with a beautiful build quality, near stock version of Android and a collection of impressive features and no touch controls that allow for access to Google Now and deliver an impressive amount of voice control to the device that competitors like the iPhone cannot yet offer.
This AT&T Moto X review covers the new device which allows users to customize the phone through the Moto Maker at no extra charge to personalize the Moto X with a wide range of colors that would otherwise require a case. While you can buy a case for the Moto X, there is no need to as the personalization options are varied and the phone withstands the hazards of daily use without showing wear.
For all that is good with the Moto X, the camera remains an issue. Motorola and AT&T pushed an update that addresses some of the early issues with the camera, but it is still not possible to tap to set the exposure which makes taking photos in uneven lighting an issue. Some photos turn out amazing, while others leave shadows too dark thanks to the highly automatic process.
The Moto X earns a Gotta Be Mobile Editor’s Choice award for touchless controls that deliver fast access to Google Now’s impressive library of commands, the best notifications system we’ve seen on a smartphone, the first successful mass customization of a gadget at an affordable price and an all around excellent user experience.
Moto X | $199 | AT&T
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In the six minute Moto X video below you’ll get a quick overview of our Moto X review as well as the highlights from a hardware and software perspective. Check out touchless control of Google Now and the impressive active display notification system.
The Moto X doesn’t use the same kevlar material as Motorola’s earlier Droid devices, but it doesn’t jump all the way to the plastic side of things either. Google and Motorola settled on a composite material that offers a soft touch premium feel that is leaps and bounds above the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3 and Droid Ultra.
The Moto X is on par with the HTC One and the iPhone 5s when it comes to design and tactile feel. Motorola and AT&T allowed Gotta Be Mobile to test drive the Moto Maker which is currently and AT&T exclusive. This means the Moto X shown in review photos is the result of my color choices. There are enough color choices that most users can create a Moto X based on school colors, a favorite team or to match their style.
Thanks to a sensibly sized 4.7-inch display, the Moto X is similar in size to the iPhone 5s even though the screen is much larger. The Moto X is slightly thicker thanks to the curved back, but is just as easy to use with one hand as the iPhone 5s. The Moto X is a heavier smartphone at 130 grams, but it feels very nice to hold and use for long periods of time.
The Moto X Display is 4.7-inches, which is about average for an Android smartphone and clearly bigger than the iPhone 5s. Motorola skimped on resolution, opting for a 720P display instead of the 1080P displays found on devices like the Galaxy S4, HTC One and Galaxy Note 3.
While the lower resolution display is downside for some users, Motorola is no longer using pentile displays which means owners can expect a very nice display on the Moto X. The display is bright and vibrant matching the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S4 in looks even though it uses a lower resolution panel than the S4.
While watching the Gravity trailer on YouTube in HD, the Moto X’s 720P display delivered deep blacks as the astronauts silhouetted against space and vibrant colors as parts of the space station burn up during re-entry. Reading on this display is also a great experience with no perceivable pixels on the display.
The Moto X may not sport the same specs as the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, but a coprocessor similar to what Apple unveiled in the iPhone 5s is on board to help handle the natural language recognition that is key to the anytime voice control.
While using the Moto X app switching and taps are very responsive. Prospective buyers should not be turned off by the spec sheet as the Moto X delivers a fluid and respectable performance. While playing games like EA’s Real Racing 3, the processor is able to deliver a good experience to gamers.
Motorola delivers a in the battery department with a device that can last all day even with heavy use that includes some time as a hotspot. The Moto X battery life consistently lasted from the early morning to the late evening during our use.
Motorola includes a Battery Saver option that limits mobile data and updates while the battery is low, but overall I did not need to resort to battery saving tricks to keep the Moto X going all day long.
Motorola is known for call quality and with the Moto X we hear the results of Motorola’s time spent on this front. Calls are clear and sound very good while in good coverage. We enjoy making calls and surfing the web at the same time using AT&T’s growing 4G LTE network.
As for audio quality, Motorola delivers respectable sound but overall it is not up to par with the HTC One’s BoomSound front-facing speakers that deliver clearer, louder music and audio for movies.
Motorola makes a big deal about the camera in the Moto X, and there is no question that it can produce stunning images, like the HDR shot of a downtown scene shown below, but the camera relies on automatic detection of exposure and focus too much in many cases.
There are alternative photo apps that can return some of this control to users, but they will not allow users to quickly launch the camera with the flick of a wrist like the stock camera app does.
Motorola pushed out an update that provided some fixes to the Moto X camera, but the gallery below shows how the camera will often show a bright sky instead of allowing a user to tap on a spot of the screen to set the exposure. The iPhone 5s and many other Android phones allow users to tap on the screen to make the building show up better. Turning HDR to ON, instead of AUTO delivers better results with the current version of the software.
Still the performance of the camera is fairly good in even lighting or when users can move to a position where the lighting is in their favor. The gallery below includes sample images taken indoors and out with the Moto X.
The Moto X records in 1080P and includes an option to record in slow motion. The slow motion option is easy to get to, but it doesn’t offer an easy way to selectively switch between slow motion and regular speed and share the result.
The Moto X software and apps make the device standout and consistently earn it a place in our best Android smartphone roundups. We’ve already touched on the gesture to open the camera, but that’s just the start.
Active DIsplay is the best notification system on any smartphone, period. Instead of flashing an LED that tells you nothing like most Android phones or showing notification banners that require a swipe and app launch to read more like the iPhone, the Moto X shows multi-line previews on the lock screen so it is incredibly easy to see notifications. These notifications are built around the Android Notification panel so most Android apps with notifications work. Check out the Active Display in action in the commercial below and see what this looks like above. Simply picking up the phone, taking it out of a pocket or receiving a new notification will trigger the display to show what notifications are waiting. Tap on the center to see the notifications and swipe up to open the app.
The Moto X is always listening for users to say, “Ok Google Now.” When you say this phrase the Moto X will automatically launch Google Now and take your command to search the web, get directions, play music or more. This feature is incredibly useful while driving or if the phone is across the room. I initially thought this would be a gimmick, but found myself using it several times a day to control the Moto X and get directions. The Moto X ad below highlights how this works.
Of course the one roadblock to this is that the touchless control will not work until you unlock the phone. Motorola addresses this with Moto Skip, a small accessory that unlocks the Moto X when you take it out of your pocket. This is perhaps the best use of NFC we’ve seen, but it’s not perfect. The clip attaches to a pocket with magnets and within a few hours of using it the Skip fell off in public never to be seen again. Motorola includes 3 skip stickers for your desk, car and nightstand which perform the same function and are harder to lose. The phone can also be set to remain unlocked when paired with specific Bluetooth devices such as a headset or a car, adding to the convenience of touchless control.
Motorola also includes an Assist App that can help customize the Moto X to your usage. This app can automatically read messages out while it detects you are driving and there is an option to automatically resume music playback when you get back in a car. The software can also recognize when you are in a meeting based on the calendar and can silence alerts as well as send a pre-determined message to favorite contacts. This app also includes a Sleeping mode which is similar to Do Not Disturb that automatically silences the phone during preset hours, but will let favorites or repeat calls through.
The Moto X is one of the best Android smartphones on the market and the combination of customizations, touchless controls, savvy software and great build quality deliver a smartphone experience. At $199 for the base model with customization, the Moto X is well worth the price of admission.
The Moto X camera is capable of taking great looking photos, but the current software does limit the camera in certain situations. Even with this limitation and a lower than average resolution display the Moto X is worth buying.