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New Motorola Moto X (2014) Review: In Depth


The Good

  • Slick UI
  • Customisable design
  • Nifty assistant
  • Bright, sharp screen

The Bad

  • Camera beaten by rivals
  • Battery life iffy
  • No memory card slot

We review the new Motorola Moto X (2014 model), the latest premium smartphone from the geniuses who brought us the incredible Moto G. But can this more expensive handset do enough to justify the £419 asking price?

We review the Motorola Moto X, a remake of last year's Moto X with boosted specs
Motorola Moto X review

New Motorola Moto X (2014) design: Wood be good

Motorola’s latest flagship phone marks the UK debut of the Motomaker service, which allows you to construct your very own smartphone before ordering online. You get an impressive range of choices to style the Moto X to your own personal preference, and not just on colours. You can choose to have a wooden or leather posterior if you like (although that does cost £20 extra), and even pick the finish on the trim.

We particularly love the four wooden rears, but the leather backing, with its cool soft-touch surface, feels rather lovely against your palm. Mmm.

In fact, if you’re set on getting a Moto X, we definitely recommend spending that bit of extra cash to get one of the unique designs. If you opt for the boring rubbery back, the phone basically feels like a slightly slimmer Moto G, which lacks the serious sex appeal you long for when you spunk this much cash on a mobile. The kind of desire that the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3 pack in spades.

You can craft your own Motorola Moto X with the Moto Maker service
You can craft your own Motorola Moto X with the MotoMaker service

The new Moto X is surprisingly light compared with many flagship phones too, with its 144g body nicely weighted in the hand. It still feels solid, however, thanks to an aluminum frame that stretches around the entire edging.

Up top you’ll find the nano SIM slot, hidden in one of those mildly annoying pin-prick drawer jobbies. The power and volume keys are housed comfortably on the right edge and we never accidentally hit one instead of the other when blindly groping with our thumb, despite their close proximity. Finally, at the bottom you’ll find a micro USB port for charging. So, no memory card slot.

New Motorola Moto X (2014) screen and media: Brilliantly bright

One of the best bits of Motorola’s Moto G phone was its gloriously sharp 720p screen and the Moto X doesn’t disappoint either, packing a 5.2-inch 1080p HD panel that stretches almost edge-to-edge, just like last year’s model.

It really is a gorgeous display and not just because it’s razor sharp (although the 424 pixels-per-inch resolution means it can’t quite match the insane heights of LG’s G3 for supreme clarity). The Moto X’s screen is bold and bright, easily cutting through any kind of glare, while colours are so warm they almost toast your fingers. Viewing angles are among the best we’ve seen too, with no distortion as you tilt the phone.

The new Motorola Moto X boasts a glorious Full HD 1080p screen
The new Motorola Moto X boasts a glorious Full HD 1080p screen

You don’t just get powerful visuals, however. The front-facing dual speakers pump crisp and full-bodied audio right at your ears, and while sound quality can’t quite match the HTC One M8, it’s still fine for watching movies on the couch or listening to tunes while you work.

Bear in mind that the Moto X has no memory card slot, so you’ll want to plump for 32GB of storage if you want to carry plenty of media around.

New Motorola Moto X (2014) features and user experience: Hey, wake up!

Android 4.4 KitKat is here in all of its vanilla glory, which means the new Moto X should be one of the first handsets to get an upgrade to Lollipop (indeed, it’s on our complete list of first wave devices). However, don’t think that Motorola has just been bloody lazy, refusing to bother crafting its own UI. Instead, you’ll find Android’s slick and friendly interface has been nicely bolstered with a slew of extra features, some of them new, some ripped straight from last year's Moto X.

You can of course control the new Moto X by talking to it, which is nothing new - Google Now has given Android users voice functionality for a while now. But instead of waking the phone with the usual slightly awkward "okay, Google," you can add your own personal trigger phrases for Google Now. Yes, even rude ones.

Annoyingly the trigger phrase has to be several syllables long, to help differentiate it, so you aren’t allowed anything short and snappy. We started with ‘wake up’, amended this to ‘hey, wake up’ and eventually had to make do with ‘hey, wake up, you bastard’.

Once that’s sorted, you’ll be pleased to see support for third party apps such as WhatsApp, so can use your voice to load the app and even send messages. Handy when driving, or if you've lost both of your hands in a tragic golfing accident. You can also wish the Moto X a good morning or good night, and these commands will turn the usual settings such as Wi-Fi and light-up notifications on and off. The good morning command even informs you of any appointments you have that day, handy when your memory’s as shoddy as ours.

Then there’s the built-in car detection, which uses the phone's mics and sensors to detect if you're currently driving, then automatically has the Moto X read out messages and allows you to respond with your voice. There’s even a special meeting mode, which auto-responds to calls and messages when your calendar says you're busy.

Motorola has also added our old favourite, gesture recognition - known here as Moto Action. For instance, you can mute the phone's alarm by waving your hand over the screen rather than frantically trying to stab the snooze button. A little dangerous perhaps, as it’s all too easy to slip back into a blissful slumber and turn up to work three hours late.

New Motorola Moto X (2014) performance and battery life: Over all too soon

If you're a serious mobile gamer, the 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, backed up by 2GB of RAM, matches most of the big premium phones out right now. The Moto X had no trouble running the latest games, while apps and the rest load up quickly and cleanly.

Motorola has thrown in a couple of features designed to boost longevity, such as the hibernation screen which shows you waiting notifications when you glance at it. That saves you from unlocking the Moto X every five minutes, only to discover that you’ve still got no mates who like you enough to text you.

However, we still only just scraped through a full day on each charge and there’s no battery saver mode to stretch out the final dregs of life, which is a bit of a shame. It seems the Moto X simply doesn’t hold charge well, because it manages okay when streaming video non-stop - you can expect around eight full hours of movie action before the screen fades to black, a commendable effort.

New Motorola Moto X (2014) camera: Simple snapper

The new Moto X's 13-megapixel camera boasts autofocus with a dual LED ring flash, and it's a quick and simple snapper that will appeal to anyone looking for a fast and easy way to take shots on the go.

You can double-twist the phone to load up the camera app as before, a technique that works surprisingly well, and you'll notice that the UI hasn't changed much at all. You can still tap anywhere on the screen to take a quick photo, or call up a target reticule which you can drag about the screen to control exposure and focus.

The Moto X sports a clean and simple camera UI
The Moto X sports a clean and simple camera UI

The new Moto X also automatically starts recording whatever you're aiming at just before you take a shot, which is handy if you manage to jerk the camera just as it shoots. On a couple of occasions, the phone actually suggested that we ditch a shot and replace it with one of these magical back-in-time efforts, which came out less blurry. You also get a nifty Highlights Reel feature, which gives you a slideshow of the day's photos and movies, much like HTC’s Zoe feature.

All that said, the Moto X falls behind some of the competition when it comes to the camera's quality. The likes of Sony’s Xperia Z3 and LG’s G3 produce sharper, cleaner, brighter photos with colours that really pop. With close-up shots and evening snaps, the Moto X really starts to struggle, although the HDR mode does help to deal with most lighting issues.

When it comes to video, the Moto X can at least match most premium rivals with a 4K UHD mode as well as the usual Full HD and slow-mo modes. A 2-megapixel front camera can be used for selfies, and it does the job perfectly well. Ego-strokers beware, however: there’s no beauty mode to iron out those wrinkles.

New Motorola Moto X (2014) verdict

We’re at a bit of a quandary when it comes to scoring the Moto X. We really like it in so many ways - the customisation aspect, the unique wooden backings, the clean and cozy interface with its helpful assistant additions.

But then there’s the not-so-great battery life and the camera that fall behind the competition, not to mention the lack of a memory card slot, which makes us lean more towards premium rivals such as the Xperia Z3 and the LG G3. Plus, with the new Nexus 6 on the horizon, there’s going to be some seriously good tech hitting the market offering a similar vanilla Android experience.

All in all, the Moto X offers a fun and friendly user experience, but a few flaws hold it back from brilliance.

Key Specs

  • 5.2-inches
  • Full HD (1920x1080)
  • 144 grams
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 13-megapixel
  • 2-megapixel
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB or 32GB (via Motomaker)
  • Yes
  • Moto assistant

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