Motorola has had a busy 2017 and its smartphone offerings just extended further with the launch of the rather brilliant Moto X4. We went hands-on with this mid-range handset, which offers a premium water-resistant design, Alexa support and a funky dual-lens camera, and here’s what we think so far.
Certainly no one can accuse Motorola of sitting on its arse this year. The mobile manufacturer started strong with the excellent value of the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus, which have just been updated in the form of the Moto G5s and G5s Plus. This launch was followed by two even more affordable handsets, the Moto E4 and E4 Plus, as well as the new flagship devices. The Moto Z2 Play and Moto Z2 Force boast premium specs and support the rather great Moto Mods accessories, although you’ll need to cough up a bit more cash for those handsets.
At IFA 2017 last week, Motorola only went and launched yet another handset. The new Moto X4 resurrects the X-series smartphones, which used to be top-end devices and now sit neatly in the mid-range price bracket. However, despite the 349 pound asking price, you can still expect quite a premium set of specs, as well as some sleek design work. This water resistant blower is made from metal and glass, packs a dual-lens camera on the rear and boasts the kind of features we usually only see on more expensive blowers, including Bluetooth 5.0 support.
We’ve already had a play with the Moto X4 out at IFA and here’s our hands-on impressions.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review: Design
Formed of glass and metal, the Moto X4 definitely has a premium design despite the mid-range asking price. This handset reminded us somewhat of the Honor 9, although you can only grab the X4 in two colours: ‘super’ black or ‘sterling’ blue. We prefer the more colourful blue model.
At 163g, the Moto X4 has a definite heft which adds to the premium feel. It’s a rather chunky handset, with an 8mm frame that gets even thicker when you hit the jutting camera lens. One-handed use isn’t particularly easy either, as the bezels surrounding the display aren’t exactly svelte (although Motorola has helped out with some software features, which we’ll touch on later).
Thankfully that glass surfacing doesn’t seem to pick up fingerprints and greasy marks as easily as some rivals (Xperia XZ Premium, we’re looking at you), while the metal edging is a neat break from the glossy rear. This is certainly one of the better-looking Moto phones.
Impressively, the X4 is also fully IP68 water resistant - one of the few smartphones at this price point to boast such a design feature. Sadly there’s no support for Motorola’s Moto Mods though, so if you want to get stuck into these add-ones you’ll have to buy a Moto Z-series handset.
Our only initial complaint with the Moto X4’s design is that the power button is really close to the volume buttons, which means we occasionally hit the wrong one by accident in our hands-on time. We're sure this won't prove a long-term issue, however, once you're used to the physical layout.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review: Screen and media
A 5.2-inch IPS display proves quite a visual treat, with Full HD 1920x1080 resolution to keep your images and videos crisp and detailed. You can switch on Moto’s Vibrant Mode to make the visuals more striking, otherwise the Moto X4 seems to produce quite natural-looking colours by default.
Full Bluetooth 5.0 support means you can hook up a couple of speakers or headphones at once, which is great if you’re traveling with a chum and want to watch a spot of Netflix. You get 32GB of storage space to download your media and that can be boosted by up to a whopping 2TB using the microSD memory card. Impressive stuff considering that affordable asking price.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review: OS and features
Android Nougat 7.1 was installed on the Moto X4 we went hands-on with, in an almost completely natural form. Like with other Moto phones, Motorola hasn’t added a clunky overlay; this is raw Android through and through.
That said, you do get the special Moto Assistant app, which adds quite a lot of great bonus features. Inside the Moto Assistant you’ll find the following.
- Moto Key allows you to sign into your apps and websites using the fingerprint sensor in place of a password. That’ll definitely be handy if you struggle to remember every individual login, or if you’re simply lazy like us.
- Moto Actions offers up a great range of shortcuts, including the ability to quickly load the camera with a double-twist. This also offers a nifty one-handed feature, which shrinks your app or desktops towards the bottom of the display.
- Moto Display gives you two worthy features. The first is a night screen mode, which filters blue light for a more comfortable viewing experience in the dark. The second pops up notifications of any new messages and other bits, whenever the screen is hibernating.
- Finally there’s Moto Voice, which is a hands-free assistant for controlling the phone simply by talking. That’ll be handy when driving or cooking, for instance.
Another voice-activated feature on the Moto X4 is the built-in Alexa support. Open the Moto Alexa app and you can quickly train Amazon’s AI assistant to learn your voice. With that done, just say Alexa at any time and she’ll jump to attention. We’re really enjoying this assistant, so check out our Alexa tips and tricks guide to see some of her best bits.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review: Performance and battery
Up to this point, the Moto X4 has boasted quite premium specs and features, some of which punch above the asking price. Sadly you don’t get a super-powered processor as well, yet the Snapdragon 630 platform is quite a capable chipset. Backed by 3GB of RAM, you can expect pretty smooth performance when using the handset.
We only saw one performance issue during our hands-on time with the Moto X4. Switching modes in the camera app caused a brief stutter, although that could be down to not-quite-finished software. We’ll test and report in full for our in-depth Moto X4 review.
The 3000mAh battery should hopefully keep you going for a full day, while the TurboPower fast charging feature can give you up to six hours of use from just 15 minutes at the plug.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review: Cameras
Flip the X4 over and you’ll find a dual-lens snapper, which pokes right out of the chassis. The first 12-megapixel f/2.0 aperture lens is backed up by an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens with f/2.2 aperture. This secondary shooter gives you a 120-degree view of your surroundings, to take in more of a scene. You quickly switch between them with a tap of an on-screen icon.
Check out the comparison images below to see how the standard lens compares with the wide-angle snapper.
The Moto X4 certainly seems to take shots quickly, thanks to the Phase Detection Autofocus tech. You get a burst mode on board too, which is handy when shooting an active subject.
Meanwhile a new depth-of-field setting adds some background blur to your snaps to make your subject stand out when desired. This seemed to be a bit wonky on our hands-on, producing very artificial results, although it was difficult to properly test as the phone was tethered. There’s also a panorama mode, manual controls and a few other camera features, while you can shoot up to 4K resolution video.
Up front you have a 16-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture lens, which captures very sharp selfie snaps. Thank god for that beauty mode, then. This camera even offers an LED flash, to light up your mug when shooting a snap at night. That’s pretty rare for any mobile, let alone one at this price point.
Motorola Moto X4 hands-on review video
Here's our footage of our time with the Moto X4 out at IFA 2017, so you can check out the phone's design, features and camera tech for yourself.
Stay tuned for our in-depth Moto X4 review, coming soon. The Motorola Moto X4 will be available later this month for 349 pounds, direct from Motorola or via Carphone Warehouse.