Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Motorola Moto X review
The perfect little smartphone
- Superior design
- Faultless software
- Unparalleled voice control
- No expandable memory
There is magic to the way the Moto X gets things done. Inconspicuous design and a level of intuition helps the smartphone blend into your lifestyle. It’s not that the smartphone is at arm’s length when you need it; it’s that it disappears into the background when you don’t.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
The ceremony of unpacking the Motorola Moto X ends with an anti-climax. Flavoured custom casing is meant to make this smartphone appear unique, but that luxury is reserved for people in the United States. What we ended up with was a seemingly ordinary smartphone dressed in the drab of black.
Happily this smartphone doesn’t need flashy casing to prove outstanding. After weeks of using the Moto X, it was obvious it could pull off a magic trick few smartphones can: it can disappear.
Hiding in plain sight
Every small facet of the Moto X’s design aims to hide the technical wizardry taking place. Compared to most smartphones, it is smaller, lighter and more ergonomic in design. It is a case of seemingly insignificant details delivering an experience that is far greater than the sum of its parts. The art of subtlety is at play here.
The art of subtlety is at play here
A uniform coat of black makes it look uneventful, at first. Then a few solitary pixels light up to display the time. The understated body directs your attention to the only thing that matters: the screen.
Motorola has used an AMOLED display that only illuminates the pixels it needs. Additional benefits of an AMOLED display include a wide viewing angle, the vivid production of colours and a lower energy footprint. The display used spans 4.7 inches, has a high definition resolution of 1280x720 and a subsequent density of 312 pixels-per-inch. These numbers mean the Moto X is ripe for touch gestures and for watching your favourite movies.
Custom architecture, OK Google Now
Motorola’s Moto X features revamped innards that make it possible to initiate a voice search without having to touch the smartphone whatsoever. The smartphone responds when it hears you say the phrase “OK Google Now”. Leveraging Google’s search assistant makes it easy to create a calendar entry, play music and open apps. However, Google’s Now is designed to leverage Google’s Search and not necessarily the functionality of the Moto X.
Tailoring the chipset has resulted in a better integrated product
Enabling no-hands voice control required Motorola to develop a custom chipset. The company came up with the X8 mobile computing system, which consists of an optimised 1.7GHz dual-core CPU, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU and dedicated processors for language and context. Joining these innards are 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and 50GB of Google Drive cloud storage at no extra cost over two years.
Coupling this hardware with a near-vanilla version of Android 4.4 KitKat makes the Moto X a speedy smartphone. It takes multitasking in its stride, never showing signs of strain and always delivering what you want immediately. If anything, tailoring the chipset to the Moto X has resulted in a better integrated product.
Connectivity is well catered. Support for 4G networks is on board, along with Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.0 and near field communications (NFC).
Even the 2200 milliamp-hour battery does the phone justice. Under our heavy usage, which involves music streaming over bluetooth, watching YouTube videos, internet browsing, making phone calls, texting, and using a range of social networks, we found the battery lasted 30 hours.
Read more: Foxtel now on the PlayStation 4
10MP camera, gesture-based UI
Sitting recessed on the back of the Moto X is a 10 megapixel camera. The camera has a knack for colour and full resolution images are rendered impressively, even though they suffer from little image noise. The camera enables HDR automatically when needed, can record videos in Full HD (1080p) and offers the option of slow motion recording with the aid of an intuitive interface.
The camera can be turned on at any by flicking the wrist twice in succession. This simple gesture is one we’re fond off as it works quickly and it works often.
The camera’s interface inherits the same simplistic approach prevalent throughout the phone. Long gone is the familiar shutter icon; rather, photos are snapped straight after you tap-to-focus. This is great for moments that are quickly fleeting, but trying to find the optimal point of focus will result in too many photos being taken, and this can be irritating.
These few gripes are easily overlooked
Swiping right generates a simplistic settings menu void of resolution settings for video and still photos. Fortunately the aspect ratio defaults to the 16:9 to support wide-screen televisions.
A secondary 2 megapixel camera sits inconspicuously on the front of the Moto X. Although it takes quality ‘selfies’, holding the frame of a photo while touching to capture is an acquired skill. We recommend using the volume rocker as the shutter key in such instances.
The Moto X is not without its shortcomings, but frankly its weak points aren’t deal breakers. The speaker isn’t the loudest in the market and it would be more practical if it accommodated expandable memory. These gripes are easily overlooked because the rest of the smartphone is simply fantastic.
There is magic to the way the Moto X gets things done. Inconspicuous design and a level of intuition helps the smartphone blend into your lifestyle. It’s not that the smartphone is at arm’s length when you need it; it’s that it disappears into the background when you don’t. Not every smartphone can pull of this magic trick. In fact, very few can.
Unfortunately the Moto X will go largely unnoticed in Australia. A $549 price puts it in contention with the well equipped Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, and at more than double the price of the Motorola Moto G. And even though it is a better smartphone than the LG Nexus 5, it’s not better than it by $150.
The competition is intense, but those who do invest in it will relish the Motorola Moto X.
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