Review by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday August 06, 2013.
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Motorola is forcing me to do a bad thing. I'm really not supposed to say this, but this is a review that many of you can probably forgo. If you're someone hell-bent on buying a phone on the cutting edge with forward-thinking hardware, the Moto X is not for you. Save yourself some time and seek tech nirvana elsewhere. However, before the rest of you hit the close button on this tab, let me make an appeal: consider the total package of the device and not just the numbers on its specs sheet. The Moto X lacks the numerical computing power to compete with Android flagships from rivals HTC and Samsung, but it represents well in other areas. It's just an issue of how well the Moto X represents.
Hardware and Design
Motorola built the Moto X for the specific purpose of making sense to consumers. in a briefing to unveil the phone recently, CEO Dennis Woodside explained to the press that it was crafted specifically to address problems that it discovered in its research. Phones were often flat slabs because that's what designers thought looked good, but it didn't feel good. So, Motorola built the X to curve aggressively and better fit into a cupped hand. They still managed to make that curved back accommodate a singular speaker that's both loud and distinctly clear. Phones were growing too big, so the X was fabricated to be as compact as it could be made and still have a large display. It's a textbook case of data-driven Google making decisions based on what the numbers suggest people will like.
The end result is a device with a smooth composite weave texture. It leads to a phone that has a reasonable size and bucks the trend of extra large handsets. The Moto X is bigger than an iPhone yet has a much larger screen. It has a screen the same size as an HTC One but is noticeably smaller because of a very thin bezel that maximizes screen area. The physical footprint of the Moto X is arguably the best that Android has to offer this year. The menu and power buttons are exactly where they should be, and the virtual navigation buttons make it so a user doesn't need to perform thumb gymnastics just to reach certain functions. All of that research led to a phone that's 5.6 to 10.4 mm thin and weighs only 130g. Simply put, the Moto X is the perfect phone size.
The Moto X has a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display, but the virtual navigation buttons commandeer some of that screen. The 720p resolution is short of the 1080p HD display that was slowly becoming a device standard, which is a letdown but not a dealbreaker. A bigger concern is the AMOLED display being less successful with color accuracy compared to IPS displays, and even being short of the Super AMOLED screens on Samsung devices. The issue is apparent in the browser having a subtle reddish/pinkish tint that makes colors darker than normal.
Motorola is banking on people believing that the Moto X's screen is good enough, which it is, and will still love the device. I'm not bothered by the lower resolution because text still looks great, brightness and overall visibility are solid, and video is still high-def. Full HD is a bonus at this screen size, not a necessity, so I can live with the Moto X screen being less than gorgeous.
Performance and Key Specs
For all its external wonders, Motorola played it safe on the internal hardware, which is why spec hounds probably won't give the device a chance. That could be a mistake. Motorola opted to build its own eight-core X8 processor that that relies on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro for its foundation. The 1.7 GHz dual-core S4 Pro handles the primary functions of app loading and the bulk of everything done on the phone. The X8 uses a four-core Adreno 320 GPU that can keep pace with graphical performance in the high-end range. The remaining two cores are dedicated to powering the Touchless control functions and the contextual sensor features that will be explained in the software section.
Motorola's decision to go with a dual-core processor to bear the load of standard activities is a minor disappointment. Though the Moto X does not feel or look as fast as the competition, the difference is nowhere near as bad as naysayers will make it seem. Not wanting to rely simply on benchmark tests, I opened up the same apps in the Moto X and the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4, which use the quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor. I was pleasantly surprised that some apps loaded content just as quickly or only a second slower. We've seen that Snapdragon S4 Pro is no slouch, so it's no surprise that apps still managed to load quickly and perform at an acceptable pace.
The Moto X performs well at gaming, transitioning, and overall performance because there aren't many major modifications to Android. You have to remember that the lack of heavy changes like Touchwiz or Sense allow for Motorola to not be far off from the quad-core-sporting competition. It loads Instagram photos and Google Maps slightly slower, so there are noticeable differences between the Moto X and devices running the newer Snapdragons; however, it's reasonably smooth in performance. The best way I can think to describe it is like watching a track meet: everyone is moving at an extraordinarily fast pace, but the fifth place runner is not as fast as the elite speedsters on the track. The Moto X is fast, but it's no Usain Bolt.
Storage is limited to only 16GB (11.88GB actually available) and therer's no microSD slot. A 32GB version will be sold later, but it will initially be available only on AT&T. Google tries to throw users a bone by offering 50GB of cloud storage on Google Drive for two years at no cost.
- Motorola X8 processor (Snapdragon S4 Pro main CPU)
- 4.7-inch AMOLED RGB display w/ 720p resolution
- 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage
- 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4mm (2.57 x 5.09 x 0.41in)
- Weight: 130g (4.59oz)
- 2,200 mAh battery
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE and NFC
- 4G LTE, HSPA+42, CDMA/EVDO (depends on carrier)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-band
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.