Motorola Moto X (2014) hands-on


It’s almost unfathomable to know that Motorola, a company once known to crank out phone like no other, has slowly dwindled its portfolio to a few select devices through the course of the last year. Sure, we can cry about it, but don’t think for a moment that this decision has left the once powerful smartphone maker vulnerable. Last year, we were all surprised by the Moto X, an under spec’d thing amidst its rivals at the time – where it ultimately ended up becoming the dark horse over the lucrative holiday season.

With its next iteration, Motorola has taken the evolutionary approach by building upon the success of its smartphone. Rather than blowing things up in the specs department, which many companies love to do in order to gain admiration amongst consumers, the new Moto X continues to focus on delivering a high-quality performance with its middle-of-the-road specs – while still keeping its features set simple to a select few that are most important to people. Knowing that it’s already seeing killer competition from the horde of high-end smartphones in abundance right now, and those that are coming shortly, will it have enough to keep people interested in it?


Motorola didn’t stir things up too much with the design of the new Moto X, which isn’t a bad thing per se, seeing that it continues to flaunt one stylish design that’s powered by the user. Just like its predecessor, this latest model can be personalized to your liking courtesy of Moto Maker. Heck, Motorola is able to one-up itself because they now offer leather options for the new Moto X’s rear casing – a great complement to the existing plastic and wood options.

At the center of it all, the new Moto X continues to flaunt a stylish design, but in a bigger package than last year’s model. Since it’s packing a larger screen, it should be no shock for people to know that its size has increased! However, Motorola has added a metal trim bezel that goes around the entire side of the phone – giving it an exquisite solid feel. In fact, this phone feels more sturdy in construction that the original.

Paying homage to the design language established by its predecessor, the new Moto X continues to sport a subtle arch, which allows it to contour perfectly to our hand as we’re holding it. Meanwhile, that familiar dimple in the rear, where the Motorola logo is positioned, makes an appearance once again. At first glance, it seems as though they’ve turned it into a physical button of sort, but it’s just another dimple for our finger to rest over as we hold it. Indeed, the design isn’t dramatic, but Motorola has effectively improved it in all key areas to keep it in good spirits.


It’s obviously not uncommon to see today’s latest flagships to sport quad-HD displays. Needless to say, many of us are jaded to that, but the Motorola Moto X opts to go with the modest route. Rather, it’s sporting a larger sized 5.2-inch 1080 x 1920 AMOLED display, which gives it a pixel density count of 423 ppi. We’re not bummed by the realization that it’s only 1080p resolution we’re given, seeing that the original Moto X also didn’t push the limits in terms of resolution. When it comes down to it, the 1080p resolution of the new Moto X is still effective in delivering serious details.

Exhibiting all of the qualities typical of AMOLED technology, like its over-saturated color reproduction and immaculate viewing angles, we can’t complain about what Motorola has given us here – more so when it has the vibrancy and iridescence to light up any room. Some folks might scoff at the inaccuracies with color reproduction with AMOLED screens, but heck, our eyes can’t stop glowing with awe while staring deeply into the screen. It’s not ground-breaking in the greater scheme of things, but boy is it one spiffy looking thing!


In true fashion, especially when Motorola is still technically a Google company, the new Moto X is sporting a vanilla Android 4.4.4 KitKat experience. That’s wonderful news for purists, of course, seeing that stock Android has a simple and intuitive appeal to unburden first-time smartphone owners. Unlike its rivals, who tend to overload us with a lot of enhanced and new features, to the point that we sometimes can get confused by them, the new Moto X focuses on improving the things it was already good at providing.

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First and foremost, the original Moto X’s touchless control feature, where the Google Now service was accessed via voice control, makes an appearance here again, but in an enhanced form. Specifically, Motorola has simply rebranded the service to Moto Voice. This time around, however, its functionality extends to third party apps, such as posting a Facebook status – as well as being able to select a custom voice prompt. At any time, we can speak the correct voice prompt to launch the service. Quick, simple, and easy!

Similarly, the active display feature of the original model has been split to two features – Moto Display and Moto Actions. If you look closely around the display, there are various IR sensors that allow us to use gestures to “wake” up the display. After waving our hand over the screen, it’ll show us some useful information – like the time and notifications. There’s a “peek” feature, too, that shows us the last three items to get more detail about them – all without unlocking the phone.

Processor and Memory

Running on the new Motorola Mobile Computing System, one that’s comprised out of a natural language processor, contextual computing chip, and a quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, we’re actually pleased by the snappy response we’re seeing out of the phone. Honestly, even though it’s not the latest piece of silicon from Qualcomm’s portfolio, we can’t complain about the results.

Available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, it’s rather unfortunate that there’s no microSD card slot in this – more so when the new Moto G offers one.


One area of disappointment for the original Moto X was its camera, a 10-megapixel “Clear Pixel” snapper that couldn’t quite deliver the results to overpower its competition. This year’s model, though, gets treated to an upgraded 13-megapixel camera, which features an f2.25 apertures lens, LED ring flash, and 4K video recording. All of the juicy figures will make anyone drool, but it’s tough to gauge at the moment how we feel about its quality until we can compare its results to some of its highly esteemed rivals. Nevertheless, the same quick access feature is present here again – where flicking our wrist twice over automatically launches the camera app.

Worried about being late to snapping a shot, one that’s out of focus or simply not the desired composition? Well, the new Moto X has a new feature called Best Shot, which automatically allows the phone to determine what the best shot is. From what we’re told, the phone stores images 2 seconds before and 2 seconds after the shot is taken, so if there’s something that looks better than the one you snap, it’ll select it as the best shot. Finally, Motorola offers a new feature that’s similar to HTC Zoe called Highlight Reel, where the phone will compile a short clip using various photos and videos we snapped.


In comparison to other newly announced flagships, the second-generation Motorola Moto X doesn’t scream the same high-end specs of its rivals. Some folks might smack themselves wondering why, but in all fairness, our reservations are pretty much the same as before. Specifications don’t dictate a successful device, which is something we’re yet again presented with this latest model. Rather, Motorola focuses its attention on building up on what it established with last year’s model. The design looks spiffier than ever, the display receives a significant upgrade, and Motorola continues to enhance the phone’s existing features set.

Whereas other phones try to overload us with their immense specs and bottomless set of features, the new Moto X isn’t a dramatic. Seriously, it doesn’t need to be, seeing that at the end of the day, this new model is every bit worthy of being the correct evolutionary device. Priced at $99.99 on-contract, where it'll go on sale today, September 5th, it's another aggressive position that Motorola is undertaking.

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