Motorola Moto X (2014) specs review


After a $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, all eyes were on the Moto X last year as this was the first handset that Motorola released under Google’s command. And while the Moto X delivered sensible innovation with a 4.7-inch form factor that turned out surprisingly compact and single-hand-friendly, an always-on voice control, and a nearly stock version of Android with quick updates, it could not get traction among consumers. Be it for the comparatively low, 720 x 1280-pixel resolution of the display while most devices had 1080p screens, for the pure size of the devices (4.7” versus larger devices being in the trend), or for sub-par Snapdragon S4 Pro chip while others had more powerful silicon, the end result was that the Texas Moto Maker factory for the Moto X shut down and the handset sold poorly.

Has Motorola learned from its mistakes? The company uncovered the new Moto X today, and at first sight it seems that the answer is yes: the 2014 Moto X features a premium-feeling metallic frame, a larger, 5.2” display with a higher, 1080 x 1920-pixel resolution, a powerful (even though not cutting edge) Snapdragon 801 system chip, and a non-experimental 13-megapixel camera. Check, check, check. Let’s look at all that in detail.

Design: leather back, metal frame


Good design is something elusive: it’s subjective and somehow universally accepted at the same time. That’s why it’s hard to give a definite judgment about a particular design, and the new Moto X is a particularly difficult phone as it seems that it draws polarizing reactions: some love it, and others hate it. First, though, the backstory: the new Moto flagship was designed by Motorola lead designer Jim Wicks, the same person behind the acclaimed Moto 360 circular looks. It puts the focus on symmetry - the front grills are symmetrical on the top and bottom (but only the bottom one is a speaker, we have no stereo speakers in the Moto X), perfectly aligned, on the back, the camera eye is doubled by a second, equally large dimple with the Motorola logo. This creates an unusual look, and the oversized logo and camera definitely look on the weird side. Add to that the three infra-red beamers on the front of the device (used for its gesture recognition), and you surely have a very distinct design.


What impresses more, however, is the departure Motorola took from plastic: last year’s flagship Moto X did not exude a feeling that you’re holding something premium, precious. This year’s Moto X? Much closer. It’s got a sturdy metal frame with accented buttons that look gorgeous. Even small details like the riffled lock key are nice. Even nicer is the improved Moto Maker with wider choice of materials: along with the plentiful colorful plastic cover choices, you have 4 wood and 4 leather finishes. The latter are all new and exclusive for the new Moto X.

This year’s Moto X is also no longer small: it has a 5.2" display, and while it is still surprisingly compact for its display size, it is not exactly ideal for use with a single hand. At the same time, it's worth paying special attention to the nice curvy back of the Moto X+1. While technically, you'd see that the phone is listed as being 9.9mm thick, that's only the size at the thickest point. At the edges, the thickness drops down to a very slim 3.8mm, which makes it much more comfortable to hold the device as it lays comfortably in the hand.

Display: more AMOLED


The Moto X features a 5.2-inch AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. The spec-obsessed will be quick to point out that 1080p is good, but it’s no Quad HD. And with devices like the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4, you might be wondering whether not having the trendy new 1440 x 2560-pixel resolution is not a big downside. Good news is that the difference between Quad HD and Full HD on a display of such a small size is barely noticeable, so going with the 1080p resolution is definitely a very sane decision by Motorola. This results in a pixel density of the very sharp 424ppi, a step up from the 316ppi of the 2013 X.

Last year’s Moto X also shipped with an AMOLED panel, but with all of its advantages, we have to remind you it was pretty wildly oversaturated, with unrealistically blown-up colors and a slight but noticeable bluish tint. We are seeing similarly boosted colors on the new Moto X, but that’s only our first impression: we’d be coming up with more definite measurements in our upcoming review.

Interface: always-on voice


One of the things Motorola is loved for is the clean, Android stock-like interface. It’s a lightweight, fast, and responsive user interface. Motorola has proven it can be very quick with updates as well, so even though the new Moto X launches with Android 4.4 KitKat, it’s likely that it will get the new Android L update soon after the fall roll-out.

Motorola also adds some interesting new features on top of the stock experience. First, it makes it easy to switch from another Android device or an iPhone via the Migrate app. Then, you have Moto Assist that you can configure to do things like read out loud text messages while you’re driving for instance. You can also easily use the feature to enable a ‘do not disturb’ mode at night, plus the phone detects location and can act accordingly.

Moto Voice, the always-on voice assistant, is on board as well, but this time you can choose the phrase to wake it up yourself, while previously you needed to use the ‘Ok Google’ wake-up call. Now, anything with 5 syllables or more will work, so you can just say something like ‘wake up, buddy’.

The Moto Display feature with Active Notification is also here and allows you to quickly peek into new notifications without waking up the display completely, and it thus prolongs the battery longevity of the phone.

The new element with the Moto X is Moto Actions. Using the three front-facing infra-red cameras, the phone can easily and accurately detect motion, so you can wave your hand in front of the phone to, say, silence an incoming call.

Processor and Memory: good, but not cutting edge


The Moto X ships with the Snapdragon 801 quad-core system chip running at up to 2.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and a Krait 400 GPU. Hearing about the first Snapdragon 805 devices like the Note 4 coming up, you’d be right to point out that the 801 is not cutting edge anymore. However, one should also consider the fact that the first Snapdragon 805 devices come with a 1440 x 2560-pixel Quad HD display, so they have a much higher load. Given the 1080p display on the Moto X, we expect the difference to level up, so basically performance should around the same on both devices.

Internal storage comes in at either 16GB or 32GB, and there is no expansion option: the microSD card slot we’re used to seeing on Android is missing here.

Camera: put a ring on it (that flash!)


After an experimental run with the 2013 Moto X which shipped with a 10-megapixel ‘ClearPixel’ camera by OmniVision, this year, the new Moto X skips on those experiments and relies on the tried and tested 13-megapixel Sony IMX135 sensor.

That’s one of the most popular sensors out there that is also used on devices like the LG G3, LG G2, and the Samsung Galaxy S4. It is noticeably smaller than the previously used OmniVision one, but has a higher resolution. Naturally, this translates into tinier, 1.1µ pixels, smaller than the 1.4µ on last year’s Moto X. Is this a worthy trade-off? We have already seen that pixels of such a small scale are not the ideal solution for night shots where images often pick up more noise, but we’re yet to analyze the new Moto X camera samples in our detailed review that’s coming up.

Turning to the optics side of things, we had an f/2.4 lens with a 30mm (in 35mm equivalent terms) lens. The new Moto X moves to a wider aperture of f/2.25, and as you probably know, a wider aperture allows for more light to pass to the sensor and results in lighter images. Focal length remains nearly the same at 29.4mm on the new Moto flagship.



Daytime camera samples courtesy of Android Authority.


Battery


With a 2300mAh, the Moto X does not stand out with a particularly huge juicer, but it claims to have made some optimizations and promises a full day (yes, that means 24 hours) off the charger. Obviously, the company is well aware of the risk taken with such a comparatively small battery, and we hope that it has managed to optimize well. We’ll run our extensive battery benchmarks and tell you more about the battery life in our upcoming Moto X review.


Conclusions and Expectations


Overall, the Moto X is a welcome upgrade on all fronts. Unlike last year’s device, it does not feel cheap and plasticky, nor does it ship with any specs that could bring it down (last year’s 720p resolution and comparatively dated processor were exactly that). It is also not on the cutting edge, though, as it lacks the latest Snapdragon 801 system chip, and we’re yet to see how has it optimized the 13-megapixel Sony IMX135 sensor and the 2300mAh battery. Instead, it focuses on innovation in some meaningful things - the new features are nice, without cluttering the interface and the phone is zippy and premium feeling. Moto Maker is even nicer, and all of that would give the new Moto X extra allure. But it’s got a steep hill to climb with fierce Android competition.


Related phones

Moto X (2014)
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 2300 mAh

FEATURED VIDEO

36 Comments

1. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I'm not too convinced. On paper and actual performance are two different things. We'll see though. We will see.

2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

In addition to the choice of snapdragon processor and the battery life.

15. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Well, last year's Moto X was a winner on the "actual performance versus on paper" front. The only thing that has me a *little* worried is the potential battery life, but I'm going to give Motorola the benefit of the doubt unless the reviews universally come back and declare that it's horrible. It doesn't even need to last 24 hours to satisfy me.

17. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Agreed. Moto X 2013 is so much better than other phones with similar specs. The 2014 model sounds awesome, but the size of the battery have me a little underwhelmed. I would love it they would push for the same size battery as their Droid Maxx, but we all know that will never happen. Sigh.... oh well.

20. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

I'm going to put my mink back on, put a ring back on! This is a good new version of the Moto X, better camera (thank god for the sony sensor) better performance, crispy display with deep blacks. But the battery life is what I'm not too convinced of either (apparently it has this smart antenna that improves over 500% of battery on wifi!) I'm seeing this like a Nexus 5 but that is more premium/customizable. Oh and Active display. That's unique!

22. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

seriously you need to stop dissing Motorola and go else where

3. neops

Posts: 297; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

Who-took-those-weels, that's the million euros question

18. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I thought the same thing. lol

34. rnagic

Posts: 215; Member since: Jul 13, 2014

In larger cities it's not uncommon to remove the wheels from your bike to discourage theft.

4. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

They have improved in cameras but still night shots are not that good IMO. Nice ring flash.

5. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

There is an mistake here: "The Moto X ships with the Snapdragon 801 quad-core system chip running at up to 2.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and a Krait 400 GPU" "Krait" is a CPU architecture designed by Qualcomm for its latest Snapdragons, the "Adreno" 3xx/4xx is the GPU produced by them.

21. Meccalangelo

Posts: 29; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

Also O..K..GOO..GLE and WAKE UP...BUD..EEE are only 4 syllables

23. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1278; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Nice catch.. But O..K..GOO..GLE..NOW has five syllables buddy... Yes, the old key words are "OK GOOGLE NOW" as I have used it in my Droid MAXX...

6. JakeH

Posts: 89; Member since: May 01, 2014

if the price is right ($300-$400) i might be interested

9. Casorati

Posts: 13; Member since: Sep 05, 2014

In they video we are told that it costs 500$.

7. limporgyuk

Posts: 376; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Does this have forward firing speakers or not?? None of the videos or reviews I have seen today mention or test them.

8. Teejay1100

Posts: 115; Member since: Aug 16, 2012

Now that I see this I'm more interested in the Nexus 6.

10. charulo316

Posts: 45; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I'm disappointed they didn't include an SD card. I guess I'll pass on this one too. Damn, it was sounding promising too.

11. rakeshnandi

Posts: 6; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

Samsung Is setting benchmark by providing latest Hardware and displays and Motorola is doing the same thing by introducing new kind of software like voice assist. , Moto Display feature with Active Notification etc....making it more and more fruitful for the consumers....

12. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

im not a fan of motorola ... But this phone is woooonderfuul .. the camera also is so so great ... one of my favourite phones of 2014 noow .. WOW

13. jerrycutshaw

Posts: 48; Member since: Apr 27, 2011

I won't be getting this phone. I like the step up in hardware overall which was really necessary to be relevant. Always On feature is useful but not a must have considering you can skin with Nova or others and have OK Google from the lock screen. It apparently has 2 front facing speakers which is a plus as well. I do not like the fact it is using the G2/G3 camera. I have a G2 now and honestly feel the camera sucks! The G2 camera doesn't handles motion (especially low light) very, very poorly. I am now of the mind I won't consider any phone that isn't water resistant. Being a father you want a phone that is with you and able to take good pictures of kids in motion when the moment strikes. This phone doesn't meet the "lifeproof" requirement. For now its the S5 or Sony Z3 throw in water resistance and you've got my attention.

14. LikeMyself

Posts: 631; Member since: Sep 23, 2013

The back is awesome and the phone itself is awesome! I like the back Moto logo a lot! Basically I lust for this phone a lot!! Motorola, bring your Moto devices to more markets please! My country still doesn't sell any Moto smartphones! As if Moto is extinct in Mauritius!!

16. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

It looks like an awesome phone. Though not awesome enough for me to upgrade from 2013 Moto X.

19. gaara6775

Posts: 738; Member since: May 20, 2014

That ugly back though.

24. Beaustir45

Posts: 29; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

one word: BATTERY!

25. Phonedingo

Posts: 399; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

Wait for the tests, it may still be good.

26. baldilocks

Posts: 1545; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

Would have been nice if they centered the screen on the device. Looks awkward with a larger bezel at the top.

28. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

The screen is more centered because of the navigation buttons at the bottom of it.

27. dodger

Posts: 28; Member since: Jun 03, 2014

The new Moto X 2014 Does Not have stereo speakers. FYI...

29. jpkelly05

Posts: 110; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

And once again. Awesome phone but I won't buy it due to missing the MicroSD drive. It is a need when your out in the boonies for work, with no data signal. But the Moto G has it. That makes me wonder what the hell they were thinking.

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