Moto X (2014) Review: They Nailed It

Last year Motorola released the Moto X, and it seemed they were back in the game. Motorola, the company that kickstarted the premium Android, then got lost in an endless swarm of gradual yearly DROID updates, had a pulse. The Moto X sure wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a great start. And now the X has been updated, with a better processor, screen, and camera. It’s amazing.

Moto X 2

Design

This phone is straight up beautiful, with an ergonomic swooping backplate and a gorgeous screen. The front face is dominated by the 5.2 inch 1080p display. The side bezels are slim, but there are ample top and bottom bezels. Both the top and bottom have long, slim stereo speakers that rise about 2mm from the body and pump out awesome audio. On top, the phone also sports a 2 MP front facing camera and a variety of sensors. My particular model had a white face.

The backplate swoops more dramatically than ever before, probably to accommodate the enlarged screen. It’s super comfortable to hold, despite its size (I have small hands) and single-handed use was fine. My model had a bamboo back. Anyway, up top is the 13 MP camera surrounded by a dual LED flash, in case you need to add more photons to your shots. Below it is the signature Motorola dimple, now bolder than ever, surrounded  by a stainless steel ring.

Moto X 3

The phone’s ditched the all-plastic trim, instead going for an aluminum band, reminiscent of a certain iPhone. This was a wise choice; it makes the phone feel dense and high-quality. On top of the band is a headphone jack and to the right of it is a SIM tray. On the right of the band is the volume rocker, with a ridges power button atop. It’s now way easier to tell them apart. On the bottom of the band is a micro USB port.

Although I tested the white-and-bamboo version, the X has a slew of customization options. You can choose from 17 rubbers, 4 woods, 4 leathers, 2 front plate colors, 10 trims, and optional engraving. It’s one of the first phones you can truly make yours.

Moto X 4

Hardware

Well the stuff you can’t see – a 2.5GHz processor, for example, makes this phone truly great. The display uses AMOLED, but it’s now 1080p HD. With its Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2 GB RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage, there’s nothing separating this phone from an iPhone 6 or GS5. And all these technologies mean that the X will handle anything you throw at it. Battery life’s alright, too, with a 2300 mAh ticker that easily lasts a day.

You can peek at the benchmarks, geeks, but everything boils down to the fact that this phone screams. Apps launch quickly, swiping between webpages is smooth, and the general experience is great. The point is, the Moto X has more than enough horsepower for anything you’ll do. Even so, battery was fine. In a video-loop test, the phone lasted 10 hours 30 minutes.

Quadrant 2.0 22,721
Vellamo 2.0 2,093
3DMark IS Unlimited 19,568
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) 787
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 11.9
CF-Bench 39,018

Software

I can hear the hallelujah bells here: they are chanting stock Android. Motorola’s version is almost exactly the way Google intended it, except for a couple useful features, and… carrier bloatware. That’s right, my Verizon model had Caller Name ID, Mobile Hotspot, NFL Mobile, QuickOffice, Verizon Tones, Voicemail, Setup, My Verizon, and VZ Navigator. But all is not lost, because what you can’t uninstall, you can disable.

Moto X 5

Now back to the useful features. There’s Moto Display, Moto Actions, and Moto Voice. Moto Display shows your notifications at a glance on the dark lock screen. Swipe to get to the app. Moto Actions uses the IR sensors on the phone’s face to enable gesture control. Swipe your hand over the phone (Jedi style) to activate Moto Display. Then tap your notifications to get the information at-a-glance. But the star of the show is Moto Voice. With Google Now you can say “OK Google” to enable it, but with Moto Voice, you can customize it into anything you want. I went with a casual “Hey Moto X”, and it worked flawlessly.

Moto X 8

Camera

Well, the first X’s camera defintiely wasn’t amazing. But this year, it’s 13 MP, up from 10. In good conditions, the camera will deliver vibrant colors and plenty of detail, but change the conditions, and autofocus becomes painfully slow. It’s really frustrating just waiting for the phone to snap into focus.

The Bottom Line

The Moto X is a gorgeous phone. It combines the signature Motorola curve and dimple, now bolder than ever, with a premium design and a great screen. It feels dense and premium, and it really is a flagship, with a 2.5zGHz CPU and tons of memory. It has gestures and software features that are actually useful. The only shortcoming on the phone is the camera. It is slow to autofocus, and it sometimes comes out grainy. The phone is infinitely customizable, with plenty of great materials, but it’s gonna cost you – the phone goes up to $575. Ultimately, this is undeniably one of the best Android phones ever made.