Gamer’s Domain: Moto X Review

Levi Castle

The Motorola Moto X is the mid-range phone that you would never guess is actually mid-range. From its sturdy build quality to blazing-fast features, this is the phone to rival all of the other big shots in the Android market… and Motorola’s sign that they can make more than just their “Droid” lineup.

The Moto X is a very customizable phone. While ordering one, you can change how you want it to look in many more ways than, well, any other phone. Tons of back plate and accent colors make this phone truly your own. I enjoyed the look of a pure black phone with white accents, but there are many vibrant colors from a wide palette to choose from. You can also customize a message that pops up when you power the device on, choose a wallpaper that will ship with the device, and even have it linked to your Google account before it comes to you. Additionally, Moto X users get an extra 50GB of Google Drive storage for two years, just for owning the phone.

All of these features are evidence of the awesome things that have happened to Motorola after Google bought them and made them their own. New options like these make going to a store for your phone seem like it should be a thing of the past. I think the days of only white/black phones are coming to an end, courtesy of this monumental step. Unfortunately, lots of these customization features are limited to a few carriers. For instance, while I could customize the phone to my liking through AT&T, no such option was available for Verizon, which I presume is why they sent me an all-black one.

The front of the phone is clean. It reminds me of the simplicity of the Nexus 4, Google’s own flagship for quite some time. There are no physical buttons on the front of the X, and the sides have your usual uni-volume button and sleep/wake button. On the model Verizon sent to me, the volume up side of the rocker felt pressed-in and broken/sluggish/fidgety. It did not have the click like the others that it was obviously meant to. This was my only issue with the design.

The back is soft-touch, yet hard and sturdy. This is yet another phone I would want completely naked; there is no need for a case here. Of course, as we have come to learn, great backings have a nasty flaw: they are permanent. There is no removing this guy, so think ahead when choosing what storage model (16GB or 32GB) you want. Double the memory is only an extra $50, though, so it may be worth it to shell out $250 and get 32GB of on-board storage for anything you do not want in the cloud.

The screen is 720p, but it is condensed slightly more than other displays. This is where the whole mid-range thing comes in, as it is not a full HD display or one of the largest at that. But then again, that does not matter, because it works so well. It is extremely difficult to pick out pixels on this screen, and the brightness has a satisfactory maximum setting. Colors look awesome, thanks to the AMOLED technology that looks much like Samsung’s in their phones.

The biggest advantage of the 720p display is the battery life. For an entire week, I left this thing on and sitting on my desk. Guess how much battery charge it lost? 40%. That is it. Even for Motorola, the kings of mobile battery life, that is seriously impressive. This thing will handle whatever you want to throw at it in a day’s work. Casual user? Two days will be pretty easy to accomplish as well.

This phone does justice to the notion that specs are not everything. The speed is phenomenal on this thing; every task can be powered through effortlessly. Looking at the Moto X side by side with, say, a Galaxy Note III, you might notice a performance difference. But this is not about comparing apples to oranges, it is about finding the best of a category. Of all medium-range phones I have tried, this is definitely the best for performance. Of course, like most new phones, the X supports 4G LTE and as we’ve come to expect, handles it excellently. To this day, I still can’t believe that 4G is actually faster than my 20mbps-down Wi-Fi.

On the back is a 10MP camera that finds an odd middle ground between other phones. Newer, maxed-out phones like the Galaxy series have 13MP cameras, while older models like mine have 8MP shooters. With 10MP and Motorola’s CLEAR PIXEL technology, the camera feels pretty high-end. Photos are clear (I can read the text on my monitor from a photo taken 10 feet away, if I zoom in), the flash is subtle, and it’s very fast. The front camera is a 2MP, you’ve-seen-it-all-before that should be perfect for your Snapchat selfies.

The speaker is still unfortunately back-facing, but at least it gets loud. Do not expect anything too extravagant for tonal range, though.

As you may have noticed from each feature’s overview, this little guy is about speed. What I think contributes more to that than anything else is the very light amount of tweaking Motorola has done to stock Android here. You will find no ugly icons, gimmicky features or ridiculous extra steps to accomplish something. Motorola chose to not overly-mess with the clean look of stock Android, and I wish companies like HTC or Samsung would follow suit (why is TouchWiz still a thing?).

That being said, there are a few Motorola-inspired things on the X that you will only find here. One is a neat lock screen feature that lets you see notifications and quick info without ever unlocking the phone (though this could be an issue for those who enjoy their security. Luckily, it is optional). Another is the aforementioned extra Google Drive storage. Motorola also hosts its own device tracking and remote-access service, which seems to be specifically designed for the X. There is also Motorola Assist, which seems a lot like Google Now, plus some added features. Assist can automatically switch your phone to hands-free while you’re driving, keep your phone quiet at night, and provide calendar services. While I do not really see a need for another service to gather info about my daily routine, I would like it if Google added these neat features to the already-astounding Google Now.

This phone has really captured what it means to be simple. It is fast, not over the top, affordable, and does not try to be one of the big guys (yet has features that some of them still do not realize are necessary). It is in a category all its own, and shows you do not need to be the biggest to be one of the best. For me, it’s the smartphone surprise of the year.


*The opinions included in this article are solely that of the author. Verizon had no impact on the content of this article.