Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-21

Featured Review: Moto X Style/Pure Edition

October 9, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Motorola has changed owners a couple times in the last few years. With Google buying them in 2011, and Lenovo buying them from Google in 2014. In 2013, Motorola revamped their portfolio of devices. Going from having a ton of different smartphones to just 2, aside from the Droids. Their flagship was the Moto X, which was a big controversial, mostly due to the choice of specs that Motorola used in the first-generation Moto X. The second-generation Moto X was announced in September 2014, and had top of the line specs in every category, and was still cheaper than most other flagships. Fast-forward to July 2015, when Motorola (now completely owned by Lenovo) announced the Moto X Style and Moto X Play. The Moto X Style is the “high-end” in their portfolio and is available here in the US as the Moto X Pure Edition, simply because it works on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T.

The Moto X Pure Edition gets a lot of headlines due to it being a stock Android device, and one that works on every carrier in the US. But is the Moto X Pure Edition or the Moto X Style, worth all of the attention that it’s getting? Let’s find out in our full review.

Specs

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-9

The Moto X Style features a 5.7-inch 2560×1440 resolution LCD display, powered by the Qualcomm hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor which is clocked at 1.8GHz. We’re also looking at 3GB of RAM inside with the choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, Motorola has also included a microSD card slot with the Moto X Style. Along with a 21MP camera on the back and a 5MP camera around front for taking selfies. There is a non-removable 3000mAh battery inside that should keep you going all day long.

As far as connectivity goes, we’re looking at NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, and it’s using a microUSB port instead of the USB Type-C which we are seeing from many other manufacturers these days. The Moto X Style is also using a nano SIM card. Dimensions are 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.1 mm, and it weighs in at about 179g.

Now for the bands, the Moto X Style or Pure Edition does have a ton of them. Especially in the US.

GSM 850/900/1800/1900

CDMA 800/850/1900

HSDPA 800/850/900/1700/1900/2100

LTE Band 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 25, 28, 29, 40 and 41.

In the Box

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-1-2

Inside the box, Motorola provides you with your custom-made Moto X Pure Edition or Moto X Style, again depending on where you live. You also get a plastic bumper, a turbo charger as well as the SIM card ejection tool and some paperwork. You can opt to get a SIM card from Motorola, but it’s not necessary. Although we’d recommend it if you don’t already have a nano sized SIM card, or if you’re switching carriers.

Video Review

Hardware

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-13

The hardware on the Moto X Style looks quite similar to what we had with last year’s Moto X. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing here. The Moto X Style/Pure Edition still has that pronounced curve on the back. Which Motorola says makes it easier to hold in the hand, and feels more natural. I’d agree with that as well. As the Moto X Style does feel rather nice in the hand. On the back, we have a stripe which houses that 21MP camera, dual LED flash and the Motorola dimple we’ve all come accustomed to in the last few years. Now that stripe is also customizable through Moto Maker. The back of the Moto X Style is available in leather, wood, and silicon plastic materials. We have a leather model here, and it feels really nice in the hand. It’s a bit soft, but not too slippery. While the Moto X Style is a bit bigger than the previous Moto X, it doesn’t feel huge, even though it is actually the same size as the Galaxy Note 5 from Samsung.

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-7

The frame of the Moto X Style is made of aluminum – which is the same for that stripe on the back – and is available in either dark titanium, or gold. The gold is only available with the white model. The aluminum frame makes the Moto X Style feel a bit more premium, and it also looks nicer, at least to me it does. At the top there is your 3.5mm headphone jack as well as the microSD card and SIM card slot. Now what Motorola did with the microSD card slot and SIM card slot was they put one on either side. While many others have doubled the second SIM card slot in the tray as a microSD card slot, Motorola just put it on the other side. A pretty nifty idea if you ask me. On the right side is your power button and volume rocker. The power button is a bit textured, but the volume button is not. Making it easier to figure out which is which in case you’re in a dark room or something. And of course, the bottom houses the micro USB port which is capable of Quick Charge 2.0 thanks to Motorola using the Snapdragon 808 processor.

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-14

On the front, Motorola has given us stereo speakers, this time. As well as a flash near the front-facing camera. Which we’ll talk more about a bit later on. Of course, you also have all of your sensors up at the top as well. On the black model, most of them are hidden. But if you do pick up the white model, they will definitely be visible (one of the main reasons I opted for the black model).

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-12

The Moto X Style is a really good looking phone, even though those leaks made that stripe on the back look a bit ugly. Seeing the finished product and seeing it in person, I actually quite like it. When Motorola announced the Moto X Style with a 5.7-inch display, I thought that it might be a bit too big. But it’s actually not a bad size at all. With the curve on the back it fits in your hand pretty nicely.

Display

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-15

Motorola got away from using an AMOLED panel this year on the Moto X. The main reason for Motorola using an AMOLED display was for Moto Display. However, Motorola says that they found a way to use an LCD display and not kill our battery life when using Moto Display. The 2560×1440 resolution LCD panel on the Moto X Style looks quite good. It’s nice and sharp, and the temperature doesn’t seem to warm. If anything, it might be a bit more on the cool side. Now the blacks on this LCD panel aren’t as deep as they would be on an AMOLED display. But for the most part, it looks quite good.

Now when Moto Display does light up, you can see that the entire display lights up. It’s especially noticeable when you have the brightness up pretty high and are in a dark room. In our experience, Moto Display doesn’t appear to really use a ton of battery life, which is good to see on the Moto X Style.

Performance

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-28

Qualcomm hasn’t had a great year, when it comes to their Snapdragon 800-series processors. With the Snapdragon 810 having a huge overheating issue, and the Snapdragon 808 being a bit slow. Motorola opted to go with the Snapdragon 808 here on the Moto X Style. The same processor used in other devices like the Google Nexus 5X, LG V10 and the LG G4. I’m happy to report that the Moto X Style  does not get overly hot, but it is a bit slow. I have noticed this a few times when typing a long email or message, and seeing my words lagging behind what I’m actually typing. For the most part it’s not an issue, but it is something to acknowledge.

Other than the occasional stutter – which doesn’t happen that often – the performance of the Moto X Style has been quite good. When playing games, there haven’t been many slow downs or lagging at all. You can see how well it performed in benchmarks down below, however.

Battery Life

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 4.27.37 PM

Ironically, battery life on the Moto X has always been an issue. It’s ironic because Motorola has some of the biggest capacity batteries (like the Droid Turbo with its 3900mAh battery). One of the biggest questions about the Moto X Style this year was how that 3000mAh battery was going to fit for the Moto X Style. Battery life here on the Moto X Style isn’t great but it is good. Often times, I unplug around 7-7:30am and plug it back in around 11pm each night and usually have around 20-25% left. Of course, that all depends on what I did that day.

One thing that I did notice was that depending on which SIM I had inside the Moto X Style, I would get difference experiences with battery life. For example, with a Verizon SIM card, I’d get a bit less time off the charger compared to having a T-Mobile SIM card inside. Now that could just be the differences between CDMA and GSM, but definitely worth noting here in our review.

We ran PC Mark on the Moto X Pure Edition to see exactly how good the battery life is. PC Mark ranked it at 4 hours and 58 minutes, which you can see the complete results, as well as other battery cycles in the gallery down below.

Call Quality & Data Speeds

The unique thing about the Moto X Pure Edition is that it works with all four US carriers. And it works seamlessly. Meaning, all you need to do is swap the SIM card and you’re all set. You don’t even need to do a reboot (although I’d still recommend it, as there can be some wonkiness going on there). We’ve been using the Moto X Pure Edition on both T-Mobile and Verizon’s network, and the call quality has been quite good with both networks. Those that spoke to us on the phone said we were crisp and clear (although HD voice helps with that), and we also didn’t have any dropped calls.

Data speeds were pretty comparable to other phones on those networks. The Moto X Pure Edition, does have band 12 for T-Mobile so we were able to get some fantastic speeds indoors, as well as outside. All of Verizon’s bands are also available on the Moto X Pure Edition, so you do get the full effect of using Verizon’s network.

Being able to use the Moto X Pure Edition on any network, is by far my favorite feature of this smartphone.

Speakers

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-24

This year, Motorola decided to give us dual front-facing stereo speakers, instead of just having one on last year’s model. Even though it looked like there were two. Motorola did not include any type of equalizer with the Moto X Pure Edition, which isn’t a surprise, as we haven’t had one with other Motorola smartphones either. When listening to music or watching a video, the speakers sound fantastic. They get nice and loud without getting distorted, additionally they can get nice and quiet as well. The range they have is pretty fantastic. Now this is isn’t HiFi audio here, like what ZTE has on the Axon Pro, but for most, it’ll be good enough.

Having the speakers on the front of the phone is a big deal actually. Compared to having them on the back or on the bottom, where your hand might muffle them when playing a game or holding the phone. They are also closer to your ears, so they sound louder and more clear.

Benchmarks

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 4.52.19 PM

As usual, we ran 3DMark, GeekBench and AnTuTu on the Moto X Pure Edition here. You can see all of the results in the gallery down below. With 3D Mark, the Moto X Pure Edition scored quite well. Now with AnTuTu, which scores the overall performance of the device, the Moto X Pure scored a hefty 51,412. Now that’s not the worst and it’s not the best, it sits right there in the middle of the pack, and was about what we got with the LG G4 earlier in the year which also had the Snapdragon 808 processor. Now when it comes to Geekbench 3, which scores the single-core and multi-core processes in the processor, the Moto X Pure scored a 1246 in single-core and a 3495 in multi-core. Finally with 3D Mark, the Moto X Pure scored a hefty 508, and the benchmark app said “this is one of the most powerful devices around and everything seems to be working normally”.

Software

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 4.29.11 PM

When it comes to Motorola and software, we basically know what to expect now. Vanilla Android along with a few additions, that are actually pretty useful. Since Google bought Motorola, the company has stuck to vanilla Android here, and have continued that under Lenovo’s leadership. And in fact, that has rubbed off on Lenovo as they are also going the vanilla Android route with their mobile products, at least outside of China. Because Motorola is sticking a vanilla experience, it means that we are getting quicker updates, because there are less things that need to be baked into the OS. Motorola actually started rolling out Lollipop to the Moto X last year before Google rolled it out to the Nexus line (crazy, right?).

However, that may not be the case this year, as Motorola has admitted that they were a bit too fast in rolling out Lollipop and had a few issues. So Marshmallow is likely to still be pretty fast, but maybe not as fast as we had seen with Lollipop and even KitKat the year before.

Moto Voice

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 4.29.49 PM

Making a return for the third year, is Moto Voice. This feature allows you to say “Okay Moto X” or something else and have your phone tell you the weather, read your notifications and much more. The phrase is customizable, so you are able to use any type of launch phrase you want. The best part of Moto Voice is that you can say the launch phrase with the phone turned off and not near you. Especially nice for when you lose your phone in your messy hotel room. Just simply use your launch phrase and say “find my phone” and it’ll start a high-pitched sound to help you find it. Super helpful, in my opinion.

With Moto Voice, you can choose to allow voice commands to work with the phone locked. This way it protects your privacy. You can also choose to just turn it off completely. We’ll talk more about the gestures in the Moto X a bit later, but one that was added this year for Moto Voice is the ability to put the phone up to your ear and talk to Moto Voice. Just put the phone up to your ear, and it automatically launches Moto Voice, then say a command and the phone will talk to you in your ear. Great for those times when yo want to stop talking to someone you ran into, or want some info but not everyone else around you to get that same info.

Moto Display

When we learned that Motorola was going with an LCD display this year, this was one feature we were worried about being nixed. Moto Display is sort of like the Ambient mode which Google debuted in Lollipop last year. You can wave your hand over the display and see if you have any notifications, thanks to the IR blasters located in each corner of the front of the Moto X Pure Edition. You can also open up straight to one of the notifications through Moto Display. Now this can be limited to just a few apps, or you can have it work with every app on your phone. This is all customizable through the Moto app, which is pre-installed. Once more, you can choose to keep the info sensitive or not.

Moto Assist

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 4.30.34 PM

For the most part, Moto Assist is like Tasker, albeit not as intense. With Moto Assist, you can have your phone automate certain features like turning on Priority mode, silencing the phone and more. For instance, you can set up Moto Assist while you’re sleeping to stay quiet and keep the display off (that includes blinking Moto Display). You are also able to adjust the time that Moto Assist does this, as well as adjust which notifications from certain apps are allowed through. Another popular one is driving. Where you can opt to keep the phone quiet and only allow priority interruptions, as well as allow the device to read your notifications to you. So if you get a text, the Moto X will read your text to you and you are able to reply by using a voice command.

Moto Assist can also read your Google Calendar (if you give it access of course) and set your phone to priority or no interruptions while you’re in a meeting. This is really helpful for those times you’re running late and forget to silence your phone. You can also have it do certain functions when you arrive at a certain place. Whether that be at home, the office or somewhere else. All in all, Moto Assist is like the unsung hero of Motorola’s smartphones. It’s a fantastic feature that doesn’t get a whole lot of time in the spotlight.

Moto Actions

Remember when a certain phone came out with 50+ gestures? We aren’t going to name any names though. Many of those gestures were never used. And gestures pretty much stopped being popular on smartphones. Motorola has kept gestures on their smartphones. But instead of rolling out a bunch of new ones with the Moto X this year, they have been rolling them out throughout the year. There are four gestures here, and actually, I use all four of them.

Approach for Moto Display, we talked about this one earlier on, but with the four IR blasters – one in each corner – you can wave your phone over the front of the device (a few inches in front) and Moto Display will turn on showing you what notifications you have. Really neat for when you want to see if there’s anything new.

Chopping Flashlight, is another one that takes a bit of time to get used too. So if you take your Moto X and do a chopping motion twice, it will open the flashlight. This is especially helpful when you need to open the flashlight quickly, or your hands aren’t necessarily clean (or even have on gloves) as you don’t need to touch the screen at all.

Twist for Camera, this one has been around forever. Really. But you can twist the phone twice and the camera will pop up. This one also takes a bit of getting used too, but once you are used to it, it works pretty flawlessly. And it works from a locked screen (even with a PIN) or from anywhere in the OS.

Finally we have Lift for Moto Voice, which we also covered earlier on. But you can lift the phone up to your ear, like you’re making a phone call and give a command to Moto Voice. And it’ll answer you right there, depending on the command. Really helpful for those times you want information, but want it privately and not where everyone around you can hear it.

Camera

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-8

This is the big question, when it comes to Motorola. Every year, in fact every press event we attend, manufacturers come out and tout how good the camera is. And in 2015, many were hiring professional photographers to do some sample shots to show off in the keynote. This year, Motorola gave the Moto X Style/Pure Edition to a popular photography site DxOMark, who reviews just about every camera out there. These guys really, really take good pictures no matter what camera they are using. So it’s important to always take that with a grain of salt.

I have been using the Moto X Style/Pure Edition for a couple of weeks now. And all of these photos were taken without any editing, no manual mode. All Auto, with a few being tap to focus (at night, this thing struggles with auto focus a bit). You can see the images in the gallery down below. But for the most part, the images from this camera were pretty good. I was pretty impressed with the shots from the Moto X Pure Edition, even in low light, it did somewhat well. However, inside at night, there was a lot of noise with a few of the pictures, while outside at night, the pictures looked much better.

Motorola does have their own gallery here on the Moto X. For the most part it’s pretty barebones and features all the same features as the Google Photos app, which is also pre-installed. In the Camera Roll, the phone will sort pictures by month and year. You can also view albums and see screenshots, Instagram, and Twitter pictures and other albums on the device. Motorola also does Highlight Reels, which will combine your best photos and videos from an event and automatically creates a movie which can be shared on the social medias. These highlight videos are available in 480p and 720p. So not super high definition like 1080p or 4K, but still pretty decent for Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

The Good

  • MotoMaker is still a pretty big reason to pick up the Moto X. While LG has also gone the leather route, the leather on the Moto X just feels and looks better in my opinion. Also being able to choose from a variety of colors and combinations, is a huge plus.
  • The price has to be mentioned too. Coming in at a starting point of $399 is huge for these specs. Yes that includes 16GB of storage, but for another $50 you can double that to 32GB or $100 for 64GB.
  • The software is quite good too. I’ve been comparing it to my experience with the LG G4, since it has the same internals. It appears the Moto X is smoother than the LG G4, and that’s likely due to the software.
  • The camera is good, not great, but good. It’s a huge improvement over last year’s camera, but still not quite up to what Samsung and LG have up their sleeves.

The Bad

  • If you decide to get your phone from another retailer, there’s no customization involved, unfortunately. Not to mention, MotoMaker can also be a bad thing.  You also may encounter delays, like our unit was delayed weeks due to Motorola not having enough parts to put our Moto X together.
  • The Snapdragon 808 is slow. There’s no bones about it, it’s slow. And the longer you use it (read: the more cache and other files that are accumulated on the phone) it starts to run a bit slower. While it’s not a deal breaker, it does make it a bit tough to recommend this phone.
  • Battery life is adequate. As we stated already in the review, the battery can likely get you through a full day, but don’t count on much more than that. Of course, that all boils down to how you use the phone. If you’re light user, you can likely get a bit more than a full day.

Final Thoughts

Moto-X-Pure-Edition-AH-27

I’ve been a fan of the Moto X since its inception. For a few reasons, the small size, the vanilla Android experience, and the price. The Moto X Style changed just one of those reasons, the size. But after using it for a few weeks now, I actually really like the size. It doesn’t feel too big and fits in my hand perfectly. The other thing I love about the Moto X is MotoMaker, being able to customize my smartphone to my liking is a huge deal to me.

Heading into this review, there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. One was, is the Moto X Style/Pure Edition the smartphone to buy in 2015? I’d say yes. It’s hard to find something bad about this smartphone, it’s one of the best on the market right now. If you do want a better camera, I’d highly suggest the Galaxy Note 5 or LG G4 though. But if you want stock Android and a great experience, the Moto X Pure Edition is the one.