Moto X (2013) review

The Moto X has become a truly standout Android phone

Motorola Moto X different colors
Motorola unites the colors of the world with the Moto X

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The Moto X is a whole lot of first. It's the first flagship device to come out of Motorola after its short time with Google. It's the first mass produced phone that lets you customize its look to a ridiculous degree. It's also the first stock Android phone with LTE - unless you count the now discontinued HTC First, which is pretty ironic.

But is it enough to take on all the excellent phones already entrenched in the marketplace, namely the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, the iPhone 5 and whatever Apple may have up its sleeve for the iPhone 6?

Moto X review

The answer is yes, if Motorola and Google can get the word out on how great and simple to use this phone is. And people can forgive the camera.

We liked

This is one of the best constructed phones around. It's dense and solid but not too heavy, a lot like an iPhone 5 or an HTC One. Unlike those metal bodied phones however, it's polycarbonate (read: plastic. Good feeling plastic) body stands up to scrapes and drops with getting mauled as easily.

It stand ups to wear and tear. We've seen iPhones and Ones that look like they'd been run over with a lawnmower simply because they didn't have a case. That won't be an issue with the Moto X, which spent a week in our pockets, bags and even took a drop or two (oops, butterfingers) without taking on as much as a nick.

You can easily use it with one hand. Unlike a Galaxy S4. And the buttons are in a spot that's easy to reach. Unlike the HTC One. And it can be carried in a tight jean pocket without the feeling of denim that's about to burst, unlike either of those phones.

Moto X review

The battery actually lasts all day. We've torn through the charge on an S4, a One and an iPhone 5 by five o'clock, and while that bugs me, I refuse to carry a ridiculously large phablet just for its ridiculously large battery. It is still possible to drain a Moto X before the day is out, but you have to try. Like, stream a few movies on Neftlix try. With moderate to slightly heavy day-to-day use, you'll never need to charge the Moto X before the day is out.

The Moto Maker is fun, and available for all. Motorola made a huge mistake giving AT&T the exclusive for this awesome feature. That exclusivity has ended though, and anyone who plans to buy a Moto X should make their own online. This is not a phone that should be bought in stores.

Moto X review

Despite lower wattage specs, it performs just fine. Yes it's a dual core, but it also has 2GB of RAM and the difference between it and a quad-core Galaxy S4 is negligible in day-to-day use. We only noticed it when loading up a game like Riptide GP 2.

It has several great features you won't find on any other Android phone. We're talking about opening the camera with a gesture, hands-free voice recognition, the iMessage imitating MotoConnect, the unique notifications and Motorola Assist. These features are strong enough to make the Moto X worth the purchase.

We disliked

The camera still isn't great, even with the update. Manual focus and exposure control make it possible to take a better shot, but the Moto X still has poor point and shoot performance. All your pictures will be plagued with color noise, and poor white balance if you don't bust out the manual tweaks.

While certainly good enough, the 720p OLED screen pales in comparison to that of the HTC One. It's not insulting to the eyes, but it's a noticeable downgrade.

Moto X review

On paper, you're getting less internals for your money. After day-to-day testing, it feels like a moot point, because we could hardly tell the difference between an S4 and the Moto X's performance except during intense gaming tasks, but if you're looking for future proofing, you might be more comfortable signing up for two years with a quad-core rather than a dual.

There's no microSD. This is mainly for the Samsung fans who love their SD cards. If you're anything close to a power user, you absolutely must buy the 32GB Moto X, not the 16GB.

Final verdict

The Moto X is a very good phone at a great price. Is it one of the best Android phones out there? Yes, but it really depends what your values are. that depends. If you value a reasonable size and useful services over raw power, a massive HD screen and microSD support, the Moto X is your phone.

It's odd to call a phone with a battery that makes it through the day and form factor a human hand can actually manipulate a niche device, but we're not sure if it's what Android users want. It's certainly what I want, in fact I'm considering a purchase.

It could also be what incoming iPhone expatriates want too. We've heard complaints about the iPhone 5's battery life, and if the S4 is too big and the One is too fragile, this could be a very happy medium.

If the camera were more reliable, this would be a perfect Android phone. As it is now, it's just shy of perfect, which is quite a deal for a phone at this price.