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Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (Moto X Style) review
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition
What we like
What we don't like
With the changes in both leadership and size, does the Moto X Pure Edition (aka Moto X Style) still retain the Motorola experience we’ve all come to know and love? We find out this and more in our comprehensive review of the Moto X Pure Edition!
When it comes to the Moto X Pure Edition’s aesthetics, you’ll notice a very familiar design that’s incredibly similar to last year’s model. There are some minor design changes, but the overall look doesn’t stray too far away from what the company began implementing in its smartphones when it was owned by Google. Although the design cues aren’t all that different, there is a huge outlier here, and that’s the size.
Oddly enough, the first-generation Moto X began as a very compact and easy to hold smartphone, coming in with a 4.7-inch display. That’s changed now, with the Pure Edition sporting a massive 5.7-inch display that dwarfs previous Moto X models. Surprisingly, for a phone with a 5.7 inch screen, it doesn’t feel as large as you might initially think. It’s actually impressively manageable in one hand, thanks to the super slim bezels around the display. It’s not the thinnest phone in the world, but the familiar curved back makes it feel thinner than it actually is.
With that said, the Pure Edition is comparable in size to other big smartphones like the Galaxy Note 5 and OnePlus 2, so if you can handle those phones with ease, you’ll have no problem using the Pure Edition with one hand.
This new Moto X device is still made of very high quality materials, featuring an all-metal frame that gives it a substantial look and feel. Of course, one of the biggest draws to the Moto X Pure Edition is the ability to customize just about every part of it. While we can’t comment on the quality of the wood or leather backs with the Pure Edition, we must say – the standard colored back plates are really nice. They’re made of a soft textured silicone material that not only makes the device extremely comfortable to hold, but also provides a lot of grip.
Moto Maker is still one of the best parts about the Moto X line
If the default colored backs aren’t your style, you can of course customize it through Moto Maker. This is truly one of the best parts about the Moto X line. There are a ton of options to choose from with a myriad of colored backs, wood backs, leather backs and accent colors. You can even add a custom engraving to truly make it your own.
A Moto X also wouldn’t be a Moto X without the signature Motorola dimple on the backside, which is now encased in a single metallic strip with the camera module and LED flash. The dimple is much smaller in size compared to last year’s model, which I personally find to be much more comfortable.
Taking a tour around the rest of the device, the buttons and ports are in pretty typical locations for a Motorola device. The power/standby key and volume buttons can be found on the right side, where they’re very easy to reach. The power button has a nice ridged texture that makes it really easy to find, which is a great touch. The bottom side houses the microUSB port, and up top sits the 3.5mm headphone jack in the center, with the Nano SIM card tray – which doubles as a microSD card slot – sitting slightly to the left.
On the front, there’s quite a bit of action going on. Aside from the typical ambient light and proximity sensors, you’ll find the IR sensors for triggering Moto Display without touching the phone, two front-facing speakers which flank the phone’s display, and a front camera (complete with selfie flash).
Not only did this year’s Moto X receive a big bump in size, but also in resolution. It now sports a 5.7-inch screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, but unlike the last two Moto Xs, it’s not AMOLED. The Pure Edition features a TFT LCD display, and, I have to admit, I’m a little saddened by the swap in display technology. One of Motorola’s most innovative and interesting features is Moto Display, which definitely doesn’t look as good on an LCD panel. Other that this gripe, though, the display is quite good. It’s bright, beautiful, has great viewing angles, and is pretty easy to see in direct sunlight. Colors are plenty vibrant and saturated, too.
With a Quad HD resolution, it’s also extremely sharp. The large screen size makes it pretty great for browsing the web, playing some games and watching videos and movies.
The Moto X Pure Edition performs just as well as other top-tier flagship smartphones
Motorola put a big emphasis on user experience with the first two Moto X devices, and didn’t worry so much about cramming in the latest and greatest specs. That’s pretty much the story here with the Moto X Pure Edition.
Instead of the Snapdragon 810, Motorola decided to use the perfectly-capable Snapdragon 808 processor in this device. It also comes with 3GB of RAM, which is great for multitasking, gaming and just about every other use case you’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis. The only hiccup I’ve ever noticed with the Pure Edition is that it sometimes lags on the lock screen when unlocking directly from Moto Display. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but often enough that you will probably notice it. This is an issue that can be resolved through a simple software update, so we’re really not too worried that it will be present for long.
Other than that, the Moto X Pure Edition performs just as well as other top-tier flagship smartphones.
The Pure Edition comes with all of the usual connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and of course, LTE. One of the most convenient things about this phone is that it supports basically every LTE band for the four major carriers in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T or Verizon (sort of), which is something most smartphones aren’t able to boast.
The Moto X comes in 16, 32 and 64GB storage variants, though you can expand the device’s memory via microSD if you’d like. It can support cards up to 128GB in size, which means you can more than double the storage of your device with a single card. And remember, the microSD card slot is located in the SIM card slot on the top of the phone.
Motorola has really tried to improve its speaker quality over the years, and the Pure Edition’s front-facing speakers are testament to that. They’re true front-facing stereo speakers this time around. On top of being extremely loud, they deliver a very clean and rich sound that really tops off the media experience. I’m not sure they’re as good as HTC BoomSound speakers, but they’re definitely a close second.
This review has been mostly positive so far, but unfortunately we have to run into a negative aspect sooner or later. Battery life on the Moto X Pure Edition hasn’t been all that great, despite the phone having a hefty 3,000mAh unit. I’ve been able to get through an entire day on a single charge, but honestly, it’s really difficult to do. In my experience, the phone normally lasts around 12-13 hours before it needs to go back on the charger. If you like gaming, you can pretty much forget about this phone lasting anywhere near a full day on one charge.
When comparing it with other flagships on the market, I’d have to say it’s better than the Galaxy S6, but definitely nowhere near the battery life that’s found on the Galaxy Note 5.
It could be worse, though. Although there’s no wireless charging available on the Pure Edition, it does sport quick charging capabilities. Motorola says it’s the fastest charging smartphone in the world, which is definitely a bold claim. Of course, we haven’t tested that out for ourselves. In our time with the device, the Pure Edition has been able to achieve a completely full charge in about 75 minutes from 0% to 100%. The phone’s battery life could definitely be better, but at least you won’t have to wait long for a full charge if it dies in the middle of the day.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest weaknesses of the Moto X line, or really any Motorola phone in recent years, has been the camera experience. Thankfully, Motorola is looking to change all of that this year. This time around, Motorola is packing a 21-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture on the rear (though it does lack OIS), and a 5MP wide-angle lens on the front.
The rear cam is obviously the star of the show, but the front camera does stand out thanks to its inclusion of front-facing flash, which is really a nice touch, even if it honestly isn’t all that necessary. For the most part, the front cam does a decent job on its own and is perfectly capable of finding your face in most situations. Ultimately, the flash isn’t particularly all that useful unless you happen to take a lot of selfies in dark rooms, and even then the front flash can be blindingly bright and tends to flood the image with harsh lighting more than it does to illuminate it.
As for the rear shooter, picture quality has been surprisingly great and you can definitely tell Motorola put a very big focus on making the camera experience better on this year’s Moto X. In medium to good lighting photos are very sharp and detailed, and color reproduction is on point with just the right amount vibrancy and saturation. The HDR image processing on the Moto X has also been quite nice. It does a great job of bringing out a lot of the detail from the shadows, especially in high contrast or backlit scenarios, and adds just a little bit of extra saturation and warmth to the images, without causing them to look unnatural.
Low light performance has also made some really huge strides this year. I would say the Moto X’s performance here still isn’t as good something like the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5, but it is definitely leaps and bounds better than the 2014 Moto X. Specifically, images are much sharper and more detailed, which you can see pretty easily when zooming into text. The colors and white balance are also more accurate, it handles exposure a lot better especially in the highlights, and most importantly there’s a lot less digital noise.
One thing to note is that, with the exception of adjusting the focus point and exposure, Motorola’s camera interface still lacks a full suite of manual controls that other smartphone camera interfaces offer. That said, it is very easy to use. You can tap anywhere on the viewfinder to take a photo, swipe left to review any photos that you’ve taken, or swipe to the right to make adjustments to the camera settings. It’s pretty barebones, but you can do things like toggle through different modes like HDR, Night mode, panorama, 4K video recording, and other things of that nature.
Overall, the camera experience here is greatly improved over Motorola’s past offerings and so a big thumbs up to Motorola for finally producing a camera that is capable of taking photos that people won’t feel embarrassed to share to social media.
When the original Moto X first hit the scene, one of the most compelling things about it wasn’t the specs or even the customization aspects, it was the software. A clean, stock-like approach meant that the Moto X was faster than many phones that offered technically superior specs. Even better, Motorola was able to push out updates to its lightly skinned Android UI at a quicker rate than its competitors.
The new Moto X Pure Edition seemingly continues this trend, offering a near stock build of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Even better, this phone is being sold completely free of carrier intervention and so there’s no carrier bloatware to get in the way. Motorola’s latest flagship is as pure of an Android experience you will get without buying a Nexus, with the only exception being Motorola’s baked-in custom features, which for most users will turn out to be more of a positive than a negative.
Moto Display is as good as ever, subtly pulsating anytime you receive a notification. As an added bonus, Motorola has even added the ability to control your music from it now.
Another big part of the Motorola software experience is Moto Voice, which allows you to dictate voice commands and even lets you customize the experience a bit more with your own key-phrase. What I love most about Moto Voice, besides the always on listening, is using it for navigation. Being able to just tell your phone to navigate home or anywhere that you need to go, without having to wake up the phone or touch it at all, is extremely useful, especially if you have your phone sitting in a car dock like I do. It’s also a lot safer when you’re driving.
Speaking of safety, the Moto X also offers Moto Assist, which can read your text messages out loud and tell you who’s calling, or it can optionally keep your phone completely quiet to avoid interruptions anytime you’re in a business meeting or simply just need to get some shut eye.
Finally, you have Moto Actions which are all really nifty and intuitive features. You can wave your hand over the front of the phone to trigger Moto display, chop twice to trigger the led flash, and if you take a lot of pictures, you’ll find yourself using the double twist of the wrist to launch the camera pretty much on a daily basis.
Bottom-line, if you enjoy stock Android but wouldn’t mind a few extra perks outside of ‘true vanilla Android,’ you’re going to be more than satisfied with with what Motorola brings to the table.
Quad HD resolution, 515 ppi
1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
Adreno 418 GPU
expandable via microSD up to 128 GB
21 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera with wide angle lens and front-facing flash
Universal LTE bands
Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Coated Silicon Rubber
Horween leather and natural wood
Pricing and final thoughts
Motorola is taking a different approach with the sales of the Moto X this year. Instead of partnering with carriers, Motorola is selling the phone direct to consumers through Motorola’s website, Amazon, and Best Buy for a base price of $400 unlocked, which is an absolute bargain for a smartphone of this caliber. If you’re upgrading from a previous generation Moto X, the Pure Edition is a no-brainer.
What do you think of the new Moto X Pure Edition? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments.